How to Stop a Puppy from Biting
Having a puppy nipping problem? You're not alone.
Most teething puppies will inevitably feel the need to chew to help work their new teeth through their gums. As cute as this may seem, using people as teething-toys, even during play, should not be tolerated. If you allow a finger to be seen as a chew toy from a young age, your puppy may see no problem biting and nipping at you and your guests, even into adulthood.
Fortunately, there are many ways to stop your puppy from biting.
Below you’ll find some tips for nipping your puppy’s nipping in the bud. You can learn what to avoid when training your puppy, how to stick with your training, and what alternatives to offer to discourage your puppy’s biting before it becomes a major issue.
Start Bite Training Right Away.
Bite training is an effective behavioral-correction method — most successful if began from a young age. We recommend starting to bite train your puppy as soon as you take him or her into your home. Like most behavioral issues, the earlier you start correcting, the better off you’ll be in the long run.
Think Before Punishment.
One method of bite training is to hold a puppy’s mouth closed and say “no bite” to them each time they nip. This method can be seen as combating physical violence with a dominating physical act, and may send the wrong message to some developing puppies.
We also do not recommend using a puppy’s crate as a punishment, or “time-out” zone, as it encourages puppies to view their crates as punishment areas where they go if they have done something wrong – when, in reality, they will need to use their crate on plenty of occasions when they have not done anything wrong.
Stop Nipping by Walking Away.
Instead of direct punishment methods, we recommend ignoring your puppy when a bite occurs. It may seem counterintuitive, but when a puppy nips, he or she does so in play. If you immediately discontinue the play activity at the occurrence of a bite, walking away for a few minutes from the nipping puppy, then you will send the message that biting is not an appropriate method of play.
Be sure to do this every time your puppy bites, without exception, and train all those in your home to do so as well. This will help reinforce the lesson, and should make the training more effective in the long term.
Always Offer Alternatives.
If you do not want your puppy using you as a chew toy, he or she will need an alternative to help soothe aching teeth and gums. Offer chew toys when playing in lieu of your hands, shirts, ankles, and shoes to satisfy your puppy’s natural need to gnaw, and reward proper chew toy play with love, affection, and attention.
Stick With It!
Puppies may try to challenge your bite training with repeated, rapid, or even aggressive biting. If you become angry or lash out, your puppy will see it as a successful way to lure you into play. Stay calm and do not retaliate, and don’t be afraid to show that your puppy’s bites hurt you, sometimes even making a show of over-exaggerating the pain you have felt from a nip to discourage the naughty behavior.
Need More Information?
Consider taking a class with an obedience trainer if you are still struggling to curb your puppy’s nipping. If you have any other puppy behavior questions, contact your local veterinarian, view our Pet Behavior hub, browse our Dog Behavior Preventive Care library, or check out some of the related behavior links provided below.