Many new pet parents think that puppy biting is just a cute way for young dogs to play with their new owner. Actually, it's a very bad habit that needs to be nipped in the bud. Learning how to stop a puppy from biting is a necessary part of basic dog training if you want to raise a well-behaved dog.
Like human babies, puppies go through a teething stage. During this stage, they try to chew on everything as a means to soothe their mouth. It's one of the critical periods of a young dog's stage of life.
Mouthing and biting are natural behaviors for dogs. They tend to prefer using their mouths to manipulate things instead of their paws. Puppies use their mouths to explore their environment.
For most pet parents, puppy biting appears like a cute thing young dogs do in the beginning, but remember that a puppy's teeth are extremely sharp. They can cut through human skin with very little pressure. If you've ever played with a puppy, you've probably experienced the small piercing holes that their teeth leave in your hand.
Even if it's not painful and you don't mind it, this behavior must be stopped.
I have talked about some of this on my second podcast episode on dog adoption.
When you don't stop all the bad behaviors at the initial stages, it's going to be much more difficult to deal with them later in your dog's life, which can cause actual harm and other problems. It's one of the reasons dog owners eventually give up their pets.
It's very important to learn how to stop a puppy from biting. It's much easier to curb the bad behavior in the beginning when your pooch is still young and in his initial development stages than it is to try and put an end to the habit after it has been formed.
How To Stop A Puppy From Biting and Why You Should Do So ASAP
Inhibit the biting
Dog owners learning how to stop a puppy from biting should focus on one of the most important factors in dog training – consistency. This means that you cannot allow your puppy to bite or chew on your body at any time, ever. I know that sounds like simple common sense, but let me explain this further.
A lot of pet parents like to play the game which I like to refer to as “The Claw” with their puppies. The way this game works is like this: you place your hand above your dog's head, wiggle your fingers and move your hand around so the puppy chases it. We all know it.
What this does is teaches the puppy that biting your hand can be a fun game.
I've also seen pet owners wiggle their feet when their new pooch is lying on the ground. While this is fun and adorable, it sends the wrong message to your canine companion.
Dogs are clever animals that learn things from us, just as our kids do. We already know not to teach our children bad habits from the very beginning, yet we still ignore this rule when it comes to puppies. In other words, you will reap what you sow, so be careful.
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Consistency with puppy biting inhibition
Staying consistent will show your Fido that biting is unacceptable at any time. This also means that you need to talk with other family members and guests to make sure they are on the same page.
When your puppy bites, you need to give him a clear signal that this is an unwanted behavior. Never miss your cue on this, and stay consistent.
Unsurprisingly, biting inhibition is one of the most common warnings pet owners receive from animal shelters, veterinarians, dog trainers and canine experts. It's a problem that a large majority of pet owners have to deal with but often ignore until it's too late.
One thing pet owners don't know is that puppies typically learn biting inhibition from other puppies. But when you adopt a dog, you take this responsibility upon yourself.
Use verbal cues to stop puppy from biting
As I explain in my video above, puppies will make a high pitched yelp to notify another puppy when they are biting too hard. Mimicking this sound is a natural way to show your pup that you don't like what he is doing and that his behavior is unacceptable.
If you don't like the idea of making a high pitched yelping sound, you can use your own verbal cue. I like using a simple “ow” sound.
As soon as your puppy begins to bite you, make the sound of your choosing and let your hand go limp. Always use the same sound/command and stay consistent with it.
Use the verbal cue training practice no more than 3 times within a 15 minute period.
If you need to do it more than 3 times in 15 minutes, it's time for a time out. Place your puppy in his dog crate, or a playpen, or other secluded area. Ignore him for at least 15 minutes before showing him any more attention. This will help to reinforce the training and show him that biting is not an acceptable behavior.
A word of caution: as tempting as it is, avoid trying to make this into a game.
Basically, if you move your hand too quickly or try to fight back by pushing your dog away, his natural chase instinct will kick in and this will quickly become a game to him. Instead, your puppy must associate this behavior with something that shouldn't be fun.
Furthermore, many dog owners also have a problem that's closely related to learning how to stop a puppy from biting, and that is with puppies who chew incessantly. If that's you, I've written an in-depth guide on how to train a puppy to stop chewing and made a video.
Redirect your puppy's behavior with a dog toy
Another method to try if you wish to learn effective methods on how to stop a puppy from biting is redirection. When you're holding your new furry friend, keep a motivating puppy toy within reach. I like to use a squeaky dog toy because it attracts attention.
Remember to choose the right toy for your dog. Some of them may be ineffective.
This is what you do with the dog toy. When your puppy begins to bite you, redirect his attention to the toy. When he takes the toy, begin to play a non-contact game (like tug or fetch). This will teach your Fido that biting is unacceptable, but there are lots of other fun things that you can do with him that don't require teeth to skin contact.
It is common for puppies to chase your feet while you walk and try to grab a hold of your feet, legs, clothing or shoes. When your feet move, your dog sees them as a fun object to chase. Again, this may look cute but it's a behavioral problem that needs to be fixed.
If you have an ankle biter, keep a toy on hand when you're walking around. Redirect Fido's attention to the toy, and then play with him to burn some of that excessive energy.
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Puppy biting while petting
Many pet parents want to learn how to stop a puppy from biting because their new family members like to chew on their hands while they try to pet them. As I mention in my video above, this is a common problem that is easily fixed with positive reinforcement.
Here's what you do. When your puppy first starts biting you as you pet him, try to redirect him with dog treats. Pet your pup with one hand and keep a few treats in the other. When he allows you to pet him for a short period without biting, give him a reward.
If he starts to bite, show him the dog treats (don't give them yet) and start petting him again. If he doesn't bite, it's time for a treat to reinforce the behavior.
Using treats the is the most effective way to train young dogs as it reinforces positive behavior. Many dog experts and vets agree that it's the first thing all owners should do.
There is a chance that your dog is only biting because he's bored. In this case treats may not work. If he doesn't seem to be learning with the treat training, redirect him with a toy as I mentioned above.
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Deterrent spray to stop puppy biting
If you’ve followed this guide on how to stop a puppy from biting and nothing seems to be working, you can try deterrent spray for dogs. It should be your last resort, since command dog training usually works for most behavioral problems, not just biting.
What's a dog deterrent spray? It's a specifically formulated spray that will make your skin taste bad to your puppy. As long as you use a good quality, safe and proven product, there will be no issues with your dog coming in contact with these dog sprays.
I would recommend using an all-natural formula, because any products with chemicals or artificial ingredients will not be healthy for you or your dog. You may want to try these:
- Bodhi Dog Bitter Lemon Spray
- Barker & Pooch Chewfix
- Particular Paws Anti-Chew Bitter Spray
- SynergyLabs Fooey! Ultra Bitter Spray
Dog deterrent sprays like these will leave a very bad taste in your pets mouth, thereby teaching your puppy that biting is not pleasant.
Deterrent sprays for dogs are formulated to discourage puppies from wanting to bite or chew the object again, and they are very effective. You can use them for other things as well, not just your skin.
But again, remember: you should only use dog deterrents as a last resort.
Why? Because you want to teach your dog that it is not okay to bite human skin at all, not just when it doesn't taste good. Using these products in conjunction with proper dog training methods would be the most effective and proper way to ensure that your canine understands that it is never acceptable to bite or chew on humans.
Need more help with puppy training and other behavioral issues? Here are some articles:
- Expert Interview: Dog Training Tips for Train Your Dog Month
- 7 Reasons You Fail At Housebreaking a Puppy
- Adopting a Puppy? You Will Need These Puppy Training Supplies
- Confusion About Negative Reinforcement During Dog Training
- Puppy Training 101: Basic Walkthrough
- 10 Must Have Dog Training Supplies
Training puppies can be a fun endeavor when you know how to do everything correctly. As long as you stay consistent and avoid mistakes that will “come bite you” in the future, you should see results of effective puppy training almost right away.