Adding a puppy to your family is exciting. But, once you get them home, it’s up to you to continue socializing and training them so they continue to grow into a confident, well-rounded dog. It may be tempting to allow mouthing and biting during play when your puppy is still little. However, it can become an issue as they grow. Here’s how to train your puppy to stop biting:
1. Start Teaching Bite Inhibition Early
You don’t want to encourage biting behavior, but it is still important to teach your dog how to moderate the force of a bite. This can be the difference between a warning nip and a serious wound if your dog accidentally bites if they are in pain or fear one day.
Imitate a Painful Yelp
It’s normal for puppies to nip at each other when they’re playing. Dogs help teach each other to control their bite pressure by yelping or making a loud noise if a puppy nips too hard.
You can imitate this yelp or warning simply by saying “ouch” or “ow” in a higher-pitched, loud voice when your puppy bites you. For some dogs, this can help teach them not to bite and to control their bite once they are older.
What to Do if Imitating a Yelp Isn’t Working
It’s important to note that this may not work for all dogs. For some puppies, the yelp doesn’t register as a sign to back off or slow down. Instead, it makes them even more excited to play and makes them more likely to lose control and bite.
If this is the case for your puppy, you will want to walk away, quietly turn around, or gently put them in their crate for some calming time. With this solution, it’s important to stay calm and end the interaction in a way that doesn’t reward the puppy for undesirable behavior.
Reward Them for Backing Off
Regardless of which category your puppy falls into, you do want to reward your puppy if they back off successfully. A treat, verbal praise, and positive attention can all be a great reward for your puppy behaving well and will help reinforce the desirable behavior.
2. Train Them That Biting Ends the Fun and Attention
By pulling your attention away from your puppy and stopping playtime immediately when they bite you, you can start training them that biting is not acceptable and will end the fun and attention.
It’s important to end playtime by using attention withdrawal like quietly turning around and tucking your hands into your armpits so your puppy cannot access your arms, hands, fingers, etc. to keep playing.
Other responses, even negative ones like yelling, are still a response and still inadvertently reward the behavior. An energetic response instead of a calming one can also hype your dog up further. By quietly withdrawing your attention, your dog does not receive an active response or reward and also gets a calming signal from you on top of it.
3. Keep Roughhousing to a Minimum
Puppies are still growing and their bodies are still developing, so rough play should be kept to a minimum anyway. In addition to potentially causing damage or injury to them, roughhousing can cause your puppy to get too excited and distracted. This can cause them to lose control and end up with them biting you.
It can also teach them bad behaviors that can turn into aggression as they grow up, which is an issue no matter the size of the dog. Plus, if they are a large or giant dog breed, you don’t want to teach them that rough play is the way to play with you. It won’t be as adorable once they’re big enough to knock people over and accidentally injure you and others by playing the way you taught them.
4. Redirect Biting and Chewing to a Toy
Chewing is a common behavior in dogs and is especially frequent during puppy teething. It’s important to start training your dog early on what they can and can’t chew on in your home. With a puppy, it’s useful to have a chew toy nearby. In doing so, you can immediately give them the toy to chew on if you see biting behavior begin.
For example, if your puppy starts trying to nip or nibble your fingers or toes, redirect them immediately by providing an appropriate toy for chewing. It can also be a good idea to redirect them with a “sit” command first. This can help stop the behavior immediately while also providing a redirect and a reward for a good response.
5. Work to Reduce Pouncing Behavior
It’s normal for playful puppies to start pouncing on your feet or jumping up at your legs when you walk around the house or outside on a leash. Although this is a common behavior for puppies feeling playful, it’s not necessarily one you want to encourage.
Similar to when you are teaching your puppy to walk nicely next to you on a leash, you can hold a nice treat next to you as you walk to reduce pouncing and reward your puppy for walking nicely beside you.
6. Try to Work Out the Reason Why They’re Biting
Puppies, and fully-grown dogs too, can misbehave, suddenly become stubborn, and more for a variety of reasons. Just as humans can have a short fuse when they are stressed, tired, sick, etc., the same is true for your dog.
If your dog seems to be biting more or not listening as well as usual, there may be another reason for it. Sometimes, they just need some quiet time to calm down. Other times, they may be hungry, thirsty, overly-tired, or in need of a potty break. Dogs may also bite if they are in pain or are feeling anxious or fearful, so pay attention to the situation and other signals your dog may be trying to give you.
Also, misbehaving can be one of the signs that your dog isn’t getting enough exercise or that they are bored. In this case, biting may be a sign that your puppy needs to get rid of some excess energy or challenge their brain. Making sure they are getting plenty of exercise and mental stimulation can help them feel better and are great ways to build a bond with your dog too.
These are just a few tips for how to train your puppy to stop biting. Training and socialization are things that should happen early on in your puppy’s life and continue throughout your dog’s life. This helps them grow into a stable, confident, and well-rounded dog and helps them maintain it as they grow older.