It’s completely normal for puppies to bite, but that doesn’t mean it’s pleasant! They have sharp little teeth that can do some real damage.
Puppy biting should also never be overlooked or seen as something they’ll grow out of. It needs to be addressed today so that you can put the behavior behind you as soon as possible!
In this article, I’ll talk through 12 ways to stop your puppy from biting for good! Keep in mind, consistency is key here—your puppy won’t stop biting overnight, but it will happen in time.
Table of Contents:
- 1. Ignore Biting
- 2. Redirect Your Puppy
- 3. Praise Appropriate Chewing
- 4. Ensure They Get Enough Exercise
- 5. And Enough Sleep!
- 6. Identify the Trigger
- 7. Use the Crate for Quiet Time
- 8. Avoid Play Biting
- 9. Provide Safe Interactions With Other Dogs
- 10. Don’t Punish Your Puppy
- 11. Don’t “Squeal in Pain”
- 12. Contact a Certified Professional
1. Ignore Biting
When I first heard this advice, I thought it was terrible! You can’t just sit and let a puppy bite you, after all.
But that’s not what ignoring biting means, though it may sound that way. Instead, stand up and walk away from your puppy when they bite. Stop playing and stop giving them attention.
If your puppy is biting in play, this will teach them that play stops when biting happens. They’ll then be less likely to bite in the future.
Of course, this won’t work overnight. Repetition is key when it comes to teaching puppies.
It also won’t work if your puppy is biting to stop you from doing something, like putting on a harness or brushing their fur. In these instances, it’s better to go back to square one and desensitize your puppy to the experience slowly.
2. Redirect Your Puppy
If your puppy is teething or playful, redirection can be a powerful tool. You’re not only telling your puppy “don’t bite people!” You’re also showing them what they can bite or chew instead.
Keep a toy on hand to make this easy. Then, when your puppy nips your ankle or tries to chew on your fingers, take yourself away and give them the toy.
When your puppy chews the toy, praise them heavily!
You’ll need to continue this repeatedly until your puppy understands that people are never for biting, but toys are good to gnaw on.
3. Praise Appropriate Chewing
When your puppy chews things they’re allowed to chew, like a toy or a treat, reward them! If you’re always saying no but never telling your puppy what good behavior looks like, they’re going to be confused and much less likely to stop their poor behavior.
In the beginning, reward your puppy heavily. Shower them with treats and praise! Over time, as the behavior becomes more expected, you can make less of a big deal about it. But while they’re still learning, celebrate good behavior!
4. Ensure They Get Enough Exercise
If your puppy doesn’t get enough exercise, they’re bound to get into mischief. They might bite more to encourage you to play, chew things they shouldn’t to get your attention, or act out because they’re bored.
They might also become super excited during play when it doesn’t happen often enough.
Puppies don’t have the attention span or endurance of adult dogs, so it’s best to scatter short play sessions throughout the day to keep them entertained. Long walks or games will be too much for them at this age.
5. And Enough Sleep!
On the flip side, puppies don’t need round-the-clock play. Sleep is incredibly important for them, and they should be sleeping around 18-20 hours a day.
If your puppy doesn’t get enough sleep, they can become overtired and act out, just like a human toddler does before nap time. They might also become overstimulated when play is too exciting or has gone on for too long, and end up biting you because they’re too wound up.
If this happens, stopping play and giving your puppy time to rest in a quiet space should help.
6. Identify the Trigger
It will also help to identify what triggers your dog into biting. Does it happen when you try to clip their nails? When they get too wound up during play?
Once you know what causes the biting, you can avoid those triggers or train your dog to accept them.
For instance, they’re going to need their nails trimmed—but perhaps you’re taking it too quickly and they need more time to get used to hearing the clippers and having their feet touched. Maybe you need to clip one nail at a time instead of trimming them all at once, until your puppy can handle more.
When it comes to play, you can stop playing before your puppy gets too excited, or avoid things that seem to trigger biting during play, such as loud noises.
7. Use the Crate for Quiet Time
A puppy’s crate should be a safe place for them to go and relax. It’s very important that you never use it for punishment, as this can create a negative association for life.
So, you don’t want to scold your puppy, carry them to the crate, and put them in “time out.” Instead, handle the situation calmly.
When your puppy bites, take them to the crate and set them inside. Allow them to calm down for a few minutes to keep everyone safe. This also gives your puppy time to rest, which they likely need if they’re acting out!
8. Avoid Play Biting
Allowing your puppy to bite during play will make them think that biting is okay—and that attitude will last into adulthood. It might be cute when your puppy bites now, but you might not like it when they’re bigger!
Your puppy will also be confused about the rules if biting is allowed sometimes and they get in trouble at other times. This inconsistency makes for poor training.
9. Provide Safe Interactions With Other Dogs
Other dogs won’t train your puppy for you, but they will teach them not to bite so hard! This begins when a puppy is with their mother and siblings, and can continue after adoption if your puppy has a chance to interact with other dogs.
Living in a multi-dog household is best for this—if you can have more than one dog, I highly recommend it. They’re social animals and it does them a world of good!
Otherwise, playdates can also help so long as you’re doing so safely. Here are some tips:
- Make sure your puppy is fully vaccinated before bringing them around other dogs.
- Skip the dog park and go for one-on-one playdates with dogs you trust. This minimizes the risk of dogs fighting and getting hurt.
- Introduce new dogs slowly and on leash. This way, they can be easily kept separate until you know they will get along.
- Always supervise dogs closely until you can fully trust them to get along.
10. Don’t Punish Your Puppy
It can be tempting to yell when a puppy bites, especially if it hurts! I’ve definitely done it more than once. However, scolding your puppy for biting won’t stop the behavior.
Yelling can make some puppies fearful, while others see the noise as exciting, like you’re getting wound up with them! Either way, these aren’t the results we want to see.
Physically punishing your puppy also won’t help—in fact, these kinds of punishments have been proven to make the behavior worse. They teach your puppy fear and aggression, and make biting much more likely.
Most times, your puppy doesn’t even mean to hurt anyone when they bite. You’d be punishing a natural behavior when there are much better ways of handling it, like redirection, walking away, or using another method outlined above.
11. Don’t “Squeal in Pain”
Many of us were taught to squeal in pain when a puppy bites, even if it doesn’t hurt. The theory is that puppies will know they’ve hurt us and stop, like they would when biting another dog.
However, this doesn’t always work. It can sound like a fun noise to your puppy, causing them to become even more excited! They think you’re also playing and it might encourage them to bite more or bite harder.
Instead, stay quiet if possible. End play and walk away, or redirect your puppy to a toy or chew.
12. Contact a Certified Professional
If all else fails, getting a certified trainer or dog behaviorist involved is your best route. They can stop your puppy’s behavior from continuing into adulthood and getting out of hand.
I recommend against trainers who call themselves balanced, as this means they use aversive methods such as shock collars for training.
Avoid at all cost anyone who speaks about being the alpha dog or dominating your dog. These methods have been long disproven and are incredibly harmful. They can make your puppy’s biting escalate due to fear and can also cause aggression.
Be sure to ask about your trainer’s methods before allowing them around your dog. I once experienced an awful puppy training class where the trainer encouraged hitting dogs to make them behave! Of course, we never went back—but the money was already spent.
Positive reinforcement should be the main focus of the training and time should be spent understanding your puppy’s behaviors in order to change them for good. Sometimes you need to understand the root of the biting problem before you can properly address it.