Puppies bite. It’s perfectly normal and all part of their development as learn about the world around them. When they are very small, it can be cute and not hurt, but as they grow bigger, puppy biting can become problematic.
In this guide I explain whether you should be letting your puppy play bite at your hands. It includes tip on what you should be doing about it, so you don’t have problems with your dog in adulthood.
Should you let a puppy bite you? You should not let a puppy bite your hands. The more a puppy bites you, the more normalized it becomes meaning it will become a bad and persistent habit when they grow older. Don’t ignore it, it’s not ok. Instead teach the puppy to not bite.
Your puppy will bite you because it’s normal for them to nip at almost anything they set their eyes on, including owners. You should you ignore puppy biting, as whilst it’s cute when they are 8 weeks old, once the puppy is 3 months old, those teeth are sharp and that jaw is stronger.
At this stage in their development, it’s important to set rules now, because what is happening now will be imprinted in their development. A puppy that is taught biting is ok, will grow into a dog that thinks biting is ok.
If you want to know how to make your puppy leave behind these undesirable nipping behaviors, read this 5-minute guide.
Should you let a puppy play bite?
All the puppy parents I know have a few small (but noticeable) scars, and the culprits to blame are none other than their precious furry companions. I’ve had my fair share of these bites. And in most cases, a puppy’s bite catches you off guard.
Your pup is curled up beside you on the seat, and there you are, gently stroking him……then, out of nowhere, wham! A bite on your hand.
Sometimes, your pup can bite too hard, leaving you with a minor wound. It’s worth mentioning that when this happens, wash the bitten area thoroughly and clean it with an antiseptic solution. You’ll minimize your risk of infection can occur when a pup’s bite breaks your skin.
Other times, the bite may be gentle. But even then, it will certainly feel like a horrible pinch! There are two types of puppy bites:
- Playful mouthing: The puppy is relaxed; his movements are slow and gentle and he’s not causing you any pain. He often takes on a playful posture.
- Playful biting: The puppy is still playing, but the biting is hard and does hurt.
- Aggressive behavior: The puppy has an aggressive posture. He’s stiff, looks fearful, moves quickly and aggressively. His mouthing causes pain.
But it’s not ok if a puppy bites you in either of the last scenarios shown above. When you ignore a puppy biting you or laugh it off, your little canine buddy will assume you approve of them biting you anywhere when they feel like it.
And this is what could be the beginning of frequent (or even violent) biting episodes that may persist as your pup grows older.
To understand how to teach a puppy not to bite while playing, we need to consider why the do it in the first place.
Why do puppies like to play bite?
Puppies love play biting. It comes naturally to them. Our furry companions have an instinct to chew and bite almost anything they can easily get their mouths on as they explore their surroundings.
The other reason has got to do with your pup’s teething experience. Yes, just like human babies, puppies go through an uncomfortable teething phase that lasts about six months.
- During this phase, your pup’s gums are sore, which triggers them to bite stuff (and you) to relieve the teething discomfort.
- We want our puppies to bite things to help with their teething pain, but you should not let a puppy bite you to relieve this.
- These excessive biting behaviors are more common when a puppy is below six months old.
- A puppy is yet to develop adult teeth (which happens when a puppy is at least six months of age).
- Also, our little furry buddies are full of life. It’s common for them to nip at you when you’re having a terrific playtime as if to signal “game on!”
- Finally, biting may be your pup’s way of expressing their frustration, hunger, or demanding your attention.
Remember, though, don’t take your puppy’s bite personally by yelling or smacking them when they nip at you. It is unfair to punish your furry buddy for something that comes naturally to them, and can even make them bite more out of fear.
Most importantly, if you notice your pup acts aggressively when they bite – for instance, growling or giving you a hard stare before nipping at you (and piercing your skin every time they bite you), it’s best to consult a professional.
How do I teach my puppy not to bite while playing?
Your puppy learns from you what is and what isn’t appropriate nipping behavior. You need to teach them that human skin is a bite-free zone. Otherwise, you’ll still be their target when their adult teeth finally emerge.
The good news is, there are tried and tested ways of dealing with your puppy’s nipping behavior.
Keep in mind, though, that consistency is everything. If you’re consistent in correcting your pup’s behavior, it will only be a matter of time before they know how to interact with you without biting you.
Here are a few ways to get started and what to do when your puppy bites you.
1. Play the bite intensity game
There is something called bite inhibition. This works when you start behaving like one of your puppy’s siblings. What I mean is, whenever your puppy mouths your hands or arms, you yourself need to let out a high-pitched yelp.
This will startle him, and he’ll leap back wondering why you’re yelping.
Praise him when he stops and then continue the game again. Do this every time he bites your hands. Your puppy will soon learn that his biting leads to a negative reaction when he nips too hard.
2. Use the distraction technique
The distraction technique requires having some soft, chewy toys (like this on Amazon) or a ball on hand. Every time your pup decides to bite your hands or arms, distract him with a soft toy.
By learning to bite on something else besides your hands and body, your puppy will realize you don’t like it. But there are alternatives if he needs to satisfy his instinct to mouth.
3. Avoid temptations
If you’re playing with your puppy and think it’s cool to wriggle your fingers at him, don’t be surprised if he thinks he can start mouthing your hands. It’s like showing a red flag to a bull – need I say more?
Something else you may do during play time with your puppy is a light tap on his muzzle. Of course, this is a game (for you and him) and you’re doing it gently. But it encourages your dog to mouth your hand and he may even turn a bit aggressive.
Avoid any actions that will encourage your puppy to bite. This is a particularly useful tip for older dogs if you’re trying to stop their mouthing habit.
4. Stop the tug-of-war game and take time out
It’s tempting to try and pull your hand away every time your puppy starts biting your hands and arms. This is not a good idea though as he’ll think you’re playing a game.
Before you know it, you’ll be in a tug-of-war competition with your puppy.
Instead of pulling away, stop and pause the game. Gently remove his mouth off your hand and pause. You could give him a toy to tug on or walk away for a few minutes.
Time out during play time is often highly effective and works well when you’re teaching your pup bite intensity. Your puppy will learn quickly enough, that biting at your hand is not appreciated – tug of war is a great way to train this.
5. Teach your puppy to enjoy petting without biting
Some puppies get anxious when you pet them on their head. This can happen with rescue dogs who’re battling to trust any kind of affection shown to them.
When your puppy starts to bite you as soon as you start petting them on their head or under their chin, remove your hand gently. Have some tasty treats in your other hand and give him one. This will teach him to start trusting you every time you bring your hand close to him.
By distracting him with treats, you can slowly use your other hand to either pet him or give him gentle scratches on his chest. Your puppy will eventually learn to accept your attention without needing to mouth your hands.
6. Turn your back or walk away
Yes, you read that right. Walk away from trouble, literally!
I know, I know. It sounds more like doing “nothing”. But best believe, doing “nothing” works wonders. I am a huge advocate of this, – because, yes, should you ignore a puppy biting and remove yourself from the situation.
Here’s an example: Suppose you’re playing with your pup or just petting them as you both relax, and he suddenly nips at you.
When this happens, make a high-pitched yelp like “ouch!” as I said earlier, to give him an idea that he’s hurt you. Then immediately (and calmly), walk away from the situation. Let this be your reaction every time they nip at you.
You can also turn your back from them… it can work wonders.
You could go to another room for a few seconds, then come back and continue spending time or playing with him. If the bite happens again, get up and leave.
Soon enough, your little furry friend will know that biting you is unacceptable. They’ll learn that anytime they bite at you, you’ll withdraw the fun or attention away from them until they act right. You can treat them to their favorite meal whenever they behave accordingly.
7. Consider other games that don’t involve contact
If you love rough playing with your pup and using your bare hands is part of the fun, opt for other games that don’t involve body contact with your furry friend — like fetch or tug of war.
These no-contact games will help you redirect your pup’s biting tendency from you to the tug or fetch toys. Your furry companion will eventually learn that nipping at you during playtime is off-limits.
8. Don’t be too quick to pull your hand or foot away
This probably sounds a bit counterintuitive, but I’ll explain, so it makes sense.
You see, puppies are “visual hunters.” If your pup bites you, pulling your hand or foot away will excite them. Or rather, the sudden hand or leg movement will get them revved up, and they’ll want to go after your hand or leg.
That said, do the opposite of what your pup expects from you. For instance, when they bite your hand, you can yelp in pain as you gently push your hand into their mouth — not away.
Your unusual reaction will confuse your pup, and they’ll let go.
Is it okay if a puppy bites you?
It’s okay if a puppy bites because it’s their natural behavior. But you should train your puppy early enough so that they know biting you is unacceptable behavior.
What to do when your puppy bites you?
As previously mentioned, you can throw them their favorite toy. You can also make a high-pitched yelp as you briefly get away from your pup. That way, you’ll teach them that biting you has consequences (you ignoring them), and they’ll soon stop.
What age does a puppy stop biting?
Puppies are active biters during the first six months of going through teething. However, you can train them not to bite you even during teething. But generally, a puppy can’t stop biting other appropriate stuff because it’s an-in born habit.
Should you ignore a puppy biting?
You can ignore your puppy’s biting in this sense — standing up and getting away from your pup for a few seconds. Doing so will give them a rough idea that they’ve wronged you.
Should you let puppies bite each other?
Puppies will bite each other as part of their development. It won’t be hard, and is their way of learning how how to develop their skills, coordination, and strength.
Should you let a puppy bite his bed?
I believe you should let a puppy bite his bed, because it’s all part of the teething process. However, it would be better to give them teething toys, because if they see it’s ok to bite a bed, the same might go for the rest of the furniture in your home… a good reason to not let them roam the house!
Being a puppy parent is a blissful experience, but every fur-parenthood journey has its challenges. One of them is dealing with puppy bites!
But should you let a puppy bite you?
Well, no, because it will lead onto potentially aggressive and unwanted behavior as an older dog.