Why do puppies bite? Even so, why do adolescent dogs continue to bite or mouth into their teenager months? We’re here to provide you with the ins and outs of how to stop this behaviour before it becomes a habit you can’t get rid of!
No more biting! It’s painful! In some cases, it can be destructive to clothes, to skin, to hands, and also it damages the relationship. You can only take so much before your puppy’s biting could cause resentment. It feels aggressive, especially when they are launching themselves at you with teeth bared and sometimes with the fur raised along their back.
No matter the why behind it, it can be disheartening when your puppy latches on. Is it something you did? Is it something you’ve wrong? There is a way to stop your dog from biting, grabbing, and mouthing at you when they’re over excited! There are a host of reasons why this could be happening, and our goal is to help you be well on your way to teeth-free interactions with your dog!
Your FREE OUCH! How to Stop Your Dog from Biting Guide dives even deeper!
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Why does my puppy growl and bite at me when we are playing?
Believe it or not, growling and biting is a natural part of play for puppies (and dogs, in general)! This is how they communicate – with growls to encourage and elicit play, as well as grabbing with their teeth. Appropriate play should be teeth-free, and when your dog starts to get grabby that usually means they are too excited and what trainers might call “over-threshold”.
They probably aren’t going to magically start to make great decisions once they have begun acting out in this way. They need an opportunity to rest or to engage in an activity that will help them to become calmer. These are passive calming activities and including chews, Kongs, stuffed toys of any kind, or scatter-feeding.
It is very common for a puppy to play bite and nip.
However, after the peak of teething (usually just over 16 weeks of age), your puppy’s grabby, bitey inclinations should begin to lessen! If they don’t, here are some immediately implementable tips (that you can apply even before 16 weeks of age!)
6 Tips to Correct Biting
Make sure your puppy is getting plenty of rest. Young puppies need anywhere from 17-20 hours of sleep! That is immense! As they mature, their sleeping requirements lessen, and as an adult they still need approximately 13-15 hours of sleep.
Sleep is really important to a calm, well-behaved dog at any life stage (puppy, young adult, adult, and senior)! We call this ACTIVE rest in our Calmness Code. It is vital to their health and their ability to make good choices that they get as much rest as they need.
Give them something else to hook their teeth on! Stop that puppy biting by offering them a Kong (stuffed works best!) or a long-lasting chew. For puppies that are teething, experiment with the chews that you are providing them. Sometimes they need softer chews as their gums are sore and chewing on something hard like a Bully Stick can be too much!
If you find that your puppy isn’t committing to the Kongs or the chews, they could also need something easier that doesn’t require as much effort. Experiment until you find what works for you puppy and just know that their preferences will change as they age. Adult teeth bring in different preferences!
Puppies sometimes play bite and nip when they are over-excited. At such a young age they aren’t quite ready to handle keeping their emotions in check! If you’ve ever been around a two-year-old toddler that has somehow managed to skip their nap time, you may know exactly what we are talking about.
A tired toddler can sometimes be combative, irritated, and can scream and cry over the smallest of details (you really don’t need that candy bar!) and can disregard the impact their behaviour has in the moment because they just can’t self-soothe! Notice the patterns in your young dog’s behaviour and recognise when they might need an enforced nap time or opportunity to self-soothe that puts them away from your susceptible fingers and arms.
Teach them how to interact appropriately with toys! Puppies do not come knowing how to interact with toys. If you stop and watch them, you’ll notice that there is no rhyme or reason to where their mouth goes (or those milk teeth!). They have a goal, but they do not have the coordination or the aim to really achieve the goal (hence why your fingers might get in the way of them grabbing at a toy).
It is key to use toys that can set them up for success. Grab a long tug (8-10 inches are more is vital) and present it horizontally to your puppy with a hand on each side. This encourages them to target the centre of the toy. Only continue play if they target correctly and let them do most of the work, just applying a light enough tension to keep the play fun and engaging for them. Teaching them HOW to bite and WHAT to bite properly can help so, so much.
So that your puppy doesn’t become a teenage beast, unmanageable, difficult to control, and still super mouthy, work on rewarding your puppy for any effort to regulate themselves. Play training games that specifically focus on building their excitement up (arousal up!) and fluidly bringing their excitement back down again (arousal down).
This will be key in them developing an ability to regulate themselves, to be super high and really enthusiastic to being able to settle and relax, waiting patiently, and with a lovely calm, for their next chance at fun. Your FREE OUCH! How to Stop Your Dog from Biting Guide that we have prepared just for you can be in your inbox in less than 5 minutes and will dive even deeper into Arousal Up, Arousal Down!
Embrace the Calmness Protocol! What is that? Basically, reinforce your puppy every time you see them doing something right! They could be making a million choices every day that don’t get acknowledged…
If you focus too heavily on the naughty behaviours (the biting, and boy, it’s a pretty naughty behaviour), they can escalate and continue to get worse and worse because even though you aren’t giving it positive attention, by being aware and addressing the behaviour head-on, we can sometimes accidentally reward it! Crazy, right?
Instead, watch your dog for any GREAT decision that they make:
- They’re playing and they choose to grab a toy instead of you. Super!
- They lay down and relax instead of sprinting around grabbing at everything imaginable!
- They sit and calmly watch you (oh good job, pupper!)
- They go to their crate on their own without any prompting to take a nap.
- They curl up on their bed.
- They take a chew and go and lay down with it (on their bed or elsewhere).
Already we have so many things that could be reinforced! Where your attention goes are the behaviours that grow! Grow the behaviours you want and desire from your dog by giving them lots and lots of wonderful attention!
If you have a puppy and this isn’t your only struggle (and even if it is!) check out this super cool puppy resource [LINK TO ABSOLUTE PUPPY]
What if my dog isn’t a puppy, but instead an unruly teenager?
That’s okay! Believe it or not similar strategies will be just as effective. Let’s recap.
- Make sure your teenager has plenty of rest.
- When they aren’t resting, give them plenty of opportunities to self-soothe in the form of Kongs, long-lasting chews, etc. Self-soothing in dogs can be done via:
- Licking: Stuffed Kongs or other Stuffed Toys
- Chewing: Bully Sticks, Trachea, Marrow Bones, Nylabones
- Shredding: Hide treats in a cardboard box and let them have fun!
- Sniffing: Scatter feed by sprinkling kibble in the grass and encourage them to sniff out and forage for the food
- Be vigilant and be proactive about making sure they do not get to rehearse naughty behaviour.
- Teach them how to use their mouth and when – on toys, not you!
- Grow arousal up, arousal down! (Excitement up and then settle into calm!)
- Catch them doing something right and acknowledge it with food, praise, or gentle stroking!
Want to know more!? Get your own free copy of our OUCH! How to Stop your Dog from Biting! We will send it over, right away!