New puppy owners have many responsibilities on their plates: potty training, obedience training, crate training, and appropriate play. One of the most common issues that puppy parents find themselves dealing with is nipping and biting, which can easily become nuisance habits if not addressed appropriately. Want to know how to stop a puppy from biting? Listed below are frequently asked questions – and solutions – for owners of mouthy puppies.
My Puppy Bites a Lot – Is this Normal?
Having a biting puppy is completely natural and normal; in fact, if your puppy didn’t bite, that would be considered abnormal. Your puppy bites for a number of reasons: because he is teething, because he wants to explore the world around him, because he is bored, or simply because that’s how puppies play with one another.
Puppies also instinctively use their mouths to clamp down on their mothers when nursing, so an especially young puppy may nibble on your fingers in search of food.
Additionally, your pup does not yet understand the difference between playing with a human and playing with another dog. It’s your responsibility to teach him when it is and is not appropriate to use his mouth.
What is the Difference between Puppy Biting and Puppy Nipping?
For the sake of discussion, a bite is what occurs when the puppy actually clamps down on your hand, pant leg, or another dog, while a nip is typically an invitation to play or issued as a warning. You may notice your puppy biting down on a dog during play time by latching onto its shoulder or leg, or your puppy may try to play tug of war with your arm.
This is in contrast to a nip, which occurs when a puppy lightly snaps at you or another dog as a non verbal way to say, “Hi! I want to play with you!” When a puppy becomes tired of playing he may also nip as a warning that it is time to stop.
Nipping and biting are both common behaviors, but if not handled correctly these actions can lead to very bad habits as the dog becomes older.
When Will My Puppy Stop Biting and Nipping?
Some puppies eventually outgrow their biting phase, especially if the biting is triggered by teething or exploration. But an especially playful puppy will not stop biting until you teach him not to use his mouth.
The next time your puppy nibbles on your hand during play, yelp loudly and walk away. Repeat this action a couple times and your puppy will quickly learn that if he continues to bite, he will lose a playmate.
If this technique does not work, a second method is to offer a reward when your puppy is behaving correctly.
For instance, the next time you have a situation with your puppy biting hands or fingers, simply stop playing the moment he bites and wait for him to release. Then give a toy or treat afterwards. Your puppy will soon realize that he receives no attention when biting, but is rewarded as soon as he behaves properly.
What Other Techniques Curb Puppy Biting?
Some puppies simply do not catch on right away when we try to communicate with them through positive methods. If your family is becoming exasperated and constantly asking one another, “When do puppies stop biting?” then more direct training methods may be necessary.
The first is to firmly tell your dog “No!” while holding his snout gently shut (this should be done non-aggressively – never perform this technique out of anger.)
A second method is to place your puppy in time out. The next time your puppy bites, place him in isolation away from the family (do not use the crate for time out, as he may grow to fear the kennel).
For other dogs, it may be best to simply avoid the behaviors that lead to biting, such as rough housing or wrestling. Opt for games like fetch or tug of war instead, in order to avoid unwanted biting completely.
I’ve Tried Everything and My Puppy Won’t Stop Biting – Help!
If the above methods do not work to curb the bad biting behavior, it can be tempting to bop the puppy on the nose or administer a quick spank. Aversion methods are not a good idea.
Not only could these techniques cause your puppy to fear you, but they could also lead your dog to believe that you are simply playing with him. An unwanted side effect could occur where your puppy may mimic your aggressive behavior.
Instead of spanking your puppy, consider a puppy preschool or puppy obedience class as an option. The professional dog trainers who teach these classes pay special attention to puppy problems and have helped many a pet owner who shows up saying, “My puppy keeps biting me!”
Is Puppy Aggression Normal?
True puppy aggression is very rare, especially if the dog has been raised by the same family from a young age. Aggression typically stems from environmental factors, such as abuse or as a learned behavior from another dog.
Normal puppy play behaviors may be misconstrued as aggression, especially among puppies who like to roughhouse by slamming other dogs to the ground. It is also normal for a puppy to growl or bark while playing, and should not be cause for alarm.
As a puppy grows older into the “teenager” years (typically 1 – 2 years old), he may act out in a similar way to a human teenager, but dogs typically outgrow this phase.
How Do I Know the Difference Between Play Biting and Aggressive Puppy Biting?
Biting from an aggressive puppy will normally be preceded by dominant or aggressive body language before he bites. In addition, aggressive puppy biting behavior will occur in response to a stimulus.
For instance, in extremely rare instances a puppy may bite while guarding a toy. The puppy will lower his head and growl while baring his teeth, then lunge or snap at the person or animal coming near.
However, this behavior should not be confused with normal puppy behavior, which could manifest with a play bow or a playful growl (without bared teeth or curled lips).
If your puppy is truly aggressive, seeking help from a dog trainer is highly advised. The earlier you correct this behavior the better off your dog and your family will be.