How Do I Get My Puppy to Stop Biting Me?
By: Jeff Noce, Voyce President
Every week, I invite Voyce blog readers to submit any questions or comments they have about health or behavioral concerns. Because of the great response, each month I address at least one question in more detail.
If you have a question or topic you’d like me to cover, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We recently adopted a 14-week-old puppy and he’s adorable. The only problem is that he constantly bites us. He especially loves to bite our hands and even though he doesn’t do any damage, it hurts! How can we get him to stop?
Congratulations on your new puppy! Even though it’s exciting bringing a little one home, it’s also a lot of work. After all, it’s up to us to teach them everything they need to know to become happy, well-adjusted adult dogs.
One of the most important things any of us can teach our puppies is bite inhibition, which is the ability to control the amount of pressure he exerts with his mouth. Learning bite inhibition helps ensure others stay safe when they’re around your dog. And it’s much easier to teach this skill now than wait until they’re older.
Puppies first start learning about bite inhibition, along with other essential doggie skills, when they’re with their mother and littermates. That’s why it’s always a good idea to leave them with their canine family until they’re about 10-12 weeks old. Puppies tend to play rough…so Mom and siblings lay the groundwork for bite inhibition by letting out a yelp or squeal to alert Junior when he’s bitten too hard. When that happens, all the fun stops. And who wants that? The puppy quickly learns that if he wants to continue playing, he needs to be a little gentler.
Of course, humans are a bit more fragile than dogs. So even if he’s learned bite inhibition with canines, he probably still needs a little training when it comes to you and your family members.
The first step is to start up where your puppy’s mother left off. When he bites you, let out a sharp yelp and stop whatever you’re doing with him. Give him a “doggie time out” by ignoring him or moving slowly away. Once he has settled down and starts to display appropriate behavior, praise him and continue the game.
The second step is to teach him the things that are appropriate to chew on. Chewing is a natural dog behavior and it’s not realistic to expect your pup to never chew on anything. So whenever possible, substitute a toy or bone for your hands. This tactic is especially helpful if your puppy loves to attack your feet or legs. Keep a toy in your pocket and when he goes for your feet, take out the toy and wave it around. When he engages with it, be sure to let him know what a good boy he is!
After your puppy has learned not to bite too hard, it’s time to take the next step of teaching him not to put his teeth on you at all. All you have to do is keep employing the same methods described above. Even if it no longer hurts when he bites you, continue to act as if it does. Luckily, once you’ve gotten to this point in your training, it won’t take long for your pooch to catch on.
Teaching a puppy this essential skill may take a little time…but ultimately, you’ll be rewarded with a dog who’s both fun and safe to be around.