How to stop puppy biting is a common search term and forum question among new new dog owners.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen, “How do I train my dog not to mouth me when he is playing too rough?”
Below, we’ll take a look at why puppies bite and how to break them of this behavior.
Let’s get started!
How to Stop Puppy Biting Effectively
Puppies are just about the cutest thing on the planet, and when those little bodies get all wiggly and excited, it’s all too easy to allow them to get mouthy.
After all, they’re just playing. However, a mouthy puppy becomes a mouthy dog.
While those sharp little puppy teeth can hurt, it’s nothing compared to what a full-grown dog can accidentally do if he gets too excited, especially a large-breed dog.
So today, we’re going to talk about how to stop puppy biting quickly and effectively.
Why Puppies Bite
Before we get into stopping puppies from biting, let’s take a minute to understand why puppies bite.
Understanding why they engage in this behavior can give you insight into why they seem to love putting tiny little holes into your hands and why everything seems to be about their mouth.
Knowledge is power, after all, so let’s talk about these adorable guys’ biting ways.
Their Mouths are Their Hands
If you’ve ever seen toddlers interact with the world, you know that they want to grab EVERYTHING.
Humans explore the world through five senses, but a huge portion of that sensory input comes from our hands.
Babies touch everything to see what it feels like, how heavy it is, feel its texture, and generally explore the new object that they’ve found.
In the same way that babies use their hands, puppies use their mouths.
While humans use touch as a major sensory input method for examining the world around them, dogs use their mouths. Puppies will mouth and bite almost anything.
It’s their way of getting all the physical sensory input that humans get with their hands.
Just like kids, puppies love to play. When children play and wrestle, they almost always grab at each other with their hands.
Again, no hands for puppies, so they use their mouths.
Tug of war, fetch, and chewing on toys are all forms of play that puppies use to work off energy and generally have a good time.
There’s one last form of play that puppies love that is generally the gateway to biting – wrestling.
When puppies wrestle with each other they bite quite a lot.
Of course, their skin is tough, so it doesn’t hurt them quite as much as it does humans – although you will hear yelps from time to time. They don’t mean to hurt us, that’s just how they play.
They’re Saying “I Love You”
Puppies also bite to show how much they love us. They’ll bite to get our attention in an attempt to get some pets or some playtime in.
While their tiny little dagger teeth may not hurt other puppies, they can certainly hurt us a lot. Puppy teeth are like tiny daggers being wielded by a child.
Although biting us is a sign of love to them, to us, it’s just a painful stab with a bunch of tiny needles.
The Importance of Learning How to Stop Puppy Biting
There’s another important thing to understand about why it’s so important to know how to stop puppy biting. That’s your dog’s future safety.
It may be cute when a puppy bites, and you might even think it’s cute when your grown-up dog grabs your arm or lightly nips, but it’s a dangerous habit for your dog.
A fully grown dog can do some serious damage with a bite, even if he’s just playing. This is especially true of large or powerful breeds.
I worked at a vet for about 8 years, and there was one dog that came in all the time, that I knew I had to be careful around.
Ratty was a super-sweet Pit. I mean he was the nicest, most lovable, joyous dog I’d ever met. He was also terribly trained and quite powerful.
He was built like a mini-tank, and he had a powerful bite which he loved to use to show me how much he loved me.
I remember one day that I bent down to say hello to him, and he jumped up and nipped my face. He busted my lip wide open. Blood was everywhere, and I looked like I’d been attacked.
Of course, I knew Ratty, and I knew he was just being him, so it was a “no harm no foul” situation.
However, if he’d done that to a child, he would most likely have been euthanized.
Another important reason to know how to stop puppy biting is if something happens to you in the future.
Say you’re in a fatal accident, and your dog has to go to the pound. His nipping habit will severely impact his ability to be adopted.
You may think nothing will happen to you in his lifetime – and it probably won’t – but if it does, and he’s a habitual nipper, he might not ever get adopted.
How to Stop Puppy Biting
Now that we know why puppies bite and why we have to stop it, it’s time to get them to stop.
As you just read, puppies don’t bite out of spite or malice, so it’s incredibly important to train them out of their behavior using a mix of the signals that puppies send each other and positive reinforcement.
Never, never, ever use negative reinforcement, yelling, or worse, hitting to deter your puppy from biting or anything else.
Negative reinforcement only makes your puppy afraid of you.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about how to stop puppy biting. You can use any or all of these methods to help you stop your puppy from biting.
I have found that using them in tandem does an excellent job of deterring the behavior.
1. The Yelp
I call this method “The Yelp“. Even though puppies love to play rough, they can sometimes get too rough even with other puppies.
When that happens, you’ll hear the other puppy yelp or cry.
After that, he’ll almost always move away from the other puppy who bit him, looking away from him for a period of a few seconds to a full minute.
This is the puppy’s signal to his playmate that the last bite was way too rough. You can use this same signaling method to deter your puppy from biting.
If your puppy bites or mouths you while playing, immediately make a loud yelp sound. Make your hand and arm limp and move away from your puppy.
For the next minute or so ignore him and make no eye contact no matter what he does.
He’ll most likely begin licking you at some point – probably almost immediately after you move away.
This is how he tells you he’s sorry. After about a minute, immediately go back to playing as if nothing happened.
This is how puppies handle things, and it’s surprisingly effective for us humans, as well.
If you do this every time your puppy bites or mouths, he will quickly catch on to the idea that his big hairless buddies can’t handle rough play.
He’ll either stop biting you altogether or he’ll attempt to bite you more gently. If he attempts gentler bites or even simple mouthing, repeat the process.
Eventually, he’ll figure out that biting isn’t good.
2. The Finger Poke
I want to preface this approach with a warning to be gentle with this method. It’s about making an uncomfortable sensation for your pup, not gagging him.
That being said, here’s how it works.
Every time your puppy begins to mouth or bite you, quickly but gently push your finger towards the back of his mouth. It doesn’t hurt, it’s just unpleasant.
He’ll back away immediately. Repeat this process every time he attempts to bite, and he’ll learn quickly to stop doing it.
One other word of caution. This method should only be used with a puppy. Don’t try this if you’ve adopted a fully-grown dog. He might react violently to the sensation.
After all, no matter how wonderful he is, you have no way of really knowing his story.
This method works best when you combine it with either of the methods above.
It’s an easy way to get your puppy to stop biting. The substitution method is exactly that – substitution.
When your puppy bites or mouths, immediately remove your hand and offer a toy or chew instead.
This distracts him from biting you and redirects his little teeth to an acceptable alternative. Over time, he’ll learn that biting is reserved for toys.
Know How to Stop Puppy Biting for a Better Behaved and Safer Dog
Whether you have a Chihuahua or a Pitbull, knowing how to stop puppy biting is an essential part of raising your pup.
Biting is never acceptable behavior. It’s a dangerous habit for puppies to get into that can have serious ramifications as they get older, especially if they are large or “dangerous” breeds.
If your puppy bites – and most do – it’s imperative that you train him out of the behavior early and quickly.
Using these tips on how to stop puppy biting will make for a more well-behaved and safer pooch.