You 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
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.
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.
Try 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.
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.