Updated: Mar 18, 2021
Puppy biting can be a painful experience but when it continues into adulthood, you have a problem on your hands and sometimes their “love” bites can even draw blood. So how do you prevent a puppy from biting/nipping? You can’t. ALL puppies bite. That is what they do. A puppy’s mouth is the equivalent to a baby’s fingers and if you have raised a baby you know those fingers explore everything. It is part of discovering their world. It is up to us to set boundaries. It is important that you know what to do and what not to do when dealing with those pointy little shark teeth.
WHAT NOT TO DO:
Don’t make you hand a target. That sounds obvious but sometimes what you do with your hands can create excitement for a puppy. A dog is an instinctual hunter. If you have ever watched a litter of puppies you will discover that they are constantly biting each other. It is comical to watch them. One puppy is biting at the leg and the other an ear. They teach each other when a bite is too hard by yelping in pain and then they will stop playing but in a few seconds they are back at it again. Relentless. Movement becomes irresistible to a puppy and their instinct to hunt starts as soon as they can walk. So when you reach down to pet your puppy’s head don’t be surprised if you hand ends up in his mouth. The last thing you want to do is encourage this instinct so never use your hands as a keep away toy. Not a good idea. Testing if you can withdraw your hand faster than your puppy can snap his jaws is asking for trouble. This goes for feet too. Feet also seem to be a target for a puppy because feet are at their level and they are very reachable.
WHAT TO DO:
Cry and cry loudly. As you may have guessed the best way to help a puppy is to act like a litter mate. When your puppy bites too hard it is time to cry out in pain. Anytime your puppy bites you hard enough to cause pain, make a LOUD yelping noise. The louder the better. Keep your hand very still (even if it hurts) and DO NOT withdraw it. Allow the puppy to remove his mouth from your hand. Immediately following the loud yelping sound and once he releases your hand, stop interacting with him for 5-10 seconds. Then reward him by interacting again. Every time he uses his teeth on your hands, give this reaction because you ultimately want your puppy to think “Geesh! Humans are too sensitive to explore with my mouth!” This will be a constant lesson for quite a lengthy time because puppies are persistent and relentless when it comes to biting, but don’t give up. This lesson is essential to become a well-balanced adult.
Toy Diversion. Get a tug of war toy and let your puppy bite it, fling it, and use him shark teeth to bite as hard as he wants. If he drops the end of the toy to go for your hand, rest assured you have done something more exciting with your hands than the toy. So ALWAYS make the toy the target for rough play.
On the other hand (no pun intended) Praise him when he presents a soft mouth. Every time your puppy approaches you with a soft mouth (you will know the difference) licks and a gentle mouthing, start speaking softly and cooing to him. Whispering is a great thing to do during this time (reward). Keep it calm and soothing. Puppies and dogs love to please and when you reward with verbal praise in a quiet and calm manner you will 9 times out of 10 get one in response. You WANT the soft mouth. Puppies are going to use their mouths, it is our job to teach them how to use them with us. Praising him when he give us a soft mouth is a great lesson in gentleness.
So crying out doesn’t work for your puppy. He is just a piranha. Determined to bite and he doesn’t care that you are “yelping” How do you address it? It’s time to get tough. Most adult dogs give young puppies a lot of leeway in their behavior, much as we humans do with toddlers. But as the puppy matures, this “Puppy Pass” generally expires between four and six months. If you have been patient and have been working consistently at teaching your puppy not to bite, it is time to allow the “Puppy Pass” to expire. When the pass expires with canines, frequently the adult dog will (and sometimes quite suddenly) get down to the serious business of teaching a puppy how to behave in the world of canines. This is exactly what you must do. When your puppy has expired his pass with you, you must get down to business. As long as the lesson is taught with restraint and is brief, it is usually a very effective way to teach your puppy that it is time to quit biting. Start by taking control. Tools you will need are: a leash, a collar, a sharp tone and good timing. Next time your puppy bites say “NO!” sharply and immediately when he bites. Do not delay the correction and do not say it like this “noooo, noooo, noooo”. But NO! (imagine a child getting ready to touch a hot stove and you can only stop them with a quick and poweful NO!) I personally like to use uh-uh! as my quick powerful word. Use whatever makes you more powerful and authoritative. I have attached a video from McCann Dog Training. She demonstrates a very effective training method for older out of control nipping/biting puppies. Always remember that correction followed by reward is not a bad thing. Correction is necessary and if done correctly and kindly, VERY effective.