Puppy biting owner’s hand

Key takeaway

While excessive biting in puppies may be a problem, biting is normal for puppies. Your puppy may bite as a way to learn and explore with its mouth, as a result of teething, because they’re excited, or as a result of a breed disposition. You can get your dog to stop biting by reinforcing positive behavior and ignoring the behavior. If the biting doesn’t stop, a vet or trainer may be able to provide further assistance.

Biting might be cute when your puppy is very small, but it can quickly become a problem as they begin to grow. What’s even worse is that puppy biting may continue on into adulthood if you don’t do anything about it. The good news is, you don’t necessarily have to worry just because your puppy is biting a little bit.

In many cases, puppies bite because they’re puppies, whether they’re trying to learn or that biting is a result of excitement. While there may be other reasons your puppy is biting, it’s not typically a major problem. As long as you reinforce positive behavior and don’t get your puppy in the habit of biting, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. If you can’t stop puppy biting with simple methods, you may want to consider visiting a vet or trainer.

Getting your puppy to stop biting is mostly about ignoring the unwanted behavior and reinforcing the wanted  behavior, but understanding the root cause of biting is important. If you want to learn more about why your puppy is biting and how to stop puppy biting, here’s what you need to know.

Why Do Puppies Bite?

There are a lot of reasons for puppy biting, and that biting may be completely normal. Here are some of the reasons your puppy may be biting.

A dog chewing paws may be a sign of anxiety, skin disease, or pain. There are several forms of anxiety, but puppy separation anxiety is one the most common in puppies. For more information on reducing separation anxiety and making your puppy feel more comfortable, talk to your vet.

Puppies are very curious, and they love to explore any new environments they’re in. While older dogs may simply sniff around to get a sense of their new surroundings, puppies are more likely to bite and chew to explore and learn. You have to remember, your puppy hasn’t had time to experience the world and all the different things in it, so there are lots of new things for them to explore. It’s important to give your puppy a chance to explore new things and become familiar with people, but you should also try to discourage them from biting.

Another thing to consider if your puppy is biting is that your puppy may be teething. Puppies teethe just like humans, and chewing on things may help relieve some of the pain and discomfort they feel during that process. Typically, puppies teethe for anywhere between two and three months. As your puppy’s teeth are starting to come in, you might notice them chewing on various objects and nibbling on you when you play or pet them.

If there’s one thing you need to know about puppies, it’s that they’re excitable. Your puppy is going to be excited to see you, especially if you start talking to them in a friendly voice and calling them over to you. Sometimes, your puppy might get so excited that it can only express that excitement by biting you. You may also notice your puppy nipping at other dogs; this is just their way of getting another dog’s attention to initiate play.

The good news about biting because of excitement is that it’s something that tends to go away as your puppy gets older if you encourage appropriate interactions. Early prevention is the best way to stop puppy biting and other unwanted behaviors, so starting training early is key. In fact, 8-week-old puppies have the full learning capacity of adult dogs.

In some cases, breed predisposition may also be the cause of excessive biting. Just like there are anxious dog breeds, there are dog breeds that tend to bite more than others. For example, herding dogs such as border collies are more prone to nipping because they’re bred to herd. Retrievers, on the other hand, love to pick things up with their mouths, even if that object may be an arm or hand.

How to Stop Your Puppy From Biting

When it comes to how to train a puppy not to bite, it’s not that different from how to train a dog to stop barking. You want to reinforce desired behavior and ignore unwanted behavior while making sure your puppy has appropriate toys to chew on.

Graphic listing ways to stop puppy from biting

What to do

If you want your puppy to stop biting, here’s what you should do:

  • When your puppy bites, ignore the behavior and remove yourself by walking out of the room or stopping play immediately
  • Don’t provide your puppy with attention when they bite
  • If the puppy continues to bite, go behind a door or install a baby gate to excuse yourself (never put your puppy in time out)
  • Give praise when your puppy is not biting
  • Make sure all members of the household are consistent with this training
  • Give your puppy time: it can take some puppies months to learn not to bite
  • Provide your puppy with teething toys
  • Make sure your puppy is getting the appropriate amount of exercise
  • Remain calm when your puppy is biting; speak in a quiet voice to avoid winding them up more

Graphic stating to never use physical or verbal punishment to stop puppy biting

What not to do 

Contrary to the belief of some people, puppies and dogs don’t learn as effectively from verbal or physical punishment. In fact, these practices can contribute to anxiety and behavioral problems such as stress and aggression. Whatever you do, you should never use verbal or physical punishment as a way to stop puppy biting.

Puppy Biting: Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for a puppy to stop biting you?

As we mentioned previously, teething is one of the common causes of puppy biting. The good news is, your puppy should only be teething for anywhere from two to three months, and you shouldn’t have to deal with too much biting after that.

Keep in mind that your puppy may still bite because they’re excited or because of their breed. If biting behavior isn’t improving within the first 6 months of age, make sure you get help from your vet who can help determine if finding a trainer is the best course of action.

How do you discipline a puppy who is biting?

The one thing you have to remember when it comes to disciplining your puppy is that physical punishment is never the answer. Your puppy isn’t going to understand why you’re hurting it, and these punishments often lead to more aggressive behavior.

Instead, simply ignore your puppy by not looking at them or talking to them (even saying “no” can reinforce behavior) when they’re biting excessively. When they’re exhibiting desirable behavior, like sitting calmly, make sure to reinforce that positive behavior. Positive reinforcement helps your puppy learn what you want from it without creating aggressive behavior or traumatizing your dog.

Why is my puppy biting me aggressively?

Puppies tend to have a hard time controlling themselves, so your puppy may not even know how hard they’re biting you. In many cases, aggressive puppy biting is a result of overexcitement, whether your dog got too excited while playing or is simply very excited to see you. This isn’t abnormal behavior, but you should try to teach your dog not to bite when they’re excited.

Should you ignore a puppy biting?

It’s normal for puppies to bite a little bit, but you may have a problem on your hands if biting persists past the teething period or if they’re hurting someone. If this is the case, it’s best to consult a vet. Persistent puppy biting can indicate a behavior problem related to impulse control, fear, or anxiety, and it’s a problem that shouldn’t be ignored.

Puppy biting furniture

Final Notes

You’ve got a big job on your hands if you’re raising a puppy, especially if they’re currently in the teething stage. The good news is, puppy biting is common, and you can stop puppy biting with simple behavioral changes. In many cases, your puppy will stop biting once they’re out of the teething period or once they’re old enough to contain their excitement better.

From diabetes in dogs to puppy biting, having access to a good vet is important. With Dutch, you can find veterinarians online who can help you stop puppy biting and raise a happy, healthy dog. Veterinarians can even prescribe treatments that are shipped directly to your doorstep. If you need help stopping puppy biting, Dutch can help you connect with a vet.

References

  1. Mazur, James E.. Learning & Behavior (p. 76). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.

  2. Landsberg, Gary M., and Sagi Denenberg. “Behavioral Problems of Dogs - Behavior.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 26 Oct. 2021, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/behavior/normal-social-behavior-and-behavioral-problems-of-domestic-animals/behavioral-problems-of-dogs?query=separation+anxiety.