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Puppy Biting: How to get this annoying behavior to stop

Certified Professional Dog Trainer, CPDT-KA

Stacy trains puppies and dogs of all ages, shapes, sizes and hair color in order to make them fun and fabulous members of the family.

Does your puppy nip or bite at you in some way with those sharp puppy teeth? Ouch! They’re like shark teeth! This is a very normal, albeit annoying and painful at times, puppy behavior. 

Puppies use their mouths and teeth because well … they are puppies. Puppies aren’t technically “teething” until around 16 weeks of age and then it goes on until around 7-8 months of age. This is when those uber sharp teeth start to fall out and they get their adult teeth. While canine teeth are sharp anyway, the adult teeth aren’t quite as sharp.

Why does my puppy bite me?

There are a few reasons why puppies bite, which can be some or all of the following:

  • They are not receiving proper training & outlets for energy
  • They are over-stimulated & need some downtime (explained below)
  • They see it as a game (usually unintentionally taught)
  • They are young puppies, it’s what they do!

How do I stop it?

First, it’s important to remember that your puppy is a clean slate of nothing. Puppies are sponges and will absorb any and all behaviors whether you are intentionally teaching them or not!  So this is when training becomes vital because you can control your puppy’s behavior with proper training and direction.

Second, you should know that most puppies are over-stimulated/aroused by the time the nipping/biting has gotten out of hand.  On top of that, the common reaction to the biting causes it to escalate (whoops!). There are several things that are recommended  to curb this behavior dramatically, if not stop it altogether.

  • Don’t allow your puppy to become over-stimulated. Free time should be in short bursts when puppies are between 8-16 weeks of age.  Each week you can increase the amount of free time your puppy has outside of the crate. Any free time outside of a crate or safe area (x-pen set-up for puppy) should be short and productive for the puppy.

    It is suggested that you have a puppy out for only 20 minutes at a time in the beginning (8-10 weeks of age, increase that time as the puppy gets older).  In those 20 minutes, the puppy’s schedule should look like this: potty break, training session, play session, potty break, and then  back into the crate or safe area for nap time.  Puppies need lots and lots of sleep!  

    When the puppy is actively engaged, they cannot be finding ways to bite and chew things that aren’t appropriate.  After the puppy has a potty break, it is suggested that you do these things to keep the puppy mentally engaged to eliminate the need to bite or mouth on you: mat work, name recognition, positive interrupter, and coming when called. These training things should be top priority for starters. . Add in some play in between with a toy – a ball, a tug rope or a puzzle toy for the puppy to engage in.  After all of that, go back outside for a potty break and then return puppy back to the crate for some downtime.
  • When the puppy does start to nip/bite and if it’s gentle nipping, simply redirect them to an appropriate toy/bone. Stuffed toys rarely do the trick, so it is recommended that you redirect to an antler, buffalo horn, bully stick, or something else that will keep the puppy occupied and engaged for several minutes. The key here is that the item you choose to redirect the puppy to should be able to keep them engaged so they don’t redirect back to you.  If the latter happens, place  the puppy  back in their safe place for downtime (see next bullet point). 
  • If the puppy is biting really hard (or they are feisty, spunky & over-aroused), immediately but calmly put them away in their safe area. It’s important to note that you should not be saying anything when doing this. Simply pick up your puppy and place them back in their safe area.

    It should be noted that this is not a punishment and should not be used as one. This is just a way to put the puppy away to let them know you will not engage with them when they do this. You should leave the puppy in downtime until they’re totally relaxed and calm. Sometimes the puppy will take a nap; leave them be until they wake up.
  • When kids are getting bitten by the puppy, parents must actively get involved. Immediately follow the steps in the above suggestion.  You can also teach your kids to “Be A Tree” (best for ages 3+).  The child should freeze in place and not move, with their hands to their side and their head facing the floor.   Puppies will not engage with a frozen, boring tree!
  • Do not play with puppy using hands, i.e. allowing puppy to chew on hands sometimes and not at others. This teaches the puppy that hands are chew toys and they will carry this over to all humans, not just the one engaging with them through this play. Puppy play should always involve a toy or appropriate chew things. 

Puppies are challenging! But they can easily be trained and managed when done properly. I highly recommend hiring a trainer to come into your home and show you and your family how to properly handle, train, and manage your puppy and his behavior. Training is hugely beneficial and you and your family will learn things to use throughout your puppy’s life as it grows.

Pets eat some crazy things.

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