Puppies might bite hard out of playfulness, attention-seeking, fear, or aggression. Depending on the reason, there are different training solutions you can try to solve the problem.
No matter what, you should stop your puppy from biting quickly and not reward the behavior. Then, reward good behaviors to show them what you want them to do instead.
In this article, I’ll first show you the reasons puppies bite and how to tell the difference between aggression and playfulness. Then, I’ll discuss some training methods to help stop your puppy from biting for good.
Determine if the Biting is Aggressive or Playful
Before you begin training your puppy not to bite, determine whether the biting is caused by playfulness, attention-seeking, fear, or aggression.
Read your dog’s body language and pay attention to what happens before they bite. Is it happening when you groom them? Are they pouncing around with their hind end in the air before they bite?
Determining the root of the biting problem will help you to find the best solution.
Aggressive biters will need desensitization and/or socialization training, while playful biters need to be redirected to toys.
Puppies are especially likely to bite hard in play if they were separated from their mother and siblings at too young of an age, and if they’re the only dog in your home.
Playmates teach one another how to behave, including how to play roughly without injuring one another.
Aggression can seem random, but it’s never for no reason. Something is upsetting your dog, even if you don’t know yet what that something is.
Once you find the cause, you can either stop what’s provoking them or train them to accept it without biting.
For example, a common biting trigger for dogs is a hand raised over their head. Especially if they’ve been abused, they think you’re going to hit them.
With a dog like this, you could get into the habit of always presenting your hand, palm up, for them to sniff before you pet them.
Hands Aren’t Toys!
Never use your hands or other body parts as toys or let your puppy bite you for fun. This is confusing for a puppy, especially when it’s allowed only some of the time.
It’ll also almost ensure that their biting habit continues into adulthood, when biting becomes more dangerous for both people and your dog.
Instead, always play with toys. If your puppy bites you during play, stop playing immediately to show them that they don’t earn attention for biting.
Never Provoke a Puppy to Bite
You might find it funny to pick on your puppy and do things that annoy them. It’s really not funny though, but mean and potentially dangerous.
Provoking a dog into biting you and then blaming the dog is counterproductive, and in the end, the biting is your fault if you do this.
Don’t allow guests or children to provoke your puppy either. This could get them hurt, the puppy will be blamed, and you might end up with legal action taken against you as well.
If your puppy is biting over something that needs to be done, slowly condition them to it. Don’t repeatedly provoke them to bite, or their behavior is likely to grow worse as they age.
Treat your pets with kindness and respect, and ensure that everyone in your home knows to do the same.
If they Clamp Down, Push Inward
It’s easy to panic and try yanking your hand back when a puppy bites you, especially when it hurts!
However, this just reinforces the behavior if they’re trying to play. Your hand is essentially playing tug of war with them.
They’re also likely to clamp down harder, worsening the bite.
Push inward toward the puppy’s mouth instead. This should cause them to release your hand.
Training Your Puppy not to Bite
Yelp or Say “No” when Your Puppy Bites
When your puppy bites, it’s sometimes helpful to yelp in a high pitch. This is how puppies teach one another that something hurts!
If you find that your puppy is more riled up by the noise, as some are, then switch to telling them “no” firmly or saying nothing at all. Move away from them and ignore them for a few minutes.
Remember to react even when the bite doesn’t hurt so that your puppy gets the idea that biting is always wrong. This is especially important in hard biters so that you ensure they learn to stop biting entirely.
Ignore your Puppy after they Bite You
After your puppy bites, one option is to ignore them for a few minutes. This works well if attention is what they’re after.
Don’t allow your puppy to continue biting, though. Follow the step above this first to show them they’ve done wrong.
If your puppy won’t stop biting you, walk out of the room and close a door behind you if necessary. If being separated from you isn’t what they want, then this will teach them to play nicely if they want attention.
Redirect Biting to Toys
Another option for teething or playful puppies is to redirect their behavior to their toys. This teaches them that toys are for biting, not people.
When your puppy bites, move away and hand them a toy instead. If they bite the toy, reward them with praise or treats.
While this works for many dogs, some puppies may see the toy as a reward for biting. If you think their behavior worsens while trying this, stop and try ignoring the biting completely instead.
Reward Good Behavior
No matter what method you use or for what reasons your dog is biting, you’ll want to reward any good behavior you see.
In a fearful, aggressive biter you might reward them with treats just for interacting nicely and allowing you to pet them.
In a playful or teething biter, reward playing with toys.
If your dog is biting due to annoyance, fear, or aggression, they might need desensitization training. This involves finding out what triggers the biting and slowly reintroducing your puppy to it.
I’ll use a puppy who hates being groomed as an example.
If your puppy is biting you for brushing them, you should slowly introduce them to the brush. First, leave it sitting on the ground next to them. Give them a reward for just being near the brush, and especially if they interact with it.
Once they can have the brush nearby without any stress, pick the brush up and allow them to sniff it. Then reward them for doing so.
Next, set the brush gently on their fur, but don’t brush them yet. Just let them get used to it touching them. Leave it there for a short time and then pull away and give them a treat.
Slowly have the brush touching your dog for longer, then begin to gently brush them for short increments, increasing the grooming time as you go.
Keep in mind that your end result may not be one long grooming session. If this is overwhelming for your dog, try brushing them multiple times for shorter periods instead.
This process will take time, and you shouldn’t try to complete it in a day or even a week. You never want your puppy to become overwhelmed enough to bite if you can help it, so stop training while they’re still tolerating the brush.
Set them up for success, as this will work better in the long run than allowing them to fail and possibly having to restart the process as a result.
Socialization works much like desensitization. You want to slowly get your puppy used to human interaction.
Start with yourself or close family and handle the puppy for only a few minutes, or even a few seconds, at a time. Try to stop interacting before they bite, so that you can end on a positive note with a reward for their good behavior.
Over time as your puppy grows more comfortable, lengthen these interactions and try new things, like petting them in different places or lifting their paws to prepare them for future nail trims.
Take it slow, at your puppy’s pace, and don’t try to rush them into anything they don’t seem ready for. Working with traumatized dogs, especially, can be tedious and hard work, but trust that it’ll be worth it for the progress you see in the end.
With a hard biter, I don’t recommend introducing children or strangers until you have the biting sorted. Even then, keep an extremely close eye so that nothing goes wrong.
Lastly, have patience with your puppy. They’re young and have a lot of growing up to do. They won’t get things right all of the time.
In time, you’ll teach them wrong from right and the biting will be a part of your past.
Seek Help if Necessary
If you can’t train your puppy on your own or have questions, seek the help of a humane and knowledgeable trainer.
I would research their methods first to ensure you get someone who really knows what they’re doing with your puppy, and to weed out trainers who still use outdated and harmful training methods.
Writer: Katelynn Sobus