Puppy biting is a perfectly normal play behaviour for all puppies – but it’s not so fun for us humans! Puppy teeth are needle sharp, and even a light nip can hurt a lot. It’s important to teach your puppy to be gentle with their teeth, both for our sake, and so that they know how to regulate their jaw strength if they’re ever in a situation as an adult where they are scared enough to bite.
If you’re struggling with a biting puppy, ask yourself these four questions:
The first step to reducing your puppy’s biting is to ensure that they are getting enough sleep. Most owners grossly underestimate the amount of sleep that a young puppy needs. An 8 week old puppy can only go for around 45 minutes before they’ll start becoming overtired, and just like with young kids, overtired puppies are cranky puppies.
If your puppy seems to be biting even more than usual, chances are that they’re ready for a nap.
Step two for eliminating puppy biting is to avoid rough-housing, wrestling style play.
These types of games, whilst fun for us humans, lead to an over-excited puppy who is in the habit of using teeth on human skin. With a young puppy, always ensure that there is a toy between you and the puppy’s teeth, and end the game if the puppy decides that human fingers look more fun to chew on than the toy.
The third factor that increases puppy biting is when owners force the puppy into human-style affection gestures like hugging and kissing. Hugging and kissing is the way that humans and other primates show our love, but for dogs and other canines it’s an alien or even hostile motion.Rather than ambushing your puppy and picking them up for a hug, sit or lie on the ground and let them come to you for a cuddle. You don’t have to stop cuddling your puppy, but you should always try to give them a choice.
The last step in the process of eliminating puppy biting is to control the way you act when your puppy bites too hard. We tend to instinctively flail about, push back at the puppy and make noise when we receive a hard chomp from our puppies. This behaviour is a lot of fun from the puppy’s point of view, and they’re likely to try and keep the game going.Instead, try either redirecting your puppy to a more appropriate chew toy, or teaching your puppy that play time is over as soon as they bite too hard. You can achieve this by saying “ouch!” or making a yelping noise right as your puppy bites, and then completely disengaging from your puppy for a minute or two.
We cover puppy biting in depth in our Beacon Puppy School course, including how to help your puppy develop bite inhibition as an adult dog, and how to reduce biting when the person getting bitten won’t follow instructions to ignore the puppy; like children or guests.
If you'd like extra assistance, we also offer private "Set Up For Success" sessions for puppies, in the comfort of your own home.