Is your puppy going through a biting stage? Those little teeth can HURT!
So your playful pup needs to learn how to be less mouthy now … before he’s big enough to do any real damage!
Mouthing is a normal behavior in puppies. It often disappears by the time the puppy is 4 or 5 months old.
But your puppy might continue to bite after that. And it might be because you’ve inadvertently rewarded his biting.
Many of the common corrections for biting are rewarding for your puppy. That’s because they involve interaction with you … which is what he wants!
So … here’s the best way to discourage biting …
Stop any interaction with your puppy when he’s not careful with his mouth!
We call this a time-out.
Time-outs are like penalties. They should last about 30 to 60 seconds – and no longer. There are several ways to give time-outs to your biting puppy:
Take The Puppy Away From The Fun
- Immediately escort your puppy to his crate or safe area.
- Be unemotional … you’re not angry and he’s not in trouble.
- Release him after the allotted time and carry on. If he does it again, simply repeat the time-out!
- Make sure there are no toys in the crate.
However, this isn’t my favorite method … because your puppy does earn interaction (which is a reward) as you take him to his crate.
So … a better option is …
Related: Resource Guarding In Puppies: How To Break The Habit …
Take The Fun Away From The Puppy
If your puppy isn’t careful with his teeth … get up and leave the room immediately. Take all the toys with you.
Your puppy will learn that no one will play with him if he bites hard.
One difficulty with this method is your puppy might see your leaving as a chase game!
So here’s a great way to set your puppy up.
- Tether him to a doorknob or stable piece of furniture.
- The tether should only be about 3 feet long.
- Sit with your puppy and either play with a toy or cuddle.
- If your puppy plays nice, the fun continues.
- But if he bites hard say OUCH!
- … and immediately move out of your puppy’s reach, taking the toy/treats with you.
- Ignore him for the 30-60 seconds.
- Once he’s quiet, return to interact with him again.
- Every time he re-offends, repeat the time-out.
Puppy Time-Out “Rules”
These rules will make your puppy’s time-out more effective.
- Completely ignore your puppy while he is on a time-out.
- Don’t try to quiet him if he’s vocal in his objections.
If he’s crying or barking, it means he doesn’t like the fact that the fun is over.
And that’s the whole point!
Or, there’s another way to take the fun away …
… And that’s to just stop the fun without leaving your puppy.
- Signal you felt the bite and don’t like it with an OUCH!
- Then freeze.
- Hold the puppy still, not allowing any fun.
- Wait for polite behavior.
- Once you get it, you can continue playing with or handling your puppy.
You don’t have to sound angry … but you do want your puppy to understand that the biting was not appreciated.
Related: 5 Tips For Raising A Puppy …
The “Anything But Biting” Game For Your Puppy
This game will help teach your puppy to keep his teeth off skin and clothes. It’ll also teach your puppy to love when people handle him.
Everyone in your puppy’s life should play this game regularly.
It focuses on rewarding the absence of mouthing. (Remember, when you reward behavior, he’s more likely to do it again).
In this game … there’s no punishment for your puppy for not getting it right.
You’ll need many small treats (or your puppy’s dinner).
You can do this with your pup just about anywhere …
- on the floor
- on the bed
- on the vet’s table
- in the car (as long as you aren’t driving!)
Wherever you choose to play this game, here’s what to do …
- Touch your puppy and hold for a few seconds. If he doesn’t put his teeth on you say “good” and give him a treat.
- Now touch again a little differently … this time on the leg. Again … reward your puppy as long as he doesn’t put his teeth on you or your clothes.
- Handle your puppy all over … his face, ears, front paws, back paws, tail, belly. Keep rewarding him each time he doesn’t use his teeth!
- Keep your handling gentle. Gradually make it more difficult … and hold for longer and longer.
At first you’re only looking for 2-3 seconds of “not biting.” Eventually you’ll expect more than a minute and then … infinity!
Note: In this game, if your puppy puts his teeth on you or your clothes … he does not get a treat. He is not in trouble.
- Say OUCH! and freeze.
- Do not take your hand away.
- When your puppy stops biting, take your hand off and try again.
The only consequence for your puppy for biting in this game is … no treats!
Related: House Training Your Puppy In 2 Easy Steps …
Other Tips To Stop Your Puppy From Biting
Here are some other things you can do to help teach your puppy not to bite.
- For now, don’t play “wrestly” games that encourage your puppy to play bite.
- Handle your pup with gentle, slow motions. Messing up his fur will encourage him to play- bite.
- Teach others how to touch him too.
Be consistent and patient.
Sometimes your puppy needs a break. So go for a walk, play in the yard or set him up in his crate with a filled Kong or other yummy chew toy.
And there’s one more aspect of biting that’s important for your puppy to learn …
It’s important to actually allow your puppy to bite you … but to bite gently.
This will help him learn bite inhibition. If you don’t allow your puppy to ever put his mouth on you, he won’t learn bite inhibition.
He has to learn that human skin is fragile … so he must be careful with his mouth.
The best way to teach this is to let him mouth you while you monitor and give him feedback on how much pressure you will allow.
In the first month, give a time-out if your puppy bites hard or bites anything but your hands.
Once he gets the idea, then you can deliver time-outs for soft biting, and finally for any biting at all.
Above all, have fun with your puppy. This stage will soon be over so enjoy it while it lasts!