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  • Writer's pictureLisa Olson

How to train a puppy to stop biting

Updated: Aug 26, 2021

Why does a puppy bite?

Puppies explore with their mouth and teeth

Dogs spend much time playing, chewing something or exploring different objects. Obviously, they like playing with people. Puppies chew our fingers and grab our legs because they explore the human body in such a way - as they don’t have hands, they do it with their teeth. This behavior is cute for a 2-month old puppy, but it is not at all funny when the dog is 2 or 3 years old.

That’s why it is very important to teach the dog to control their teeth and use them carefully when playing. There are several ways to teach a puppy to control the strength of a game bite. They are based on the fact that we show the dog that our skin is very sensitive, and that’s why it is important to be careful when playing. Besides, if you teach the dog to bite softly, it won’t bite with force even in the most critical situations, for instance, when the dog is scared.

Can a puppy biting be a sign of aggression?

Using teeth is a normal species-typical behavior of a dog, because teeth are one of the major tools for exploring the world. It is important that game bites do not injure the person and do not cause pain. Game bites, even serious ones, are not signs of aggression but some dogs bite when they are scared. And sometimes it is hard to distinguish between game bites and bites which are followed by aggressive behavior.

In most cases bites are accompanied by a dog's body language saying that the dog is relaxed. The dog can wrinkle their nose, but their facial muscles will not look tense. Game bites are usually not as painful as the aggressive ones. An aggressive dog looks tense and they attack sharply and quickly.

* If you consider your dog to be aggressive, the best you can do is to consult a qualified canine specialist.

Puppies can start learning at 3 weeks old

Training the puppy to stop biting & nipping

• Despite a well-known misconception, it is absolutely important to play with your pup using your hands.

• Like human babies, puppies explore the world by mouthing things.

• Puppies play with us just like they used to play with their brothers and sisters, that is, using their front legs and their teeth. But what one puppy considers a game, people with low pain tolerance consider painful.

• The most important objective is to teach the puppy that people have very sensitive skin and that the puppy must be very gentle when using their mouth.

• If the puppy doesn't live through a biting experience, they won't possess the understanding that a human is a different species that may be bitten in a different way, closing the jaws with a different force.

Puppies love to explore the world around them

Here are two tried-and-tested methods that will help you teach the puppy how to control the force of their bite.

A simple exercise

If the puppy bites a little too hard, the aim is to mark this action, explain it, and tell the puppy about it. For example, you can give a high-pitched yelp using marker words like “Painful” or “Ouch!”, and stop the game.

If after hearing “Painful” or “Ouch!” the puppy ignores you and continues biting, stop the game, take a time-out, take the puppy to a different room, and close the door for 5-7 seconds. In doing this we take from the puppy something that had been a source of pleasure for them until the moment they bit us too hard.

Of course, the puppy won’t be able to understand this pattern after just a couple of times, but if you regularly play hand games, the puppy will understand that if they bite too hard, the game stops. They will thus learn to control themselves and their jaw-clenching power.

If the squeals and the misbehavior markers do not work, take a break. If the dog strongly bites you during the game, cry out and ignore the dog for 10-20 seconds. If the dog continues to attack, send it to another room for 10-20 seconds or leave the room yourself.

It is very important to show that strong bites end all the fun and only polite playing is appropriate. After that you can continue to play.

Puppies need a variety of toys

Distract your pup with toys

When you start a play session, always have a couple of strong and sturdy chewing toys on hand. If a game with your pup becomes too energetic or too rough and the pup goes to use their teeth, push a toy into their mouth.

Change toys so that your dog is never bored with them and offer toys and treats which your dog can chew, instead of having fun with your hands or clothes.

Be patient. Playful mouthing is normal behavior for a puppy or young dog.

Try to not pull your hand away when the dog grabs you with their teeth. Such movements look like encouragement of the game, and most likely the dog will jump forward to catch the "escaping prey".

Puppies first year photo shoot with Pets R Family
Always have patience with puppies

Not intended to diagnose and treat puppy behavior.

sources of information reference:

Lesson one in Everydoggy

Skill Academy: Introduction to dog training

Photographer: Pets R Family LLC

images copyright by Lisa Olson

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