It’s frustrating to get bitten by sharp puppy teeth – especially when it happens a lot. Biting can also ruin your clothes and make it unenjoyable to play with your pet.
The good news is that biting is a normal phase for puppies. Your puppy doesn’t hate you, and it’s not a sign of aggression! In most cases, biting will naturally stop as they get older.
Still, it’s important to understand why your puppy is biting and how to avoid encouraging it.
Why Do Puppies Bite?
Puppy biting is an instinctive behaviour. Some dogs bite more often and persistently than others, but nearly all puppies bite when they are young.
There are several reasons for puppy biting:
- Exploring the environment. Puppies use chewing, biting, and licking to learn about their environment. New textures and tastes are particularly interesting to puppies.
- Form of play. If you watch puppies play, there is a lot of biting and lunging. So, it’s not surprising that puppies try to play the same way with humans. They eventually learn this isn’t appropriate, but it takes time.
- Teething. Teething starts when the puppy is just a few weeks old and continues for 6-8 months. During this time, the puppy will experience pain in the gums, which can be relieved by biting or chewing.
- Prey drive. Some breeds have a stronger prey drive than others. These dogs are driven to bite moving objects, such as fast-moving hands or your clothes when you walk near them.
- Attention. Giving your dog attention when they bite (even negative attention) can reinforce the behaviour. The puppy is then more likely to bite in the future when they want attention.
Some situations can make biting more likely. For example, an overtired puppy has less self-control, which can increase biting. Frustration and excitement can have a similar effect.
Always remember that your puppy isn’t trying to hurt you! They just haven’t learned that playing with their littermates isn’t the same as playing with humans. A biting puppy is also not trying to be “dominant” or “alpha” (this is a common dog training myth).
7 Puppy Biting Training Mistakes
Biting is such an instinctive behaviour that it’s often not something that can be “fixed” through training. Instead, try to think of it as an issue that needs to be managed until the phase is over.
There are ways to speed up the process though. By consistently showing your dog they need to be gentle with humans, and avoiding scolding or punishment, you can help your puppy learn that biting isn’t a rewarding behavior.
1. Scolding Or Punishing A Puppy For Biting
You should never scold your puppy for biting. Avoid any form of punishment, including shouting, tapping the nose and holding the mouth.
These methods can damage your bond. It can also make biting more likely, as the puppy learns that rough play is normal.
Remember, your puppy isn’t biting to be aggressive or “dominant.” They just don’t yet know it’s wrong. It’s your job to consistently and patiently teach them how to play appropriately.
Note: There’s a recent social media trend that recommends biting back at your puppy. This is a terrible idea. Aside from scaring and confusing your dog, it’s also teaching that biting is a normal part of playing.
2. Allowing Or Even Encouraging Biting
Mouthing and nipping often seem cute when your puppy is small. This behaviour can be a serious problem if it continues when the dog is bigger though.
It’s true that most puppies naturally grow out of biting. But it’s still vital to avoid encouraging rough play, as it can become a habit that’s difficult to break.
There are several training theories when it comes to teaching a puppy not to bite. For example, some people try to teach their dog “bite inhibition.” This means teaching the dog an acceptable amount of pressure to place on the skin to avoid causing pain.
However, I think it’s safer and less confusing to teach the dog that the teeth should never touch the skin.
Having a concrete “no teeth on skin” rule makes it easy for everyone in the household to be consistent with training. It also creates a clear boundary for the puppy to learn.
Here’s how you can start teaching that biting isn’t acceptable during playtime:
- If the puppy’s teeth touch your skin when playing, calmly put down the toy and turn away.
- Wait 10-20 seconds, then go back to playing.
- If the puppy bites again, calmly put down the toy and walk away.
- After 30-60 seconds, go back to playing.
- If the puppy bites for a third time, calmly put down the toy and end the game.
If you do this consistently, your dog will start to learn that biting causes you to stop the fun game.
Make sure to keep play sessions short and calm, and avoid games that always seem to end with your puppy biting.
Note: Some dog owners recommend making a high-pitched yelp when your puppy bites. The idea is to mimic the sound a littermate would make if play became too rough. However, these noises may cause extra excitement when coming from a human, so it’s not a technique I recommend.
3. Not Enough Stimulation (Or Too Much!)
A frustrated or bored puppy will have a lot of built-up energy. This energy can manifest in exaggerated or rough play, which makes biting more likely.
To prevent frustration, make sure your puppy is getting enough exercise, mental stimulation, and attention. A regular routine with scheduled meals, walks, and playtimes can also help.
On the other hand, an overstimulated or overtired puppy is also more likely to bite.
Puppies need around 16 hours of sleep each day. If your puppy isn’t getting enough high-quality rest, then they’ll have decreased self-control and a stronger urge to bite.
You shouldn’t rely on your puppy to know when they need to sleep. Most young dogs will always choose to follow you, play, or explore instead of sleeping.
To solve this issue, include plenty of nap times in your puppy’s schedule. These periods of undisturbed rest are essential for teaching self-regulation, balancing your puppy’s energy, and developing stress resilience (all of which can reduce the urge to bite).
4. Not Providing Puppy Chew Toys
Puppy chew toys are essential for minimising biting. If a puppy doesn’t have continuous access to fun chew toys, then they are much more likely to bite something less appropriate (such as your hand!)
For this reason, make sure there are plenty of chew toys available to your dog at all times. These should vary in shape, texture, and size, as novelty makes a toy more interesting. Every dog has different preferences, so you’ll need to experiment with a variety of textures.
Keep in mind that puppies love novelty. For this reason, give your dog their chews on a rotating basis, so they always seem new. Also, ensure that the chews are age-appropriate, as many chews are not suitable for puppies under four months old.
It’s especially important to keep toys nearby during playtimes. If you sense your puppy is going to bite you, quickly redirect them onto the toy. This teaches the dog which items are appropriate to bite.
5. Lack Of Consistency
Consistency is essential when you’re trying to change a dog’s natural behaviour. If you react differently each time your puppy bites, then it’s much harder for them to understand the “right” behaviour.
For example, if your strategy is to walk away when your dog’s teeth touch the skin, then you need to do this every time it happens. If you sometimes don’t react to biting and continue the game, then the dog is getting mixed signals that can slow down their training.
It’s also essential that everyone in the household is on board with your puppy’s training. If one person decides that biting is cute and allows it, then this could undo your hard work.
6. Not Setting The Puppy Up For Success
Puppies usually grow out of biting by themselves. So, the main goal during this phase is to avoid biting becoming a habit.
This makes it important to avoid situations that are likely to cause biting. The fewer chances your dog has to practice an unwanted behaviour, the less ingrained the habit will become.
Here are some examples of how to set your puppy up for success:
- Puppies often bite when they are petted. If your puppy is in an excitable mood, don’t test his self-control by stroking him. Instead, wait until he’s calmed down.
- Don’t wave your fingers or hand in front of the dog during play. This can encourage biting. Use slow movements and ensure games are calm.
- Avoid rough play with your dog, such as wrestling or pushing them around. Rough play sessions teach your puppy this is an acceptable way to interact with humans.
- Put your puppy away during exciting times, such as when guests first arrive. You can let them out once things have calmed down. You can use a crate, baby gate, pen, or another room, but make sure that the puppy already feels safe and secure in this location.
- If your puppy loves to bite loose clothing, avoid wearing these items during the biting phase. Don’t worry, it’s only for a few months!
- Always supervise dogs and children. Kids are excitable, which can make the puppy more likely to bite due to overstimulation.
7. Not Being Patient
Many new dog owners underestimate how often puppies bite. It’s also surprising how long the biting phase can last!
The key is to understand that mouthing is normal behaviour for a young dog. It’ll stop eventually, as long as you’re consistent and avoid encouraging biting.
Most of all, be patient and kind to your puppy. They are going through a period of rapid growth and development, so try not to get frustrated.
Frequently Asked Questions
At What Age Do Puppies Grow Out Of Biting?
There’s no set age when a puppy stops biting. It varies depending on the breed, environment, and training consistency.
However, chewing and biting due to teething typically ends at around 6-8 months old. The puppy may still bite for other reasons though, such as frustration or play.
What Is Bite Inhibition?
Bite inhibition is when a dog learns an acceptable amount of bite pressure to avoid causing pain.
It’s useful for a puppy to develop bite inhibition when playing with other dogs. But with humans, it’s best to teach that teeth should never touch the skin.
Puppy biting is one of the most common issues faced by new dog owners. Fortunately, it’s usually more of a frustration than a real concern, as biting is a natural behaviour for puppies.
While puppies almost always grow out of biting, it’s important to avoid encouraging the behaviour. You should also avoid punishment and ensure you’re setting your pup up for success.
Do you have any questions about puppy biting training mistakes? Please let us know in the comments section below. You may also be interested in our guide to caring for a new puppy.
- Why Do Puppies Bite?
- 7 Puppy Biting Training Mistakes
- Frequently Asked Questions