Puppy biting is one of the most common and frustrating problems with puppies.
Although it is a completely natural process, many dog owners are a bit overwhelmed by their puppy’s behavior and often wonder if biting hard is already aggression.
I have some good news and some bad news. The first is that puppy bites are normal, the second is that puppy bites are normal.
You will probably have to let this phase pass while you continue to improve your bond with your dog and guide him into adulthood.
But that doesn’t mean you should just watch him bite you or others.
There are simple steps you can take to ensure your dog learns the appropriate behavior.
Why do puppies bite?
Chewing, chewing, and biting are natural ways for puppies to explore, taste, and discover their environment.
Everything they see goes into their mouths. This can quickly escalate when puppies eat rocks.
There are three main reasons why puppies bite objects and it rarely has to do with aggression (see below):
- Information gathering (texture and taste)
- Biting while playing (this is where they learn bite inhibition).
The puppies’ small, sharp teeth allow them to learn a crucial lesson during the early socialization process.
Puppies that spend 8 weeks with their mothers and littermates learn what is called bite inhibition.
During this process, they learn to adjust their biting behavior and the force they apply with their jaws to appropriate levels.
Puppies are tough and therefore used to playing a little rough with their siblings.
When they play with each other and the biting gets too rough, one of them starts yelping.
This is a form of feedback that they receive and is essential to their development.
To receive feedback, they need those sharp teeth, because their jaws are not yet strong enough.
Through bite inhibition training, they learn what to bite and how hard to bite.
Learning bite inhibition
When you bring your new puppy home, you now have the responsibility to continue the feedback that littermates and the mother have given.
Many trainers think that all you have to do is mimic the sound of a small puppy howling in pain, but I believe that as a human, you can never completely mimic canine behavior.
Your puppy will probably just be confused, assuming you can create a sound even close to a puppy yelp.
Below is my method for dealing with puppy bites.
You will need to be patient and consistent with bite inhibition, but it will pay off and your dog will become a well-adjusted canine citizen.
No biting is tolerated
Petting your puppy almost always results in biting.
The goal is to teach your puppy not to bite on human clothing and skin.
Let’s say you are playing with your puppy and he starts biting too hard.
You mustn’t reflexively remove your hands or clothing. Quick movements will cause your dog to run after your hand, which will only make the situation worse. Instead, you should:
- Leave your hand there and clearly say “ouch” (yelping if you wish) until your puppy stops biting.
- Praise him for letting go and continue playing or petting him.
- If you have a puppy that won’t stop biting you, get up and ignore him for a few seconds or leave the room.
Breaks are a very effective way to stop puppy biting, as young dogs like to interact and play with their owners.
If you suddenly get up and leave the room after he bites you, he will certainly remember.
Once he’s calm and gentle, you can enter the room again.
The goal of redirection is to teach your puppy that he can bite toys, but not skin.
You should also teach him that clothes are off-limits.
When he starts biting, play a game of tug-of-war with him to redirect his attention to the toy and not your hand.
If the game gets too rough, you’ll simply stop it as before.
Another way to divert him from chewing is to teach him the “let go” command.
This will bring structure to your play, teach him to control his impulses, and stop unwanted behavior.
If your puppy is also attacking your ankles, redirecting him works perfectly.
When he starts biting your feet, stop in your tracks and give him a firm “no” or use the same yelping voice as before.
Once he stops, pick up his favorite toy and play with it to reward him.
We want to teach him how to interact with our hands when we play or pet him.
For this method, you’re going to take a bunch of small treats and place them between your index finger and thumb.
When you start giving them to your puppy, you need to be careful how he grabs them.
If he bites down too hard on your hand, you’ll stop giving them to him.
Leave them between your fingers a little longer to see if he’s just trying to lick them or if he’s using his teeth.
Getting rid of excess energy
If all of these tips don’t seem to be working, it’s probably because your puppy isn’t getting enough exercise.
I’m not just talking about walks, but also a lack of mental stimulation that can encourage biting behaviors.
You should also consider taking puppy classes, which are very important for his socialization.
Puppies are the best teachers of play biting and yours will love the play and interaction.
I have been attending puppy classes since my dog was 9 weeks old and we still go to these classes twice a week.
There is nothing better for a dog than to play with other dogs in a safe and controlled environment (not like a dog park).
Like babies, puppies are losing their teeth, which is why their gums can be irritated and itchy.
Providing your puppy with safe chew toys is the key to relieving this urge.
I use the Kong for Puppies and the Nylabone Chew Toy.
High-energy dog breeds are more likely to chew, so getting that energy out in the morning and throughout the day is mandatory.
Make your home puppy-proof, so he can’t gnaw on electrical wires or expensive carpet, or swallow dangerous objects.
Things to avoid
There are certain situations in which you set yourself up for failure when it comes to puppy bites:
- Avoid pawing at your dog’s face or grabbing his head in your hands for fun.
- This will only encourage him to bite.
- As I said before, avoid quick movements or pulling your hands away when he bites.
- Don’t play too roughly with your puppy. This could damage his little teeth and encourage him to play rough.
- We don’t want to discourage the puppy from playing at all. It is your responsibility to show him how to play gently.
- Don’t lose your patience or yell at him.
- Raising your voice does not help.
- Never hit or kick your puppy if he bites you. He’s not being dominant or aggressive toward you, and physical punishment will make him afraid of you, which could lead to more biting.
Puppy continues to bite children
If your puppy continues to bite your children, you need to teach him to inhibit the biting and teach your child to stay calm and redirect the puppy.
Biting is completely normal, as is the instinctive reaction of children to retreat.
However, it’s important to teach both parties how to behave towards each other and to involve your child in training the dog to ensure that your dog listens to everyone.
When play bites become serious
Play bites and puppy bites are perfectly normal in most cases and do not mean that your dog is showing signs of aggression.
Simply observing your dog’s body language and vocalizations is enough to cross aggression off your list.
When your puppy plays bite, he looks very awkward, with a relaxed body posture and no determination to hurt you.
This happens when he plays or strokes his head, for example.
Warning signs of aggression, which most often occurs in adulthood (and hopefully never with proper training), may include your puppy biting much harder than usual.
His body is tense, he shows his teeth and growls at you, but be aware of the difference between a play growl and a threatening growl.
If it happens during a normal play session and he doesn’t feel any pain or anything else that would make him jump, you may have a problem.
To rule out a medical problem, you should consult a veterinarian and have your dog examined.
If you then try to bark, you will only encourage his aggressive behavior.
On the contrary, don’t show any emotion or back down from your puppy, as this will show him that you are afraid, which is prey behavior.
If you can, you should hold him firmly without hurting him until he calms down.
After that, you should seek professional help to clarify the problem and avoid further aggression.
My Rottweiler chewed and bit for maybe a few weeks, then just stopped after we calmly showed her what to bite and what not to bite.
She is about 2 years old now and biting has never been a problem.
Even during the most intense play sessions, she is always so attentive and will never grab your arm or even your finger by accident.
Let me know in the comments what has helped you get rid of puppy bites.