How To Stop Your Puppy From Biting

So adorable, but so painful.

Puppy Biting Hand

Everything about your new puppy is perfect, and so far, training has been a breeze. But there’s one command your pup can’t seem to wrap his head around — “No biting!”

Puppy nipping and biting is very common and, for the most part, an easy habit to help your pup break. In fact, if you’re raising your puppy with a well-behaved adult dog, oftentimes your older pup will teach the newbie social skills, including when and when not to bite.

But if your new puppy’s an only child, then it’s up to pet parents to teach their puppies that biting hands and feet simply won’t fly. Luckily, learning a few tips and tricks yourself will help you guide your puppy to exhibit better behavior.

The Dodo talked to New York-based dog trainer Shelby Semel about why puppies bite and how you can train them to stop.

Why is my puppy biting me?

It’s first important to note that puppy nipping and biting is totally normal behavior because being mouthy is how dogs play and interact with toys and with one another. And because puppies are more playful and have yet to learn social skills, they’re going to nip more than adult dogs.

“Pups play with their mouths, and our digits and limbs tend to always be right nearby,” Semel told The Dodo. “Pups use their mouths to explore and investigate as well as to get attention.” And pet parents know that most puppies love to be the center of attention.

Another reason may be that your young puppy is teething. “Puppies often nip at their humans when they are in the act of teething,” Semel explained. “They are uncomfortable, and clamping onto anything brings relief!”

Biting is certainly not an inherent sign of aggression, but puppies should learn the difference between appropriate play with humans and with other dogs. And if a puppy begins growling and snarling and actually does damage when biting, that’s when it becomes a much bigger issue. So it’s important to nip biting in the bud before it gets out of hand.

What you should NOT do when a puppy nips

Before you learn how to train your puppy to not bite, you may need to train yourself to not react in a way that will damage your puppy’s trust or inhibit his learning. Here are a few things you shouldn’t do in reaction to your puppy nipping.

Never hit or yell.

Any act of aggression from you will only damage the trust between you and your new puppy. You never want to incite fear — it will get both of you nowhere and cause emotional damage. Instead, you can make a loud “hey!” or “ah!” noise to interrupt your dog’s bad behavior, and then praise him when he stops what he’s doing.

Don’t put your hands into your puppy’s mouth or move your hands erratically around him.

You’re basically just asking your puppy to bite you and see your hands as playthings. Try to refrain from instigating playtime with your hands, and use a toy instead!

Don’t pet or cuddle your puppy when he’s being naughty.

Any kind of affirming behavior is going to tell your puppy that what he’s doing is OK, which is the exact opposite of what you want to do.

What tools do pet parents need to train puppies not to bite?

Now that you’re starting fresh on a neutral playing field, what do you need in order to get started on this training journey?

  • Patience: “The most important tool puppy parents need is patience!” Semel said. “This change will not happen overnight. Consistency with management and training will also be a large part of successfully teaching your puppy not to nip!”
  • Toys: Toys will be the main prop you’ll use to teach a puppy when it’s appropriate and when it’s inappropriate to be mouthy. Biting toys is good. Biting hands is bad.
  • A crate or confinement area: If you’re unable to manage your puppy’s biting at a specific time of day, or if you have guests over who may encourage bad behavior, you can place your puppy in a crate or playpen with lots of toys and treats to keep him busy and entertained.

How to train your puppy not to nip

According to Semel, there are a few main rules you need to abide by when teaching your puppy not to bite.

Exercise, exercise and more exercise.

“A tired puppy is a well-behaved puppy,” Semel said. “Make sure your dog is getting what they need to be tired and calm.”

Always have a toy on hand when you’re playing.

“If the only option for your dog nearby is your hand, that’s what they will choose to mouth,” Semel explained. “We want to set them up for success and good decision-making.”

Get friendly with the word “Ow!”

Semel said that if your puppy misses the toy and ends up nipping your hand, loudly exclaim “Ow!” before pausing playtime and leaving the room or turning your back for about 10 to 30 seconds. You can then come back and continue playing after you set that boundary. “This teaches them that nipping you actually stops the fun and they lose out on you,” Semel said.

Do not egg on your puppy during the “witching hour.”

Puppies with pent-up energy often run around the house with the zoomies at a certain point in the day. Semel explained that during this period, dubbed “the witching hour,” puppies are not in the right frame of mind and shouldn’t be played with. “Let them run in circles on their own or chew a bone,” she suggested. “Keep your hands and feet away!”

Encourage licking over biting.

Smearing a bit of peanut butter on your hand will teach your puppy that hands are for licking, not nipping. You can also spray bitter apple flavoring on your hands to ward off your puppy if treats aren’t working.

With consistency and patience, your puppy will stop biting in no time and playtime will become a lot more fun and a lot less painful.