How Do I Train My Puppy Not to Bite?

Training a new puppy can be many things, including joyful and fun and frustrating, and, occasionally, painful. Here’s the thing; while dogs might be domesticated, that doesn’t mean they don’t bite, and that goes for puppies, too. (Their teeth might be small, but they’re still sharp.)

Puppies bite for many reasons, most of which are related to playing and learning while they grow up. While it might be playful and harmless at first, the fact is that biting is a habit your puppy shouldn’t get used to, lest they still do it as an adult dog with bigger teeth and stronger jaws. (Ouch.)

Now, here’s the thing; biting is a 100% natural and expected behavior in puppies. That being said, as a new puppy owner, it’s up to you to make sure your pup doesn’t get into the habit of biting, well, anything. That includes people and other pets, furniture, clothes, etc. 

I was thinking about this very thing the other day while playing with my adult dog and how desperately I once wanted one of her puppies to stop biting. (He did, but it took a lot of training.) If you’re like many new puppy parents, you might be wondering about a question I hear all the time from my readers; how do I train my puppy not to bite?

The answer to that question isn’t a simple one. There are many different thoughts on training a puppy not to bite, including inhibiting, redirecting, distraction, and deterrence, among others. Most of these methods work with varying degrees of success.

Most experts agree, though, that all methods of training a puppy not to bite should be tried and used until you come across the one that works best with your particular pup. Some are easier than others, take more or less time, and have other parameters that you must follow.

Knowing all this, I’d bet that you have many other questions about puppies, biting, and training them not to nip. If yes, great news; I’ve got the answer to those questions and many more below! If training your puppy not to bite is your goal today, read on!

Why Does My Puppy Bite?

The thing about puppies is they spend an awful lot of time playing and, for them, playing means investigating things with their mouth. That, of course, means using their teeth which, in most cases, are incredibly sharp. Biting, chewing, and mouthing their new puppy parents is completely normal to a puppy.

Of course, a nip from a tiny little puppy is not nearly as nasty as one from a puppy that’s 4, 5, or 6 months old and has jaws that are much more powerful. Still, even at that age, your puppy will be using their mouth to explore their world, and biting, unfortunately, is part of that exploration process. There are several more reasons a puppy will bite, also, including:

  • They’re overly tired- Like a child, when a puppy is exhausted, they tend to get cranky, and that crankiness can lead to nipping and biting.
  • They’re frustrated. If a puppy is frustrated by anything, it may bite or nip.
  • They’re very excited. This excitement can lead to a loss of inhibition, leading to your puppy biting you or someone else.
  • They don’t want to be petted or are overstimulated and ask you to stop in the only way they know how to do it; biting.

How To Stop My Puppy From Biting when Excited?

The best way to stop your puppy from biting when they’re excited is to do or say something that will calm them down. This might include a ‘break’ from playing, including you taking a break with them. 

Sitting on the floor and simply letting them relax with you is one way to do this, as well as removing them from the environment they’re in. If you’re using a crate to train them, letting them relax in their crate for a little while will also calm them down. However, don’t use their crate as punishment as this can connect a negative feeling with the crate and cause other problems.

How To Stop My Puppy From Biting While Playing? 

Stopping your puppy from biting while they play takes a bit of practice and patience. Below are the steps to do it using one method that I’ve found very helpful:

  1. Let your puppy ‘mouth’ your hand while they play.
  2. Keep this up until, for whatever reason, they bite hard enough to hurt you a little.
  3. When they bite, immediately let out a yelp of your own (your choice for the yelp, but make it convincing) and let your hand go limp in their mouth. This will usually startle them enough that they stop biting.
  4. Once they do, praise them and, if you wish, give them a treat.
  5. Repeat the process as often as needed to train them that biting ‘hurts’ you and is ‘bad.’

How Long is the Puppy Biting Phase?

The biting phase that most puppies go through starts the minute they realize that they have teeth and can bite down on stuff. It’s imperative that, as soon as they start biting, you begin training them that biting is not acceptable, especially on you and other humans.

Typically the phase lasts for about three to five months, although it can be shorter or longer depending on your particular pup. Also, remember that biting isn’t something you can prevent entirely in puppies. However, it does become better with your help, guidance, and patience. 

How Do you Discipline a Puppy Who is Biting?

Most canine experts recommend teaching them bite inhibition, which is basically what I talked about earlier in the section “How To Stop My Puppy From Biting while Playing?“ Bite inhibition is an essential trait for your puppy to learn so that they don’t accidentally bite hard enough to cause someone great pain. 

The reason bite inhibition training is essential is simple; yelling at or physically punishing your pup can be seen by them as a reward, which is obviously not a good thing. (It’s called “positive punishment.”) Bite inhibition teaches them that biting is a no-no and also hurts you, their puppy parent. 

Another method of bite inhibition besides the one I talked about earlier is to tuck your hands under your armpits and turn around, facing your back to your puppy. According to dog trainer and columnist Kathy Santo, tucking your hands under your armpits and turning your back towards your puppy is a signal for them to calm down.

Putting your pup in their crate to relax, calm down and take a “time out” is also an excellent method of disciplining a puppy after biting. As I mentioned earlier, though, don’t use the crate as punishment but rather as a safe space for your pup to relax. Once they’re calm again, let them out so that they know everything’s OK again.

Final Thoughts

If you’re wondering, “how do I train my puppy not to bite?” you’re not alone. From teaching them bite inhibition to redirecting them, distracting them, and using deterrent techniques, most puppies will eventually learn that biting is unacceptable and will generally refrain from it.

However, as with anything else you teach your puppy, do keep in mind that it takes time, effort, and patience to train them not to bite. Also, the younger your puppy is, the less successful you will probably be when teaching them. Like a human, as your puppy matures, they will learn that it’s not good to bite and will do sound less frequently.

Did you enjoy today’s blog article? I hope you did, and all of your questions when you got here have been answered. If they haven’t, please see all of my other puppy blogs.  I’ve got quite a few, and they’re all filled with excellent, actionable, real-world information that a new puppy parent like yourself needs (especially if you’ve got puncture marks on your hands from your puppy biting you).