Puppy biting | dog behavior problems

How do I get my puppy to stop biting?

Even the best puppies don't grow up without having at least some behavior problems. Even professional dog trainers struggle at some point with their puppies. This is normal – a young puppy must change her teeth, try chewing different items around her household, and try to understand what the rules of the house are. These processes are never foolproof.

One of the most common puppy behavior problems is biting. Puppies need to change their teeth until they are around 6 months old. Human babies tend to chew their thumbs or entire palm to diminish the pain caused by growing teeth. Puppies don't have this possibility, so they try chewing anything they find around – toys, slippers, or your hands.

Your puppy is not being mean when she bites you. She simply feels pain or at least discomfort in her teeth and she's looking for a way to reduce it. However, if you let your pup bite you or chew any item she is not supposed to, it might become a habit even after the teething process has finished.

The best way to tackle any problem in dog training is prevention. Make sure there are no items in her reach which you don't want to see chewed. Remove all the items from the floor (such as shoes, carpets, long curtains) and keep them where your pup is unable to reach them. When you leave your puppy unattended, she should be kept in a crate or any other safe space.

If your pup starts chewing something that she is not supposed to, you should inform her about the consequences. At first, say a calm "stop". She will most probably hear it, but not do anything, as this word doesn't mean anything to her yet. After the first "stop" wait several seconds and say "STOP" in a loud and strict voice. Your puppy should stop doing whatever she was doing. When she stops, give her something to chew, such as her toy. This way your pup will learn that after a calm "stop" comes a stricter "STOP" and she must stop whatever she is doing. It would be wrong to leave your pup "in a grey zone" without showing her what she is supposed to do instead. So, after saying "STOP", give her an alternative. This way after several repetitions your pup will understand that it's not acceptable to chew a leg of a table, but it's completely fine to play with her toy. If she doesn't stop chewing after your "STOP", simply lure her attention with a toy or lead her to any other area.

Scolding your pup won't work in a situation like this because she needs to reduce the discomfort she feels because of her teeth. Scolding might stop her for a minute, but it makes your relationship fragile, and a sensitive puppy might get scared. Always prepare an alternative for your pup. 

If your puppy bites your hands, she most probably does it not to reduce the discomfort of teething, but rather to play with you. Dog play sometimes is rough, but you have a right to show that a rough play is not accepted. You must stop encouraging her to play when she starts mouthing.

Yes, we know that puppies have very sharp teeth! It's common to be bruised and have scratches on your hands while your puppy grows. Show her that mouthing is not an acceptable part of the game. Simply stop moving your hands (or legs) when she bites you and lure her to bite a toy instead. If she doesn't settle and bite again, place her for a minute in another room. We don't recommend using a crate as it might be counterproductive.

Some people argue that giving a puppy a toy might encourage her to bite more, as she will understand that biting her owner leads to having more toys. Usually, it doesn't work this way, as puppies prefer playing with a soft toy to biting their unhappy owners. However, don't simply give her a toy – move it around, play with it, engage your dog in a play. If the toy doesn't move, most puppies won't be interested in it.

In general, no-biting teaching requires setting rules for your pup. Most probably, your rules will be like this: no hand or leg biting, no furniture chewing, and yes for playing with toys and chewing something inside a crate. 

Each time when your puppy does something you don't like (let's say, bites your hand), stop her play and encourage her to choose an alternative, for example, instead of biting your hand, she should be able to get a toy to bite to.