Bringing home a new puppy means lots of playtime, petting, and walks around the block. But with most new dogs, it also means biting. If you’ve ever adopted a puppy, you’ve probably noticed their eagerness to nip at everything around them. It begs the question…is there a way to stop puppies from biting?
Regardless of how “normal” puppy biting is, there are a couple of tricks pet owners can use to nip biting in the bud. Learn more about bite inhibition and bite replacement and how you can use these strategies on your new dog.
According to VCA Hospitals, puppies bite for two reasons: To alleviate teething pain and to explore the world around them. Just like human babies try putting everything in their mouth, puppies do the same—except puppies, unlike babies, have 28 razor-sharp teeth within their first weeks of life. This can make for a lot of pain at playtime.
In order to stop your puppy from biting during play, trainers suggest practicing bite inhibition. The basic idea of bite inhibition is to let your puppy know their bites hurt by yelping when they bite too hard. Bite inhibition teaches your dog that mouthing is okay, but that biting will cause play to stop.
This concept comes from the way puppies play with their littermates. Puppies often don’t realize the force of their bite until they bite too hard and their puppy sibling yelps in pain. The yelp startles the puppy, causing them to stop playing for a few seconds.
In order to replicate this, you should play with your puppy as normal. Keep playing when they mouth you or put their mouth on your skin without biting down hard. When your puppy bites too hard, let out a loud yelp and let your hand go limp. After you imitate these actions, your dog should stop playing. Wait at least 30 seconds before initiating play again to let them know that biting causes play to stop.
As your puppy learns that mouthing is allowed but hard bites aren’t, it can be helpful to give them a chew toy to bite on (instead of your hand). The ASPCA recommends substituting a toy or chew treat when your puppy starts nipping.
Some good substitutes include strong rubber chew toys and chew treats like bully sticks, which are a tasty way to alleviate your puppy’s biting urge. Best Bully Sticks offers an array of different sizes, lengths, and shapes so that your puppy keeps chewing their treat—and not your hand.
Implementing bite inhibition and replacement can help stop your puppy from biting in the long run. But if your dog continues to bite, or persistently bites aggressively, talk with your veterinarian. There may be something more serious than teething going on if your dog keeps biting.