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Do you have a mouthy puppy?
Is your puppy constantly
nibbling chomping destroying your hands, feet, legs, and arms?
If this sounds like your puppy then you’ve come to the right place!
Welcome to The Ultimate Guide on How To Stop A Puppy From Biting And Nipping!
I’ve raised 6 guide and service dog puppies in training (UPDATE: we’re now at 11 and counting!), worked with and trained countless other 7 week to 18 month old guide pups, and also fostered dozens of young puppies.
Believe me when I tell you I know a little bit about mouthy puppies and their little dagger teeth.
I’ve suffered a few puncture wounds in my time. However, every little nip has really just been a normal part of puppy behavior and there are a few things I’ve learned to do to help minimize
damage to bloody hands, feet, arms, legs, torso, and butt (they haven’t gotten me in the face or head…yet).
How To Stop A Puppy From Biting And Nipping
We hear these questions all the time:
- How do I get my puppy to stop biting my hands?
- My puppy is great, but he’s always biting me. How do I get him to stop biting?
- My puppies teeth are so sharp! What do I do to get him to stop his mouthy behavior?
Here’s an exact quote from one of our readers:
…My wife and I just adopted a beautiful female yellow lab. Stella is 8 1/2 weeks old and we’ve had her just over a week. I want to bounce some questions off you from what I’ve read on your site, as Stella is driving us crazy…Biting. To go along with the chewing, she’s gotten more than a touch nippy. Heck, she’s snapped at my face while I was holding her a couple of times. Again, no corrections or ignoring is helping…
That was actually just one of a laundry list of questions Stella’s dad had about Stella the bouncy 8 1/2 week old Labrador Retriever puppy.
So the question is how do you stop puppy biting.
A mouthy, bitey, nippy, puppy is perfectly normal and I would actually be surprised if you were not experiencing some growing pains with a nippy puppy.
As I said earlier I’ve been raising puppies for a while now and some of the others in my group have been puppy raisers for 25+ years and raised a dozen or more puppies in the guide dog program.
Every time I see them with a new puppy I inevitably see little dagger like puncture marks on their hands and wrists.
Even a seasoned puppy raiser usually ends up with some collateral damage from these playful guide pups.
There is some good news. Most puppies can be trained to regulate and minimize their biting pretty easily.
You can teach your puppy how to have a soft mouth and work on teaching him bite inhibition.
Here are some tips on things you can do to minimize the amount of puncture wounds you receive from your
little vampire…I mean bundle of joy 🙂
Tips On How To Stop Puppy Biting
One of the reasons why puppies stay with their litter mates until they are 7-8 weeks old is so they learn bite inhibition.
If you’ve ever observed a litter of puppies playing you probably noticed that some puppies will get a little too playful with biting and nipping.
When puppies are playing, biting, and nipping each other play time stops when one of the puppies lets out a yelp and walks away.
Over time puppies will learn that biting too hard ends playtime and will learn to soften their mouths. After all puppies don’t ever want play time to end…do they?
This brings us to our first tip on how to stop a puppy from biting:
- Make your puppy think he is hurting you when he bites by letting out a puppy yelp! Basically you are trying to replicate the same behavior as one of the other puppies in the litter. So, let out a nice yelp to briefly startle your puppy and stop playing with him. This will teach your puppy that when he bites to hard playtime ends. Ending playtime is key when you do this because I’ve seen and experienced puppies that think the yelp is just part of the game and if you continue handling or playing they sometimes get more excited and come back with an even harder bite.
- Redirect your puppy biting by slowly removing your hand from his mouth and replace with one of his dog toys. This is probably our favorite technique. Whatever inappropriate item your puppy is biting whether it be your hand, arm, feet, or face (like in the example from our reader) slowly remove the item from your puppies jaws and replace with his favorite dog toy or chew then leave him alone to play with his toy for a while. We have found that it’s a good idea to have lots of different textured toys as your puppy will most likely get bored if all he has is a bunch of plush toys. Here’s a sample list of textured toys in our collection:
- Plush Dog Toys – aggressive chewers tear up plush toys in seconds. We took away all of Dublin plush toys. Two we use and recommend are Dragon Chew Guard Dog Toy which is a little more durable for a plush toy and the Hide-A-Squirrel because when pups pull out the squirrels it simulates the de-stuffing.
- Nylabones – we like the Dura Chew Double Action Bone, but be warned this thing will hurt if your puppy drops it on your bare foot.
- KONG Toys – if you have an aggressive chewer try the KONG Extreme! Even Dublin didn’t chew through that one (although I’ve heard other dogs have).
- Bully Sticks – we buy the 6 inch Best Bully Sticks (we like this size better for our puppies) in bulk and although they say odor free they still stink…although not as bad as most I’ve tried. Even my finicky dog, Linus loved his bully sticks.
- Himalayan Dog Chews – another favorite for redirecting bitey behavior away from your hands. We have three dogs making the 3 pack Himalayan Dog Chews the perfect size.
- Deer Antlers for Dogs – we’ve heard good and bad about deer antlers and my advice is read about it and decide if it’s the right chew for your dog.
- Give your puppy a command. If you’ve been working on basic obedience then giving your puppy a command will sometimes get him to stop biting and go into obedience mode. We teach our guide dogs puppies “Leave it” pretty early on and once they know what it means a quick “Leave it” will get them to stop. However,even just telling your puppy to “sit” or “down” (if they know these commands) could easily break their nippy mood.
- Exercise your pup’s mind and body – there are two sides to this coin. You want your puppy to get plenty of exercise both physically (long walks, playing in the yard with him etc.) and mentally (work on his training and get him thinking). However, have you ever seen a kid who’s overly tired? You guessed it they act crazy and the same can happen with your puppy.
- Try using Bitter Apple Spray. So how would you use Bitter Apple Spray to deter a mouthy puppy? If your puppy is in that nippy mood then spray a little bit of Bitter Apple Spray on your hand and then let him put his mouth on your hand. Most puppies will usually take a few bites/licks of your hand then start smacking his chops licking his jowls trying to figure out where that horrid taste came from. After doing this a few times your puppy will figure out that putting his mouth on your hand results with an icky taste in his mouth. Most pups hate the taste of Bitter Apple Spray, but some actually like it so this will not work with all pups. One more word of caution…if you’ve already received a few puncture wounds from your pup’s little vampire teeth then you might not want to get Bitter Apple in the sores because I know from experience that it stings like heck!
At about 4-5 months our puppies lose all of their tiny dagger teeth and they are replaced with adult teeth. It’s also around this time that our pups usually stop their mouthy, biting behavior.
One more word for the wise. NEVER SLAP OR HIT YOUR PUPPY! Your puppy will probably think one of two things:
- You are playing and he’ll come back trying to bite you even harder or
- He will learn to fear you and your hands.
Hitting your puppy will most likely lead up to even bigger behavior problems down the line.
Every puppy is different some of these tips may work with your current puppy, but not with your next puppy.
We’ve experienced this first hand with Linus and Stetson.
Yelping made Linus more excited and more likely to continue his bitey behavior.
On the other hand the yelp seemed to startle and confuse Stetson who would abruptly stop biting at first yelp.
If you think your puppy is being overly aggressive or none of these tips are helping with your puppy you should seek a certified professional dog trainer and set up an in-home training session so the trainer can experience your puppy’s behavior first hand.
Always remember when raising and training your puppy to be consistent, persistent, and patient.
Puppies can be a lot of work, but the work you put in now will show when you’re pup becomes a well-behaved full grown dog.
I hope those tips on how to stop your puppy from biting helped.
What about you guys?
Do you have a puppy who likes to bite?
What have you done to help keep his biting at bay?
Tell us all about your experiences in the comment section below.
One final note. If there was one thing I thought you should try immediately the next time your puppy starts biting your hand it would be…
Redirect your puppy’s mouthy behavior with a bully stick. We haven’t had a dog yet that didn’t love his bully stick.
Exchanging my hand for a bully stick has always worked for me. As an added bonus your puppy will enjoy chewing on his bully stick for a good 10+ minutes.
Over time your puppy will learn:
- Chewing on Bully Stick = OK.
- Chewing on Hand = No Bueno.
I hope that helps. Good luck with your puppy. Let me know if you have any questions.