“No! Stop it! Sit!” you frantically exclaim while your adorable monster of a puppy nips playfully at your ankles and toes. Your puppy won’t stop biting. You’ve tried everything to get through to them with no success, so what now?
It’s easy to get frustrated but hard to stay mad. You know your puppy isn’t mean, but you have had it up to here with this naughty game that they play.
If you are at your wits end with your mouthy puppy, then this article is for you. You’ll learn why your puppy is such a rascal, and we’ll leave you with some effective methods for curbing this unwanted behaviour.
Why is Your Puppy Biting You?
To help you process the methods for putting an end to their biting urges, you should take a minute to wrap your head around why your puppy has this annoying and painful habit.
Your puppy’s reasons are far from sinister, a little bratty maybe, but not malicious. Let’s take a look at the five most common reasons that your puppy is giving you the business:
We use our hands to touch and discover; Puppies explore with their mouths. That’s the one absolute thing they know from the second they’re born.
The point isn’t necessarily to chew, destroy, or harm. They are just trying to understand how to interact with the world. It’s a natural instinct.
This means that we don’t want to discourage all exploration. Instead, we want to offer opportunities to explore the right way.
Offer chews or toys to explore with their teeth and show them other ways to interact with the world, like games and training, using their other senses.
If your puppy is teething, then they are probably sore and frustrated. As the recipient of their frustrations, you should be able to relate.
Teething is a natural part of your puppy’s developmental stage. Their instincts tell them that the best way to relieve the pain is to chew.
Sure they have toys to chew on, but they are less interactive than your fingers and won’t get your attention the same way.
Just like a baby would cry or fuss when they are uncomfortable, your puppy will try whatever they can to make themselves feel better, even if it’s just a way to get your attention.
To reduce biting from a teething puppy, make sure they have plenty of toys, chews and other appropriate things to nibble on.
Keeping your puppy mentally active is as important as their physical activity routines. An understimulated or bored puppy may act out with destructive behaviours, including nipping.
As adorable as puppy tantrums are, they can escalate, and the negative behaviours may be difficult to train out of your puppy when they are older.
Not knowing how to play independently means that your puppy relies on you to give them activities and games to occupy them.
This dependant behaviour can lead to your pup continually demanding your attention. Puppies learn quickly that nipping and jumping are the quickest ways to draw your focus back to them.
Teach your pup to be independent by offering puzzle toys and games that they can do by themselves.
Learn more about eliminating dog boredom in Bored Dogs: Symptoms & Solutions
Anxiety takes many forms, but a fearful or anxious puppy may present some aggressive behaviours. Anxiety, related to being left alone, can trigger some nippy reactions.
Both as your leaving and when you return, your puppy might bite. It’s their way of telling you that they don’t like being left alone.
This can indicate that some changes need to be made to your routine and theirs to help reduce this anxiety. Speak with a trainer about the best ways to reduce your pup’s anxiety and prevent aggressive habits.
Introducing your puppy to new experiences is very important. New pets, people and environments can all help teach your puppy acceptable behaviour.
Without socialization, your puppy may be fearful or anxious, leading to aggressive or territorial behaviours.
They are unlikely to know how to act or introduce themselves to new pets or people, so they may default to roughhousing in the way they would with a sibling.
During their formative stage, try to expose your puppy to a variety of situations, people, and once they are vaccinated, other pets.
Make sure that these interactions are positive. Be particular about which situations you put your puppy in. Make sure that new situations and interactions are safe and fun.
It will take practice, but it’s all part of their training. The more positive experiences they have, the easier it will be to teach good puppy behaviours.
The #1 Mistake that You’ll Make With a New Puppy
There are many different ways to train your puppy, but most pet owners make one big mistake during their puppy’s early stages; a mistake that is the most significant contributor to a bad biting habit:
Using your hands and feet for playtime.
We’ve all done it. It’s hard to resist tickling those little pink bellies or the “I’m gonna getcha” game. It seems like it would be a great way to bond with your new puppy, but it turns out, it’s not.
What you are doing instead is telling them that you are a fun toy. You are unknowingly training them to see your fingers as a game.
If you’re just starting off, then do yourself a favour and keep a toy in your hand when you play. Don’t offer the temptations of a finger nibble, and you can nip the problem in the bud before it starts.
5 Force-Free Methods to Discourage Your Puppy from Biting
If your puppy is already a play biter, it’s not too late to change your ways. Get your hands and feet out of the mix and try out these helpful tips to teach your puppy the right way to play, get attention, and deal with their frustrations.
When your puppy bites, yelp! Not a yip, not a whispered whimper, not even an ouch. Channel your inner puppy and belt out a yelp.
Aim for sharp and high-pitched. The idea is to get your puppy’s attention so that they let go or stop.
I know, I know. I read the title of this blog too. You’re probably here because you already tried this method and it didn’t work, right?
Well, I urge you to persist. It may not have been effective by itself, but when combined with our follow-up tips, it can effectively deter this naughty behaviour.
If you are new to the yelping method, then give it a try. Don’t overdo it, though. Puppies thrive when actions are repeated, but yelping too often will reduce the elements of surprise that catch your puppy’s attention.
In conjunction with the yelp method, redirection is a tactic that involves changing their focus from poor behaviour to a good one.
Grab a toy; shake it, squeak it, toss it. Do whatever will get your puppy excited about the toy. You want to encourage them to engage in playtime with the toy, not with your hands.
If you treat train, following appropriate playtime with some tasty snacks can further associate toys with playtime instead of your delicious digits.
For a teething pupper, try offering a cold toy or treat could help soothe the pain they are feeling from the movement in their mouths.
To do this, just toss their favourite chewies in the freezer for half an hour.
Any activity can be a training activity. After you yelp, try throwing a few simple vocal commands at them. Stick with tricks that they already know and keep them simple. Sit, down, or shake a paw are some of the basics.
This is a great way to get their attention and change the focus of the game. Take a few minutes to go through their Rolodex of commands, and make sure that you are rewarding their excellent listening skills.
When you are ready to stop, you can offer a treat or toy that they can play with by themselves. This is another form of redirection, but I consider it redirection+.
4. The Cold Shoulder
When your puppy is demanding attention by acting out, they may be too bullheaded to listen to your yelp or vocal commands. In this case, it’s time to give them the cold shoulder.
Start with a simple command like sit. Whether your dog responds to the command or not, it’s important to give them direction.
Quickly turn away from your puppy and cross your arms, concealing your hands. Avoid giving them any form of attention. The goal is to wait for them to settle down, respond to your earlier vocal command, or walk away.
Once you are satisfied that they have calmed themselves, you should call them over to give them appropriate attention. Use a treat, a toy, or vocal praise to let them know that they have done the right thing.
This will help them see that biting, jumping, barking, or any other attention-seeking actions are not going to get them what they want. This will take practice, so be consistent and stick to your guns
5. Give a Dog a Bone
The final step to addressing biting behaviours is to keep them mentally stimulated and busy. If you don’t give them something to do, they will find their own ways to occupy themselves, and that is rarely good.
Give them an activity that will keep their attention. This will prevent boredom and destructive behaviours and will teach them how to play by themselves.
Offering natural chews or durable toys will be exciting and will take up some of their time, giving you a break from puppy play.
Mental stimulation can be exhausting, so it’s a great way to tucker out your pup. When used with a consistent physical routine, your puppy will be too exhausted to cause trouble in the house.
Puzzle toys are another great way to offer your dog a fun activity. These brain games incorporate treats and toys and keep your dog thinking and learning.
Practice Makes Perfect
The best part of our tips is that they can be used together. A single trick may not be effective, but combining multiple methods can help you get it into your pup’s head that biting is not the right way to play or get attention.
My last tip (and it’s an important one) is to get everyone in your house on board with your chosen method. If your pup gets one response from you and another from the rest of your family, then it will be even more challenging to break this bad habit.
Teach your methods to each person that would regularly interact with your pup. You can even advise guests and new friends to follow simple steps when meeting your puppy for the first time.
This way, your puppy can still interact and socialize but will always get a consistent and effective response if they decide to say hi, mouth first.