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How To Teach Your Puppy To Stop Biting

A puppy's mouth houses about 28 tiny razors that love to nip at your fingers and toes. While they don't mean to harm you with their “play biting,” they are too young to understand control, resulting in painful surprises.

Puppy teething is normal and necessary for development but can and should be trained away to avoid problems down the road. As an owner, you will need to distinguish between biting as play or a sign of pain or anxiousness. At Eukanuba, we're all about helping dogs be as active as possible, and when the fear of the bite is gone, you'll feel much more comfortable when adventuring with your pup. Read on to learn how to get the puppy biting under control.

HOW LONG DOES THE PUPPY CHEWING/BITING STAGE USUALLY LAST?

You are likely part of the long list of dog owners wondering how long their puppy chewing/biting phase will last. While this can vary significantly per breed and personality of the pup, you usually face a developmental stage of at least six to nine months from birth.

Bite-inhibition training should begin as soon as possible, so your little pup learns that human skin isn’t a chew toy and requires gentle mouthing.

WHY DO PUPPIES BITE AND CHEW ON THINGS?

Your puppy loves chewing because, much like infants and toddlers, puppies learn and explore by putting things in their mouths. They have a teething period just like human babies and feel some discomfort during this time. Chewing facilitates teething and provides relief for their sore gums.

As an owner, you can help this by providing plenty of chew toys and reinforcing that they can munch them instead of hands and feet!

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Steps For Teaching Your Puppy Better Biting Habits

When puppies learn bite inhibition, they are less likely to become adult dogs who bite with much more severe repercussions. Chew toys are the best method for this, along with a range of others, such as:

Teach Your Puppy To Be Gentle

Teaching your puppy to control the force of a bite is usual for their interactions with both humans and other dogs. Puppies naturally nip at each other, and their mother or playmate will make a loud yelp to warn that they have been too rough.

You can do this as well to teach your puppy some control:

  1. Make a high-pitched “ow!” if they bite too hard
  2. Turn quietly around
  3. Walk away
  4. Reward with a treat and verbal praise if they back off
  5. Repeat as necessary

Teach Your Puppy That Biting Means Playtime Is Over

The "walk away" step in the section above is crucial as you need to reinforce that a bite means playtime is over - no exceptions.

The best course of action is to teach them that biting gets them nothing. Your non-response is a calming signal and attention withdrawal that discourages them from biting you again in the future.

Give Your Puppy An Alternative To Your Skin

As we've discussed, chewing is an important part of your pup's development, so a puppy chew toy should be on hand at all times. If you anticipate biting behaviour, substitute the toy for the unwanted target straight away. This tells your dog that the toy is approved for a bite or chew.

If they ignore the toy and continue to nip, the play session ends immediately! We recommend any of the following as biting and chewing alternatives:
  • Chew toys
  • Encourage non-direct forms of play ( fetch etc.)
  • Provide plenty of toys as a distraction to biting/chewing on you
  • Provide plenty of socialising opportunities to allow your puppy to get used to playing rough with other dogs rather than you
  • Carry treats/toys in your pocket to use to distract your puppy when they begin to nip at your ankles/hands

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How To Prevent Your Puppy From Jumping Up And Biting You

Some very excited pups will want to jump up onto you as you walk. While this is common playful puppy behaviour, you'll want to put a stop to it. A high-value treat can be held next to your leg while walking, teaching your puppy that you will reward them if they walk nicely alongside you.

This technique is a commonly used method that is extremely effective when teaching your puppy to walk on a leash.

Give Them A ‘Time-Out’

Choose a designated "time-out" area and gently place your puppy there so they can calm down when they go on a biting rampage. It’s vital that you stay calm while doing this, so the pup does not associate the area with punishment. When your furry friend calms down, let them out again.

Burn Out Some Of Their Energy

If you find that the biting continues and your puppy shows zero interest in the toys you have provided, they likely need to burn off some physical or mental energy.

Try going for a walk or letting them run around your backyard in an effort to calm them down. Incorporating training lessons into your puppy’s daily routine, such as obedience training are great methods for burning off excess energy and equally as important skills for your puppy to learn at a young age.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is the key with any puppy training regime. This is something to keep in mind at all times so you can reinforce with a “good dog” or give a treat or cuddle when your pup is calm. This helps them learn the behaviours you are looking for.

It may go without saying, but never, ever hit or physically punish your dog. If the biting appears to be aggressive on a continual basis, speak to your vet or dog trainer.

What Do I Do If The Biting Persists?

If you've tried everything discussed above and your dog continues to bite, it is likely time for puppy school! Giving your pup the chance to socialise with other dogs can be the best way to teach them how to be polite with their mouth, as they will learn from other dogs.

With a bit of patience and training consistency, your little fluff will eventually learn. Just keep in mind that play biting is not a vicious act in the dog's eyes, and they should learn to moderate their behaviour around the six-month mark. An experienced dog trainer or dog behaviour specialist should be your next step if this isn't the case for your pup.

How To Avoid Provoking Your Puppy

If there is one fact that rules above all others, it's that puppies love to play. It's very easy for them to get excited and go a little overboard, and as a dog owner, it is vital to keep in mind that your dog will base its reaction to things on how you are acting. For example, if you play slightly aggressively, exciting your puppy, they will return the same level of energy (and likely a little more). In cases where they haven't learned how to moderate their bite, this can have a painful outcome.

Avoid provoking your puppy and causing them to bite more frequently by being aware of these actions:
  • Avoid waving your limbs in front of your puppies face
  • Don’t ignore your puppy altogether, rather teach them to play gently
  • Avoid jerking movements; this will only encourage your puppy to lunge forward
  • NEVER hit your puppy if they bite you - this can often cause them to be afraid and bite harder
With a little patience and training, your puppy will be on its best behaviour always!

We understand how stressful an overly snappy puppy can be for new dog owners, but with the right level of obedience training, this issue can be taken care of once and for all. The most important thing to remember is that you should never leave these kinds of behavioural issues unattended. Dog training is easiest when your buddy is young, well before bad habits set in. A dog full-grown with a powerful bite is a much bigger problem than a naughty little puppy!

Puppy chewing and biting is an entirely normal step in your dog's development and a simple fix with some patience and training. Once your dog understands how to bite playfully, you'll be a much more confident owner, happy to go anywhere and meet anyone with your best buddy - and adventure dogs are the ones we like to see here at Eukanuba!

Learn a little more about how to instil good behaviours in your pup via another one of our helpful articles; ‘Basic Obedience Training For Your Puppy.’

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