How to Train Your Puppy Not to Bite
Professional dog trainers have a rather cute name to it: play biting. As if it’s not enough that puppies are adorable, they also tend to nip and bite at everything they see. We even allow our kids to get away with it because we know they’re just playing. Unfortunately, if not nipped in the bud (pun intended), this play-biting can become much more serious. This is why you need to train your puppy not to bite.
While this may be part of their learning process and seem harmless enough, the truth is it’s dangerous. Not only will puppies unintentionally hurt people with their bites, but tolerating it will lead to developing a bad habit that could result in aggressive tendencies down the road.
Why Pups Should Be Taught Not to Bite
It’s natural for puppies to want to bite. For them, it’s part of the teething process and a way to explore their environment. Puppies also learn how to interact with other dogs through biting and nipping. This is perfectly normal dog behaviour and shouldn’t be discouraged entirely.
However, what must be curbed is the behaviour where puppies excessively bite and nip at people out of excitement or as a way to assert dominance. Not only is this painful for people, but it can also lead to serious injuries.
Boundaries must be set early on – teach your puppy that biting and nipping isn’t acceptable behaviour and do so in a way that doesn’t damage their confidence or trust in you. The good news is, this isn’t going to be as difficult as you might think. Dogs have an instinctual drive to please their owners. It means that with a little patience, puppies can be taught not to bite in no time.
Inhibit the Behaviour
If you have two pups at home, you’ll notice that they’ll often play-fight with each other. This is their way of learning to inhibit their bite – they quickly learn that if they bite too hard, they’ll get hurt in return.
You can simulate this same effect by letting your puppy play-bite you. When they do, give a sharp yelp and immediately stop playing with them. This will communicate to your pup that biting leads to an end of the fun.
Although you weren’t actually hurt, your puppy doesn’t know that. To them, they’ve caused you pain, and they’ll be quick to learn that this isn’t the type of behaviour that will make you happy. Inhibiting the biting behaviour is an effective way to let the dog know that there are boundaries regarding how they can use biting when playing. It’ll teach them how to be gentle and not bite too hard.
However, you should only do this when your puppy is actually biting you. If they’re just mouthing or gently nipping, let them be. This is their way of exploring and shouldn’t be discouraged.
Give Them Alternatives
Give your puppy an alternative to biting. This could be in the form of a chew toy or bone.
When they get too excited and start nipping at you, redirect their attention to the chew toy. It essentially tells them it’s okay to mouth on something, as long as it’s not you.
Not only does this give them an outlet for their energy, but it also helps to keep their teeth clean and healthy. Likewise, it prevents them from developing a habit of biting other people. If dogs understand that it’s wrong to bite you, they’ll know it applies to other people, too.
Encourage Good Behaviour
Whenever your puppy refrains from biting, don’t forget to give them plenty of praise. By instinct, they’ll figure out that they’re doing something right and will only serve to reinforce the good behaviour.
Conversely, if they do bite you, don’t punish them harshly.
This could damage their trust in you and make them more hesitant to listen in the future. A light tap on the nose or saying “no” firmly should suffice. The important thing is that they understand biting is wrong without feeling like they’re being mistreated.
This one’s the last resort. If all else fails, you may try and deter your puppy from biting by using a taste deterrent. Remember, this is the last resource to train your puppy not to buy.
There are products available that are specifically designed for this purpose. They usually come in a spray or gel applied to your skin. A dog is smart enough to make the connection: biting skin corresponds to an unpleasant sensation in the mouth. When your pup bites you, the bad taste will discourage them from doing it again.
Remember that puppies will bite – it’s part of their nature. So, it’s not like you’ll end this behaviour altogether. The goal is to train your puppy to inhibit their bite, so they understand that there are boundaries when and where it’s appropriate. Unlike most basic dog training, this will take some time and patience. But as long as you’re consistent, you’ll see results before you know it.