If you have a dog that bites you, family members, or your friends, you know how stressful it can be. Although younger dogs are naturally mouthy and like nibbling on everything, biting should not be encouraged. To help you, we’ve created a thorough guide.
So, let’s learn how to stop a puppy from biting.
A Short Guide on Dog Biting
Before you start learning about training, it’s essential to know what causes biting and if you should be worried about your dog’s behavior.
Puppies vs. Adult Dogs
For young dogs, mouthing and nipping are a part of their instinct. However, biting is a bit more serious, and there are huge differences between a puppy and an adult dog that bites.
Puppies are mouthy by nature, and they bite each other as they play. They also use mouthing to explore the world. Additionally, like human babies, they chew on things to relieve the discomfort while teething.
Although a puppy’s biting phase is unavoidable, it should eventually end. By the time it is 6–7 months old, a puppy should stop biting, since they’re no longer teething. If they don’t, training them to stop will be necessary. Fortunately, puppies learn quickly and will stop mouthing you in no time.
In general, training your puppy is one of the most important things when welcoming them into your home. Training them to stop biting is just one of the essentials of having a dog.
Adult dogs generally shouldn’t bite.
However, if they weren’t trained when they were puppies, you’ll need some time, patience, and consistency to do it now. They’ve already learned that bad behavior is acceptable, so they’ll have to unlearn it first.
Aggression vs. Play Biting — How to Identify Them?
To know if your dog is simply playing or is showing aggression towards you, family members, or strangers, you should look at their body language.
Playful Dog Signs:
- Their head is lower, almost bowing
- The backside is up
- They are wagging their tail
- Their ears are raised
- They open their mouths but are relaxed
If your dog shows all of these signs but still bites you, you can be sure they’re just playing. These bites usually won’t break the skin. What’s great is that this type of biting can stop fairly quickly with some training.
Aggressive Dog Signs
- Stare at you (fixed look)
- Stiff body
- Ears in the back
- Curled lips
- Deep grumbles
- Dominating behavior
When they bite you aggressively, their bites will be deeper and are likely to produce blood and bruises.
Just keep in mind that not every painful bite has to be a sign of aggression.
For example, dogs will often bite when they are feeling vulnerable, like when they are protecting their puppies or when they are in pain. So, if your dog bites you for seemingly no reason, it could be because they are not feeling well. In this case, it would be a good idea to consult a vet.
Moreover, if you’ve just adopted a dog you don’t know much about, the chances are that they could have been abused in the past. Such dogs are very often scared, traumatized, and naturally defensive, making them more likely to bite.
Also, a study has found that fearful dogs have a higher tendency towards aggression, so if they’re afraid, they might bite you. Give them time to adapt to the new environment and start trusting you.
How to Train a Dog Not to Bite — Detailed Steps and Training Tips
No matter how old your dog is, basic training is necessary. If they’ve passed their teething stage, it’s time to start training your dog to stop biting.
We’ve prepared the most important steps you have to follow and training tips that might help you. So, let’s start.
Training Tips and Warnings
Here are some basic tips you have to follow when teaching your puppy to stop biting.
1. Only use positive reinforcement training
Positive reinforcement training helps your dog connect good behavior with a reward and positive feelings. For a study, dogs were tested after training, and only positive reinforcement produced zero cortisol level — the stress hormone.
This implies giving them some healthy treats, petting them, and praising them when they behave the way you want them to.
Any other type of training may harm your relationship and cause biting to get worse.
2. Give them something else to chew on
Quality, chewing-safe toys should be more interesting to your puppy than your hands and ankles.
Just be aware that toys made of wood shouldn’t be used for chewing. The same applies to bones, even though they might seem perfect. The reason is that they are likely to chip and break in a way that could hurt your dog’s throat or even get lodged.
3. Don’t get angry at your puppy
When you react to their biting by yelling, moving quickly, or scolding them, they see it as part of the play. This may lead them to bite you more because, to them, it looks like you like it.
Also, you should avoid hitting your dog, since this can just make things worse. It can make them fear you, which can only harm your relationship.
4. If they bite you, ignore them
Once they bite you, the right thing to do would be to turn around and ignore them for a minute. If necessary, you can even leave the room. It will teach the puppy that biting you leads to losing your attention.
If they bite your ankle while walking, stop walking until they release. When they do, give them a treat.
5. Help them use up excess energy
When they are tired, they’re less likely to get too excited and bite. So, take them for a run, walk them, or play with them in your yard if you have one.
That being said, biting can also occur if they’re too tired, so always let your dog rest after a longer physical activity.
6. Use taste deterrent
If nothing else works, a taste deterrent might help. Spray it on your hand, clothes, ankle, or any other place your dog likes to nibble on. This way, they’ll associate those areas with the bitter taste and will try to avoid biting.
7. Know that neutering doesn’t stop aggression and biting
Contrary to general opinion, studies done on neutered dogs show that neutering won’t stop aggression and biting in dogs. So, if you have an intact dog who is biting, you will still need to train them not to do that.
Steps for Stopping Dog Nibbling
Besides following our training tips, here are a few more tips you can try.
1. Stop contact play
Although contact play might be fine when your dog is small, it becomes difficult when they grow up. When they are playing, they get excited, and it’s hard for them to control themselves.
Try some non-contact activities, such as fetching or tug-of-war, which will prevent your dog from being too close to you when they get excited.
2. Teach them bite inhibition
Your puppy needs to learn that it hurts you when they bite you. Once they bite too hard, you should produce a high-pitched ‘ouch’ or ‘ow’ sound, and after that, don’t give them any attention for 30s or so. This is what dogs naturally do, so it should produce the desired effect.
However, some dogs get more excited and consider this a part of the play. If this is the case with your puppy, you should just try the ignoring method.
3. Redirect their chewing instinct
Whenever you see that there’s a chance they’ll try to bite you, you should immediately give them a toy or a treat they can bite into. If they still go after you, again, try the “ouch” and ignore method.
4. Teach them some commands
Teaching them to sit, catch and do other commands can be useful in more ways than one. It shows them that listening to you will result in a reward, and it provides you with a way to direct their behavior.
For example, you can teach them the command ‘leave’ or ‘stop’. Once they try to nibble on you, this command would help your dog understand what you want from them. Of course, don’t forget to praise them when they listen — or ignore them if they don’t.
5. Be consistent
The most important thing about these methods is to be consistent and keep doing them even if they don’t show results right away. Dogs prefer routines and will learn if you just continue.
Patience is advised, especially for older dogs and those that get easily excited. The training can last longer than you expect and can get difficult at times.
6. Search for professional help
If nothing works, you shouldn’t be ashamed to get some help. If your case is milder, you can look for a trusted online trainer and get some useful tips and tricks.
For more serious cases, it’s better to consult with a vet or the agency/person you got the dog from and see what they recommend.
How do I stop my 12-week old puppy from biting?
To stop your puppy from biting, you have to use positive reinforcement. Reward them when they stop and ignore them when they don’t want to stop.
Just be aware that a 12-week puppy is still teething, so they still need something to chew on. Buy them toys that can help stop the discomfort.
For other advice, look at our tips and steps, and you’re sure to succeed.
Why does my puppy lunge and bite me?
If your puppy lunges to bite you, it’s most likely a sign of excitement. This is pretty common for young dogs, especially when they are overstimulated.
The best thing to do here is to ignore them, remove yourself from the area, or switch to non-contact play until their energy levels drop.
Is biting a sign of aggression?
Not every bite is a sign of aggression. Puppies bite as a part of play, and sometimes, this behavior can persist into adulthood if not discouraged.
Moreover, dogs tend to bite when they feel the need to defend themselves, their puppies, or their territory. So, it’s important to rule out those factors.
Finally, if you’ve adopted a dog you don’t know much about, biting can be the result of past trauma, neglect, and abuse.
Why do puppies bite so much?
Puppies explore the world with their mouths and play with their brothers and sisters. Also, like human babies, they’re just getting their teeth, so they’re trying to relieve themselves from the discomfort.
When do puppies stop biting?
Puppies should stop biting when they are about 6–7 months old, as they should have all of their teeth by then. If they don’t, you should start training them to teach them it’s no longer acceptable.
Now that you know why puppies and dogs bite and you’re familiar with our tips on how to stop a puppy from biting, it should be an easy ride for you.
Training might take a while, but once you start seeing the results, you’ll be happy you’ve put effort into it. Now, all you have to do is start.