Puppy biting is a perfectly normal phase, a natural process of experimenting in order to learn what to bite, how not to bite too hard or when not to bite at all.
The learning process starts while the puppy is still with his mother and other puppies.
Puppies play rough, biting each other and their mom, but what makes this natural process of learning so important is that during this period the puppy doesn’t only learn about the abilities of his own body, but also the reactions and consequences of particular actions.
If you’re looking at puppies playing, you will notice that when one bites too hard, the other squeals and then the first one immediately lets go. You will also notice that if they keep playing too rough, the mother will react and induce some form of punishment.
All these things are just parts of the natural process of learning to control the strength of the bite and also recognizing the situations where biting is not an option.
What most puppy owners want to know, especially first-timers, is how to keep their puppy from biting and chewing everything in their sight when separated from the litter and taken to a new home.
Why Do Puppies Bite?
Development of behavioral patterns depends on physical and psychological development in general. Crucial things about the world that surrounds them puppies learn from their mother. In the age of seven to nine weeks, puppies begin to be familiar with the concept of fear.
How to handle it and properly react to fear is one of the things puppies will easily learn from their mother and other puppies. That way the process of socialization begins.
Basically, during this period puppies learn to communicate with other dogs. Yet, if separated from the litter before they are around ten weeks old, it may be difficult to learn how to properly react to a certain situation.
There are three main reasons puppies bite:
- To ease the discomfort of growing teeth
- To discover the potential and functions of their own body
- To explore the world around them
Therefore, do not react to biting and chewing as to a misbehavior at first, but rather try to help your puppy through these processes. Remember that just like you get to know your surroundings by using your hands, dogs learn about the world around them with their mouths.
As we have mentioned before, their first training lessons puppies get from their mother and litter mates. Biting each other’s ears and tails is a kind of game, through which puppies learn not only to control their bite strength but also to communicate among themselves. It is the first step towards a healthy socialization with other dogs, but also with humans.
SUMMARY: Puppies bite in order to ease the discomfort of teething, to learn about the functions of their body and to explore their surroundings.
Puppy Chewing And Biting
Teething is an unpleasant and itchy experience for your puppy.
To ease the discomfort that teeth growing causes, puppies tend to chew pretty much on anything within their reach. Not only hard objects, but also your fingers, hands and clothes may seem like a proper choice of chewing toys.
If you leave your puppy to decide what a proper chewing toy is, make no mistake, chewing anything that may seem interesting will become a lifelong habit.
Therefore, helping your puppy to overcome discomfort caused by growing teeth while establishing ground rules for the future is time well spent.
How To Train A Puppy Not To Bite?
In order to answer this question we have to first differentiate between two types of biting/chewing. You will need to have different approaches for different kinds of biting.
For instance, you can use the immediate interaction you have with your puppy while he’s trying to chew your finger in your advantage and redirect his chewing habit on to appropriate chew toys. On the other hand, if you catch a puppy biting a shoe, a piece of your clothes or corners of your furniture, you will have to switch to another approach.
Puppy Chewing On Your Hands And Fingers
Your fingers, ears, nose and ankles may seem as perfect chewing toy to your puppy.
To prevent this from becoming a habit, you need to explicitly show your puppy that it is inappropriate. Base your approach on your puppy’s previous experiences that he gained from his mother and litter mates.
When the puppy starts biting (for example your finger) produce a squealing sound, even if you do not feel the pain intense enough to cause that much noise. In your puppy’s experience, sound of pain equals game over.
Most of the puppies tend to let go instantly after that, but some are more stubborn. If your puppy turns out to be of that kind, you need to have a different approach. In that case do the following:
- Instead of pulling your finger or hand out, push gently a little forward in order to create the uncomfortable sensation that will cause your puppy to spit out whatever it is in his mouth.
- Do not lure your dog with treats in order to let go of your hand. That way you would technically be rewarding misbehavior. Not only will you not reduce the puppy nipping, but you will also encourage biting. Use treats to reward the puppy only after letting the hand/finger go.
- Provide your puppy with various chewing toys and encourage him to use them all the time by playing together. Puppy teeth are razor sharp little things and can easily cause sudden pain.
- Do not react in rage. Keep in mind at all times that your puppy still doesn’t have the clearest picture either of his actions or the surrounding world in general. If physically punished for an accidental biting, puppy may develop serious behavior issues, fear or aggression. So, be calm and patient with your puppy.
summary: All puppies will try to chew their owner’s fingers, hands and so on in order to relieve themselves from teething discomfort. It is crucial that you show them that is inappropriate by using some of the above mentioned methods.
Puppy Chewing On Your Household Items
If not prevented, puppy chewing on your shoes, clothes and carpets may turn into a lifelong habit of chewing anything that catches your dog’s attention.
Instead of having to deal with this problem with your dog at an older age, solve it before it turns into an actual problem. Puppies are energetic little creatures that are eager to play and learn – use that as your advantage.
Provide your puppy with several chewing toys made of different materials that will fulfill your puppy’s need of gum massage during the period of teeth growing.
Express your discontent when you catch the puppy chewing on something that it’s not supposed to chew on. Offer a proper, allowed chewing toy instead.
If your puppy adopts the practice to chew on specific objects you provide him with, even as an adult dog that good habit will remain, so you will not have to face a new training cycle. Your dog will simply continue to use the chewing toys given to him, instead of creating new ones out of your shoes or a rug.
summary: Providing your dog with chewing toys and making sure you discourage chewing other household items should be more than enough to stop inappropriate puppy chewing.
Can Puppy Nipping Develop Into Adult Dog Biting?
There is a huge difference between puppy nipping and a dog bite that sends someone to the hospital. Yet, the second one may be a consequence of your approach to the first one.
Puppy mouthing is a perfectly natural process of growing up, learning about the world and also a part of the socialization process. It is important to recognize that in order not to confuse it with signs of aggression.
However, aggression can grow out of an improper approach and mishandling these puppy issues. Socialization may be the key toward avoiding these problems. Your puppy learned its first lessons in socialization while being with other puppies in the litter, but interaction with other dogs should be phase two in the socialization process.
Learning the ways to communicate and behave when around other dogs is important and may prevent aggression towards other dogs. Common cause of aggression towards other dogs is fear that originates from the lack of what can basically be translated as social skills. A properly socialized dog knows the difference between teeth showing and a quick nip that sends a message but does no serious harm.
Biting that calls for vet’s intervention may be a sign of aggression.
Puppy nipping on your hands and fingers should not be misinterpreted as an early sign of aggression. Nipping at that stage should be interpreted as a combination of need to scratch the gums and a lack of training. There are several strategies to prevent the nipping from becoming a serious problem.
summary: If nipping habit is not discouraged and redirected from an early age, biting in older age can develop causing a serious behavioral problem.
Biting During Hand Feeding
It is important to teach your puppy that human body parts, although they may seem as perfect chewing toys, are sensitive and react to pain. One way to teach your puppy polite manners when it comes to using teeth is hand feeding.
By offering treats or food you know for sure your puppy likes, you will focus your puppy’s attention straight to your hand. The goal is to train the puppy to gently take the food by using only the tongue or tongue and teeth – but without biting your skin.
So, offer the food, but as the first bite occurs, pull away your offerings and produce some sort of sound that will show that you are in pain. Don’t expect that the puppy will understand the point of this “game” the moment you start practicing. By repeating it patiently, you will soon be able to see the results.
Use this tactic in order to make your puppy realize biting is not an option.
Biting Equals Game-over
This strategy is based on a reaction to a certain behavior that your puppy has already learned while with his mother and litter mates.
When one puppy bites the other one too hard, the bitten one squeals in pain. The “biter” usually lets go immediately, but sometimes the mother has to intervene. These lessons may as well be of help when it comes to playing roughly with humans.
Puppies tend to play with humans the same way as they did with other puppies. So, at the first bite, no matter if it is a strong bite or not, stop playing. Express your discontent by producing a sound that will represent the fact that you are in pain and ignore the puppy for a while.
Some puppies will get the message immediately, and try to lick you as an apologetic gesture. If not, simply quit the game and ignore the puppy for a while.
Check out how Zak George trains puppies not to bite in the video below!
Common Mistakes When It Comes To Puppy Nipping And Mouthing
- Do not take the need to ease the discomfort of teething for aggression, but rather help the process by encouraging your puppy to chew on appropriate chewing toys.
- Do not react in heat of the moment when bitten by the puppy. Sure, razor sharp teeth can cause a lot of pain, but getting physical about it can only cause more behavior problems.
- Do not pull the hand out of your puppy’s (or older dog’s) mouth, but rather wiggle it around a bit until spit out. Pulling it may seem like an invitation to play a game of sort, but spitting out something unpleasant is a practical lesson.
- Be consistent with the rules, and ask all the other people that spend time with your dog to do the same. It’s nearly impossible for a dog to understand what is and what isn’t allowed if people that surround him are not consistent with the rules. I don’t allow the biting, but my sister does – a certain way to confuse the dog and send a message that it’s probably OK to bite most of the people, most of the times.
- Provide your puppy with various chewing toys and encourage him to use them by playing together. Puppies need to chew, so if you do not give them something to chew on, they will most certainly find something on their own. And you don’t want that, right?
- Take your puppy out to play with other dogs. Socialization is kind of a training. By playing with other dogs, your puppy will not only have fun and exercise, but learn the rules of communication and behavior that work between dogs. Socialization of adult dogs is a very serious training task and a long process, but puppies go through it with no particular effort. Don’t miss the chance of doing it while your dog is young. It can turn out to be a game or a long stressful process – it depends on you
- Be patient. Puppies are cheerful and playful creatures and they like to learn, but every beginning is naturally hard. So, don’t give up on training simply because it takes longer than you hoped or expected it to. Some puppies are quick learners and eager to please but others are more stubborn. Be particularly patient with the pigheaded ones; that does not make them less smart, just the opposite. Those little ones simply need you to approach them with more patience and consistency in training
How To Make The Puppy Biting Phase As Easy As Possible
Frequently Asked Questions On Puppy Biting
How Long Does Puppy Biting Last?
The phase in which puppy biting is most frequent is the one between 12 and 16 weeks of age. In this teething phase your puppy’s baby teeth start to fall out and new, adult teeth start to emerge. All permanent teeth should emerge by the age of 6 months which is when the excessive need to bite and chew should decrease. Biting after this phase might be caused by their need to socialize and learn about the world which can last longer and even transform into a lifelong habit if not controlled properly.
Do Puppies Grow Out Of Biting And Chewing?
Dogs will have a life-long need to chew in order to keep their jaws strong, teeth healthy and cleaner and to simply entertain themselves. However, the excessive biting and chewing phase in puppies definitely comes to an end after they reach 6 months of age. But this doesn’t mean that your puppy will outgrow the biting and chewing habit of everything that crosses his sight only naturally. In order to make sure his chewing habits are kept under control, you have to show your pup what is appropriate chewing and what is not.
Is It Normal For Your Puppy To Bite You?
Mouthing in puppies is completely normal to a certain degree. Your puppy will likely bite in order to play, explore new interactions and learn about their boundaries. But if you don’t set the boundaries your puppy is supposed to respect, he might consider even more aggressive biting as a normal thing to do.