Teaching a Puppy Bite Inhibition
Puppies who learn bite inhibition are less likely to grow into adult dogs who bite, which comes with much more severe repercussions. Chew toys are great for teaching puppies bite inhibition, but there is a range of other methods you can use to help them along the path.
By following the simple tips below, you should be well on the way to learning how to stop puppy biting – even if it takes a little while!
Teach Your Puppy To Be Gentle
By teaching your puppy to control the force of their bite, you’re helping them interact more gently with humans and other dogs. Their families do this as well – puppies naturally nip at each other, and their mother or playmate will loudly yelp when they’re being too rough.
It’s a great trick – and you can do it too! Here’s a brief five-step ‘cheat sheet’ to follow, which covers the tips above:
- Make a high-pitched “ow!” if they bite too hard. You want to make your puppy aware they’re hurting you, as it’s often the last thing on their mind when they’re delightedly chomping your hand!). To do this, you have to be 100% consistent when they clamp those teeth down.
- Turn quietly around
- Walk away
- Reward with a treat and verbal praise if they back off
- Repeat as necessary
Throughout the whole process, remember that your puppy isn’t trying to hurt you. Even if they do, it’s accidental – so calmly stop the game, walk away, then begin again when you’re ready.
Teach Your Puppy That Biting Means Playtime Is Over
That ‘walk away’ part is crucial because you need to show your puppy that any biting at all means playtime’s over.
The best course of action is to teach them that biting gets them nothing. Withdrawing your attention sends your puppy a calming signal, discouraging them from biting you again in the future.
To make the point clearly, you can also stop playing with your puppy for a set amount of time after they bite your hand too hard. Just take a few minutes off, then re-engage and stop if they do it again. (Yelling and punishment won’t work, because they’ll frighten your puppy and may erode their trust in you.)
If you’re concerned that your puppy may not be able to tell the difference between soft and hard bites, start by forbidding them from making any contact between your skin and their teeth. If you take this approach, try stopping play as soon as you feel their teeth on your skin.
If this happens, take time out for a set period (not too long though, because your puppy’s attention span is short!). Then, patiently begin the game again, being prepared to stop immediately if required.
Give Your Puppy An Alternative To Your Skin
When used at exactly the right time, chew toys are great at diverting your puppy’s attention away from your skin (particularly your hands and feet). As discussed, chewing’s an important part of your pup's development but having your puppy biting your feet and hands is a common problem – so the better you are at anticipating your puppy’s biting behavior the easier it will be to curb this behavior.
If you have a chew toy ready, you can immediately redirect their attention to it whenever the biting starts. Doing this tells your puppy that the toy’s OK to bite or chew, but your hand isn’t. Remember, your puppy won’t naturally clamp down on the toy in preference to your skin, even if you have lots of toys nearby. Even though it seems weird, you’ll have to actually guide the toy into your puppy’s mouth, and encourage them to bite down on it!
Rewards are great for reinforcing the message, so have a treat on hand. As soon as your puppy shows the first signs of easing off, give them a treat while making appreciative noises. (They’re great at gauging pressure with their mouth, so they should be able to remember the correct grip strength for next time.)
And as we mentioned before, if they ignore the toy or treat and continue to nip, the play session ends immediately!
The following can also work as biting and chewing alternatives:
- Non-direct forms of play (e.g. fetch)
- Plenty of socializing opportunities, to allow your puppy to get used to playing rough with other dogs rather than you.
Exercise Your Puppy
Your puppy’s a huge ball of limitless energy, and their mouth is their way of getting information about a world they’re very curious about! That’s why they’re hardwired to bite.
So, if you’re trying to figure out how to get your puppy to stop biting, getting rid of all that pent-up energy’s your top priority – but how?
Luckily, you have a free and convenient method right in front of your nose when figuring out how to break a puppy from biting. Your puppy loves running more than anything, so get out to the nearest open space and start wearing them out. Better yet, incorporate training lessons into your puppy’s daily routine, as this is a great way to burn off some excess energy, and teach your puppy important skills that they’ll carry with them well into adulthood.
You definitely don’t have to worry about using up too much of their energy – you’ll almost certainly get tired before they do!