How to get a Puppy to Stop Biting: The Basics
Having a puppy can bring a great amount of joy to any to household. Pets become a pivotal member of the family to most people, but just like children puppies need to be raised in the right way in order to truly fulfil their potential as man’s best friend. Just like a human baby, puppies will spend a great amount of time discovering their senses, and all the different parts of their body, and testing out what they can do. Two main ways that any dog will investigate something new is via their sense of smell and also via their mouths. The smelling bit is ok, but when puppies are biting every item in the house it can become a huge problem for their owners, especially due to their razor sharp teeth that can destroy an expensive pair of shoes in seconds. Puppies grow at an alarming rate and by the time they are four months old, they may be big enough to get into all the places you’ve tried to keep them out of, and the bigger they get the harder they will be to control. This is one of the reasons it is so important to get them into good habits at an early age and try to prevent them from biting everything or everyone in sight. So, what are the basics of how to get a puppy to stop biting?
How to get a puppy to stop biting begins with bite inhibition. Dogs need to learn the strength and force that their mouth has and how to control this. This is referred to as bite inhibition and is an important first step in the conditioning or training of your dog. A puppy who hasn’t yet learned bite inhibition does not realised that human skin is extremely sensitive and so even when they are being gentle their bites can be hard enough to break the skin. One of the easiest ways to enable your mouthing puppy to control the force of their bite is to let them play with other puppies. Puppies will play rough with each other, this is completely natural and it is not out of the ordinary to see a group of puppies chasing, wrestling and pouncing on each other. However, just like we humans can communicate with each other through speech, dogs communicate with each other through their barks. When a puppy bites their playmate too hard, they will yelp and let them know about it. Through interaction of this kind puppies can learn to be gentle when playing and keep the force of their bites restrained.
It may not always be possible for your puppy to have this kind of interaction with their peers so you may be asking yourself the question how to get a puppy to stop biting when there are no other dogs around that they can learn from. Well the answer to this is that you need to mimic the interactions your puppy would have with other dogs. For example when playing with your puppy, let them mouth on your hands, if there comes a point where they bite you too hard then react to this by emitting a high pitched yelp. This will mimic the reaction they would get from another puppy and startle them so that they momentarily cease the behaviour. Follow this up by praising your puppy for stopping the biting. Repeat this procedure until you can see a significant change in the force of your puppy’s bites.
Teeth don’t belong on skin
The next step in the process of how to get a puppy to stop biting is to teach them that their teeth do not belong on human skin. There are many techniques you can use to help them learn in a quick and fun way.
- It’s inevitable that your puppy will attempt to bite any available part of the human body and most of the time this will be the fingers or toes. When your puppy starts to exhibit this kind of behaviour try and dissuade them by giving them a chew toy or a bone to gnaw on instead.
- Puppies often like to be in close contact with those around them, and will have formed a bond to you relatively quickly, but they need to learn that you are not a dog. Instead of letting them rough play with you, try to encourage non-contact activities such as teaching them to play fetch or even tug of war. This will give them a non-contact outlet for all of their excess energy.
- If you find that you have a problem with your puppy constantly trying to bite at your feet and ankles or the feet and ankles of others then there is something easy you can do to prevent this. Whenever possible try to keep a chew toy on your person, then when your puppy makes a grab at your ankles immediately stop moving your feet and try to entice them away with the chew toy. If you don’t have a toy available at the time, then just stop moving until they stop the behaviour and reward them immediately after. After regularly repeating this procedure, they will begin to equate the desire to bite with a toy instead of your feet.
- When you anticipate that your puppy might be about to bite you, your automatic reflex will be to jerk your body away from them. However, this will just seem like another act of play to them and entice them to jump forward and make a grab for you. Instead of jerking away you should let your body go limp. They should soon stop lunging at you, because if you are not responding then you are no fun to play with.
- Always try to avoid actively punishing your puppy. In order to teach them to be kind and gentle you need to behave in same way to them. Never hit them or act aggressively towards them, this can actually encourage them to act in a similar way to you, as a defence for the fear they will begin to feel around you.
- If you find that any of the above tips are not quite enough to make a change in the behaviour of your puppy then you can try adding time outs in to the mix. If your puppy bites to hard then remove yourself from play and ignore them for 20 seconds. In the animal world being excluded from the pack, even momentarily is a really big deal and this is the message you need to get across. After the 20 seconds have passed, re-initiate play. Repeat these steps until you can see a change in your puppy’s behaviour, however try to overload or confuse them, don’t conduct this process more than 3 times in a 15 minutes period.
- Another technique you can use to teach your puppy that biting skin is not ok, is to use a taste deterrent. Target the areas of your body that you know your puppy like to bite, such as hands and feet, spraying them with thoroughly with a taste deterrent before engaging in play with your puppy. You can use many different products such as breath freshener, vapour rub and tea tree oil. When your puppy attempts to bite your skin they will likely react negatively with the taste deterrent, combine this with the tips previously given, yelp and let your body go limp. The combination of these things should be enough to make you puppy develop an aversion to biting you.
A final tip for how to get a puppy to stop biting is to get them lots of exercise. The main reason that puppies are prone to biting is because they have such an abundance of energy and are so excited to play. The best way to combat this it to make sure they are getting plenty of exercise. Puppies often behave in a very similar way to young children. So, if parents try to make sure their children are busy all day so that they sleep through the night, this same trick can be transferred to puppies. If your puppy has been out and about and running around a lot, then when they get home they are less likely to want to engage in rough play. A tired puppy is a calm and well behaved puppy.
Training a puppy is not something that will happen overnight and you need to be prepared for it being a marathon not a sprint. Your puppy needs to be raised in the same way as a child and just like a child they will make mistakes and get themselves into trouble. How you deal with this will determine whether or not they will become a gentle, playful and well-trained dog, that brings happiness and not stress.