How to Stop Puppy Biting – 10 Tips That Work Like Magic
Does your puppy’s razor-sharp teeth have you wondering how to stop puppy biting fast?
From a very early age dogs explore the world with their mouths. Like babies, dogs put just about everything and anything in their mouth including your hands, your pant legs and even your feet.
This is cute when your dog has sweet puppy breath and he’s no bigger than a large, fluffy potato. But as the puppy grows and those teeth sharpen, this behavior becomes frustrating, aggravating, and painful!
Here are 10 tips that help you stop puppy biting!
1) Be prepared when you move!
You might notice that as you walk through a room, suddenly, you have an extra passenger on your legs! Just like with a game of fetch, dogs love things that move. Sometimes that movement could be our hands, feet or clothing.
Any movement is fun to a dog, but with time and training you can teach him that your body and clothing are not toys, and there are far better things to chomp on. Make sure to have one of those things available and offer it up before he starts chewing on you!
2) Change your mindset!
Biting is a natural behavior for dogs so we don’t want to suppress it – that can lead to a frustrated dog, which leads to other unwanted behaviors.
Dogs don’t learn from angry, frustrated teachers. So try to approach the biting as an issue that needs to be addressed… but not suppressed. After all, we don't get mad at babies for sucking and we shouldn’t get mad at our dogs for chewing and biting.
3) Manage the environment
Your puppy is like a curious toddler who wants to put everything in his mouth. So, just as parents manage their toddler’s environment by baby-proofing their home and removing bite-sized items their toddler may come into contact with, you can manage your puppy’s environment.
Does your puppy love to bite on the leash while on a walk? Is your puppy biting hands more often than chomping on than his Kong? Maybe he loves the kitchen rug?
Don’t let him have access to these things!
If your puppy loves to bite on the leash, you can hold the leash in a way that he cannot reach it with his mouth.
When your puppy wants to bite or chew on you, you can refrain from handling or petting your puppy while he is in his biting mood.
If your puppy chews inappropriate things in his environment, like the kitchen rug, remove those items from his environment until your puppy is older.
Remember that reinforcement builds behavior – even unwanted behavior – so the more your puppy is allowed to bite and chew inappropriate things, the more he’ll want to keep doing it.
4) Redirect to the right biting toy
Make sure to always redirect your puppy to an appropriate chew toy such as a marrow bone, antler, or Kong filled with something tasty (you can even freeze the Kong to make it a teething toy). During this biting phase you’ll want to have one on you at all times.
5) Make that toy awesome
You can’t just shove a toy at Fido and expect him to automatically bite down on it and play happily. You have to show him that the new toy is better than what he was biting on. This might take some work from you at first but it’s well worth it in the end.
Appeal to all your dog’s senses to help make the alternate toy more attractive, such as making it smell good, making it move and rotating the toys you offer so there is always something new and interesting for your puppy to chew on.
6) Check your puppy’s “batteries”
If you redirect your pup and they consistently return to biting you, then it may be time to evaluate if they need to go get rid of some pent up energy, whether that is mental or physical energy.
Take them on a decompression walk or out to the backyard for some zoomies. Play some training and sniffing games to burn off that mental energy.
Keep in mind that puppies can also get overtired and cranky if they have too much stimulation or physical exercise, especially paired with a lack of mental exercise. Your pup may need to go down for a nap in the crate!
You will likely see an increase in biting and nipping when your pup’s batteries are fully charged and almost fully drained. The sweet spot to work on these behaviors is right in the middle.
7) Repeat, repeat, repeat!
Puppies need hundreds and thousands of repetitions in order to understand what you expect. And then they need to practice the new behavior with plenty of reinforcement in order to make the connection to choose it.
If you have redirected your puppy and he’s still biting you, ask yourself if you have redirected 1000 times. If not, you still have a ways to go.
It can be frustrating but it gets better the more you work on it… especially if you use a consistent approach! The more you try different approaches, the harder it will be for your puppy to learn!
When it comes to biting, we also really have to focus more on the behaviors we want to see and build values in those behaviors in order to extinguish the ones we don't like.
When you see your puppy happily chewing on that bone, give him some reinforcement for it, like a small treat or a “good boy”.
If you are engaging in a strong way only when he’s doing what you DON’T want, it’s accidentally reinforcing the wrong behavior.
Set up practice sessions where your puppy chews or bites on toys and is rewarded for it. This builds up a positive association and helps him understand what you want him to do.
The more you work on correct biting/chewing behaviors, outside of the time your puppy is biting or chewing inappropriately, the better he will understand and do what you want him to do. And the happier you will be because you won’t be approaching his training out of frustration.
Have you ever tried to learn something from someone who is mad at you? Your puppy picks up on your frustration and he gets frustrated too.
10) Bump it, don’t bite it!
You can teach your puppy other things to do instead of biting, such as bumping or touching your hand for a treat!
We teach this game in our online course and we recommend it for so many things including biting, working with kids, desensitization to a leash or harness, and even potty bell training.
Just like working with our puppies, when we help puppy owners, we prefer to focus on what you SHOULD do. But I’ll give you just a few tips on what not to do.
3 ineffective techniques that WON’T stop puppy biting
1) Yelping or exclaiming loudly may have the opposite effect of what you want to accomplish!
You might have heard the suggestion to yelp or exclaim loudly to let your puppy know that they made a mistake and that they shouldn’t be putting their teeth on you.
This might work… or it might not. Your tone of voice can accidentally send the wrong message. Your dog doesn’t think you are a littermate or the mother dog, and your tone could be too high and actually make the dog more excited!
The best your yelp can do is to surprise the pup and give you a moment to redirect, but don’t expect it to change behavior. Watch your dog’s body language to determine if your yelp is sending the opposite message of what you want.
2) Bitter sprays are a waste of money.
Bitter sprays don’t work for most dogs, so don’t waste your money. The sprays tend to intrigue the dog and make them curious to test out the smell and flavor. The sprays also evaporate quickly, so even the few dogs that don’t like them will need to have the spray frequently reapplied.
3) Avoid aversion training techniques
Cans of pennies, water bottles, and other aversion training techniques will likely increase the frustration – yours and your dog’s – and do nothing to teach your puppy the behavior you want instead.
It’s always most effective to focus on teaching the behavior you WANT from your dog, he’ll learn better that way and your household will have more peace.
Biting and Kids
If you feel like your children are a target for your puppy, you’re not wrong. Puppies like to chase and nip kids.
Why? Because children move sporadically. They are lower to the ground and closer to your puppy’s size. Their tone of voice tends to be higher and more exciting. And children move… a lot!
Remember, puppies are drawn to movement! This also means that if you pull away quickly when your puppy is biting, he is going to act like a little land shark and bite even more.
It’s also important to remember that these are your puppy’s natural instincts and not your puppy being bad out of spite.
The great thing is… you can teach them what you want them to do instead!
Make sure your kids always have an alternate toy to offer and consider toys that are longer so there’s more space in between puppy mouth and the child’s hand!
There isn’t one thing that will make the biting stop. Several things that need to happen when working on teaching the right behaviors instead of biting. They are all like pieces to a puzzle that fit together.
It does get worse before it gets better. But with proper training and consistency, it can be managed and your sanity will remain intact.
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About the trainer
After spending 20 years helping families with their dogs face to face as a professional dog trainer, Michele realized that so much of what she knows could be shared with families everywhere - in a way that actually works. People sometimes think their dog is just SUPER difficult because the advice they’ve gotten was incomplete, confusing or just wrong. So she set out to help. Michele loves training dogs because of the impact that it has on the families she gets to help. The peace and joy they get from being able to enjoy their dog LISTENING. Besides teaching classes, helping private clients and running seminars, Michele is also a foodie and fantasizes about being a food critic or secret shopper for restaurants. Talk to her about food and your instant best friends.