Healthy Paws Pet Insurance and Foundation.

Ouch! How to Stop Puppy Biting

How do you stop a puppy biting?

There’s definitely a right way and a wrong way.

Your pup looks like a teddy bear but those needle-like teeth are anything but cute. Puppy must learn to have a soft mouth, especially if you have children, since those puppy bites can frighten a child and dent their confidence around dogs.

But more than this, it’s crucial that a puppy learns to have a soft mouth from a young age. If he doesn’t, uninhibited bites from an adult dog could cause serious injury and put the dog’s life in danger if he gets a reputation as a biter.

So let’s nip this problem in the bud so your pup grows up as a valued fur-family member.

Natural Behavior

Why does a puppy bite?

Biting is natural behavior, just like a child exploring the world by putting things in their mouth. A puppy learns about life by what it tastes and feels like in the mouth, and how it reacts during play biting.

When a puppy plays rough and tumble with his litter mates, it might look like a game to us. But it’s deadly important when it comes to reading body language and understanding social niceties. When Puppy 1 nips Puppy 2, if the bite is too hard then the playee yelps and squeals, giving real-time feedback that it hurts. If Puppy 1 wants the game to continue, he quickly learns to bite more softly next time.

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What can we learn from this?

“Speak” to the puppy in a language he understands. If during a game he bites too hard, then squeal and stop the game. Ending the fun is the quickest, most surefire way of teaching the puppy that he’s bitten too hard.

However, AVOID the following:

  • Do NOT tap the puppy on the nose: He’s likely to get even more excited, and chase after the finger as part of the game.
  • Do NOT submit the puppy to an alpha roll: Remember the puppy is not trying to dominate; he’s just doing what puppies do – playing hard. An alpha roll will confuse him, and far from reducing aggression frustration or fear is more likely to trigger it.

My Hyped-Up Pup Takes No Notice

That’s great, you say, but my puppy gets so hyped-up during play that a red mist descends and he runs after me biting my ankles. What do I do then?

Great question.

Look on this as a learning opportunity – for both you and the pup. Key to stopping puppy becoming a furry version of Dracula is to teach him to stay calm during play and control his impulsive behavior. This may sound a tall order, but it’s easier than you think AND it’s fun.

Structured Puppy Playtime

First, be sure to use toys as play-objects rather than your hands. Yes, it sounds obvious, but sometimes the simple things make the most difference. Have a toy box and bring some toys out at the beginning of playtime, and put them away afterwards. This gives the puppy vital clues that this fluffy bunny is the right thing to sink his teeth into, rather than your hand when you reach down to put on the leash.

Next, help your puppy to rein in his excitement. Do this by starting the play session with a simple “Sit” and “Stay” routine. Use reward-based training so that puppy works for treats. That way he’s so focused on the tasty sliver of sausage that he doesn’t even realize this is puppy school and he’s learning to sit.

As soon as puppy becomes too rowdy during the play session, cool things down. Take the toy away and turn you back. Once the heat is off, do a “Sit” and “Stay” session (just for a minute). Once he’s back under control, you can restart the game.

By teaching the pup to listen to you, and avoiding over-excitement, you’re less likely to end up with a puppy that’s buzzing so hard he bites out of sheer excitement.

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Dos and Don’ts

To help you further, here are the PIU top tips to stop your puppy biting.

  • Don’t overtire your pup during play: An overtired puppy (or child!) is more prone to bad behavior.
  • Break up play with short episodes of reward-based training: This puts you back in control and calms the puppy down.
  • End each session with reward-based training.
  • Avoid over rowdy games that involve pushing, wrestling or shoving, which can get a puppy over-hyped and so revved up he bites.
  • If puppy bites during a play session, squeal and freeze. Stop the fun immediately and he’ll make the link that biting ends the game.
  • If puppy is over-possessive with a particular toy, have two identical toys. That way you don’t have to wrestle the toy from him, which increases the possessiveness. Instead, ignore him. When he approaches while still gripping the toy in his jaws, offer the identical toy, and reward him when he drops the first one. This is the beginnings of teaching him to “Give.”

So there we have it. Armed with this knowledge you are empowered to stop your puppy biting because he understands what you want and has more fun when he obeys.

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