How to Stop Puppy Biting

by Sundays

Puppy biting a person's hand while laying in a pile of leaves outside

Don't fret, there are several things you can do to get your pup to stop biting your clothes and you. 

You knew that your cute little pup was going to be a little ball of energy, full of puppy behavior, before you adopted them. But now it’s been a few weeks, and you’re realizing having a puppy is a lot to handle. And one of the biggest things to deal with is puppy biting.

They bite your shoes, your pant leg as you walk by, and even your hands when you’re trying to pet them. Now it’s at the point where you think maybe it’s an unusual amount of biting, and your pup thinks your hands are their personal, super-fun playthings. 

Not only do you not want your puppy to destroy your clothes, but also, puppy bites hurt, and your hands probably can’t take much more. So how do you get puppies to stop biting people?

There are several things you can do to get your pup to stop biting your clothes and you. 

How to Stop Your Puppy From Biting You

All you want to do is cuddle your new pup and play fetch or a little tug-of-war. But all they seem to want to do is sink their tiny razors into your skin. And it seems like it’s all fun and games for them. That’s because the nipping and biting are normal parts of a dog’s play behavior, especially when they are young and have tons of energy. 

Along you come, walking by or moving your hands or even trying to play with your puppy, and they are ready to nip and bite your clothing, hands, feet, or anything else they can, because it’s playtime! However, puppies are new to the game and don’t know how sharp their little teeth really are, or how hard is too hard to bite down when they play. Another problem is that you’re not a dog.

It’s usually up to other dogs–especially older dogs–to teach the young ones to perfect their “play bite” so it’s not too hard or painful for other dogs. They do this by yelping when a puppy bites too hard, and they may also stop playing for a few seconds. This is a challenge if you only have one dog or if your other dog(s) don’t play with your puppy. So your puppy turns to you, their playmate.

Teaching Bite Inhibition

One solution is to do what another dog would do in this situation. You have to be the one to teach them bite inhibition, or how to properly play bite. Yes, you’ll get a few nips in the meantime, but no more than you already are!

It’s pretty simple to teach. Play with your puppy as you normally would. Whenever your puppy starts biting your skin hard, let out a yelp or an “ouch” in a high-pitched tone. Then stop moving your hand or whatever body part your puppy was biting. 

Your puppy should pause for a moment and may even lick you. This is the reaction you want, so you can even reward this pause or licking with a treat. After this happens, dogs would then continue to play as normal, so you can start playing with your puppy again. If they bite hard again, do the same as the first time. Keep doing this to teach your puppy how to control the pressure of their play bites.

Never yell at or punish your puppy for biting. This won’t solve the issue or teach them bite inhibition. It can also lead to other problems, like anxiety and fear, and can damage your bond with your new puppy.

Giving Them Something Else to Bite

The next step is to give your puppy something else to bite during playtime instead of you. Pick out a variety of toys with different textures made for different kinds of behaviors–rope toys, tug-of-war toys, rubber food-stuffing toys, chew toys, and fetch toys.

This time, when your puppy starts biting your fingers or toes, grab one of these toys for them to chew on instead. You don’t want to keep up the habit of playing with your puppy using only your hands when they just see them as a body part that’s fair game for biting.

Make sure that the toys you get are appropriate for your puppy’s and teething timeline. Just like kids, puppies have baby teeth that they start losing when they’re about 4 or 5 months old. Their adult teeth will start coming in when they are around 6-7 months old, and this period can last up until they are 10-12 months old.

Teething is a painful process, and you’ll need to get your puppy special teething toys.  

These toys are made of softer materials that can help soothe sore gums, and some are made to freeze to give pups even more relief. As more and more adult teeth start growing in, and your puppy’s jaws get more powerful, you might need to switch to chew toys made for adult dogs.

Setting Up Playdates

Another idea that goes along with teaching bite inhibition in the most natural way is to set up playdates with other puppies. Playing with other puppies is an important part of the socialization process. You want to make sure the dogs aren’t much older in case they want to play too rough. Check that all puppies are up to date on their vaccinations as well. 

Look around your neighborhood for other pet parents with puppies or young dogs or on social media for new puppy groups. You can set up a first-time meet and greet where you can see if the puppies are compatible playmates. 

Another great place for puppies to play with other puppies is in a puppy class–just check that they allow playtime in the group. 

When Does Puppy Biting Stop?

So now you’re wondering just how long this puppy biting phase is going to last. It’s hard to give a concrete answer to this. If everything goes right, and you’re teaching bite inhibition properly, your puppy may grow out of their biting phase when their adult teeth come in (at around 7-12 months). 

But then again, they are still puppies, and will want to play. You’ll need to continue to give them enough exercise, playtime with other dogs, and appropriate chew toys to make sure they don’t go back to chomping down on your hands and feet for fun.

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