So, you have a puppy, and now it’s biting you. Well, I’m here to tell you that this is normal, and quite frankly, I would be concerned if you weren’t being bitten, nipped and chewed to pieces on a daily basis.
I get it, it hurts. Those tiny little needle teeth really pierce the skin!
Why do puppies have sharp teeth?
But, those little needle teeth are useful for our little bundles of joy. They make it easier to break up tougher food when they don’t yet have the jaw strength to do it with adult teeth.
Not only this, their play with littermates teaches them how much jaw strength is allowed during play before it hurts the other pup due to the sharp teeth, which creates appropriate play when they are older and could actually do damage by using too much power.
Why do puppies bite?
Puppies are similar to human babies, they want to learn about the world. They do this by biting snd chewing, as babies do by grabbing things and often putting them in their mouths.
Touch, like any other sense, is important for socialisation. They need to learn about different textures and shapes and sizes.
Toothache is also very common with puppies. From around 12 weeks, puppies will start to fall out and adult teeth start to come through. This can last up to 6 months, so it’s imperative that you create appropriate chewing outlets and extinguish any inappropriate ones.
They could be overtired! Like children that get bratty when it’s past their bedtime, puppies can make bad decisions and become irritated when they are tired too.
Dogs bite when they play! They don't understand that we play differently to other dogs, so when they try to interact with us they will do so with their teeth. It's literally the only form of play a young puppy will know - and it's our job to teach them alternative ways.
By the time they reach 6 months, learned behaviours that have made them feel good are a lot harder to get rid of - so start working on their biting today!
How do I stop my puppy from biting?
As mentioned above, you don’t. You teach them what biting is appropriate and what isn’t.
So how do we do this?
Well, my 4R system should be all you need! Let’s take a look:
Rest: Puppies need around 18 hours of sleep a day (not including calm time where they are relaxed but awake!), so crate training or teaching them to relax in a pen is important. If you aren’t using a crate or pen, the opportunity is there for your puppy to become mouthy and bite.
Setting a schedule and ensuring that they are being given time to settle will reduce biting and allow your puppy to learn and retain knowledge. A puppy schedule will look something like this:
- Sleep in crate/pen
- Train with their dinner
Having a “calm room” where you want to relax and a “playroom” where you play and train is also exceptionally useful to teach puppies to switch off.
Remove and Redirect: We must teach our dogs what we want from them, not just what we don’t want.
As soon as their teeth touch your skin, say “ah” or your noise of choice (for trainers reading this known as a punishment marker and is not to be confused with positive punishment). We use the word to mark the moment they do a behaviour we don’t like, which acts as a sort of warning. Freeze and stay perfectly still and make your hands like wet spaghetti, yes the biting hurts, but the more you move, try to pull away and dance around screaming, the more fun your puppy will be having.
To make sure you’re not creating a reward chain for biting, as soon as they stop, say “good” and give them an alternative behaviour like a sit, down, go to bed or get your toy (the latter is a great one to teach!). When you get the behaviour, reward with a game of tug with an appropriate toy, give them something else to chew on, do some training or put them somewhere to relax where they are unable to bite and mouth you again.
TOP TIP: I would always recommend you don’t reward your dog with strokes here, usually, that just leads to more biting.
If your puppy just isn’t getting the message, your next step is complete removal. As soon as your puppy's teeth touch your skin, get up, walk out of the room and close the door behind you for 30 seconds. When you come back in, set them up for success with a chew, toy or ask them to go to their crate for a rest.
Yes, it’s a pain in the arse to do, but then so is having a fully grown dog hanging off your hands whenever they get slightly tired for the rest of their lives.
Reinforce: Usually, puppies bite skin to engage in play, to get attention or because they are overtired, and this is the only way they know how to deal with that. So watch for the signs where your puppy is going to bite and mouth, ask for a behaviour BEFORE they do then reinforce that with an appropriate alternative, like tug, chew or allow them to get their much-needed sleep without interruption. You must watch your puppy, eventually, they will offer this alternative behaviour for attention and when they do, you must reinforce and reward it - if you don’t, the biting will return as it’s all that works.
- When you want to play with your puppy, remember to have a toy ready!
- Ensure your puppy has plenty of other things to chew on for their toothaches like frozen Kong toys and natural chews.
- Only stroke your puppy when they are calm and relaxed. Make sure that your interactions with them when your hands are involved are nice and calm, give them massages and slow strokes and watch for any signs that they are uncomfortable or becoming excited.
So there it is, how to stop biting in a nutshell!
Soon we are releasing our Dog Training Academy where you will be able to find plenty more training tips and videos on all this dog and puppy - including a lot more on biting!
To keep up to date with our journey, please subscribe to our email updates here!
I hope this has helped, if you still have questions then feel free to reach out to us via our contact section.