If your puppy is being very mouthy and biting you, know that this is a natural behavior. The good news is that you can train your puppy not to bite with a little time and patience!
How to Train Your Puppy to quit Biting
Anyone that has adopted a puppy will tell you that puppies bite when they play. The biting phase is something that they all go through.
Puppies explore the world around them with their mouths. This includes playing with you the way they did their littermates.
But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t do anything about it.
Puppy training should start the day that you bring your dog home. This doesn’t mean jumping into obedience commands like ‘sit’ or ‘stay’.
Many of the first things you teach are far more basic than that.
The secret to a well-behaved puppy is to invest the time in teaching basic puppy manners. Including, of course, how to play properly.
Method One: Redirection
What You Will Need
- A high-value chew toys
- A dog chew in your puppy’s favorite flavor
Step One: Choose a High-Value Toy or Chew
The definition of ‘high value’ is going to differ from one puppy to the next.
You need to find something that your puppy truly loves chewing on. This could mean a specific texture, an enticing scent, or something that squeaks.
Pay attention to what gets your puppy excited.
If your dog is very food-focused, he may prefer a tasty chew for flavor.
Step Two: Address Puppy Biting As Soon As It Happens
As soon as you notice your puppy starts to bite you or a guest, grab the toy or chew.
Redirect your puppy’s attention to this preferred option.
When he does start chewing on the new item, praise him. This will reinforce that chewing this specifically is allowed.
Step Three: Praise Good Behavior
Make sure there is always a toy or chew out and available for him.
If you notice that your puppy chooses to chew this item, praise him. This will help to reinforce that the toy or chew is what he should go to when he wants to chew.
For larger homes or spaces, make sure to have options spread out in any areas that your dog spends time.
Method Two: Time Out
What You Will Need
- Crate or Dog Pen
Step One: Keep a Leash On Hand at All Times
For this method to work, you will need to keep a leash on your puppy or on hand.
Any time spent searching for or going to get the leash will reduce the chances of this working. It needs to be an immediate correction.
Step Two: Set Up a Time Out Space with crate training
Identify an area in your home that is near your usual living space, but slightly away from the action.
This could be a room just off your living room or a quiet corner.
Using a dog crate, exercise pen, or baby gate, create a contained time-out space.
Step Three: Respond to Puppy Biting with an Immediate Time Out
Any time that your dog starts getting over-excited playing and begins biting, it’s time for a time out!
Take him by the leash and calmly lead him over to the time-out area that you set up.
Time-outs don’t have to be long to be effective. After a brief time-out period, allow him to return to the living space with everyone else.
Method Three: Vocalization
What You Will Need
- Just yourself (and a little imagination)
Step One: Respond to Puppy Biting with an “Ouch”
This method relies on the interactions your puppy would have had with other puppies.
When littermates play together, they test how rough is too rough. This is done by playing roughly and watching for the reaction of their playmate.
Through doing this, your puppy learns bite inhibition.
If a puppy yelps or shows that something hurts, this creates a boundary for future play.
In the same way, make a yelping sound or say “ouch” in a high-pitched voice when he bites. Then, turn away and remove yourself from playtime.
Step Two: Repeat the Process
After a short time with your focus away from your puppy, turn back. Begin playing again.
Make sure that you are playing in a way that isn’t giving a mixed message. No wiggling your fingers or roughhousing with your hands.
Instead, engage in positive play like tug of war or fetch.
If your puppy bites again, repeat the process with an “ouch” and then remove your attention.
In time, your puppy will learn that biting you makes you stop playing. He’ll avoid it to keep the playtime going.
Method Four: Use a Taste Deterrent
What You Will Need
- Taste Deterrents such as Bitter Apple Spray
Step One: Try Other Methods First
This method isn’t the best option for most little puppies. Try working through methods 1-3 first.
If you have given each of the above methods ample time and had no results, you to the next step.
Step Two: Spray Desirable Areas with a Taste Deterrent
Identify the areas that your dog likes to bite most often and spray them with a taste deterrent.
The most common option is bitter apple spray. But you may also have luck with other dog-friendly sour or bitter tastes like apple cider vinegar.
This could mean spraying your feet, ankles, arms, or hands.
Be warned: This may come with an undesirable smell for a while, so be prepared to commit if you are trying this!
Step Three: Reapply Regularly
Reapply the spray to these areas regularly to keep the undesirable taste present. Continue this for at least 2 weeks.
This will give your puppy enough time to associate the bad taste with the biting action.
Step Four: Don’t Forget Praise!
Of course, with every correction in dog training, there should be praise for behaving well.
When your dog tastes the bitter smell and lets go of you, praise him.
He should also be praised any time he starts play biting one of his puppy toys instead of biting at you, or for playing peacefully.
What Not to Do
Don’t Tempt Your Puppy with Your Fingers, Hands, or Feet
If playtime with your puppy involves any of these temptations, you’re sending a mixed message.
Avoid using hands and feet in play. This includes wiggling your fingers in front of your dog’s face. It also includes rough play with your hands or feet.
Create a hard limit in your home. Hands and feet are not a suitable option for that type of play.
Don’t Jerk Your Hands Away
If your puppy does bit your hand or foot, don’t jerk it away in response.
The more exciting you make these body parts, the more he’s going to want to play in the future. You want to remove this excitement.
When your dog bites, simply let that part of the body go limp.
Realizing you’re no longer playing, he’ll let go. At that point, slowly move it away.
Don’t Use Physical Corrections
Physical punishment can have a very negative impact on your training.
By hitting your puppy on the nose or grabbing him roughly to stop him, you’re making it worse. You’re escalating the situation.
Most puppies see this as an extension of the current play.
Seeing you switch to more aggressive “play” they respond by doing the same. Suddenly that light play-bite becomes a much more aggressive bite.
This can lead to long-term aggressive behavior in dogs.
Don’t Skip Playtime
Puppy play is an important opportunity for bonding with your pup.
It can be tempting to skip playtime entirely when puppy biting becomes a problem. This isn’t fixing your puppy’s behavior.
Instead, focus on positive playtime. Teach your puppy what type of play is okay.
This could be tug-of-war or fetch with a favorite toy.
If at any point your puppy gets too rough or starts biting, that is when you apply your method of choice. But don’t remove play entirely from the schedule. Puppies thrive on play time!
Troubleshooting training tips
I tried all four methods and they didn’t work. What am I doing wrong?
The biggest mistake that most new puppy owners make is to give up too quickly.
Each of these training methods is going to take time and repetition. This means continuing to do it over and over until your puppy catches on.
Before switching training methods, commit to a single method for at least 2 weeks.
Consistent training is important. You need to respond the same way every single time that your puppy bites you or another person.
If there are more people in the household, make sure they are also on board.
This will prevent mixed messages where your puppy is shown it’s okay to bite sometimes. You want to create a clear boundary when it comes to unwanted behaviors.
Why does my puppy bite other people even though he stopped biting me? How can I stop this?
If your behavioral training is only carried out with people in your household, your puppy may not make the connection.
Consider getting friends or family to help you expand the training experience.
Brief each of these people in advance so that they know the correct response. Have them come over and include them in training as well.
Use the same method that you already saw results from.
The more people that you are able to do this with, the clearer it will become. Your puppy will realize that the training isn’t specific to a single person or small group.
Why does my puppy start biting all on his own, not associated with play?
When your puppy comes up to you and starts biting at your hands, he’s trying to get you to play.
This often occurs when puppies have pent-up energy.
Puppies need to play and be active. They have a lot of energy to burn! So let him do it in a safe way.
Make sure your dog gets enough exercise. This could include taking him for a walk, playing a game of fetch, or even introducing mental stimulation.
Food puzzles and interactive toys are a great way to challenge his mind.
As the old saying goes, a tired dog is a good dog! Keep your puppy occupied!
My puppy is having a temper tantrum and getting bitey. What do I do?
Puppies can have temper tantrums out of frustration just like human babies. This will often happen after you’ve done something he doesn’t like.
For example, you could have been holding him when he wanted to get down and play. Or, you removed something he wanted to play with but you didn’t want him to have.
During temper tantrums, puppies often play more aggressively.
The best thing that you can do at this moment is to give him some quiet time to settle down.
Place him in a quiet room or in his crate. Give him a quiet toy like a chew toy to keep him busy.
A great option is to stuff a toy like a Kong with food and freeze it.
Your puppy will focus on getting the tasty treat out, forgetting about the source of frustration. It will also keep him settled in one place while he calms down.
When you see that he has calmed down, he can come back out and join the family once again.
When should I seek professional help with my puppy’s training?
There is never a “wrong” time to work with a trainer.
If you have found someone you trust and want to work with, don’t wait for the situation to get worse first. Go for it!
Bringing a trainer into the mix can speed up the dog training process. It can also help you avoid little mistakes along the way.
For those that haven’t considered professional dog training but are getting frustrated, it might be time.
Research the trainers in your area. You want to find someone that approaches training from a positive behavior and bond-based approach.
Don’t be afraid to ask other dog owners for recommendations.
Most trainers will offer a consultation to see if they are a good fit. Don’t be afraid to ask questions during this time!
This isn’t about your trainer teaching your dog. This is about finding a professional dog trainer that will help you teach your dog on an ongoing basis.
Final Thoughts: Training Your Dog to Stop Puppy Biting
Teaching your puppy to stop biting behavior isn’t impossible, but it does take time and patience (even for the most seasoned puppy parent).
Be prepared to commit to whichever method you choose long enough for it to work. This could mean weeks of training.
Any of the methods shared above can help to train your dog to play appropriately.
But remember, you aren’t just addressing your pup’s behavior right now. You are setting yourself up for a well-behaved dog for the rest of his life.
Before you know it, you’ll be looking forward to playtime with your older dog without fear of sharp teeth.