Help! My Puppy Won’t Stop Biting
I completely get it. You want to play with your puppy but they bit and nip all the time, and it gets really annoying, and you’re thinking “What do I do? My puppy won’t stop biting!”
Now first, let me say that if your puppy or dog is biting and drawing blood (and this has happened more than once), is growling and snapping to protect their food or a toy, or your dog’s body gets tense and stiff before they bite, it’s time to bring in a professional trainer.
But if you’re dealing with regular nipping and biting you can really turn things around with the tips below. It will just take some patience and practice. But hey, you’re a puppy owner, so you need that anyway!
It’s a Good Thing They’re Cute!
I’ll bet at some point after getting your puppy you started thinking “What have I done?” The first few months can be brutal with the lack of sleep, and constant care that young puppies need. Just like babies, they’re made cute for a reason. Because if something that wasn’t fuzzy and soft was biting you and your children, running your furniture and rugs, and keeping you up all night, you might have second thoughts.
But hang in there! With a little understanding of why puppies bite, and how to handle it, you can make changes.
Why Do Puppies Bite?
It’s completely natural for young puppies to bite and nip. If fact it is really important that they do. During the first few months of life, puppies need to learn how to control the strength of their bite through feedback from other dogs and you. This feedback is essential for their development.
3 Ways to teach your puppy to stop biting
1. React Like A Dog
You may have watched a puppy play with an adult dog. Inevitably, the puppy gets excited and starts to nip or bite the older dog. What does the adult dog do? They make a loud high pitch sound that scares the puppy and makes them realize they have crossed the line. And if the puppy won’t stop biting them and they do it with too much strength, they walk away and stop playing. This is a way adult dogs teach puppies how to behave (more on that below).
Since this communication is hard-wired into every puppy, you can use it to your advantage.
1. Allow your puppy to bite you while you’re playing so they can get feedback.
2. When your puppy nips you, make a loud high pitch sound. I like to say ‘Oww’ nice and loud. You’ll see that the puppy will stop and look at you. (If they don’t you weren’t loud enough). Once they stop say “Good dog” in a happy tone. I’ve even gone so far as to do a short fake cry (like a dog whimper) after the ‘Oww’ if my puppy really bites. She comes over to see if I’m ok and settles down. Then I praise her.
3. It’s important to make sure you’re not pulling your hand away when your puppy bites which might cause your puppy’s chase instinct to kick in. Leave your hand (or whatever they are biting) there, and give them feedback with your voice.
4. If they are not getting it after 3 times, it’s time for your puppy to have a break from playing.
Make sure everyone in the family is doing it too and is consistent, and your puppy should start to bite with less force pretty quickly.
If your puppy is over 6 months, you’ll most likely need to use some of the techniques below since they react best to bite tension feedback in the first few months of life.
2. Make a Trade
When you play with your dog, and they start to get mouthy, just grab a toy and encourage them to bite it instead of putting their teeth on you. Move the toy around to make it more interesting if they are not interested at first.
After a while, they will start to bring toys to you when they want to play. Tug of war is a good game to get some of their biting energy out, just be careful to not let the game get out of hand. If your puppy starts to get a bit aggressive, you need to end the game and take a time out.
3. Exercise is Key
One of the best ways to decrease puppy biting it to make sure your puppy gets a lot of exercise. I’m sure you have noticed that puppies have plenty of energy, and if they don’t burn it up, they will bite more, and chew anything they can get their teeth on. I great way to get extra exercise for your puppy is to socialize them with other dogs. Just make sure you know the dogs and they are good with puppies. A puppy class is another great way to get some social time for your pup in a controlled environment.
Also, make sure you’re taking regular walks. It will get you into your leash training early, and be great for your puppy to be exposed to more things like bicycles, other people, cars, etc. I moved to a house with a big fenced in yard a few years ago. When we got a new puppy and was having a great time playing with her and exercising her in the yard, but we didn’t take a lot of walks. I noticed it was harder to get her leash-trained when we started taking more walks when she was older.
Let The Puppy Experts Handle It – Adult dogs
As I mentioned earlier, adult dogs have already figured out how to train puppies, and are very effective at it. If you have an adult dog (or a few) that you trust it’s a great idea to let your puppy play with them. When they nip or bite too hard, the adult dogs will let them know.
It’s also great to socialize your puppy with as many dogs as possible when they are young (and all kinds of people, noises, places and distractions). This will help them get used to the world and all the things they will encounter in it, and make them calmer adults.
What if Your Puppy Is Biting Your Feet or Ankles?
Some puppies won’t stop biting your feet and ankles especially when your walking. It’s a lot of fun for them to chase your moving legs and get a nip in especially for herding breeds who are taught to chase and nip to keep animals in line.
If you’re dealing with an ankle biter, you need to be prepared. Start keeping a treat or toy on your pocket. When they start to chase and bite, pull out the toy and distract them with it so they bite that instead. When they grab the toy give them praise.
Want To Know Why Your Puppy is Biting?
Do you know what your puppy is trying to tell you when they bite? If you’re struggling with puppy biting, our Puppy Biting Checklist is a perfect first step to having a bite-free puppy.
What Not to Do
Don’t Give Harsh Punishments
Punishing your dog for biting can lead to your dog becoming fearful of you. Always try to change their behavior (by offering a toy instead etc.) and then praise them like crazy when they stop biting and do something else. They will learn that not biting is more fun than biting.
Don’t pull away to quickly or run away
Dogs naturally chase. If your puppy won’t stop biting, and you pull away quickly, it makes what they are biting (you) more attractive. They might think this is an even better game, and chase you to bite more.
When Should You Seek A Professional Trainer’s Help?
- Your dog’s body gets stiff and they stare you down before they bite.
- Your puppy aggressively barks or growls at or bites new people.
- They are consistently breaking the skin with their bites.
- Your puppy is protective of toys or their food bowl and growls or bites if someone tries to take it away.
- Your puppy growls or snaps at children.
- You have consistently tried the techniques above and your dog is still biting.
Biting and nipping are natural behaviors for a puppy. But if your puppy won’t stop biting, it can be very hard to deal with, and sometimes painful. Remember that nipping is your puppy’s attempt to play with you or get your attention, and they will only know it’s unacceptable if you teach them that it is.
Be consistent, and praise them like crazy when they do something right and they will start to learn that praise is way better than biting.
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