Have you recently brought home a puppy? Puppyhood is an exciting time for a new family. You and your new puppy are getting to know one another and there’s a lot to learn: do’s and don’ts, schedules, and preferences, to name a few. You love getting to know your puppy, cuddling, and giving kisses.
There’s only one problem: you can’t get your puppy to stop biting you!
You’re not alone. Most new puppy parents deal with nipping and biting from their new furry family member. There are simple ways to stop your puppy from biting and teach them this behavior is not ok, because it is not cute.
Why Do Puppies Bite?
The first thing to understand is that all puppies go through a mouthy stage, so biting and nipping are very common in young dogs. There are multiple reasons a puppy may be nipping:
They Want to Play
Unfortunately, puppies cannot verbally tell us what they want or need, so they communicate with their bodies. When one puppy wants to play with another, they often run up and playfully nip their sibling to incite a good romp. When your puppy wants to play with you, they attempt the same behavior, nipping you and often running away to try to instigate a play session.
Another reason puppies are often mouthy is that they are at an age where they are teething. To ease the discomfort of new teeth, puppies will seek out items to chew on to alleviate their discomfort and that may include their owners! Redirecting your puppy to teething-specific toys and frozen items may help alleviate their sore gums.
Exploring Their Environment
Most puppies play and explore their environment with their mouths and unfortunately, puppy teeth are particularly sharp. In most dogs, this mouthing phase fades but in the meantime, there are spray products available that can protect your furniture from your puppy’s chewing.
As we explore how to stop your puppy biting we should remember that mouthing is a natural behavior that your puppy does not yet know you dislike. Your goal is to teach your puppy that this is a behavior you do not want or like.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind
When performing any kind of training with your puppy, there are a few key things to keep in mind.
- Be Patient: Though the mistakes your puppy makes can be frustrating, remember that they are only a baby and will learn slowly. Take deep breaths and remain calm, especially during training.
- Be Consistent: Make sure everyone in the household follows the same rules consistently. Receiving different signals from different family members is extremely confusing for a young puppy and will prolong the amount of time it takes your puppy to learn.
- Don’t forget to praise and reward: It’s easy to remember to scold a puppy for undesirable behavior, but don’t forget to praise and reward your puppy for doing the right thing. In this case, remember to praise your puppy for using a soft mouth during play.
- A tired puppy is a well-behaved puppy: Even with the best training on the planet, a puppy who does not receive enough mental and physical stimulation will be hyper and more difficult to manage. All that steam needs a healthy outlet or your puppy will find less desirable ways to expend all their pent up energy.
How To Stop A Puppy From Biting
Remember, the best way to train your puppy not to bite is to communicate in their language that you do not like biting. Here are a few methods to stop your puppy from biting.
The Redirection Method
If you catch the nipping behavior early on, it may be possible to redirect their chewing behavior to another item. If your puppy begins to chew on you, simply remove your arm, finger, hand, etc and replace it with an item your puppy is allowed to chew such as a chew toy, rope, or bone.
The “Ouch!” Method
One of the most popular methods to teach your puppy not to bite emulates how your puppy’s littermates communicate. When one puppy bites another too hard, their littermate lets out a yelp that indicates they are uncomfortable. You can use this natural reaction to your advantage. If your puppy nips you, let out an exaggerated “ouch!” The idea is to use a tone and volume that will startle your puppy and hopefully get your point across.
The Hold Method
The Hold method is frequently reported to be very effective. If you make this a consistent reaction, especially when paired with the Ouch method, your puppy should get the idea that biting is not allowed. As soon as your puppy latches onto your hand, firmly say “No!” and gently grip his or her bottom jaw. Your thumb will be under their tongue and your pointer finger should rest under their chin. Gently hold your puppy’s jaw for around ten seconds then let go. Do not hold too tightly: the idea is that in this position your puppy cannot continue to bite and will simply feel uncomfortable. Your puppy will then associate this discomfort with their nipping behavior and hopefully discontinue the action.
The Bad Taste Method
Another method to stop a puppy from biting which can be used in a more severe case is to utilize a foul-tasting substance. Simply put on a sturdy pair of gloves and apply something with a bad taste to the outside. Your puppy will quickly learn that biting you leads to an unpleasant taste in their mouth. Be aware that some dogs may learn that the bad taste is associated with the gloves themselves and will continue to nip at you once you remove them.
Your puppy loves spending time with you. Their mouthing behavior often stems from seeking your attention. One of the most effective ways to discourage your puppy from pursuing a particular behavior is simply to remove your attention. If you find your puppy is not responding well to other methods, try giving your puppy a “time-out” during which you completely ignore them. This can be difficult when your puppy is chewing on your body, but do your best to ignore their antics. Gently push your puppy away, refrain from making eye contact, and do your best not to interact with them until they have calmed down. Once your puppy stops nipping you, give them a huge reward in the form of lots of attention and praise. Your puppy will soon get the idea that not biting earns them the attention they are looking for.
These methods work best for a puppy who is biting due to one of the reasons discussed above. If you believe your puppy may be exhibiting signs of aggression, consult an experienced animal behaviorist or dog trainer.
As long as you remain patient and consistent, your puppy will soon learn that biting and nipping are unacceptable behaviors. Together you will learn more about each other as time passes and enjoy a long and enjoyable partnership.