New puppies have lots of love to offer, but they can also be pretty rambunctious. You may notice your energetic puppy nipping during playtime. In most cases, this is totally normal and just a natural part of aging and teething for puppies. But how do you tell the difference between normal puppy biting and problematic puppy behavior?

Puppy biting owner's foot

Normal Biting

If you notice your puppy mouthing a lot, it’s usually not a cause for concern. Dogs go through two to three months of teething during puppyhood, and using their teeth is how they can express themselves. Puppy biting is especially common among certain breeds; for example, retrievers are much more oral by nature therefore are inclined to pick up and grasp objects with their mouths. Many puppies bite when they play with their siblings, which often leads to play biting. To the puppy, biting is part of the fun as opposed to a malicious act.

Abnormal Biting

While an occasional nibble here and there is typically just normal puppy behavior, sometimes biting can be indicative of an issue that needs to be addressed. Any yelping, growling, or barking before or during the biting can be signs of budding aggression. You should also pay attention to the puppy’s body language; if your puppy stiffens up or glares at or lunges at someone before biting, that’s indicative of abnormal biting. However, some of these behaviors are instinctive when it comes to prey such as playing with a stuffed animal or similar object of play. Puppy bites shouldn’t be frequent or intense; for instance, your dog’s biting should not be constantly breaking human skin. There are several reasons why a puppy may be improperly biting:

  • Too much energy not released properly
  • Fear
  • Frustration
  • Aggression
  • No Bite Inhibition

Sometimes, a puppy may be biting and expressing hyperactivity because they have too much energy and don’t know how to properly release it. This can be resolved by taking them on a walk or letting them run outside. However, in many cases, this bad behavior is a direct result of your puppy’s emotions. Feeling fearful or frustrated can cause your puppy to act out and resort to biting as a defense mechanism. In more serious scenarios, biting indicates your dog may have some aggression issues that can become serious later on.

If your dog has exhibited biting behavior, you’re probably wondering how you can stop it at home. After all, dog bites can hurt, even if the dog just has puppy teeth. If your puppy’s biting is normal, your dog will probably grow out of it and can be easier managed with proper training. The best way to handle normal biting is simply offering proper objects they can chew on. Another is to immediately disengage in play when your puppy play bites you. Once your puppy realizes that biting gets your disapproval as opposed to your attention, they will find other ways to communicate with you.

Handling abnormal biting at home is a bit more complicated, but there are a few things you can try.

Ways to Stop Improper Biting

Some methods that may help curb bad biting include:

  • Teaching Bite Inhibition
  • Proper Chew toys
  • Disengage in Play
  • Positively Reinforce Wanted Behavior

Puppy biting is a normal part of socialization for young dogs. If a dog nips too hard during playtime, their playmate will let them know by letting out a yelp, which tells your dog not to engage in rough play. You can attempt a similar tactic with your dog; if they bite, try letting out a loud, high-pitched noise to let your dog know their behavior hurts you. If this doesn’t work, you should proceed to ignore and disengage in play.

Chew toys are great for redirection. They get your puppy to focus that teething energy on something else. You can smear a dab of peanut butter to get them started on chewing the new toy. As soon as they begin nipping, quickly introduce your dog to the toy. Toys can also help distract them from biting themself. Many dogs may resort to biting down on their own skin due to anxiety or boredom, which causes glaring red hot spots that can be painful and uncomfortable. If toys don’t work, you can spray the hot spot with bitter apple spray to deter your dog from chowing down on that area.

Another way to minimize biting behavior is to communicate with your dog and let them know which behaviors are and aren’t acceptable. The best way to do this is through positive reinforcement, which involves rewarding behavior you like. Try giving your dog treats when it’s well-behaved and relaxed or when they quickly transition from hyperactivity to calmness. If your dog responds properly to your reaction (such as calming down after you ignore it), that warrants a treat. Many times owners ignore their puppy when they are calm, but that is the exact time to reward.

Sometimes, no matter how much you try, you just can’t get your dog to behave the way you want them to. It’s important not to ignore the behavior because this can lead to aggression issues as your puppy grows into an adult dog, which tends to be more serious. In these situations, it’s best to turn to professional help.

Puppy Training From The Dog Wizard

Dog training is more than just persuading your dog to listen to your commands. It’s about strengthening the connection between you and your dog so that they trust your word over all else and are happy to listen to you. You don’t just want your dog to stop biting because you said so; you want them to behave because they want to please you and it leads to the attention your puppy desires.

Our experienced dog trainers work closely with you and your pet to optimize behavior. We understand that each dog is unique and learns at its own pace, which is why no two training classes are the same; your experience with us is unique to you and your dog only. We take into account your dog’s abilities and capabilities, never pushing them past their limitations. Through patience, teamwork, and acceptance, we strengthen your bond with your pet and teach you how to communicate in a way that gets your dog to listen while also keeping them happy.

While play biting may seem fine at first, if your dog doesn’t grow out of this stage or begins to exhibit aggression, it’s essential to nip this behavior in the bud before it grows out of hand. At-home tricks may work for some dogs, but others will require more hands-on training to modify behavior. If the advice above doesn’t work for you, perhaps it’s time to hire a dog training expert near you. Find a trainer in your desired location today!