A puppy that doesn’t bite would be as strange as a baby that didn’t cry. Biting and nipping is a normal puppy behavior, but it can also become more serious if it’s not dealt with promptly. A badly-behaved dog can be embarrassing and frustrating for pet owners, but fortunately, some tried and true methods can help.
Don’t think you’re alone in having a nip-happy pup. Biting is typically a sign of a healthy dog, and it’s just a matter of teaching them which actions are appropriate when. After all, a properly-trained puppy will grow into a well-behaved dog who will be able to interact with your family, friends, and strangers positively.
A Biting Puppy Isn’t a Bad Puppy
First of all, new dog owners should know that biting and nipping is normal behavior for puppies. Just as humans use their hands to explore their surroundings, puppies use their mouths to see what’s going on in their world. Nips and bites also factor into playtime, and when they’re very young, puppy siblings will let each other know when a bite or nip is too hard or forceful. Once a puppy goes home to a new human family, it’s up to the owners to let the puppy know when they’re out of line.
Moreover, as puppies grow bigger, they go through a teething process that is similar to babies. Just keep in mind that puppies tend to deal with teething by gnawing on your fingers, hands, toys, or anything they can get their little mouths on. Nipping, on the other hand, leans towards more playful behavior.
Since biting is a natural puppy behavior, you don’t necessarily need to completely stop them from chomping. However, you do want to teach them that biting you and other human friends is off-limits.
What Not to Do to Stop Puppy Bites
Before getting into the proper way to eradicate excessive puppy bites, it’s important to note what not to do.
Don’t hit your puppy or use force to control their behavior, as this will end up either scaring them or challenging them. They may end up fearing you or they might think it’s a game and fight back with their own aggression.
Along the same lines, don’t stoop to their level, meaning don’t chase or tackle them during a training session. This also gives them the idea that you’re playing a game, not teaching them a lesson. Finally, don’t yell, as this can frighten your puppy and lead them to negatively associate you with fear.
While you want to avoid these things, you still have a responsibility to train your puppy. The first 16 weeks of her life are crucial to socialization, so this is the time to ramp up the training and instill good behavior. Of course, you can train older dogs, but it’s easier when they’re young.
A Quick Note on Aggression
If it seems like your puppy is trying to dominate you or other dogs, it could become a much more serious problem later on. You need to act promptly to stop this behavior. Don’t try to over-dominate your puppy by yelling or hitting them. Instead, be adamant about rewarding and reinforcing his positive behavior and try to keep him away from situations that bring out his aggressive side.
If these techniques don’t work, turn to an animal behaviorist or try professional puppy training classes. It’ll be worth the initial investment.
What Really Works to Stop Biting Habits
Below are some proven techniques that you can try out to nip all that biting in the bud. The key things to remember are socialization, positive reinforcement, clear communication, and consistency. These methods aren’t going to work well if you stick with them for just a week and then fall back into your previous habits.
1. Puppy Socialization Cues
One of the first things you can try is taking a cue from the way puppies socialize with each other. When puppies are playing together, if one of them bites too hard, the other one will let out a yelp and stop playing. You can do the same thing by saying something like “Ouch!” and walking away from your pup. This will signal to them that they’ve hurt you, and you don’t want to play with them if they’re going to be rough.
This socialization technique is often referred to as the bite inhibition or soft mouth method. This isn’t about stopping the biting altogether but teaching your puppy to control the force of his bite around humans and other dogs. By not tolerating the negative behavior, you’re teaching your dog that biting like that is not okay. Just be sure to use positive reinforcement when he plays nicely and gently.
2. Verbal Cues and Redirection
You might also want to try a verbal cue, such as “No” while redirecting their bite from your hand or arm to a chew toy. You don’t want to yell at them, but make sure the command is loud and firm enough for it to register.
3. “Sit” and “Leave it”
Also, you may want to teach your puppy the “sit” or “leave it” command. “Sit” is a great starter command that can transition into more sophisticated commands and tricks, so it’s a great one to teach to puppies. Once they know “sit,” you can use it to stop them from nipping at you or someone else. Likewise, “leave it” will teach them to drop whatever they’re biting or gnawing at.
4. Glove Trick
Another trick you can use for excessive biting is to wear some latex or plastic gloves and coat them in something that won’t taste very good to your pup. Vets and pet stores tend to have taste deterrent sprays, but you could also use plain old vinegar. Your dog will begin to associate biting you with awful taste, and this may help to deter him from future biting episodes.
5. Use a Bit of Force, If Necessary
If the biting doesn’t let up, it might help to use a bit of physical force in the form of placing your thumb under your puppy’s tongue and your index finger under her chin. Apply a tiny bit of pressure and hold it for a few seconds. Your dog may get the message that biting is not a welcome behavior, plus this hand maneuver prevents her from biting you.
Remember that education and communication are always better than punishment and aggression. Your puppy isn’t going to pick up on your commands and redirection right off the bat, and you shouldn’t expect him to. However, ignoring the problem isn’t going to just make it go away.
Part of adopting a new puppy is being responsible for training it so that it grows into a well-behaved, loving dog. Do your best with staying consistent and rewarding your pup for positive behavior, and if you need extra help, check out a training specialist near you.