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How to Stop Puppy Biting

If you've just added a new puppy to the family, chances are, you're going to find them chewing, nipping, and biting everyone and everything in sight as they teethe. Today, our Elk Grove vets discuss why your puppy may be biting, and share some tips on how to stop this behavior.

Why does my puppy keep biting me?

Dogs use their mouths to discover and interact with the world around them, especially curious puppies. It’s important to realize that puppy biting is an extremely normal part of their development and they don't typically do it out of hate or anger. Anyone who has raised a puppy has experienced biting in one way, shape, or form.

The main reasons a puppy will bite is due to a mixture of curiosity and to help soothe their sore gums throughout the teething process.

How Long the Biting Stage Should Last

Every puppy is different, but on average, you can expect this phase to last between three and six months. We understand that this can be a very frustrating time for new dog owners, but don't be too overwhelmed. This stage will pass and we are here to give you some tips and tricks to help get your puppy's biting under control.

    How to Stop a Puppy From Biting

    While it isn't something to worry too much about initially, it can become a lifelong destructive habit if it's not properly handled at an early stage. It’s important to help your puppy curb their 'mouthy' behavior. There are various options in which you can reduce or eliminate your puppy's biting habits. If you're not sure how to stop puppy biting, try some of the techniques mentioned below.

    Teach Your Puppy Bite Inhibition

    Learning how to moderate the force of a bite is very important for all dogs. There may come a time when they’re in pain or fearful, and they put their mouth on you or someone else. But if they’ve learned bite inhibition, they understand that they shouldn’t bite down hard.

    Puppies naturally nip at each other while playing. If they bite too hard on their mother or littermate, the other dog will likely make a loud yelp sound, warning the puppy that the force of their bite hurt.

    Depending on the dog, you can teach this, as well, by making a high-pitched “ow” sound when they bite you. Be cautious though, some dogs get even more worked up and are likely to bite. In this case, it is better to turn quietly around, walk away, or gently put the pup into their crate for a few minutes to calm down. If they do back off, be sure to reward your dog with a treat and some verbal praise.

    Redirect the behavior

    If your puppy's biting is due to boredom or soreness during teething, start by redirecting their biting away from you or objects around the house, to a toy or something they are allowed to chew on.

    Encourage non-contact forms of play, such as fetch and tug-of-war, rather than wrestling and rough play with your hands. Once your puppy can play tug safely, keep tug toys nearby or in your pocket if you're on a walk. If they start to mouth you, you can immediately redirect them to the tug toy.

    Whenever you get ambushed by your pup, instantly stop moving, take out the tug toy, and wave it enticingly. When your puppy grabs the toy, you can start playing/walking again.

    Offer Them Quiet Time or a Potty Break

    If your puppy is biting excessively, put them in their crate to give them a chance to unwind. You don't want your puppy to associate the crate with punishment, so remain as calm as possible. Once the pup calms down after 10 minutes or so, you can let them out.

    Sometimes a biting puppy is an over-tired puppy, and they need to be put in a quiet space or crate to take a nap. Other times, they may need a potty break or just be hungry or thirsty.

    Let Them Get Some Energy Out

    Giving your puppy lots of exercise can be one of the best ways to stop puppy biting. Exercising a puppy is one of the best ways to help alleviate problem behaviors such as biting. Often, puppies act out when they haven’t had enough physical and mental stimulation.

    Reinforce the Behaviors You Want

    We sometimes forget that when our puppy is calm and quiet, we should reinforce that with a “good dog”, a piece of kibble, and/or a pat. You’ll help them learn what behaviors you’re looking for through positive reinforcement.

    Puppy Classes Can Be a Lifesaver

    Taking your new puppy to a dog training class can be a safe and effective means of socialization and professional dog trainers can give you tips that can help curb your puppy's problematic behaviors such as biting. They have spent years learning how to train a puppy not to bite, so save yourself some frustration, and let the professionals take sure pressure off of you.

    Never Get Frustrated

    There will be times when you've reached your wit's end but it is so important to stay calm and never get mad at your puppy. They are still trying to figure out the world around them, and they look up to you to guide them, if you show them your frustration it could cause them to fear you or make your bond less strong, which is the opposite of what you want.

    Know the Difference Between Play Biting & Aggression

    Most puppy nipping and biting are normal behaviors that they will outgrow. However, some puppies bite out of fear or frustration, and this type of biting can be an indication of future aggression.

    Just like human children, puppies sometimes have temper tantrums when you make them do something they don't want to do or during play. A puppy temper tantrum is more severe and aggressive than a playful mouthing, but it can be difficult to tell the difference between them. In most cases, a playful puppy will have a relaxed body and face, whereas a puppy having a temper tantrum will have more of a stiff or frozen appearance. They may also pull their lips back to expose their teeth or growl when in a tantrum, and tantrum-induced bites will likely be much more painful than normal mouthing during play.

    If you’re holding or handling your puppy and they start to throw a temper tantrum, avoid yelping like you’re hurt. This can cause your puppy to continue or intensify the behavior. Instead, be very calm and unemotional, and hold them firmly without constriction until they stop struggling. Just be sure not to restrain them too tight or hurt them during the process.

    After they've calmed down for a few consecutive seconds, let them go. Then make plans to contact a qualified professional for help. Repeated bouts of biting in frustration are not something that the puppy will simply grow out of, so your puppy’s behavior should be assessed and resolved as soon as possible. If you need assistance curbing this behavior, consider seeking a qualified, professional dog trainer or behavior specialist. 

    Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

    Have you brought a new puppy home in need of a vet visit? Contact our Elk Grove vets to book an appointment or for advice on dealing with your puppy's unwanted behavior.

    New Patients Welcome at Bruceville Pet Hospital

    We are happily accepting new patients at our conveniently located Elk Grove veterinary clinic! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of companion animals. Reach out today to book your pet's first appointment.

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