Puppy biting - how to stop it?
Is puppy biting normal?
Most of the time, puppy biting or nipping is part of their normal developmental process. However, it is important to proactively train your puppy during their teething stage instead of waiting for it to pass. It's important to teach your puppy from an early age how what is acceptable and how to manage their mouthy instincts. Especially that mouthing a human is not acceptable.
Sometimes puppies can bite or nip out of fear of frustration. This type of behaviour is different to regular puppy teething and can usually be observed from the puppy's body language and circumstances surrounding the biting. For example, a puppy that gets excited and starts to mouth and nip while exhibiting friendly body language verses a puppy who stiffens when you approach it and tries to bite you when you reach out. If you are unsure or concerned that your puppy's biting habits are intensifying, please consult an experienced dog trainer.
How to stop your puppy from biting or nipping
Never physically reprimand your puppy when they are biting you. They are young and going through a learning phase so you will get better results from teaching them in a positive manner. There are many ways to teach your puppy to stop biting. Depending on your puppy's breed and personality, some methods might work better than others.
Teach bite inhibition
Bite inhibition is about teaching your puppy to moderate the force of their bite. When puppies play together they learn from each other. When one is too rough or bites too hard, the other puppy yelps to communicate that they have gone too far.
You can also try this method and depending on your dog, it may get them to stop or it may get them even more excited (since it also can sound like wounded prey). Make a high pitch yelp or 'ow' noise when they mouth you. If they stop, praise them in a calm manner. If get even more excited and bite harder, calmly remove yourself from the area by either turning away or placing your puppy into a playpen until they calm down.
Redirect to appropriate toys
Keep some long-lasting chew treats or appropriate toys available. When your puppy starts to mouth you, replace your hand with the treat or toy. This not only demonstrates to the puppy what is acceptable to bite but also gives them an outlet for their natural instincts and keeps them busy.
Puppy biting = game over
Usually, when a puppy is biting you, they are trying to engage and play with you. When they are young, biting is the only way they know to try and get a reaction out of you. So if you leave, get up and leave and give them no reaction, it does not have the desired effect. Eventually, though consistency, they will learn that when they mouth you, all playtime and fun stops and you leave. Wait for your puppy to calm down before approaching and reengaging with them.
If your puppy has a tendency to pounce or chase your feet when you are moving, walking away will just excite them further. Instead, simply stand still and ignore them. If your puppy still does not stop biting you, simply place them in their playpen or a crate for a short time out. Do this quietly and calmly without making a fuss.
Sometimes, puppy biting can stem from boredom. If your puppy is not being given enough mental stimulation, they may end up displaying destructive or over-aroused behaviours such as biting. Ensure that you give your puppy plenty of mental stimulation through food puzzle toys or training.
Predict scenarios where they are likely to bite and ensure that you have alternatives or management plans in place. For example, having some treats or toys with you at all times so you can be ready to show your puppy what is appropriate to bite. Or set up a playpen with enrichment toys to burn off some energy after a nap before you start to engage with your puppy.
If you notice your puppy starting to get worked up while they are playing, quickly slow down the play and switch to a much calmer activity. This prevents them from getting so excited that they forget how to control their instincts and sets them up for success.
Reinforce good behaviours
Don't forget to praise them and offer your puppy a treat when they are doing the right thing. If they play with a toy instead of your hands, reward them by engaging with them. When they are excited to see you, teach them to sit and reward that instead of letting them get over-excited or jump on you.
With training, it's about showing your puppy the desired behaviour and setting them up for success instead of trying to stop a behaviour. Often, if you show your puppy what you want, the behaviour you are trying to stop will naturally disappear since it will no longer be compatible with the desired behaviour.
Help to ease the pain of puppy teething
Puppies go through teething between 4 months to 7 months. During this time, as their adult teeth are pushing through their gums, it can be very uncomfortable for them. Therefore, it is important to also offer your puppy some soothing alternatives. Frozen carrots, rubber teething rings, frozen stuffed kong toys or a wet rope toy that has been frozen will keep them busy and help to ease and soothe the pain.
Puppy raising requires a lot of patience and consistency. Remember that your puppy goes through a lot in its first year. So relax and enjoy the special time with your puppy. Don't forget to start training as early as possible and set your dog up for success. If you are still having difficulties with biting behaviour after trying various methods, we recommend you consult with an experienced dog trainer to better help you understand your puppy's behaviour.