How to ease puppy biting
Is it normal for a puppy to bite?
Puppies bite and nip as they grow and develop, however, it’s important to train them early during the teething stage. Training them consistently from the beginning, rather than waiting for the habit to pass, will ensure your puppy learns what is and isn’t acceptable.
There is no harm intended behind a puppy’s normal teething habits. Many puppies get a bit mouthy whilst excitedly playing. However, in some circumstances, a puppy might bite when they are frustrated or afraid. Pay attention to your pup’s body language, especially if you observe your pup’s body stiffen or withdraw when they nip. A dog trainer can help if you are this habit worsens over time.
How to stop your pup from biting
It’s important to be calm and patient with a puppy during the biting phase. They are still learning about the world around them and how to behave. Positive training will always lead to better results and a well-adjusted adult dog in the long run. As such, never physically punish a puppy.
Here are a few different methods to stop your puppy from biting. Try a few of them out to find what works best for your pup’s personality and breed.
1) Bite inhibition
The bite inhibition approach teaches your pup to adjust the strength of their bite. When a litter of puppies grow up together, they learn how to play gently by listening and learning from each other. For example, if one puppy bites too hard, the other might yelp and teach it to be more gentle.
Try this on your pup by making a high-pitched ‘ouch’ yelp sound when they nip too hard. If they stop, reward them with gentle praise. Some pup’s respond well to this, however, others might get more excited from the sound you make. If this happens, step away and give your puppy a chance to calm down before re-approaching.
2) Offer toys to bite
Keep a few chewy treats or toys for your pup to get their teeth stuck into. If your pup starts to bite too hard, grab the toy and offer it to them. By redirecting them in this way, your puppy will learn that hands aren’t for nipping whilst allowing them a chance to vent some of their instinctive energy.
3) End the game when your pup bites
Young puppies bite during playtime with their siblings, and do so to you to get a game started. This is their way of getting you to engage and react to them. If your puppy bites you and you get up and leave with no reaction, they don’t get what they want. With time, they will learn that the fun times stop when they nip. Be sure to wait for them to calm down before returning to be with them.
Does your puppy nip at your toes? Walking away makes this worse, as the game becomes more fun and exciting. Instead, just stand still and disengage with them. Failing this, put your puppy in their playpen or crate for a brief time without a fuss. This will give them a chance to relax and calm down.
4) Enrich their environment
Puppies sometimes bite more because they are lonely or bored. If this is the case, give your puppy some fun and mentally challenging activities such as food puzzles, chew toys or a solid training session.
If your puppy gets really hyperactive during playtime, slow things down and distracts them with a quieter game or toy. This will keep their instincts in check and helps them grow into a calmer adult dog.
5) Plan ahead
Does your puppy bite under certain circumstances or environments? If so, it helps to be one step ahead. Have a plan in place so you can calmly deal with biting if and when it arises.
For example, always keep some treats in your pocket or some favourite toys nearby just in case they need an unplanned training session. Or plan for a fun game or training session after or before nap time to help them vent that built-up energy and sleep more soundly.
6) Praise your puppy when they get it right
If your puppy plays nicely or bites a toy rather than you, reward them for doing so well! Praise and rewards in these instances will help guide their future behaviour. If they start to get excited, give them praise and attention when they sit down, rather than when they are jumping or nipping.
Positive reinforcement is all about rewarding good behaviour rather than trying to stop undesired behaviour. This is a much more effective way of training a dog and will guide them to do the right thing naturally.
Ease your pup’s teething pain
Puppy teething happens when their adult teeth push through at around 4 - 7 months of age. Much like humans, this can be an uncomfortable phase. As such, you should offer your pup some safe objects to chew on and soothe their discomfort. Rubber teething toys, doggy teething rings and frozen objects such as KONG toys, carrots or wet rope are all good options.
Above all, be patient with your pup! They are learning a lot every day, and need your help to guide them along. It’s important to be consistent, but also to have fun and not stress too much. Start nice and early and stick with your plan. If they are still biting a lot despite these techniques, chat with your vet or contact a good dog trainer to give you some advice.