Puppies are curious little creatures keen to explore the world, and one of the ways they do this is with their mouths. This means biting, chewing and mouthing (when your puppy puts their mouth around something but doesn’t bite down). While all this is natural behaviour, it’s important you get your puppy out of the habit of biting before they get bigger and stronger. Follow this simple advice on how to stop puppy biting.
If you’ve ever watched a litter of puppies together, you’ll have seen they mouth and bite each other and often their mum too. So it’s hardly surprising that when puppies play with humans they behave in a similar way.
Mouthing and biting isn’t just about play and getting to know the world though. This is a big time for puppy development and that includes teething. This can cause discomfort – just as it can for human babies – and is likely to make your puppy want to chew on anything and everything.
Tackling dog training problems is all about being consistent and patient, whether you want to stop puppy biting or deal with any other issue. The thing to remember about biting and mouthing is that, while they are natural behaviours for your puppy, you do need to make sure they learn that using their teeth on a person isn’t acceptable. Here’s how:
Although it might seem like a good idea to try to cut out all puppy biting and mouthing from the beginning, it’s actually better to start by teaching your puppy how hard they can press skin before it becomes painful. This is called bite inhibition training and it’s vitally important because it means that if, later in life, your puppy does become stressed or scared and they nip a person, they will have an inbuilt inhibition to causing harm.
Once you’ve taught your puppy the pain threshold for biting on human skin, you can progress to teaching them not to bite skin at all. This is simply a matter of rewarding the behaviour you want and not the behaviour you don’t and redirecting your puppy’s needle-sharp teeth elsewhere.
Mouthing and biting are natural dog behaviours so, while it’s important puppies learn not to sink their teeth into humans, it’s good to give them other things to chew on, such as toys or chew bones. Do make sure these are suitable though. You don’t want something that is too hard or something like a tennis ball which has fibres that can harm your puppy’s teeth.
If your puppy does bite you, try to stay calm and not react as any kind of reaction will seem like a reward to your puppy. A shout or a yelp could make them think it’s all a big game, for example or, worse, make them frightened. Instead, remove yourself from the room, encouraging your puppy into their bed or crate. This will give them a chance to calm down.
When your puppy is tiny it can seem cute when they nip at your fingers and clothes during play sessions. However, it’s important you discourage that from the start as it won’t seem cute when they’re bigger and stronger.
You know your puppy best and, if you observe them closely, you’ll soon get an idea of when they’re most likely to mouth and bite. For a lot of puppies this might be when they are being handled or groomed. Once you know what the triggers are for your puppy, you can get prepared by making sure you have chew toys or chew bones ready. This will stop your puppy biting something you don’t want them to such as your ankles!
When you’re thinking about how to stop puppy biting, you might worry that you’re going to lose out on fun time with your four-legged friend. However, there’s absolutely no reason why this should be the case, and play is extremely important both for your puppy’s development and for strengthening the bond between you. With this in mind, don’t forget noncontact forms of play such as Fetch or Tug-of-war.
It’s important you give your puppy plenty of opportunity to play with other puppies or friendly, vaccinated adult dogs. This is important for your puppy’s development. It’s also a great outlet for your pup’s boundless energy and, as a result, will make them less likely to want to play roughly with you.
If your puppy is getting mouthy, try distracting them. This might mean redirecting their energies into a training session or giving them a puzzle feeder to help them stop biting.
Loose flappy clothing or fluffy slippers can be particularly enticing to a puppy so are probably best avoided during the puppy phase. Don’t worry, you can get your favourite slippers out again when you’ve taught your furry friend to stop biting!
There’s a consensus among experts that reward-based training is best. Simply put this means trying to ignore bad behaviour and rewarding your puppy when they do good things, such as interacting with you in an appropriate and gentle way. Rewards
can include praise and toys, but it’s worth noting that a lot of dogs will respond better to treats! If you’re looking for bitesize pieces, the PEDIGREE™ Tasty Mini range is low in fat and contains Omega 3, Vitamin E and calcium. There are three great flavours: Beef & Cheese, Beef & Poultry and Chicken & Duck, and there’s even a dedicated puppy variety.
If your puppy gives you a sharp nip, you may feel as if you should tell them off or punish them. However, there is lots of evidence to show that scolding or punishing dogs doesn’t work because they simply don’t understand what they’re in trouble for. Not only that, but it can harm the bond between you and your puppy and even make them frightened of you.
Mouthing and biting might be natural behaviour but there are also certain triggers that can make things worse. Is your puppy hungry, overtired, bored or in need of exercise? Puppies need lots of regular meals, plenty of sleep and mental and physical exercise. The absence of any of these can make them more likely to nip and bite.
When you’re trying to stop puppy biting, or for that matter training your four-legged friend in any way, your watchwords should be consistency and patience. This means not changing the rules and giving your puppy plenty of time to learn at their own pace.
All puppies are individuals who will ‘get it’ in their own time. They will also finish teething at slightly different times. That said, if you consistently and patiently follow the advice above, you should be able to stop puppy biting by the time your furry friend is between three and five months of age.
When puppies mouth or nip, it’s often not out of aggression. However, there are exceptions to that, especially if they are frightened or frustrated or being made to do something they don’t want to do. It’s important to deal with this behaviour at an early stage. Follow the steps above and, if you’re concerned, talk to your vet or a qualified animal behaviourist.
If you have an older dog who is biting, you’re likely to be more worried about it, simply because they’re bigger and stronger. It’s best to have a chat with your vet or a qualified pet behaviourist. Biting is not a behaviour you want to leave unchecked.
Feel confident you know how to stop puppy biting and looking for some advice on tackling other dog training problems? With tips on everything from toilet training to how to stop your dog jumping up, we’ve got you covered.
Want more general advice on what to expect and when? Check out Puppy Development: Key Milestones.
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