Anyone who has ever played with a puppy knows that there are two certainties when it comes to puppies, they have extremely sharp needle-like teeth, and they love to use them.
While this behavior is generally adorable, there comes a time when the cuteness wanes, and you grow tired of bandaids. At this point, you begin to wonder why your puppy bites in the first place, and more importantly when they will stop.
Why Do Puppies Bite?
Understanding why your puppy is biting and nipping is the first step to finding a solution to the issue. And although every owner has their opinions, it all boils down to just two reasons; natural behavior and teething.
Biting Due to Natural Behavior
That’s right! As surprising as it may sound, biting is a normal part of a puppy’s natural behavior.
When puppies are growing, they use their mouth to explore the world around them. Therefore, it’s very natural for them to bite things to feel them occasionally.
If you ever see a puppy playing with other puppies, you’ll know that it involves a lot of biting and nipping. However, that same bite can be excruciating for humans. Because puppies usually don’t know how hard their bite is, they can’t distinguish how hard they need to bite something.
Biting Due to Teething
Just like humans, teething is also a painful and uncomfortable process for puppies. A puppy usually has around 28 small, but very sharp teeth. As they move past the 4-month mark, these baby teeth start getting replaced with adult teeth.
Although this process lasts for about 3 to 4 months, it can cause swelling and discomfort in the gums, which can trigger your puppy to chew on things instinctually. So if they chew on your fingers or arm during this stage, their razor-sharp baby teeth can still dig into your skin.
Which Is The Bigger Contributor, Biting, or Teething?
We know that puppies bite due to natural behavior and teething, but which one is the primary cause?
Almost 80 percent of the time, a puppy will bite you out of excitement and curiosity. Playbiting and exploring are easily identifiable. You can see the intention by reading the puppy’s body language and facial expressions. However, when puppies are teething, they frequently get a tingling sensation in their gums. To soothe the discomfort, puppies gnaw on things. Gnawing isn’t a forceful bite but rather a gentle chewing motion that relieves pain rather than inflict it.
But biting/nipping involves clenching the jaws with pressure. When a puppy bites you, it can leave a mark causing pain, sometimes puncturing the skin and drawing blood.
So while we can gnawing isn’t a big issue, it’s crucial to teach your puppy to stop biting or nipping on humans.
When Do Puppies Stop Biting And Chewing?
Since the main reason for biting and chewing is teething and curiosity, most puppies will stop by seven months of age.
Most puppies start teething at around three months of age. During this time, they start losing their baby teeth to allow the adult teeth to grow in. Like human babies, this process is also quite uncomfortable for puppies. So they might ease the swelling and tingling in their gums through chewing toys or your hand if they’re not available.
Also, most breeds will grow into adults between 7 to 12 months of age. By this age, most puppies have developed a reasonable control over their biting power and don’t nip humans as often as puppies do. Even though they may continue to grow physically until around two years of age, most of their mental development and growth is complete.
The Biggest Mistake People Make With A Puppy Biting Problem
How To Stop Puppies From Biting?
While biting things might seem normal to your puppy, it’s your responsibility to teach them not to bite humans, especially children.
Like children, puppies tend to be quite hyperactive and get excited quickly, which is a major reason why mostly the victims of puppy bites tend to be small children.
You have to be more patient with puppies than with adult dogs. We’ll provide you with step-by-step instructions on some of the most successful methods to stop your puppy from biting people.
It’s important to know that most of these methods are used by professional dog trainers and aren’t harmful. And while these may work for most puppies, some might need training by a professional to curb this behavior.
Here are some of the best ways to stop puppies from biting and nipping:
1. Teaching Them Bite Inhibition
Bite inhibition is a technique that teaches puppies to recognize the strength of their bite and use it accordingly. If puppies do not grow up with other puppies or dogs, it can be difficult for them to learn.
In that case, it’s your responsibility to help them recognize how much force their bite has. If followed correctly, you can gradually train your puppy to the point where they’ll never bite anyone again.
How bite inhibition works
The way bite inhibition works is that it takes away a vital emotional response upon which puppies thrive, attention.
Let’s imagine a litter of puppies here. One of them is pouncing and wrestling with the other. But for a moment, one of them gets too excited and aggressively bites the other one. The puppy that got bitten let’s out a ‘yelp’, and the game breaks off.
The yelp is a recognizable signal of pain, but what comes after is more important. When play ceases, the positive stimuli of the game and attention are removed. When this keeps happening repeatedly, the puppy gradually learns how much force is okay to use while playing.
With bite inhibition, we’re recreating the same scenario. But instead of a puppy, you’ll be the victim. When you remove attention and the chance to play, they’ll start learning that they need to be gentler with human skin.
Steps to Teaching Bite Inhibition
Now that you know how bite inhibition works, here are the steps to implement the technique:
- Start Playing With Your Puppy: Start by engaging your puppy in their daily playtime. Let them get close to you, or move your hand near them where you think they’re most likely to bite you.
- Yelp or squeal when they bite: As soon as you feel that your puppy is trying to bite any part of your hand, let out a small squeal or yelp. By making this sound, you’re signaling to your puppy that you’re in pain. In most cases, your puppy will immediately let go after hearing this sound.
- Give them a time out: After they’ve let go of your hand, it’s time to give them a time out and remove all attention from them. A good idea would be to move to quietly get up and move to another room for 1 to 3 minutes. During this time, remove all attention from them and completely block all sorts of interaction with your puppy.
- Start playing with them again: After their time out session, calmly return to the room where your puppy is and start playing with them again. If they bite you again, repeat steps 2 and 3 till your puppy learns to be gentler with their bite.
An essential thing to know about bite inhibition is that it’s not a quick fix. With each playing session and time out, your puppy will gradually become gentler when play biting.
With the progress, you also need to start reacting to even smaller bites. Even when you feel like your puppy’s teeth touched your skin, let out a yelp to help them recognize that it’s not okay to bite a human.
Why bite inhibition doesn’t work every time
A crucial thing to should know about bite inhibition is that it does not always work. That’s because sometimes when you yelp, puppies can mistake this for a positive sign causing them to get even more excited and bite even harder.
If you did follow through until step 2 and feel that your puppy’s grip got stronger after the yelp, stay calm and hold their body with your hand. With a good gripontheir midsection, gently squeeze until they let go.
The reason why bite inhibition sometimes fails is that you screamed too loud. Loud noises and sounds can get some puppy excited instead of alarming them. While in other situations, the reason for your puppy biting might be completely different. In any case, you can follow other methods as well to stop the biting habit.
2. Distracting Them With Toys
While teaching bite inhibition may take time, you can distract your puppy with toys until they learn not to bite you. And because puppies love putting things in their mouth, getting them chewing toys will also protect your precious shoes and furniture from bite marks.
Like we discussed earlier, puppies like to gnaw or chew on things while they’re teething to ease discomfort and allow their adult teeth to come in. Toys are useful even after your puppy grows up for playing tug of war and other games to help ease your pup’s biting instincts.
There are many different types of chew toys available for this exact purpose. You can find chewing bones, chewing ropes, and chewing balls. You can even find flavored toys to attract your puppy’s attention.
So what you’ll be doing is that whenever your puppy tries to bite your hand or fingers, you’ll redirect them towards the chewing toy instead. Whenever you feel your puppy’s teeth touching your skin, wave the chewing toy near them till they bite the toy.
You can give them verbal appreciation and a treat at this point to reinforce the idea that it’s good to chew on toys but not on your hand, so along with bite inhibition, you’ll also be teaching your puppy what’s okay to bite and what’s not.
3. Deterring Them With Repellents
Sometimes, puppies can get aggressive when they’re biting out of excitement. Or maybe, the bite inhibition and distraction techniques aren’t working out for you.
If that’s the case, you can use repellents to teach your dog not to nip on human skin. To do this, buy a dog repellent from your local pet store. Many dog repellents are available like Bitter Cherry and Bitter Apple that are safe to use for training purposes.
Since puppies hate the taste of these repellents, you’ll be applying them on your skin to teach your dog not to bite human skin. It would be best if you first let your puppy associate the repellent’s taste with itssmell.This way, they won’t want to put their mouth on anything that smells of the repellent.
For this, use a cotton ball or tissue and spray some repellent on it. Apply some repellent on your pup’s teeth or tongue so they can taste it. You’ll notice that your puppy spits it out right away. Right after that, let your puppy sniff the repellent as well so they can make the association.
Apply the repellent toyour skin when playing with your puppy;the chances are they will keep from touching your skin with their mouth.
It’s important not to let your puppy drink water immediately after tasting the repellent. Because if they learn to get rid of the taste with water, then the whole technique is useless.
Using this repellent method for 2 to 4 weeks is enough to stop your puppy from nipping on your skin. If you notice that they’re still occasionally biting people, you can use bite inhibition to put an end to the whole biting habit permanently.
Tips On Training Your Puppy
Here are a few extra tips that might make the training process easier for you and your puppy:
- Install baby gates in your house: Baby gates are useful for separating your puppy and kids in your home when you can’t supervise them. Also, baby gates help safely keep your puppy in the room when you’re giving them a timeout.
- Use a harness: It’s no surprise that puppies bite their owners the most when they’re trying to pick them up. So invest in a harness so you can move your pup to another room without getting nipped.
- Keep a check on visitors: A common problem that dog owners make while bite training is that they forget about visitors. When a new person comes to your home, they probably don’t know the rules you are trying to establish for safe play.
What Not To Do While Training Puppies
Not everyone on the internet is an expert trainer. The majority of advice by these so-called ‘experts’ is outright dangerous. Puppies are delicate creatures, and using abusive training methods can take a horrible turn at any moment.
Because you don’t want any particular method having long-term consequences on your puppy, there are a few tips and important pointers you should keep in check while searching for bite curbing techniques or implementing them:
1. Never physically abuse your puppy
Physical abuse is an absolute no-no when it comes to puppies. Hitting them on their face or body might momentarily cause them to let go of you, but things will always go downhill.
Not only will your puppy start losing trust in you, but they’ll also start becoming more aggressive and might nip you even harder the next time. Smacking your puppy can also lead to severe aggression, and when your puppy grows up, your dog can become hostile to new visitors, children, and even towards you.
2. Don’t let children be alone with your puppy
If you’ve ever noticed, children are the number one victims of puppy bites. Kids at your home might have run into trouble with your puppy more than you or any other adult in your house have.
The reason for this is that children get puppy’s excited. They move a lot and are speak loudly in high-pitched voices, all things which get puppies all riled up and excited.
And when the puppy does bite them out of excitement, children naturally scream, cry or run, which gets puppies even more primed for rough play.
So if you ever let small children near your puppy, it should also be under your supervision. Otherwise, you could also train your children on how to act when the puppy bites, helping your puppy learn bite inhibition even faster.
3. Don’t get discouraged or stop playing
If your puppy is always biting or nipping at you, you’ll naturally get discouraged and stop playing with them that frequently. Some people even leave their dogs at shelter or rescue centers out of despair.
However, you should know the habit doesn’t last and usually ends with the puppy growing up into an adult. Also, you must understand that your puppy is not biting you out of aggression or showing dominance. They’re just biting out of happiness that you’re playing with them.
And even though you might get demotivated to play with them, you must spend time with your puppy while teaching them bite inhibition. You could use chewing toys or repellents if the nipping is bothering you but keep on training them consistently so they can grow up into a loving and friendly adult dog.
When Should You Be Concerned About Biting?
Biting is often a concern of dog owners, especially if they have small children in their home. Puppies tend to have very sharp teeth that can easily puncture the skin if they bite too hard.
The thing to realize is that biting is normal puppy behavior. With training and time, your puppy will naturally quit nipping and learn how much force, if any, to use when playing with their humans.
There are some situations where the biting behavior can get out of hand or be considered dangerous for you and your family members. Here are a few signs that indicate when the biting is abnormal and dangerous:
- Aggressive facial expressions: When your puppy is biting out of habit or natural tendency, their face remains calm. But if you notice that their muzzle is wrinkled up, their eyebrows have frowned, and their body is all tensed up, they could be irritated and not biting out of friendliness.
- Growling and exposed teeth: Another sign that shows your dog isn’t friendly is that they’re growling at you and exposing their teeth. This behavior is usually seen in dogs when they’re trying to threaten a predator or attacker.
How To Deal With Aggressive Biting
If you see the above-mentioned signs in your dog, chances are that they’re not biting you out of playfulness. Some puppies can have anger issues or just have an aggressive temperament, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored.
Because aggressiveness can be dangerous to the owners, you should probably contact a professional and certified dog trainer. These trainers can help your puppy with anger management and teach them to be calmer.
Usually, bad temper in puppies is not a permanent problem. Many different factors in their environment can cause them to become more hostile, like the presence of intruders or predators near or in the home.
A professional dog trainer will analyze the cause and provide the required training to your dog. They’ll also get your puppy to attend puppy classes where they can socialize and interact with other puppies. This also helps them naturally learn bite inhibition and become friendlier towards humans and other animals.
When do puppies stop biting?
Most puppies tend to stop biting after the age of 7 months as their teething period is over, and they’ve grown into adults.
Is biting a sign of affection?
Gently gnawing or chewing on the skin is a sign that your puppy is showing affection. If they’re biting you, they might be really thrilled, but they still aren’t doing it to harm you.
How long does it take for a puppy to bond with you?
Bonding time depends on puppy to puppy. Some might become completely comfortable with their owners in just a few days, while it may take some at least a couple of weeks.
Which dog breed is most likely to bite as puppies?
Labradors are most likely to bite a lot as puppies. This is due to their friendly nature and their natural retrieving instinct, which causes them to bite things to explore the world around them.
How dangerous is puppy biting?
If your puppy has bitten you hard enough to puncture your skin and caused you to get treatment at a hospital, they’ll be considered as dangerous and will require immediate assessment by a certified dog trainer or vet.