Jump to section
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.
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.
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
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.
Provide an outlet
Have teething and tug toys freely available for your puppy to use when she gets the urge to work her teeth.
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.
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.
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.
The Reaction Method
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Interruption Method
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 02/09/2018, edited: 01/08/2021