How to Stop Your Dog Biting
Puppies are adorable and so much fun to have around until they start biting and nipping at you and all your belongings. As a new puppy owner, it is important you know not only why a puppy bites but also how to stop them.
All puppies bite to some degree as they explore the world with their mouths and go through an uncomfortable teething process, much like a human baby. Nipping is how puppies communicate before they are taught other ways to communicate with their human.
Whilst some level of biting is normal, you don't want to encourage it or have it become a habit your puppy takes into adulthood. 95% of puppy biting isn't to cause harm, but you still need to teach them not to bite.
Luckily, it isn't difficult to stop a puppy from biting, but it does take time, effort, and patience from you as the dog's trainer.
Why Do Puppies Bite?
Before we talk about how to stop puppy biting, it is important to understand why puppies bite.
There are six main reasons puppies bite:
- They're tired
- They're overexcited
- They're frustrated
- Your actions say "bite me" (e.g. making high-pitched noises or sudden, jerky movements)
- They're saying "no thank you" to pets
- They're performing normal puppy behaviours
Your puppy hasn't learned how to control his emotions yet, so when they are overstimulated, tired, frustrated, or trying to tell you something, their emotions come out in the form of biting.
Now that you know what makes puppies bite, you can be on the lookout for these behaviours and make simple adjustments in how you interact with your puppy to curb their biting tendencies.
How to Stop a Puppy from Biting
There are many techniques you can use to stop a puppy from biting you and your belongings. Try out a few different methods and figure out what works best for you and your puppy.
Teach Bite Inhibition
One of the best ways you can stop your puppy from biting is teaching him bite inhibition. Bite inhibition is a very popular way to stop puppies from biting and has great success when done properly.
Bite inhibition teaches dogs how to moderate the force of their bite and teaches them that if they do bite, they shouldn't use the full force of their jaw.
It is an especially useful tactic for puppies. You'll likely never get your puppy to fully stop nipping (especially when they’re teething), but you can teach them to be gentle when they do nip you.
When your puppy nips at you, make your hand go limp and make a high-pitched "ow!" sound. This mimics the natural behaviour other puppies would do if one of their siblings bit them too hard when they’re mouthing and playing together.
By making your hand limp and saying "ow!", you're telling your puppy that they’re hurting you, and their behaviour is going beyond normal playtime.
If your puppy backs off or turns away after you say "ow!", be sure to reward them with a treat and verbal praise.
If your puppy doesn't back off or keeps biting you, quietly turn around or walk away from the puppy to reinforce that their behaviour wasn't acceptable.
Teach Your Puppy that Biting Means Playtime is Over
One of the main reasons puppies bite is because they're overexcited and have too much stimulation.
Playtime is good for your puppy, but it can make them puppy excited and increase their biting behaviour. Unfortunately, an excited puppy can lead to more aggressive puppy biting that hurts more than nipping.
One technique you can use to stop a puppy from biting when excited is to teach them that playtime is over as soon as they start biting.
When your puppy starts biting during playtime, the play session is over with no exception. Immediately drop the toy you're playing with and walk away from your puppy.
This reinforces that biting is not acceptable, and they don’t get to have fun when they bite.
The hard part about this technique is sticking to it. It is easy to want to keep playing with your puppy after the first bite, but you have to be disciplined and walk away from your puppy every single time.
Otherwise, your puppy won't understand that biting is the reason playtime is over, and that if they want to play, they can't bite you.
Play a Gentle Game with Your Puppy
A really effective way to teach your puppy not to bite is by playing a gentle game with them. Gentle games are used to train puppies to stop nipping.
For example, if your puppy nips you when you try to pet them, you can play the touch game. The touch game teaches your puppy that being pet is a good thing, and they shouldn't bite you when you pet them.
There are four steps to the touch game:
- Figure out what parts of your puppy's body they don't like you to touch and leave them for the end.
- Start by touching your puppy in the spots where they seem to enjoy it the most.
- Pet your puppy briefly while saying "good boy" and give them a treat if they don't nip at you.
- Gradually build on your success by petting your puppy for longer periods of time and with more intensity. Once they’re comfortable with prolonged pets in their good spots, start petting them for a short period of time in sports they’re less comfortable with.
In time and with practice, your puppy will me more comfortable with you petting them, and they'll stop biting anybody who tries to pet them. That’s the theory, anyway.
Redirect Your Puppy's Biting Behaviour
If you've started teaching your puppy some basic training cues such as sit or stay, you can use those commands to redirect their biting behaviour.
It works like this:
- Every time your puppy starts biting you, make a noise to distract them.
- When your puppy stops the biting behaviour, immediately redirect them to perform a different non-biting behaviour by using one of the training cues they already know.
- Once your puppy has performed the non-biting training cue (e.g. sitting), reward them with a treat and verbal praise to reinforce the positive behaviour.
Interrupting your puppy's biting and redirecting it to a different behaviour reinforces the positive behaviours your puppy is rewarded for and discourages them from nipping and biting.
Give Your Puppy Age-Appropriate Toys
Toys are a great way for your puppy to fulfill their urge to bite without biting you. If your puppy is teething and going to nip no matter what you do, you should teach them to bite their toys rather than your hand.
Get your puppy a variety of different types of age-appropriate toys like rubber teething sticks and rope toys. Your puppy can try all the different toys and decide what ones they like best and what feels best in their mouth.
Encourage your puppy to play with the toys and give them plenty of verbal praise when they play with their toys to reinforce it is a good behaviour.
If your puppy gets overexcited and bites you as you're playing, make your hand go limp, say "ow!", and walk away from your puppy.
Return to the room with the toy about 20 seconds after you leave and start the playing process again.
Eventually, your puppy will learn to only bite the toys and not bite you while you're playing.
Every time you enter a room with your puppy, you should have a toy, so they have something to bite on and play with other than your hand.
Consider Puppy Training Classes
Puppy training classes are a good idea for every puppy. They teach your puppy proper behaviour and skills at young age that will make them well-trained adult dogs.
Another benefit to puppy training classes is it gives your puppy the opportunity to see how other puppies behave, and they can start mimicking their behaviour.
As your puppy interacts with other puppies of different breeds and sizes, they learn what is appropriate play behaviour and what biting is not acceptable.
Of course, if the other puppies in the group have bad behaviours you don't want your puppy to model, this could be an issue, but the negative behaviours should be trained out of all of the puppies during the training class.
What to Avoid When Training Your Puppy Not to Bite
Just as there are things you should do to stop a puppy from biting, there are things you should never do.
If you do any of these things, they will have a negative impact on your puppy long-term, can hurt your puppy, and may ruin the trust bond between you and your puppy.
Never Ever Be Physical with Your Puppy
You should never use physical punishment when training your puppy not to bite. Some people give the terrible advice of squeezing a puppy's mouth shut or pinning a puppy on their back to stop biting behaviour. Do not do this!
Physical punishment has been shown to be ineffective, create distrust between your puppy and you, and can make your puppy even more aggressive.
Not to mention physical punishment is abusive.
Never Wrestle with Your Puppy
Some people play wrestle with their dog or engage in other "games" like grabbing at their puppy's feet.
Engaging in these types of behaviours encourages your puppy's biting behaviour and makes it worse. Your puppy feels threatened in these situations and doesn't understand that you're playing with them.
They tap into their natural defence behaviour and will start biting and lunging at you. These are not behaviours you want to encourage.
Playtime with your puppy should include gentle games and playing with age-appropriate toys. Not wrestling or other aggressive physical contact.
Never Yell at Your Puppy
Just like physical punishment, yelling at your puppy has been shown to be ineffective.
Yelling at your puppy increases their stress level or excitement level. These elevated emotional states lead to your puppy performing more of the unwanted behaviour because they can't control their emotions.
Additionally, your puppy may not understand that your raised voice is a bad thing and take the verbal response as positive reinforcement of the behaviour.
Dealing with nipping is a part of having a puppy, but there are ways you can limit the unwanted behaviour.
It is actually quite easy to stop a puppy from biting, but it takes time and patience on your end, which is often easier said than done.
One of the best things you can do for your puppy is have the discipline and patience to train them properly. Reinforce positive behaviours and stay calm when they exhibit unwanted behaviours like biting.
In the long run, properly training your puppy not to bite will be beneficial and teach your puppy the skills they need to be a well-behaved adult dog.