Ahh, puppy bites. There is something about those little razor-sharp teeth. Some people actually enjoy the feeling of puppy nibbles, but it’s definitely not something you want to encourage. There’s a fine line between some harmless puppy biting and a dog with adult teeth who has learned its ok to bite or who is showing some aggressive behaviors.
Why do puppies bite?
There are two times when your puppy might get a bit mouthy. The first is when they are playing. If you watch dogs play with each other they might nip at each other’s necks or play “bitey face”. Your puppy may also try to play with you by playfully nipping at your hands, hair or even your nose! The other time your puppy may get mouthy is when they are teething. Puppies are born with about 30 baby teeth that will fall out from when they are about 4 to 6 months old. “Teething will usually take the form of your puppy gnawing or lightly nibbling on your fingers or the fleshy part of your hand. Nipping will usually accompany an excited puppy during playtime.” Says Dr. Jason Nicholas.
It is important that you understand the difference between painful teething and playful nipping so that you can better support your puppy and help them redirect their energy or soothe their sore mouth or gums. Here are some practical tips to help you keep the biting at bay whether its play bites or teething:
Five Ways to stop puppy biting
- Provide something else for your puppy to use when teething. Teething toys, like the Nylabone teething keys, are great for puppies who are teething. You can keep one with you at all times and offer it to your puppy if they start chewing on you, your clothing or furniture that you don’t want them to chew. You should watch chair legs, tables and your couch to make sure your puppy hasn’t found a spot to nibble on. When giving chew toys, watch your puppy carefully as they can break off big pieces and swallow them. When the toys are worn down, you should dispose of them and provide a new toy for your dog to prevent this. Another thing you can do is tie a dishtowel in a knot and wet it. Keep the wet towel in the freezer and once its nice and cold offer it to your puppy to chew on. The cold feels good on teething soreness. As a bonus, this is an extremely cost-effective solution, teething toys can get pricy.
- If your puppy is biting you when playing, stop the playtime and only resume once your puppy has stopped biting If you’re enjoying some playtime with your pup and they get over excited or start getting tired they might get a bit mouthy and start nipping at you. To stop this behavior, what you want to do is stop playing when the biting starts. You can say something like ouch to let your pup know it hurts. Stay calm, take a break from playing or walk away from your puppy. You can return to your play session once your pup has calmed down a bit. Eventually, your pup will learn that they get playtime and attention when they’re calm and gentle and they will not bite at your hands.
- If your puppy is playing with another dog and is getting too mouthy, stop the playtime and separate the dogs to give them a break Most puppies love playtime with their friends. Puppies also need lots of sleep and can easily become overtired or cranky. There’s a fine line between fun puppy play and someone snapping because they’re overtired and annoyed. Supervise puppy play carefully and separate puppies when they’re getting too rough. Puppies also need to be carefully supervised when playing with older dogs. They are still learning appropriate behavior and social cues. It is your job to keep them safe.
- Teach your puppy the command ‘no bites’ or use the word ouch If your puppy is biting you, try saying something like ouch or no bites and moving your hands (or whatever the puppy is biting) away. Offer them something more appropriate to chew on or give them some time to relax. If your puppy is biting because they’re teething or tired, let them chew something soothing or just relax. While you don’t want to send your puppy to their crate as a punishment, you may want to send them in to calm down and take a nap. Try to soothe your puppy with calming pets or some soft music and then put them down to take a rest.
- Make sure you aren’t allowing your puppy to chew on your hands, hair or face Consistency is key. If you sometimes allow the behavior and others you don’t it can be confusing for a young puppy. Puppies are still learning, and dogs don’t generalize well so you can’t allow them to nibble in some situations and not others or they won’t understand.
Warning signs to watch out forIf your puppy is coming over and biting you unprovoked, is biting during play or when you try to take away toys or food, these might be signs of aggression. If your puppy is starting to exhibit aggressive behaviors, it is best to seek treatment as soon as possible. You want to keep a small problem from becoming a larger issue that could compromise your safety or your pets. A trainer or behaviorist can help you with a plan to modify the behavior and make sure your pet is feeling safe. Do not yell at, punish or otherwise try to dominate your dog. This could cause your dog to fear you which can make aggression worse.
Remember that biting is something all puppies will do. The key here is to redirect their biting and chewing to more appropriate toys or objects that are safe for them to chew on. If you think your puppy is not growing out of their chewing, or you’re seeing any signs of aggression, work with your vet, trainer or behaviorist to figure out what is going on and modify the behavior.
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.