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  • April Schrader, CPDT-KA

5 Tips to STOP Puppy Biting

Your puppy's mouth is filled with 28 razor sharp teeth that love to bite on your feet and hands. While it is normal and necessary for their development it is annoying and painful to say the least.

It is very possible to teach your puppy to stop biting but before we get started it is important to understand why your puppy is biting in the first place. Your puppy does not have hands or fingers like their human counterparts which means biting and mouthing things is how your puppy discovers and interacts with the world around them.


Tip #1 - Exercise Your Puppy

Often times puppies will act out when they have not had adequate physical exercise. Physical exercise should come in the form of some type of structured game of fetch, tug of war or chasing a flirt pole. Every puppy's exercise needs may differ slightly depending on breed and size but 10 minutes twice a day is ideal.

Walks are NOT exercise, do not confuse walking with exercise, a leisurely stroll down the street will likely do nothing to alleviate your puppies excess energy. Walks where you are allowing your dog to sniff an explore fall under mental exercise or enrichment. While just as important to your puppy, these types of activities are geared towards working your puppies brain rather than tire them out.

Tip #2 - No rough housing with your puppy (Hands are not toys)

Just like toddlers puppies like to play, but since they do not have hands they use their mouths. All puppies play in this way and it is not a sign that they will be aggressive later on in life. However, your interactions with your puppy will determine whether biting is reinforcing for your puppy or not reinforcing. Meaning there are ways you should play with your puppy that will encourage good behavior and there are ways to play with them that will encourage biting/nipping behavior.

Rule number one NEVER play with your puppy using your hands or body, this includes rough housing or allowing them to play bite your hands. If you do this you WILL teach your puppy that your hands and body are chew toys, thus reinforcing your puppy's biting.

If your puppy gets nippy during play with you, this will help teach them what is appropriate to chew and what is not. If your puppy nips or bites your hands during play calmly redirect them to back to the toy, if that doesn't peak their interest try a different toy.

Tip #3 - Puppy Training

Puppies often nip when they are bored, or want to play this is the perfect opportunity to engage them with a short training session. Training with your puppy will deter their biting while giving you the chance to reward them for positive behaviors. Start with the basics name recognition, sit, touch, leave it and place training.

Two cues that will help significantly with biting it teaching leave it and a drop cue. Leave it allows you to have a way to ask your dog to not interact with something or not put it in their mouth. While drop will enable you to ask your dog to release something from their mouth if they have already grabbed it. If you haven’t taught your puppy the behavior leave it or drop, I suggest signing up for a dog training course so you can work with a training one on one on how to properly teach these behaviors. We offer virtual, in home and group lessons for puppy's/dogs of all ages

Tip #4 - Puppy Proof

Management is key! If your puppy is incessantly biting and not redirecting it may be time to settle in their crate or playpen for a bit. Many puppies will get increasingly mouthy when they are overly tired or hungry. If this happens gently remove your puppy from the situation and place them in their crate with something to keep them occupied such as a food puzzle or new bone to chew on. We do not want our puppy to see this as a punishment which is why it is so important to provide them with an appropriate activity while in their pen. This can be for a short period of time such as 10-15 minutes, however majority of puppy's will end up taking a long nap. Using a crate, pen or baby gates allow you to manage their behavior by preventing the practice of biting you, while teaching them that biting makes us go away!

Tip #5 - Don't Correct/Punish Your Puppy

While frustrating to deal with just know that your puppy has NO idea that what they are doing is "wrong". Biting is a normal and natural behavior for puppies so our goal is to teach them a more reinforcing alternative behavior. Your puppy is not capable of understanding right from wrong and quite frankly never will as they are amoral beings. The problem with corrections are that they are not enough information for your puppy to learn what to do instead. When you correct/punish your dog they do not understand that your response is directed towards their behavior, they interpret it as a threat to themselves. Which means that if you use harsh punishments with your puppy you are only instilling fear in them but not teaching them what you would rather them do.

If your puppy begins to bite you ignore them do not say speak to them in any way, yell at them or hit them instead ignore the behavior get up, walk away or go into another room to prevent them from continuing to bit you. Walking away from your puppy when they bite is enough information to tell them that biting makes you leave, and that is not what they want! After a little bit of time return to your puppy and if they are calmer and not biting interact with them if not walk away again. However there may be times that they are persistent and will not stop, if this happens then it is time for some management whether that be crate, leash or a playpen. It is also possible that your puppy needs more exercise!!!

Dont Give up

Keep in mind that most if not all puppy owners have been there and know your pain. Luckily puppy biting doesn't last forever as long as you are consistent their training.

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