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How To Get Through The Bitey Puppy Stage With All 10 Fingers

How To Get Through The Bitey Puppy Stage With All 10 Fingers

#Dogtraining #Tips for the Bitey #Puppy StageYou love your new puppy, but you don’t love how bitey she gets during playtime.

It happens to every new puppy owner, and it’s completely normal.

But biting is not an acceptable way for a puppy to play with delicate, thin-skinned humans.

I never fully understood why puppies are so bitey until I helped raise Cow’s litter.

Puppies spend long, boring days in their den biting each other, crying, and biting some more. It’s all they do besides drinking milk and pooping.

At a few weeks old, a puppy has thick, wrinkly skin with a thick layer of fat underneath. For the most part, they can handle each other’s playful bites.

When your puppy nips you, it’s only because she has not yet learned how to play beyond the babyish bitey fights she had with her litter. You’ll need to teach her to play nicely with you and your family.

Why Your Puppy Won’t Stop Biting You

baby tooth puppy teething

One of Matilda’s baby teeth. You’ll find these in unexpected places over the next few months.

For some reason, puppies seem to be especially bitey in the evening.

It might be because she is overtired and overstimulated after a long day of being a poopy little puppy.

In that case, you might decide to let your puppy gnaw on a toy in her crate until she falls asleep.

Biting is also caused by teething. Your dog will begin to lose her baby teeth around 3 months, and should have all of her adult teeth by 8 months. 

Make sure your puppy has plenty of toys to play with. They should vary in texture. She needs a hard chew toy, a soft plush, and a rope bone.

When your puppy bites your hands, you can direct her towards a toy instead.

Toys make an excellent barrier between your hands and those tiny teeth. You can often quell a biter by simply bringing out the toys. Praise your puppy the moment she begins chewing on her toy instead of your hands.

The Traditional Way To Get Your Puppy To Stop Biting

When those needle-sharp puppy teeth make contact with your skin, many experts suggest you respond with a high-pitched yelp.

This is meant to replicate the way puppies play in a litter. When one puppy bites another too hard, the victim yelps, and the attacker often stops.

Well, sometimes. My litter often continued biting each other, even when they yelped.

It’s worth a try, but it might not work.

Your dog might get even more excited when you make that fun noise, and may bite you harder.

Try not to be too squeaky.

You might find some success in being theatrical.

Yelp very loudly and very dramatically, and follow it with a series of pathetic whines. Turn away, lower your head and continue crying softly, as though you’ve been gravely injured.

Your puppy might amble over to you and offer up some remorseful licks.

Some puppies are jerks, and will continue to bite you. Really, though, it’s not that your puppy is a jerk – she might just think it’s part of the game.

But it’s worth a try.

Good Puppy!

Whichever method you use to get your puppy to quit biting, be sure to praise her the moment she stops.

Say, “Yes!” to mark the moment she does the right thing. Keep praising her when she starts biting her toy instead, and whenever she plays nicely.

Biting Means Playtime Is Over

If you’ve yelped, offered toys, and still can’t get your bouncy puppy to leave your fingers alone, you’ll need to stop playing with her. Cross your arms and ignore her for a few moments. Walk away if she persists.

It will take a few tries, but pretty soon, your puppy will realize that if she bites you, playtime is over.

Don’t get upset at your puppy, and don’t think of the time-out as a punishment.

Just give the puppy space, and a moment to cool down.

Puppy Games That Prevent Nipping

Hanging out on the floor with your puppy can mean too much close contact.

Playing games that require less contact give your puppy fewer opportunities to bite, while tiring her out.

matilda puppy chewing bone teethingTry these games:

Ready, Set, Go! Have your puppy sit, then grab a toy and raise it as though you’re about to throw it. Build up your puppy’s anticipation by slowly saying, “Readyyyy… Set…. ” then throw the toy on GO! This game teaches your puppy to listen and wait patiently, and she’ll love it at any age.

Hide and Seek Have your puppy sit and stay, using a volunteer to hold the puppy back if she hasn’t yet mastered “stay.” Hide, then call the puppy, rewarding her with treats or a game of tug-o-war when she finds you. Hide and seek is a fun way to practice recall, and dogs of all ages love it.

Find it! Have your puppy sit and stay while you hide a toy or treat for her to find once you say, “find it!” At first, allow her to watch you hide the prize, and increase the difficulty as she gets wiser.

How To Make Your Bitey Puppy Even Bitier

Sometimes, well-meaning people can cause a puppy to bite even more.

Do not allow your puppy to gnaw or chew your fingers. Not even gently. It’s best to keep your fingers out of her mouth at all times.

Also, avoid waving your fingers around to entice your puppy to play. Your puppy will chase anything that moves, and that includes you. If you don’t want to be prey, be still, like a tree.

The worst way to deal with a bitey puppy is to physically punish her.

Old, outdated dog books will tell you to grab your puppy by the scruff and shake her.

This is horrible advice. Never do it.

Only mama dogs can pick up a puppy by the scruff, and only when the pup is a few weeks old. Her skin is still very thick then, and her body is light, so she is not injured when her mother picks her up this way.

But once she’s a few months old, you can seriously injure her if you attempt the scruff shake.

You may have also been told to force your dog onto her back, grab her muzzle and hold it shut, or simply smack her.

This is all horrible advice!

When you physically engage with your puppy this way, you might scare her into behaving for a short moment – and the fear will destroy the very necessary trust in your human-dog relationship. She may resort to defending herself, turning those playful puppy nips into frightened, aggressive attacks.

floppy ears baby puppy Matilda

You’re gonna miss those floppy ears.

The Good News

Your dog will chill out as she gets older.

At around 8 months, when she has all of her adult teeth, your dog will be less bitey.

She will still need to chew appropriate toys to clean her teeth and keep her entertained, but she’ll begin to settle down into a reliable, well-adjusted dog who is fun to be around.

Lindsay Pevny
Lindsay Pevny lives to help pet parents make the very best choices for their pets by providing actionable, science-based training and care tips and insightful pet product reviews.

She also uses her pet copywriting business to make sure the best pet products and services get found online through catchy copy and fun, informative blog posts. She also provides product description writing services for ecommerce companies.

As a dog mom to Matilda and Cow, she spends most of her days taking long walks and practicing new tricks, and most nights trying to make the best of a very modest portion of her bed.

You'll also find her baking bread and making homemade pizza, laughing, painting and shopping.

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Sophia Bennett

Monday 28th of January 2019

Absolutely, the only way to go through the teething phase is giving our puppies some chewing toys. If we don't do that, they'll find something else to chew, like our favorite shoes :)

Yaj the Dog Guy

Tuesday 5th of June 2018

We have an annoying neighbor puppy/dog that "gets loose" and comes into our yard to get bitey with it. Both of my kids have been sent to tears and are scared to death because the "puppy" is just big enough to be too big when he started jumping up putting his paws on them and biting the heck out of fingers, wrists, or whatever he can get to. My natural instincts kicked in a few times, and it seems like the best immediate thing to do is dowse him in the face with the hose (he has learned this is punishment). But he is sloooooow to learn.

When my kids are not around I do a lot of the things mentioned on this site to try to teach the dog. I Yelp if he nips me and avoid playing for a minute. Also, trying to tire him out with sticks and toys to bite on and chase... which works well, I praise him when he does this. I've also sometimes tried the Cesar Milan type training, which is a gentle poke/slap on the side of his body with a correction sound (reserved only for a correction). Sometimes I think I'm getting through to him, but generally he's too excited, and I have to use other means.

Now I will say this. I once had a dog that I loved more than any other dog... we were tight. He was extremely smart and loving, but during that bitey stage once he went too far and nipped me on my face when I blew air into his face (I didn't know that was a no-no back then). Well I chastised him very harshly, slapped him on his head plenty, and he knew he was in the wrong. Never again did my dog get bitey with me, and we had a great relationship the rest of his life. Now I'm not saying beat your dog, but sometimes if it's too far, you need to do a hardcore correction that is appropriate to your dog's personality.

Lindsay Pevny

Tuesday 5th of June 2018

That neighbor's puppy sounds really frustrating to deal with, it's so tough when it's not your own dog. It's a good thing most dogs grow out of this, especially when they learn more appropriate ways to play. Hopefully the phase passes soon or you can sort something out with your neighbor, I don't blame you for wanting to keep your kids safe.

But we really do our dogs a disservice when we make assumptions about them - that they're "slow to learn," that they "know when they're in the wrong" and that they have a personality that warrants a "hardcore correction"! These are all common misconceptions. We must remember that they are animals and have their own language of communication, and we are much more sophisticated and can work with them when we look past our first emotional reaction. I've noticed that at times in my life when I felt a dog was disobeyed or rebelling, it caused my blood pressure to rise, and as a result, things only got worse.

Remember, when dogs play, they exchange rough nips and bites - so when you're getting physical with a playful dog, you're engaging in that rough give and take. That doesn't communicate "stop," it communicates "keep going."

I really like the "be a tree" exercise from Karen Pryor, it's great for teaching kids to stay calm around a rowdy pup:


Saturday 29th of July 2017

I think the biting is only cute when it doesnt hurt. When you have bigger dogs sometimes they dont realise they are hurting you

Kieran @ Pets Principle

Monday 24th of July 2017

I find the biting cute!

How Pet Gates Speed Up Puppy Training #sponsored by Carlson Pet - Little Dog Tips

Friday 2nd of December 2016

[…] Keeping your dog away from forbidden objects and empty rooms are the best way to set them up for success during the bitey puppy stage. […]

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