The Reasons Your Puppy Bites You and No One Else

Your puppy may bite you and no one else because:

  • They were adopted too early
  • You encourage it during play or when they don’t bite hard
  • You provoke your puppy into biting through rough play, teasing, scaring, or abuse
  • Bad training methods
  • They’re overwhelmed
  • Something about your actions triggers your puppy to bite
  • You’re their favorite

It’s important to never allow your puppy to bite you for any reason. If you allow the behavior sometimes, they will get confused about what is and isn’t allowed.

In this article, I’ll discuss the reasons your puppy is biting you and no one else, and what to do to stop their biting once and for all.

 

You Encourage the Biting

One common reason your puppy may bite you and not other people is because you encourage them to bite.

Many people do this without realizing, or even when trying to do the opposite. Laughing at or continuing to play with a biting puppy makes them think the biting is okay.

On the other hand, yelling at a puppy may also encourage them to bite more. Negative attention is still attention, and your puppy may continue to bite you to get a reaction.

You might also allow biting during playtime or when they don’t bite down hard.

While it may seem harmless, or even adorable, for a puppy to bite you, this leads to terrible and sometimes dangerous behavior in adult dogs.

If an adult dog bites someone, especially a large breed, they’re a threat to you, other people, and themselves.

In the worst-case scenario, a dog could seriously injure you or another person, and it could lead to your dog being euthanized.

Puppies should learn not to bite as early as possible so that they don’t turn into grown dogs who don’t know better.

 

You Provoke Your Puppy

Another reason your puppy may bite you and no one else is if you provoke them.

Rough play, teasing, and abuse all fall into this category, but so could things you are doing unintentionally, such as talking too loudly or doing other things that make your puppy excited, such as jumping around or waving your hands in the air.

You should never allow your dog to bite you during play, and you should never do anything to scare or physically injure your dog.

Talking loudly may scare your puppy or rile them up and make them want to play. If you’re moving around a lot or getting excited, they may feed off this energy and think it’s time to play—and that playtime means time to bite.

When I adopted my dog Charlie, he would jump up and grab people’s arms in his mouth when they were running. He didn’t clamp down, luckily, but he’s a large dog and it was still something that had to be stopped so that he didn’t accidentally hurt anyone.

In the meantime, though, we didn’t run around him and kept him indoors when children were over and running in the yard.

If you know that something causes your puppy to bite, you should stop this behavior unless it’s necessary to their health and well-being. (An example of this is puppies that hate being groomed, but need to be to avoid painful matts in their fur.)

Of course, there are also things that can’t be stopped entirely on your part, like talking or running. While you can try to be calmer, you of course should be able to speak as you like in your own home!

In this case, you’ll have to teach your puppy not to react to that behavior by biting.

You can do this by slowly desensitizing your puppy to whatever’s causing them to bite, or by consistently walking away and ignoring your puppy for a few minutes each time they bite.

In Charlie’s case, it was simply a matter of telling him no and stopping the fun every time he put his teeth on anyone during play or walks.

 

You’re Trying to Dominate Your Puppy

The outdated dominance theory of dog training is harmful, sometimes abusive, and can lead to the same scenario outlined above of you provoking your puppy.

It’s also based on faulty science that’s since been disproven, as this article explains well.

In trying to dominate their dogs, some people become too forceful. A fearful puppy is much more likely to bite in order to protect themself

The true way to get respect from your puppy isn’t through punishments or fear, but through positive reinforcement training techniques.

In short, you take all attention away from your puppy when they bite. When they’re behaving themselves, you reward them with praise, toys, treats, or other motivators.

 

You’re Giving them too Much Attention

Your puppy may bite you if you’re giving them too much attention.

A big example of this is if you’re cuddling your puppy too much when they want to do something else.

Say they want to play, but you’re restraining them in your lap. They’ll become more and more energetic, or potentially even anxious, and may bite in an attempt to escape your hold.

You shouldn’t restrain your puppy for cuddles, as this could make them feel trapped and cause them to bite.

Anytime your puppy doesn’t want to cuddle, respect that and let them walk away. Allow them to come to you when they want to be held or pet, instead.

This will create a more trusting relationship, and you might actually find that your puppy wants to spend more time around you when given the choice!

 

Your Puppy is Overwhelmed

Overwhelm can happen when a puppy gets stressed by too much noise, attention, cuddles, or even play.

Say your new puppy has just come home and your whole family is excited to meet them. You gather around cooing and petting them.

You’re just trying to show your love, but your puppy is likely to feel crowded and maybe even trapped.

This same thing may happen if you force your puppy to cuddle or the environment is super noisy.

Play can also be overwhelming. Your puppy may become overly tired, yet still act hyper and rambunctious, kind of like a child who doesn’t want to stop and go to bed.

This could lead to them playing too roughly and biting you.

 

Your Puppy is Triggered by Something You Do

Especially for puppies who’ve been abused, certain things may trigger fear or aggression in them.

One common trigger is a hand raised in the air, which the puppy associates with being hit. They may bite to protect themselves in this case.

Other triggers could include anything, including that someone who has a characteristic you have, did something negative to them in the past.. For instance, maybe your puppy has been abused by a man in the past and you are the only man in your family—hence, they only bite you.

If you can figure out what triggers your puppy to bite and eliminate it easily, you may want to take the simple solution.

In other cases, it may be best to consult with a professional trainer or behaviorist to slowly accustom your puppy to whatever is causing them to bite.

 

You’re their Favorite

Although it seems silly to humans, your puppy could actually be biting you because you’re their favorite person to spend time around!

Sometimes puppies will pick a person who they prefer to spend time around given the option. This may be true even if they are very friendly and social like my dog, who still definitely prefers my grandpa to anyone else in the house!

If your puppy is clingy to you or spends more time with you than other members of your household, it’s a given that you would be the recipient of their biting more often than not.

There of course is still an underlying cause when it comes to why your puppy bites at all. It may be a reason listed above, or below I list some more general reasons for biting to watch out for as well.

 

Other Reasons for Biting

There are several other reasons puppies bite than just those  listed above. Although they don’t explain why your puppy bites only you, they might be the root of your puppy’s biting problem, which is why I include them here.

 

Teething

Puppies teethe until around 6 months of age. During this time, they’re exploring the world with their mouths and still learning bite inhibition (that is, not to bite too hard!).

They’re likely to try to put everything in their mouths, and this will include you!

Have patience with teething puppies and remember that one reason they chew so much is because their gums are in pain. They’re trying to relieve that when they bite or chew.

The best thing to do for teething puppies is to keep plenty of chew toys around and within your puppy’s reach.

You might also want to keep them on hand yourself, so that you can quickly redirect their biting to a toy like I discuss in the “Get a Puppy to Stop Biting” section below.

 

Playfulness

Another very common reason puppies bite is because they’re feeling playful! Although they think it’s all fun and games, their little teeth can still hurt a lot.

It’s up to you to teach your puppy how to play nicely, but your job will be easier if you adopt your puppy at the correct age and if you have other dogs in your home.

One reason your puppy might seem to bite you only is if they are a playful biter and they prefer to play with you rather than other family members.

 

Adopted too Early

If you adopted your puppy too early (before 8-10 weeks old), then they will be more likely to bite you. They will also tend to bite harder than puppies who are brought home at the right age.

This is because they don’t get enough time with their mother and siblings. Being around littermates helps puppies learn how to play gently.

If they don’t get this crucial socialization with other dogs, then they won’t learn not to bite hard. This becomes a problem when they bite you!

Of course, your puppy can still be taught by you not to bite too hard, and I’ll go into how to do so down below.

 

Not Enough Exercise

It’s possible that your puppy may be biting in an attempt to get you to play because they’re not getting enough exercise.

Look into the guidelines for your puppy’s age and breed to make sure you’re giving them enough activity throughout the day.

A bored puppy will have behavioral problems more often than not, while you’ll see less of this if you keep them engaged.

 

Injury or Medical Problem

Lastly, an injury or medical problem can cause a puppy to bite. Typically this isn’t the case, but if you think your puppy could be sick or in pain, you should book an appointment with your veterinarian to rule it out.

The reason an injury or medical issue could cause your puppy to bite is due to pain or irritability. For instance, a pup with a broken leg won’t want you touching their leg because it hurts!

Puppies with other medical issues may simply feel like being left alone, and so be more irritable than normal because they don’t feel well.

 

How To Get a Puppy to Stop Biting

1. Ignore Your Puppy when they Bite

This first step may seem counterintuitive, but ignoring your puppy when they bite is a great way to get them to stop if they’re doing it for your reaction.

Remember that even negative attention is better to some pups than being ignored.

Especially if your puppy is biting playfully, ignoring them until they stop and then rewarding their lack of biting with play can teach them better.

An example of this would be if you are playing with your puppy and they get too riled up and bite your arm. In this situation, you would stop playing immediately and ignore them.

 

2. Put Distance Between You and Your Puppy

Of course, while you’re ignoring their behavior, you don’t just want to sit back and allow your puppy to continue biting you.

This is when you put distance between you and your puppy.

Maybe you’re sitting on the couch, and your puppy is biting your hands in an attempt to get you to play. Gently push them away or set them on the floor.

Repeat this as many times as is needed for your puppy to get the point.

Or, you can get up and leave the room yourself. This may be best for hard biters or if your puppy is being aggressive.

Having a door closed between you gives your puppy no choice but to wait it out and calm down before interacting again.

 

3. Redirect Your Puppy’s Behavior

Sometimes, the best solution is to redirect behavior instead of ignoring it. This is often the case with teething or playful biting.

Chewing is natural for puppies, and expecting them to stop altogether just won’t work.

If your puppy doesn’t know what to do instead of biting you, then that energy has nowhere to go. So, whether you choose to ignore or redirect their behavior, you will have to teach them how to interact and play nicely.

One example is to give your puppy a toy every time they bite you. When they bite the toy instead, give them lots of praise and maybe even a treat!

Don’t worry about them associating this with biting you—puppies have short attention spans, and they’ve likely already forgotten about it.

Do keep in mind, though, that some playful biters may see toys as a reward. This is especially true if they’re biting at you to get you to play, and then you do just that!

It may be better in a circumstance like this to ignore your puppy for a few minutes, then play with them so they can get their energy out. Remember to stop playing immediately if they bite you again during this play.

 

4. Never Provoke Your Puppy to Bite

Of course, these steps are worthless if you are still provoking your puppy to bite. Do whatever you can to avoid this.

The exception is if whatever provokes your puppy to bite is necessary. Like I discussed earlier, an example of this is grooming.

If your puppy hates the brush, though, you can’t just keep brushing them and getting bitten. Instead, you’ll need to desensitize them to it.

Make sure you’re brushing them gently and making it as positive an experience as it can, first of all. Then gather some treats.

Slowly get your puppy used to the brush by resting it on their fur. Give them a treat and praise them for allowing this without biting.

If you can’t get that far, walk it back a step and lay the brush near your pup. Reward them for sniffing or touching it.

Slowly move forward as your puppy gets more comfortable until you can brush them for a short period without a problem.

Your puppy may not be able to tolerate long periods of brushing, and that’s okay—break it into several short sessions if possible.

You can also apply similar steps to other things like administering medication or trimming your puppy’s nails.

If you need help with this process, consult a professional.

 

5. Don’t Allow Your Puppy to Play Bite

Next, never allow your puppy to play bite. They may not see the line between biting during play or outside of it. They might also not realize how hard it is too hard to bite.

It’s much better to just ban biting altogether and keep the rules clear and simple.

 

6. Reward Good Behavior

Lastly, reward good behavior.

This will look different depending on why your puppy bites you.

For instance, reward a playful biter for playing without biting you. Reward an aggressive biter for interacting nicely, or a teething biter for chewing toys instead of your fingers.

Teaching your puppy what you want them to do is just as important as teaching them what you don’t want—the biting.

This way, they can know exactly what is expected of them.

 

Writer: Katelynn Sobus

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