Puppy Biting

Puppies use their mouths - they chew fingers, grab ankles, and put their teeth on everything. Prior to the age of 13 weeks, you can help your puppy learn to moderate his bite, to limit the pressure of his bite by letting him know when he's biting too hard. As he's nibbling on your fingers, let him know the instant he hurts you. Yelp "Ow!" in a startled voice. Do not pull your hand away, rather let your puppy move away from your hand. As long as he's mouthing gently, that's fine. But as soon as he starts to bite too hard, tell him. This will help him learn "bite inhibition."

Once your pup is around 13 weeks old, discourage him from mouthing by reinforcing non-biting behavior and diverting his teething to his own chew toys.

If you run into difficulty, or your puppy isn't responding to this approach, seek the advice of a dog trainer or behaviorist who uses non-punitive, positive methods. Click here for information on our telephone, email and in-person behavioral consultations.

Puppy Biting Children

Prior to coming to your home, your puppy had littermates - other puppies to play with. He engaged in lots of physical play - biting, jumping, running, wrestling, and tugging on various body parts. It is natural to transfer that type of play to the youngsters in his new family. And the more the kids scream, flail and run, the more fun and rewarding this play is to the puppy.

Does yelling at your puppy make him stop? Well, you've tried it. Did it work? No. Will he outgrow it? Possibly, but as long as it continues to be rewarding, it's difficult to get him to stop. And it's possible that counting on him to outgrow the behavior means he won't. Is there anything that can be done? Of course. Here's a strategy:

  • No roughhousing. The children pet the puppy calmly and gently.
     
  • If the puppy starts to mouth them, they immediately stop petting, fold their arms and sit still.
     
  • If he continues trying to play roughly, give him a brief time-out in the crate.
     
  • Have the children play "good" games, such as retrieve, or take the puppy for short walks.
     
  • Most importantly, both the puppy and the children need to spend calm time together to learn to live together. Supervision and control will prevent children from developing a fear of the puppy because he has hurt them. Supervised, controlled interaction will enable both young 'uns to develop a happy, healthy, cooperative relationship for lots of years.
Follow this plan religiously for a month or two, without errors, and the behavior should disappear. But you must be fully committed to the plan. If this strategy is not in place all the time (that's 100% - no errors!), it constitutes random reinforcement - strengthening the puppy's nipping behavior. Even if it's only occasionally that the kids run away screaming with the puppy in hot pursuit nipping at their ankles, it's enough to encourage the great nipping game.

If you run into difficulty, or your puppy isn't responding to this approach, seek the advice of a dog trainer or behaviorist who uses non-punitive, positive methods. Click here for information on our telephone, email and in-person behavioral consultations.