Help: My Puppy is Biting!

Help: My Puppy is Biting!puppy+biting

Just about every new puppy owner that comes to me, asks: “How do I get my puppy to stop biting”? (sometimes in tears).  First of all, I let them know that 100% of puppy’s bite! Actually, it is important for puppies to bite. This is a play tactic, it is a process of teething, and it’s a way to explore their world. Now, having said that, no one wants painful punctures or for your puppy to rip off articles of your clothing!

So, what to do?

Puppies learn bite inhibition from mom, siblings, and then we get to finish off the process. If they bite mom too hard, she might get up and leave, and there is no snack time for puppy! Or, if they bite their brothers and sisters too hard, playing will likely come to a halt. This is a form of negative punishment (removal of reward). If puppies are taken from their litter too soon (absolutely not one-day sooner than 8 weeks is appropriate), they may not learn these valuable lessons.

 Enrolling in a Puppy Socialization Class will help your puppy follow through with these lessons in a positive, controlled environment. So, let’s look at this model. When your puppy is biting you, be a tree. Stop moving. Stop giving attention. This is negative punishment. Removal of the reward is the removal of all of your attention. Once the biting behaviour stops, click and reward this calm, closed-mouth behaviour.

Redirection is something that you’ll hear me say a lot. If you are telling your dog “no, I don’t like your biting behaviour”, by use of negative punishment, we then must tell them what we would rather they do instead! Redirect them to a toy that is appropriate to chew. Another good alternative is to teach them “kiss”. Once this behaviour is learned, you can use it as an alternative appropriate behaviour to biting by cueing them to give kisses.

What else do clients hear me say a lot? Environmental enrichment! If you aren’t playing with your puppy, keep your puppy in an ex-pen or an area sectioned off with baby gates, give them a stuffed Kong, puzzle toy, or other food dispensing toy. Giving your puppy appropriate outlets is key to managing their success! When you are playing with your puppy, make sure they have an appropriate chew toy to sink their teeth into. Until your puppy learns proper bite inhibition, I do not suggest getting down on the ground to rough-house. The more your puppy practices her biting, the better she will be!

There are two great articles here about teaching bite inhibition:

This is also important to teach your puppy so that she learns to use her jaws appropriately. As your puppy grows into an adult, those teeth and jaws become more powerful. Without inhibition, a playful bite, a warning nip, or taking a treat or toy out of your hand could result in injury. An inappropriately hard nip while playing with another canine pal could result in a confrontation.

To learn more about teaching bite inhibition, teaching your dog to open their mouth, teaching “kisses”, and teaching drop it, please feel free to contact me about setting up a private one-on-one session; or for enrolling in Puppy Socialization Classes offered at Companion Veterinary Clinic.

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