Why Do Puppies Bite?
Biting is a common behavior, or should I say annoyance, in puppies. Fortunately, it is also a behavior that most puppies grow out of or learn to compensate for if handled correctly. So, why is it that puppies bite? A biting puppy is rarely aggressive, rather biting is more out of play or to help soothe the discomforts of teething. Biting can also be a way of exploring their environment. Puppies, much like children, use all of their five senses as they discover the things around them, taste included.
If you’ve ever watched a puppy play, especially with another puppy, they really get into it. There may be growling, barking, wrestling, and of course biting. It’s all par for the course as these little guys pretend that they’re big dogs fighting for their lives or for their meals. Of course, it’s all due to an overload of energy as well.
Puppies begin to lose their baby teeth around three or four months of age and biting or chewing on things helps to allow those adult teeth to break through the gums. Biting during this time can simply be a way of helping get those new adult pearly whites in in a quicker and more comfortable manner. Most puppies will have their entire set of adult teeth by the time they’re seven months old, so the influx of biting during for this reason should be short lived.
Cats are touted as the curious critters of the pet world, but puppies aren’t far behind. It’s common place for a puppy to stick their nose into things as well as their paws, head, body, and even mouth. Puppies may even choose to taste or bite things that shouldn’t be tasted, such as rocks or toxic substances, as part of their investigative journey so they should be supervised at all times.
Puppies may also bite out of fear, so be sure to always be slow and gentle when introducing them to new people or things. Puppies have short attention spans as well, so any training sessions should be brief in order to prevent your little one from becoming fearful or exhausted by a situation or what’s being asked of them.
You may also notice that your puppy’s biting gets even worse during certain activities. Most often biting increases when a puppy is excited, such as when you just get home or when you’re in the middle of play. Even if you’ve had success training your puppy not to bite most of the time, when they get ramped up during these activities, all of that training may get momentarily forgotten until they calm back down. Your puppy may bite for attention as well. In a puppy’s mind, all eyes and hands should be on them, all of the time. If that’s not the case in the actual world, a puppy may bite to get you, or others, to notice them. After all, it’s rare that a bite goes unnoticed or fails to get a rise out of someone so they quickly learn how to use this to their advantage.
How to Stop Your Puppy From Biting
It doesn’t matter how cute you may think those little puppy nipss are, obviously biting in adult dogs is an unwanted behavior. Start early for the best and fastest success and try some of these simple methods to teach your puppy to keep their sharp, little teeth to themselves. For a visual of some of this training, check out this video.
1. Bite inhibition
The canine bite can be very powerful thanks to a combination of many different groups of muscles controlling the jaw. Fortunately, these muscles can also work to regulate the pressure of their bite, otherwise known as bite inhibition. This is especially important for a mother dog carrying her puppies. She wouldn’t want to bite their little neck scruff when carrying them with the same force that she chomps down on her hard kibble. Bite inhibition is an important tool for any dog to learn in order to prevent injury should they be overcome with excitement and forget their no-biting manners. Bite inhibition also becomes important if your dog is trying to get your attention, say if you’re pulling too hard on a mat and hurting their skin. A mouth placed gentled on your arm serves as a more welcome reminder than a bite that breaks the skin.
Since puppies don’t often know that their little bites can actually cause a big pain, teaching them how to regulate their bites may be difficult. The best way to go about it is act like a dog. When a puppy bites another dog too hard, they yip. If your puppy bites you try to make a high-pitched, loud noise to convey your pain. Most puppies will either be startled enough by it to stop biting or realize that they’re hurting you and stop. Be aware though, that some puppies may take your high-pitched cries as a challenge and actually bite more thinking that you’re playing. For those puppies, look into some of the other methods.
2. Ignore the bite
I’m not saying act like it’s not happening, actually you should just walk away. If your puppy bites you during play or as some means of getting attention, end the fun and don’t give in to their needs. Go to another room or put your puppy in their crate until they’ve had a chance to calm down. Don’t give them what they want until they can interact without their mouth.
3. Provide alternatives
This method is especially useful for puppies that are teething. After all, teething puppies are just trying to relieve the discomfort, and a properly designed chew toy will do a better job at that than your fingers or toes will. Make sure you provide a variety of toys so that your puppy doesn’t get easily bored with the same-old, same-old. Also, a variety of shapes and textures will help them choose what gives them the most relief.
If teething isn’t the reason behind your puppy’s biting affliction, providing a fun toy or treat to chew on can still help to keep their teeth off of you. Again, these toys or treats are specifically designed to promote chewing so they tend to be more satisfying and enticing than you are.
4. Redirect them
This is similar to taking a break, but redirecting your puppy can be a great way to end their biting habit. When your puppy starts biting, move on to a different activity. If you’re in the middle of playing, stop and go for a walk or let them outside for a potty break. Switch up the toys that you’re playing with or change the game, just something to break up the behavior and transition them to another activity.
5. Burn some energy
Puppies seem to be an endless spout of energy. They’re busy all of the time. If not given the proper outlet to release some of that energy, they may focus it all on biting. Make sure your puppy gets regular exercise, including leash walks and off-leash time. Encourage your pup to fetch, chase, or play tug-of-war to exercise their brain as well. And always mix it up. Just like you, puppies don’t want to do the same thing day in and day out. Change your walking route or add in swimming to ensure that they’re getting a full body workout, to help keep their mind off biting, and to get their endorphin release in other ways.
6. Positive reinforcement
We all respond better to positive stimuli rather than negative, and puppies are no different. Encourage good behavior by rewarding your puppy when they’re acting like you expect them to. Continue to play or offer treats when your puppy isn’t biting and end play if they are biting. Drown them with affection when they’re good and ignore or give them a break when they’re bad.
7. Never punish
Believe it or not, punishing your puppy for biting can actually encourage the behavior, especially if they’re biting for attention. While yelling, hitting, and other negative responses may not be exactly what your pup is after when they bite you, it’s still a form of attention and some puppies will take whatever they can get. Instead, you’re better off to walk away or give them a timeout in their crate until you’ve had a chance to take a deep breath, calm down, and respond to the situation in a better manner.
8. Puppy classes
Socializing your puppy is important for all aspects of training. They need to be around other dogs in order to learn how to act. Sometimes this may mean picking up bad habits as well, but if supervised properly, you can ensure that they will take away more good habits instead. As I mentioned before, other dogs are typically quick to yelp when a puppy bites them too hard, so socializing your pup can help them become more familiar with these and other clues that biting isn’t the way to get what they want.
Puppies and biting seem to go hand-in-hand and with no wonder. Puppies use biting in many ways, including as part of play, to explore, and to express their disapproval. While biting may be cute when a puppy is young, it can quickly escalate to an annoying and dangerous activity as an adult dog. It’s best to curb your puppy’s biting behavior while they’re young and easily moldable and before it becomes a real problem. Remember that every puppy is different and you may end up trying just one or employing all of the above methods in order to curb their biting behavior. Just be patient and enjoy the process and your puppy.