How To Stop Puppy Biting

Whilst puppy biting is normal behavior and can often seem cute, imagine your pup as an adult dog biting your fingers...not so cute now is it? Learn how to teach your puppy bite inhibition and stop him from biting and nipping before his jaws develop the strength to do some real damage.

Puppy Biting: It's What Puppies Do!

If your puppy is nipping and biting, don't worry, you're not alone and your pup isn't being aggressive, he's just doing what comes natural to him!

Golden cocker spaniel pupppy, biting is not on his mind at the moment!

Play biting and mouthing are perfectly normal behaviors for young puppies, it's a natural part of their development, especially if they're at the teething stage.

It's how they play and explore their new world, but they need to learn to be gentle and develop a 'soft mouth' as early as possible, because the window for doing so closes at around 4 - 5 months. Coincidentally, this is about the same time they get their adult teeth!

Puppies need to learn that biting people is out of bounds. It's our job to teach them 'bite inhibition'.

What Does 'Bite Inhibition' Mean?

Bite inhibition is being able to control how hard (or gently) the puppy bites.

Puppies usually learn to control their biting during play with their mother and brothers and sisters. When the puppy bites its mother too hard she'll yelp loudly and she may also bite back, which usually has the effect of stopping her pup in its tracks, unsure of what to do next.

If the puppy bites again, the mother may yelp louder this time, but will also growl or snarl quite viciously at her puppy to give him a clear message that his puppy biting is unacceptable.

She may also turn away and have nothing to do with him for a while, or at least until he's learned some manners.

If her puppy doesn't let up, she may resort to grabbing him by the scruff of the neck and gently shaking him to let him know she means business.

His siblings also play a part in teaching each other not to bite too hard. If you watch puppies playing, you'll see that when one puppy is bitten too hard, it will yelp and move away from the aggressor, and play stops immediately.

And because puppies love playing, the biting puppy soon learns he must be more gentle if he's going to be allowed to play.

How To Teach Your Puppy Bite Inhibition

Being bitten by sharp little puppy teeth can be very painful so we need to help our little boy understand that biting hurts.

  • The next time he bites, yelp loudly and say 'No' in a firm, disapproving tone to let him know that he hurt you.

    It's okay to over-react and sound a little more hurt than you actually are, it might even help to get the message across quicker. (If your yelping excites your pup and he bites even harder, don't yelp. Just go limp and stay very still and ignore him when he bites - don't even look at him).

  • Stop playing with your puppy. Turn away from him and ignore him for about 60 seconds. You can then begin playing with him again.

  • If your puppy isn't getting the message after practicing this a few times, try giving him a rubber bone to bite or chew on to help get the message across that if he really wants to chew, he should chew his toys and bones, and that biting hands and fingers is not allowed.

  • If he doesn't show any interest in his chew bone, and bites you again, repeat your loud yelp and 'No' and either move away and ignore him, or leave the room for a few minutes. (If you leave him on his own, be sure the room is puppy proof and safe).

If you practice the above each time your pet indulges in a little puppy biting, he'll soon learn that it's wrong and that if he does bite, his play sessions will come to an abrupt end.

This is the same message that his mother would give when teaching her pups not to bite. This is another good reason why a puppy shouldn't be taken from the litter too early.

Your pup will probably continue to bite, but his bites should now be 'softer' as he's beginning to learn how much bite is enough to allow the fun to continue, and how much bite will stop play.

Your aim is to continue to teach him to soften his bite each time until he eventually stops biting altogether. So, even though your puppy's bite no longer hurts you, continue to yelp, and say 'No' when his teeth touch your hands.

Important: If you have an adult dog biting problem, don't try to tackle it yourself, seek immediate help from a qualified dog behavioral therapist.

Your puppy will eventually stop trying to mouth your fingers and will automatically stop play if his teeth accidentally touch your hands.

Teaching your puppy bite inhibition, and stopping him from biting altogether can take up to 4 weeks to complete successfully, so please be patient (and consistent!).

If your puppy is teething, make sure he has plenty of safe puppy teething rings and bones. A teething puppy can never have too many chew bones!

Other Methods To Stop Your Puppy From Biting

There are several other training methods which may be used to help stop your puppy biting. Whilst I don't endorse all of them, I've set them out below to allow you to judge for yourself.

Spraying With Water

Spraying your puppy with water (or a mixture of water and lemon juice, or vinegar) each time he bites will be unpleasant for him. It won't hurt him, but it will make him think twice about biting you!

Holding Your Puppy's Jaw

The next time your puppy bites you, you could try placing your thumb into your puppy's mouth, under his tongue. At the same time, hold the underside of your puppy's chin with your fingers. Don't be too rough with him though, and hold this position for around 15 seconds.

This won't hurt your puppy, but it will stop him from being able to bite you.

Nasty-Tasting Hands And Fingers

There are products on the market which when sprayed onto your hands and fingers, your pet won't like the taste of and it will put him off biting and nipping.

There are many products to choose from and one in particular is said to be very effective - it comes in a spray and tastes of bitter apples.

Using A Choke Collar

There are some people that advocate using a choke collar to stop puppy from biting. The choke collar is pulled sharply each time the puppy tries to bite. The painful and unpleasant, negative association, teaches the puppy not to bite.

Personally, I have never used this method. I believe it's a cruel practice and would definitely not recommend it. I'm sure none of my visitors to this site would either.

The Shake Method

Another method uses a tin can with pebbles, coins, or dried peas inside.

Each time your puppy bites, say 'No' in a firm tone and, at the same time, shake the tin can. It will make such a racket and startle the puppy into stopping.

Dogs don't like this rattling sound and will respond quite well; however, my research shows me that this 'shake method' should only be carried out by experienced trainers.

So, before considering trying this, I strongly recommend that you take professional advice from a qualified dog-behaviorist.

The Scruff Method

The 'scruff method' is where you grab the puppy's scruff, (the loose skin on the back of his neck) pretty much the same way his mother would have done when her puppy misbehaved.

Next time your puppy is mouthing you, yelp and say 'No' and, at the same time, grab the scruff firmly. Don't shake, pull or rag your puppy, simply hold the scruff for a few seconds, before letting go and giving him a chew toy.

Puppy Biting Do's and Don'ts

Do repeat the training often, because it can take many repetitions before your puppy understands what you want from him.

Black and white cocker spaniel puppy biting on a stick - good behaviour!

Do be consistent when teaching your pet not to bite. Explain your training method to each member of your family and make sure they follow the same process.

Do let visitors know that you won't tolerate it if your puppy bites anyone. Biting is not allowed. Explain (and show them) how you handle a biting puppy so that they can follow suit, if necessary.

Do ensure that young children are supervised at all times when playing with puppies. Kids and puppies can play rough!

Do praise and reward your puppy when he gets the training right and when his behavior is good to help teach him that you approve of what he's doing and to help reinforce his good behavior.

Don't play rough games, or tug-of-war games, with your puppy - at least until your puppy has learned the 'Leave It' and the 'Drop It' command, and you're confident that he will actually stop and let go when you ask.

Don't allow your Cocker Spaniel puppy to get away with biting and nipping; if you do, he will continue to bite and an adult dog that bites is dangerous.

Don't smack your puppy for nipping or biting. If he's sensitive, (and many Cocker Spaniels are) you may hurt and scare him, which could make him afraid of you.

If he's not so sensitive, or is a dominant puppy, he may think you're playing with him and, his 'game' may become more aggressive. He may bite you even harder.

Don't despair, follow the advice given on this page and keep at it, you will get there.

Puppy Biting: Summary

If you follow the above advice carefully and consistently, you will stop your puppy biting, it may just takes a bit of time and patience. However, if you find yourself in a situation where your puppy continues to bite, and/or appears aggressive, growls, or snarls, please take your puppy to see his vet and explain what you have tried.

If your vet confirms that your puppy is healthy and there are no underlying problems causing your puppy's aggression, he may refer you to a dog behaviorist.

Related Title: Puppy Chewing

If your puppy is chewing furniture, slippers, socks, etc., rather than biting you, the best way to deal with it is to direct his chewing and teach him that he's only allowed to chew on his own toys. Follow the link to learn more.


» » Puppy Biting

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