We can all agree – puppies are adorable! From their wiggly little tails to their clumsy stumbles, a puppy is a delight to play with.
But you know what isn’t cute? Getting bitten by sharp puppy teeth.
Those 28 razor-sharp baby fangs can inflict some serious damage, even breaking the skin or leaving bruises on your hands and knuckles.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. Shorten the puppy biting stage with Fluffy’s training guide.
Why Do Puppies Mouth, Nip, and Bite?
Dog owners might mistakenly think that their puppy is biting them because they want to be a “brat.”
However, this is untrue. A puppy who bites is like a baby who cries…it’s 100% normal. In fact, biting, mouthing, and chewing are all natural parts of puppy development. Dogs don’t have hands. Instead, they use their mouths to experience and explore the world.
A puppy might exhibit biting behavior due to:
Teething: Puppies are born without teeth and their first set push up from the gums at around 2 weeks old. By 8 months, puppies should have their adult teeth fully emerged. In between these timelines, a puppy’s mouth might feel uncomfortable and sore. To relieve the discomfort when teeth fall out, they bite.
Overstimulation: Everything is a game, to a puppy! A puppy who becomes emotionally aroused (by sights, sounds, and smells) will need an outlet for this pent up energy. Otherwise, their lack of self-control can lead to chewing and puppy biting.
Exhaustion: Did you know? A puppy requires approximately 16-18 hours of sleep. A tired dog can be grumpy. Unfortunately, puppies sometimes express their exhaustion through their teeth.
Frustration: Puppies can occasionally throw temper tantrums. Yes, really! For example, a puppy who is annoyed with being held for too long or who doesn’t want to be pet/touched might snap their jaws out of frustration.
“Leave me alone!” they are trying to say.
The good news is, by addressing these issues early on, you can drastically reduce the length of time your dog is stuck in the puppy biting phase. Before too long, you will have a well-adjusted canine companion who gives licks and kisses – not nibbles!
What is Bite Inhibition?
In order to stop puppy biting, your dog must learn what’s known as bite inhibition.
According to ASPCA, this is defined as “a dog’s ability to control the force of his mouthing. A puppy or dog who hasn’t learned bite inhibition with people doesn’t recognize the sensitivity of human skin, and so he bites too hard, even in play.”
Basically, bite inhibition is the ability to understand:
When it’s appropriate to bite
When it’s wrong to bite
How hard to bite
7 Ways to Train a Puppy to Be Gentle (and not mouthy!)
Puppy training is an ongoing process. Just like us humans, your dog will be a lifelong learner who picks up new knowledge, tricks, and skills and they grow and age. But remember, as advised in Fluffy’s blog the best time to start training your puppy is…right now! Stop bad puppy biting behavior ASAP.
So, how do we teach puppies to be gentle?
1. Redirect your puppy
The best way to end mouthing is to redirect a puppy’s attention elsewhere. Get them to bite something else (not hands and feet). For instance, a chew toy or speciality teething bone. The American Kennel Club also suggests tucking your hands into your armpits or pockets. Make it clear: biting = no more playtime!
2. Use noncontact toys
Rolling around on the floor with your puppy is entertaining, but it is also risky. Bites to the face – even accidental – can happen in a split second. A better idea is to use noncontact toys like a tug rope or frisbee. This removes the temptation to bite fingers, toes, ears, and hair. In addition, it teaches your dog the difference between a person (who can feel) and an object (that can’t).
3. Socialize with other dogs
Other dogs who are friendly and vaccinated will be your puppy’s best teachers. A mother dog will teach her puppies about bite inhibition, as will their siblings, but it’s important to continue to provide opportunities for your puppy to practice this skill even after you bring them home. Enrolling in puppy classes or scheduling playdates are two excellent ideas to discourage puppy biting.
4. Give a timeout
Sometimes, your puppy will need to calm down. Set up a safe area (like a crate or playpen) where they can go. After a bite that is too hard, loudly say, “Ow! No biting.” Next, put them in timeout for 30-60 seconds. Avoid giving your puppy attention for a full minute. Leave the room. Then, come back and resume normal play. Pretty soon, their brain will make the connection between bite and consequence.
5. Let them sleep
It is tiring work being a cute puppy! Often, a puppy will bite out of exhaustion. As mentioned earlier, puppies need lots of sleep every day to function happily and healthily. Let them catch those Zzzz’s…
6. Offer physical and mental stimulation
Boredom results in destructive dogs. Without enough exercise, your puppy might take to mouthing or biting people and furniture to get rid of extra energy. Try food puzzles, obedience lessons, and backyard time to keep them entertained and stimulated.
7. Reinforce good behaviour
Above all, be positive. Don’t forget, your dog wants to please you! Reinforce good, calm, non-biting behavior with affection and treats.
Biggest Mistakes to Avoid with Puppy Biting
Fear-based punishment is an ineffective way to train a puppy.
Be careful to avoid:
1. Physical corrections like hitting/pinching/muzzling
Every now and again, a dangerous myth circulates online. It encourages trainers to “bite the dog back, see how he likes it.”
No. This is terrible advice. You are a human, not another dog. And so, biting a puppy is just confusing to them. At worst, they may come to view their owner as a threat…which will actually increase aggression! Never bite or hit a puppy.
Screaming at a puppy is also not helpful. They are too young to understand verbal cues. Plus, a scared puppy is likely to develop other unwanted behaviors, such as growling, barking, and peeing inside the house.
Focus on positive reinforcement and praise to end puppy biting. Your dog will thank you.
3. When to Seek Help for Aggression Issues
Don’t worry! Your puppy will outgrow their biting habits eventually. Puppy biting is a phase that eventually ends.
However, if your puppy is:
Resource guarding food and toys by biting
Stalking and then biting
Trying to bite guests in your home
Trying to bite children (not in play)
Then it may be a good idea to talk to a professional dog trainer certified in dealing with canine aggression issues, like the experts here at Fluffy.
Most puppies learn to stop biting quickly. With Fluffy’s help, your puppy will be giving nothing but love and kisses in no time!
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