How to Stop Puppy Mouthing and Biting


"One common question from new dog parents is how to stop puppy mouthing, nipping and biting. Puppies, being like a human newborn,  explore with their mouth and will engage in play biting along with nipping the pet parent's ankles, arms and hands. The problem is when the sharp puppy teeth break the skin when interacting with everyone that wants to touch the new pup. This form of "play aggression" is often a bit over the top without any inhibition. If the behavior is not corrected when young it can turn into something more dangerous as the dog gets larger.

Teaching methods using games are a great way to reinforce bite inhibition.  The use of positive (treats) and negative (stopping game time, moving away) are both ways to eliminate puppy biting and nipping behavior. In general, to prevent puppy mouthing do not encourage a puppy to play with arms and hands and be sure to never hit your pup when training."

Video on How To Stop Puppy Biting and Mouthing

Normal Puppy Play Biting and Mouthing

It is normal for puppies to engage in playful nipping and mouthing behaviors. The behavior begins some time between age 2 and 4 weeks, and continues through age 4 and 14 weeks. During this time puppies learn what is appropriate biting etiquette from litter mates. When a litter mate bites too hard, the recipient of the bite yelps, signaling to the biting puppy that it was too hard.  Puppies frequently correct each other's behavior during play. For this reason, it is important that puppies aren't removed from the litter too early.

If a puppy is removed too early, then it is up to the dog parent (you) to provide the necessary training.  Not every technique is for every puppy so you will have to match temperment to training.  Always provide praise once the biting or mouthing has stopped.

Puppies that are Prematurely Separated From Litter mates Do Not Learn How to Avoid Bites that Injure the Skin
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How To Train A Puppy That Keeps Biting

There are several tactics that can be used to stop puppy mouthing and biting behaviors.  Most are based on Thorndike's law of effect which states that behaviors just prior to a pleasant event are more likely to be repeated; behaviors just prior to unpleasant events are more likely to diminish.

Prevention of Puppy Biting

You can prevent or stop puppy mouthing and biting by doing these things:
  1. Obedience training in a class
  2. Frequent exercise. Note that larger dogs need more than 3 walks per day and may be mouthing out of excessive energy, frustration or just plain boredom.
  3. Play dates with other puppies
  4. Keep the puppy occupied with toys such as Kong Toys with food dispensers

Teach Other Puppy Behaviors At The Same Time

Teaching the puppy to sit before common activities reinforces discipline. A puppy should sit on cue before:

For a Puppy Biting Feet and Ankles

Sitting can also be used when a puppy nips the ankles of feet while you are walking. Teach the puppy to sit when you approach and reward with a treat after you pass by. You can also as an alternative toss a treat to your side as you walk by your puppy. If the puppy comes to your feet after retrieving the treat, send another treat off to the side. Add a voice cue such as "excuse me" or "find it" before tossing the treat. Soon the puppy will hang back away from your legs waiting for a treat to be thrown.

Signs of Puppy Aggression

If you see signs that indicate aggressive behavior such as aggressive posture or growling, consult a trainer or behaviorist. These should be corrected immediately before they become a problem.

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