Just like a human baby, everything that little dogs encounter goes straight in their mouths.
If you’re the lucky owner of a brand new puppy, you might find that their obsession with mouthing and biting everything was cute at first, but is now getting out of control.
There’s nothing unusual about a puppy that nips, and it might not be much of an issue when they’re young and harmless, but this type of behavior can only lead to trouble down the track. Therefore, one of the essential discipline lessons you have to teach them is not to bite, and the earlier you start the better.
How do you get a puppy to stop biting?
Dogs each react differently to teaching methods so there’s no singular approach that works for all of them. Rewarding good behavior while discouraging bad behavior is the key to stopping your puppy from biting, and knowing what type of discipline is acceptable at this young age also helps.
If you have a rambunctious puppy at home who can’t seem to stop biting others, it’s time to make some changes now before it gets out of hand. We’ve got some tips for how to stop puppy from biting that makes training stress free and ensures your puppy gets the memo that biting is a no-no sooner rather than later.
Why Do Puppies Bite?
Puppies are very similar to human babies; in that, they use their mouths to investigate.
Just like a baby, a puppy will explore their surroundings by mouthing everything they come across which means all things end up in their mouths at some point or another.
Another reason for biting among younger dogs is that they spend a lot of time playing and pretending. This is especially true with other littermates and dogs they encounter, where they bite each other just for play. Because they still haven’t formed their teeth properly, this doesn’t hurt and is seen as an endearing way to interact, but once they come through, it starts to get painful.
As they start to hurt each other, they might let out a cry to let the other one know, or a mother dog can growl at them to show that they’ve gone too far. When you have your new puppy at home, it’s important to let them know that the biting has become painful as well, so the sooner you can address the issue the easier it will be to solve.
Other times, biting can be due to more sinister reasons, and this can be harder to stop. Dogs have a natural response to bite when they feel angry or scared and if you think your puppy is biting because of one of these reasons and not so much to play and investigate, you’ll want to look deeper at the issue.
Encouraging Play That Isn’t Biting
Puppies naturally spend a lot of their time playing and investigating, which usually leads to things ending up in their mouth.
While it’s completely normal for a new puppy to bite things, and even people sometimes, it’s behavior that needs to be curbed before they reach four or five months old when their teeth start becoming dangerous.
One of the biggest causes of puppies continuing to bite beyond these early months is because of roughhousing type of play. This is where an owner allows their dog to play roughly with them, including biting, it makes it confusing for them to understand what’s acceptable and what’s not. Furthermore, they have a hard time knowing when play is over and may continue biting afterward.
Even if you’re happy with this type of play, when they come into contact with a child or elderly person at another time, they’ll continue to play rough, which can do a lot of harm with their fragile skin.
Therefore, you must ensure that whenever you’re playing with them, you don’t allow teeth to get involved, and instead try to redirect their attention somewhere else.
Tips for Teaching Your Pup Not to Bite
There are loads of tried and trusted methods for teaching a puppy not to bite and to play without using their teeth.
Check out these tips to still have fun with your dog but not in a way that’s going to be harmful to anyone else, dog, or otherwise.
- Leave command
A simple command that’s taught to your dog over time can tell them when they’re doing something inappropriate. “Leave it” is a common choice for dog owners as it lets them know to stop their actions immediately.
If a game is getting heated or they’re starting to bite, you can practice firmly saying this command until they’ve established what it means, and reward them when they listen.
- Verbal reaction
When a pup bites its mother or a dog in the wild bites another, they’re usually met with a high-pitched yelp that tells them this is not okay. As the dog’s owner, you can do the same by making a loud, high pitched sound whenever they bite you. Even if the bite doesn’t hurt, make the sound to cause them to withdraw from the game, and move away so they know you don’t like that behavior.
- Toys at the ready
Teach your dog that biting is okay on toys, but never on another dog or person. Have a variety of toys ready for them to enjoy that still allows them to explore and roughhouse, just not one someone that can get hurt. If your pup tries to bite you, push a toy into their mouth to replace your skin, and continue this until they get the message.
- Calm hands
Be careful with how you use your fingers and toes in front of your puppy, and don’t entice them by waving them around. Play gently and calmly and always have some form of tie available for them to bite. Never stop playing with your dog because of biting, as puppies especially need a lot of attention to be happy and they thrive with regular play sessions.
The Best Rewards to Use
Effective training with dogs is all about rewards and discipline and knowing when and how to use them successfully. For puppies, it’s all about noticing their good behavior and making a point to reward it, which doesn’t always have to be with a treat.
Dogs will be happy with any form of praise, but it’s a matter of finding out what works for your pooch specifically. Some love a good rub on the head or belly, others like being gifted with their favorite toy, and almost all of them like a tasty treat when they’ve done something that’s worthy.
When you’re playing with your dog and they don’t let their teeth come into contact with your skin, or you see them redirect their bite towards a toy, this is the time to reward them. Once you’ve established what their favorite type of rewards are, you should continue to use them until they make the connection and learn to apply this bite inhibition.
A trained dog will respond to rewards, just as they respond to discipline and learn that when they’re displaying good behavior they’re treated well by their owners. Be consistent with the way that you reinforce good behavior and they’ll learn quickly what they have to do to get these rewards.
Acceptable Discipline Methods for Puppies
For a puppy that continues to beat and doesn’t seem to respond to other methods, you might have to consider acceptable discipline methods to use.
Physical discipline is never acceptable with a pet, and in dogs especially, it can cause them to lash out and become violent in other ways, or become harsher in their biting.
For puppies that bite and who aren’t responding to the usual methods, there are a few forms of discipline that work without causing any distress to your dog, and they’re easy enough to use at home:
- Time out
Make a plan to put your dog on a time-out every time they bite you, or when you feel their teeth on your skin. As soon as they make contact, let out the high-pitched yelp described earlier, and then walk away from the dog. Avoid eye contact or touching for a full minute, and if he follows you, leave the room altogether. When the minute is up, return to playing with him as normal.
- Taste deterrent
Use a taste deterrent spray on the parts of your body that the puppy likes to bite. It can take a few seconds for dogs to realize they don’t like the taste of whatever’s been applied to your skin or clothes, but when he does let go, give him a lot of praise for doing so. This can take a few weeks of practice but it lets them think they are doing it on their own free will.
Similar to the time-out method, you can use a lead to show him what he’s doing is wrong. Keep him on the leash while you play, but without holding onto it, and if he bites you, lead him to a corner of the room by himself and tie him up for the minute of time out. When the minute is up, untie him and continue playing as before.
Teaching Tricks to Your Puppy
If you have a new puppy and want to know when it’s an acceptable time to start teaching them tricks, the answer is now. Puppies respond well to consistency with training, and if you’re already making an effort to curb their biting, you can throw in some other tricks as well.
Try not to overwhelm your dog with a range of new things they have to learn, but rather focus on just one or two at a time. The act of training a dog and teaching them basic commands can make it easier to inhibit biting as well, so think about other tricks like rolling over, sitting, and barking that you can have fun learning together.
Seeking Help for a Biting Puppy
Even with months of training, you might find that your dog continues to bite or mouth your skin. If this is the case, there may be another issue that’s causing the problem, and you should visit your veterinarian for a routine check-up.
From there, they’ll be able to inspect the dog’s mouth for any issues and direct you to a trainer who deals with these types of problems like a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist. These professionals will work with you and your puppy to come with an effective treatment plan that helps curb the biting and gives you your happy dog back.
Puppies love nothing more than spending time with their owners and having fun, even if that fun includes biting playfully.
Long term biting can lead to issues though, so it’s behavior that needs to be addressed right away, to ensure the best results. We’ve answered some FAQs about how to stop puppy from biting to make training easier at your house.
What Age Does a Puppy Stop Biting?
All dogs are different, but in general, a puppy will stop biting everything they come into contact with around seven months. As a responsible owner, it’s your job to train them so this doesn’t happen with other dogs or humans as soon as possible, but still allows for them to have fun biting their toys.
How Do I Assert Dominance Over My Puppy?
It’s important to establish dominance over your dog when they’re still a puppy and there are a few methods that let you do this.
Play control games like tug of war, remain in a position that’s higher than them, be consistent with discipline and rewards, and spend time teaching them basic commands, all of which will help maintain your status as leader of the pack.