How to Train Your Puppy to Stop Biting

Medium
3-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

One of the largest issues of new puppy owners is the tendency for a young dog to start learning that they have teeth. This generally leads to things like mouthing, hard nipping, and biting. While a puppy may be cute when he first starts discovering his jaws and teeth, it can quickly lead to issues as the puppy grows and begins to develop more strength than he may not know how to handle. Because of the potential for painful outcomes later on, most owners are adamant about ‘nipping the problem in the bud’.

Many puppies learn bite inhibition--or the amount of strength they can show with their teeth before it begins to hurt--from their littermates before eight weeks of age. Puppies who are separated from their litters before this time generally struggle with this bite threshold and can be much more stubborn when it comes to learning how to stop biting. However, there are methods to deal with the issue of biting no matter the situation the puppy came from, as any owner of a dog should be reassured that their dog won’t become a biting nuisance or a danger when he crosses the line from puppy to adult.

Defining Tasks

For any puppy, it’s never too early to start learning bite inhibition. You can begin teaching your puppy the importance of keeping his teeth to himself as soon as you bring him home with you, providing the rest of the people in your home are on board as well. While there are multiple methods for keeping your puppy from biting, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to choose just one. Most puppies benefit from the use of multiple methods in tandem with one another, so long as the use is consistent and continues to be reinforced by the people around them.

You can expect the initial introduction to bite training to take a few days and it should be continued regularly for three to six weeks. Once your puppy has a grasp of what you expect from him, then it can continue to be reinforced only as needed as he continues to grow.

Getting Started

There isn’t much that is needed before beginning to teach your puppy to not bite, as you can even do it with no tools at all. However, training can be reinforced with the use of things like teething toys for more constructive biting and small spray bottles for quick corrections. Tug toys can also be helpful, as it gives your puppy something to grasp onto with his jaws and increases the amount of exercise he gets during play time.

If you’re concerned about the health of your puppy’s teeth, be sure to get him looked at by a veterinarian to check if they are growing properly.

The Distraction Method

ribbon-method-2
Most Recommended
1 Vote
Step
1
Prevent biting entirely
Don’t give your puppy opportunities to nip at your hands or fingers by keeping them clear of her mouth when possible.
Step
2
Provide an outlet
Have teething and tug toys freely available for your puppy to use when she gets the urge to work her teeth.
Step
3
Replace hands with toys
Instead of offering your puppy any part of your skin to bite, hold a toy in your hand when you play instead. She will learn to take her nipping habits out on the toy because it is closer to her mouth and much more interesting than your hand.
Step
4
Swap toys out
Some puppies can get bored with certain toys after a while, or may destroy them easily, especially larger puppies. Swap out teethers often to keep things interesting.
Step
5
Try squeakers
Squeaking chew toys can be great fun for a puppy to gnaw and bite. If you don’t have a problem with the noise, consider toys that offer some auditory feedback when your puppy bites them.
Recommend training method?

The Reaction Method

ribbon-method-1
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Don’t encourage nipping
While it’s inevitable that a puppy will nip, try to avoid encouraging the behavior by offering affection, or responding by waving your fingers or hands in front of your puppy’s nose to encourage biting. Mind his mouth and he will learn to do the same.
Step
2
Make a sharp noise when bitten
Whenever your puppy gets his teeth on you, make a yelping sound to convey to him that his bite hurts.
Step
3
Remove what was bitten
If it was your hand or finger that he decided to take a nip at, move it away from reach of his mouth.
Step
4
Continue playing only when he pauses
You can resume playing with your puppy once he has snapped out of his biting. He will soon learn that playtime stops when he bites and resumes when he is behaving.
Step
5
Repeat as often as necessary
This reaction should be done by anyone in the home any time your puppy bites. If he pulls different reactions from different people, he may take longer to learn the right etiquette. Be sure everyone is on board with this process.
Recommend training method?

The Interruption Method

ribbon-method-3
Effective
0 Votes
Step
1
Supervise play time
Keep an eye on your puppy whenever he is playing in order to catch inappropriate nipping or biting right when it happens.
Step
2
Purchase a deterrent
A small spray bottle with some water in it works well to give your puppy a quick little interruption when necessary. Never purchase anything that could harm or physically punish your puppy. The deterrent should just be used to interrupt his biting behavior long enough for you to redirect him.
Step
3
Interrupt biting
Whenever your puppy begins to bite or nip at someone, give him a quick spritz with the water to interrupt his focus. Avoid spraying directly into his eyes, nose, or ears. Even giving him a quick spray on the back of his head or his paws may move his attention away from the biting for a few moments.
Step
4
Redirect the behavior
Once he stops biting, provide your puppy with something else to do like focus on a toy or work on obedience if he can. Offer rewards in the form of small treats for turning his attention onto you, if you prefer.
Step
5
Keep the deterrent handy
If necessary, purchase a few different small spray bottles to keep around the home for anyone who may be supervising the puppy during play time. Teach other people the appropriate way to correct him if he bites. Inform guests to use the deterrent if they need to in order to help training remain consistent.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Juno
Labrador Retriever
11 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Juno
Labrador Retriever
11 Weeks

We find when we say ow when she bites, she gets more excited and continues to bite. Then when we pull it away she sometimes barks as if she wants it back. I’m worried it’s backfiring a little. She’s still young so I know we have a long way to go, I just really don’t want her to be a bite-y dog and I’m worried we are doing something wrong.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1129 Dog owners recommended

Hello Alexx, It sounds like pup thinks you are playing. I would switch to the Leave It method and teach Out as well. Leave It method - this will take time to teach. Know that this is a process and that's normal. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - leave the area, especially the section on using out to deal with pushiness, once pup has learned what out means through the section on how to teach Out. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Sometimes when pups get really wound up and can't seem to settle back down, they are actually overtired at this age. I would utilize a crate or exercise pen and a dog food stuffed chew toy for some chew toy quiet time when pup seems to be at that point, to facilitate rest. Mental stimulation is also helpful if pup is cooped up a lot while you are away during the day and needs their mind exercised more. Training practice, training games, and things like interactive dog food stuffed toys and puzzles can help with mental stimulation. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Juno's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Neo
Goldendoodle
10 Weeks
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Neo
Goldendoodle
10 Weeks

Neo bites anything and everything that is within his sight. He also bites our hands, and when we try to divert his attention w/ yelping, it just makes him more excited. When we try to divert his attention w/ a different toy, 70% of the time it works, and 30% it doesn’t. This is super frustrating when we’re trying to tell him not to, but he’s just not getting the message! He also gets overexcited and aggressive and is growling when we try to get him to stop chewing on his leash/mulch.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1129 Dog owners recommended

Hello K, For the chewing, check out the article I have linked below. Work on teaching Out and Leave It and Drop It found in that article also. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ I would also keep a drag leash on pup when you are home to supervise and make sure it doesn't get caught on anything, picking up the end of the leash to calmly enforce commands like Drop It or Leave It, and crate pup while away with a dog food stuffed chew to to help train pup to prefer to chew their own toys - which has to be taught. I would spray the bottom of the drag leash with bitter apple spray or white vinegar - make sure the leash is a material the spray won't ruin and not something like leather. You can also purchase a leash like VirChewLy on amazon. This should help deter some of the initial chewing and biting on the leash. When pup is biting it with you holding the other end, you can also pull the ends of the leash hanging out of pup's mouths toward pup's cheeks, so that the leash is hitting the spot in the back of pup's mouth where their jaws come together. This is a sensitive area, and most dogs will choose to spit the leash out on their own when the leash is putting pressure on that spot. When pup starts spitting the leash out you can let them spit it out. Pup will probably respond by biting the leash again once its out. Repeat the pressure each time pup attacks it again. After a few repetitions most puppies will decide this isn't a fun game and stop biting it for now. This will take some practice for pup not to bite it again in the first place though. As far as pup biting you, check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method, BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when he attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if he makes a good choice. If he disobeys your leave it command, use the Pressure method to gently discipline pup for biting when you told him not to. The order or all of this is very important - the Bite Inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The pressure method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just roughhousing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I would also work on teaching the Out command, and then use the section from the article on How to Use Out to Deal with Pushiness, to enforce it when pup doesn't listen, especially around other animals or kids. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. See if there is a puppy class in your area that comes well recommended and has time for moderated off-leash puppy play. If you can't join a class, look for a free puppy play group, or recruit some friends with puppies to come over if you can and create your own group. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play, let everyone calm down, then let the most timid pup go first to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppies go too when they are waiting for permission. Finding a good puppy class - no class will be ideal but here's what to shoot for: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ When pup gets especially wound up, he probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help him calm down and rest. Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep working at it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Neo's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Question
Bailey
Pomeranian mix (possibly Chihuahua)
5 Years
1 found helpful
Question
1 found helpful
Bailey
Pomeranian mix (possibly Chihuahua)
5 Years

Hi,BAILEY is a rescue.He came from TN and was abused with previous owners.I have him for almost 2 years now.when I take him outside in the back yard.( open backyard.Because it's appts founded by the state), he barks at most people and is always ready to attack.Whrn I take him outside the residency for walks he doesn't bark nor wants to attack anyone.No one can get close to me because he will be in attack mode automarictly and tries to bite who ever it may be.He hates man in general but mostly he hates African Americans; men, women or children, which I don't understand why..I believe his previous owners were African Americans.He has bitten few people in their legs.He catches me by surprise, even on the leash and he just runs and jumps their legs grawls and bites..He has marked people with his teeth before.I want him to stop doing this to people in general , specially people that get close to me or that raise their hands for anything around me and him..In fact if he's close to someone that starts arguing he goes off and tries to bite..I need him to stop and do not understand why he does this or acts different when I take him for a walk.Hes a sweethearts in the house but does bark if he hears anything unusual outside the house/door..How am I going to fix this problem or how do I even make sense of it All? Is it fixable? .Thank you. PLEASE HELP!!!!!!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1129 Dog owners recommended

Hello Brenda, It sounds like Bailey is fear aggressive, and has learned through experience that biting gets people to go away. Once a dog successfully bites people multiple times it can be hard to one hundred percent eradicate the problem, but there are definitely things that you can do to improve it, and make it more manageable. Aggression can be a hard problem to solve on your own, for that reason I would recommend that you find a local trainer in your area who has successfully dealt with lots of aggressive dogs. Bailey is small, so the aggression is less dangerous, but the root of the problem is the same as any aggressive dog's, so it needs to be treated the same way that you would treat a larger dog's behavior. With that said, here are some things you can work on either by yourself or with the help or a trainer. First, go buy Bailey a basket muzzle that is his size, so that he can work close to people without them getting bit. Make sure that it is a basket muzzle, so that he can open his mouth inside the muzzle, and eat treats or lick cheese or peanut butter off of a straw that you poke through, to reward good behavior. Introduce the muzzle with lots of treats in a calm location. Reward him every time he touches it, then every time he lets you put it partially on him, then reward when he is wearing it, by passing tiny treats to him through the muzzle holes, or by dipping a drinking straw into peanut butter or squeeze cheese and poking it through the muzzle to let him lick. Reward him again after he has worn the muzzle for ten minutes. Do this every ten minutes. Continue rewarding him until he looks forward to wearing the muzzle or will at least tolerate it without distress. Practice walking by strangers, at first from a distance, and whenever he remains calm or looks at you for direction, reward him. You will occasionally see him deciding whether to act aggressively or not, when you see him thinking about it, call his name, and then reward him for looking at you. By doing this, you are telling him what he should be doing rather than acting aggressively. In this case what he should be doing is looking at you and remaining calm. As he improves, very gradually decrease the distance between you and the other people. When you are very close to other people, then have him wear the basket muzzle when you pass by, so that he cannot bite. Reward him when he acts calm or is attentive toward you, by pausing and passing him treats or inserting the peanut butter straw for him to lick. Also, recruit friends or family members that your dog does not know, to help you. Put Bailey on a six to ten foot leash, attached to a collar or a harness, that you know he definitely cannot slip out of and will not break. Have your friend enter your home, yard, or public location where you are, and stand or sit about fifteen feet away from Bailey, and ignore him. He will likely pitch a fit for quite a while. Simply wait for him to take a break for a couple of seconds. Be patient and expect this to take a long time at first. Give your friend lots of your dog's favorite treats, and any time that he is quiet or doing something calm, for even two seconds, have your friend toss him a treat. The treat needs to come from your friend so that Bailey will learn to trust him. As Bailey warms up to the person and is doing well overtime, allow your dog to get closer by attaching the leash to something secure that is a couple of feet closer to your friend. Keep repeating this, until your dog is only a couple of feet out of reach from your friend. If your dog is still doing well, and not reacting aggressively, and wanting to meet the person, then put the basket muzzle on Bailey, and give your friend the straw and something like cheese or peanut butter to dip it into. After you have done this, allow your dog to reach the person all the way if he chooses to, while the person calmly interacts with your dog. Every time that your dog goes up to the person without acting aggressively, have your friend reward him. It is important that your dog wear the muzzle for this for two reasons. One is to protect your friend, but the other is to teach your dog that he cannot use him mouth to control people. When your dog is comfortable around your first friend, then utilize another friend's help, and practice the same thing with that person. Keep practicing with other friends, one person at a time. If your dog becomes used to people in your home but still reacts badly to people outside, then have your friend meet you in a public place, so that your dog thinks your friend, who he has never met, is a stranger. Good locations to meet could include your neighborhood side walk, in a pet store, or at the park. The more people that you can get to help you with this, the better your dog will react to people in general, rather than just being nice around a few people. Practice this the most around the types of people your dog hates. In this case men and African Americas. Even practice this around children, once your dog is doing better with people in general, but be extremely careful around kids, and make sure that the child is very comfortable with all dogs and not frightened by Bailey's barking. When you practice around children, use two leashes and have your dog wear both a collar and harness, attaching one leash to his collar and one to his harness, then attach both to something very secure. This it to make sure that there is no chance of him slipping out or breaking one confinement, and biting the child. Also put the muzzle on him much sooner, as he nears the child while improving. Doing all this may not ensure that he is even trustworthy in all circumstances. There likely will always be some management needed, like keeping him on a leash around strangers, but if you work hard, then over time you might be able to get to a place where he rarely acts aggressively, rather than rarely does not act aggressively, and that can make life with him so much more enjoyable for you and others, and also prevent the potential dangers of an injury or lawsuit. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

Add a comment to Bailey's experience

Was this experience helpful?

Book me a walkiee?
Pweeeze!
Sketch of smiling australian shepherd