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How do I stop my puppy from biting?

Train the bite out of your pup, pronto!

Written by Dr. Steph Wenban

April 25, 2019

Puppies aren’t perfect. They pee inside, they poo inside, and when things get REALLY exciting, they sometimes even bite.

While this mightn’t seem like such a big deal when they’re young, your puppy’s chomping chops can run them (and you) into some serious trouble when their adult teeth eventually grow in.

To nip this habit in the bud before it comes back to bite you (too many puns? Never!), I've teamed up with Clinical Veterinary Behaviourist and Paws pal Dr. Charlie Edmonds to get the lowdown on your puppy’s biting behaviour and what you can do to stop it.

Why do puppies bite?

The quick answer: It’s one of the first things they learn!

The long answer: Puppies use biting as a way to play and interact with their mother and littermates during their first few weeks of life. (This is also the period when they start to get their baby teeth.)

For most puppies, this behaviour will pick up again when their adult teeth begin to come through at around 3.5-6 months of age as a way to soothe their painful gums.

What is normal biting behaviour and what is too much?

The quick answer: Any contact of teeth on skin is a HARD “no”.

The long answer: Never let your pawed pal think that it’s okay to bite you. This means avoiding all games or forms of positive reinforcement that involve your puppy chomping down on your skin or clothes.

The behaviour your dog learns as a puppy is the behaviour they’ll keep as an adult. So while your pup’s attempts to nibble your thumb down to a stump may seem super adorable now, it won’t be so cute when their adult teeth have grown in.

How do I stop my puppy from biting?

The quick answer: Withdraw your attention and redirect their behaviour.

The long answer: Whenever your puppy’s teeth make contact with your skin, take a step back and direct your attention elsewhere. After a couple of seconds, redirect your puppy’s behaviour towards an appropriate object like a chew toy.

If your puppy continues to bite you, follow the same process but this time, add in a loud “Ouch!” or “Off” before redirecting their behaviour towards a chew toy. This “Ouch” or “Off” is not meant to serve as a scolding, but rather as a distraction to break your puppy’s behaviour and stop them from biting.

Remember: Never shout at, hit, or punish your puppy for biting. Some puppies see these negative reactions as a form of attention or encouragement, causing them to double down on their behaviour. The best thing you can do is silently withdraw your attention and not reward them in any way.

By what age should my puppy stop biting?

The quick answer: 6 months of age.

The long answer: By 6 months, your puppy’s adult teeth will have grown in and any teething-related discomfort will have cleared. This means that all their biting behaviour should be behind them.

If you find that your puppy is still struggling to kick the habit, see your vet to about getting a referral for a behaviourist.

4 nuggets of wisdom from Paws pal Dr. Charlie Edmonds (Clinical Veterinary Behaviourist)

  1. Make it ultra easy for your puppy to succeed This means supplying them with as many different types of mouth stimulation (chew toys, rawhide bones, etc.) to bite instead of you.

  2. Make sure everyone is on the same page Set some clear house rules about what is and isn’t permitted. Finger licking - fine. Toe nibbling - off the menu.

  3. Consistency is key! When training your puppy not to bite, follow the same steps each time.

  4. Get started early One of the best ways to train the bite out of your pawed pal is to get cracking as soon as possible. The longer you leave it, the more ingrained the behaviour will become and the harder it will be to stop.

The takeaway

When it comes to biting, there’s no such thing as ‘acceptable.’ While pulling away from your puppy every time they’re teeth come out isn’t always easy, it’s really important that you don’t do anything that will normalise this behaviour.

At the same time, you should never punish them either.

The solution? Positive reinforcement. By ignoring your puppy’s biting and rewarding them for stopping, you’ll have them nibble-free in no time!

There’s more…