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How to Stop a Puppy from Biting

By Colleen Williams
August 24, 2016 • 2 min. read

Ahhh, puppies. So cute, so cuddly! That puppy smell, that puppy fur, that — ouch! puppy bite. Just like toddlers, puppies teethe and need to chomp away on something to soothe their sore gums, and soon enough, little puppy teeth come in and can be razor sharp. You need to nip (pun intended) the bad habit in the bud, or puppies can grow into dogs that bite. And that is absolutely no good.

Puppies prefer to use their mouths to explore the world through touch and dragging toys, but curbing the instinct to bite people is not hard. Their behavior is natural and common, and has some pretty easy tricks to steer your pup in the right direction. In order to stop a puppy from biting, you have to provide positive reinforcement for not biting. Stop a puppy from biting by providing treats and praise when not biting, and removing rewards when they nip. Here are 3 techniques you can try to stop your puppy from biting:

  1. Redirect the biting by providing a treat or toy after pulling your hand away to avoid a bite. To further satisfy your puppy’s desire to soothe his/her gums or play-bite, you can play gentle games of fetch, tug-of-war, or catch. You can also train while playing with your puppy to inhibit biting: When your dog clamps down, let your hand go limp (don’t pull away!) before imitating a dog’s yelp of pain. When your puppy releases your hand, ignore her/him for about 20 seconds, then resume playing. Your puppy learns that rough bites will end the fun, but nice manners let him keep playing.
  1. Distract your dog with chewy toys when he/she starts biting (depending on how destructive your dog is you may need to choose materials that are more resilient to biting like plastic or rope). Herding dogs have a built-in nipping instinct (watch those ankles!), so training them to behave is a little bit trickier: use the distraction method by waving around a toy when she is on your heels, getting her to bite down on the toy instead.
  1. Bitter sprays and bite deterrents provide safe but immediate punishment for the biter. With products like Bitter YUCK! and Top Paw Bitter No Chew, you can purchase a spray that will effectively stop biting. There are some training tricks to go with it – you have to make sure the pup doesn’t have access to water to clean out his mouth or else the deterrent will not be effective.

If your puppy keeps biting, it’s recommended to take the fun away with “social freeze-outs.” No need to be aggressive or angry, simply be patient and take yourself out of the game because puppies only want to please you and definitely want to play with you. The most important part is to be consistent – you want the nipping gone, so you have to be predictable with the no-play punishment. It takes some practice, but in no time, your puppy will be well-behaved and bite-free.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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