Why Does My Puppy Bite My Older Dog’s Face? [How To Play Bitey Face]

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Do you notice your puppy biting your older dog’s face, cheek, scruff, and neck while making growly noises, showing teeth, and in general making the most menacing looks and sounds a dog can muster?

Do you ever watch this situation and wonder why does my puppy bite my older dog’s face?

To the untrained eye, it sometimes looks like a dog fight, but make no mistake these two (Raven and Archer in the pic above) are having the time of their lives.

We like to call this game Bitey Face and it can be played anyplace at any time (not just in a doggy bed made for one).

My puppy bites my older dog in the face!? What's Going On?
My puppy bites my older dog in the face!? What’s Going On?

So what exactly is Bitey Face?

QUICK TIP: Even if your pup’s like playing Bitey Face you may not want them engaging in this activity. One thing we do when we want Bitey Face to end is put our two puppies on a tie-down with their favorite chew toy. One of their favorites is Bully Sticks.

How To Play Bitey Face

You’ll notice your puppies will engage in this game on their own and generally follow the rules in the list below…

  1. You need at least two dogs/puppies to play this game.
  2. Rough play is the norm.
  3. Grabbing cheeks, necks, scruff, and faces is all part of the game.
  4. Growling noises while showing teeth is commonplace.
  5. The game of Bitey Face looks and sounds very scary, but most of the time it’s harmless play.
  6. Remember, a game of Bitey Face can escalate so you always want to keep an eye on the players.

Does this sound like the same game you mentioned when you were wondering why your puppy bites your older dog’s face?

Being a puppy Archer doesn’t have the best social skills and he tries to engage the other dogs in our house in games of Bitey Face.  Here are the reactions of my other three dogs:

Linus vs Archer

Linus will play the game, but he has his limits and you can see as well as hear his mood change when he’s done playing.

Archer will test Linus’ limits, but it’s sometimes wiser for the humans to get involved.

Make sure you (the human) break up play if you see a change in either dog’s mood.

Stetson vs Archer

Archer will try to engage Stetson in a game of Bitey Face but to no avail.

Stetson simply runs away or ignores Archer till he stops bothering him. (see just like in crate training, ignoring your puppy’s unwanted behavior actually works!)

Raven vs Archer

While Linus has his limits and Stetson calls “no joy” Raven will indulge Archer for a full 12 rounds of Bitey Face.

They will go head to head like a bout between Ali and Foreman. It’s the Rumble In The Jungle Baby!

Raven teaching Archer the Art of Bitey Face.
Raven teaching Archer the Art of Bitey Face.

How Are Humans Involved in A Game of Bitey Face

QUICK TIP: Another way to break up a game of Bitey Face is by separating your puppies and giving them both a puzzle toy to play with like the Dog Brick Puzzle Toy by Nina Ottosson.

If your dogs engage in Bitey Face it’s usually harmless, but you still want to keep an eye on your dogs to make sure a real fight doesn’t break out.

Here are a few things to keep watch for:

Watch your dog’s body language.  You might want to break things up if:

  • Either dog looks tense, moving stiffly, or staring.
  • Dog’s ears, mouths, and tongues are not in a relaxed position.
  • One dog appears to be trying to get away from the other dog.
  • One dog is always on the top of the doggy pile.

Rough play will sometimes go on for too long and one of the combatants can get overstimulated or aggravated with the other.

Not all dogs enjoy playing bitey face.

Always keep a close eye on your dog anytime he plays with other dogs.

If he’s playing bitey face make sure to break up play every once in a while to give the dogs a break.

If your dog is still overstimulated you can try leashing him or putting him on a tie-down and giving him a chew like a Himalayan Dog Chew until he calms down.

That’s Bitey Face! So, how about your dogs?

Does your puppy grab your older dog’s face, neck, and cheek?

Do your puppies enjoy a good game of Bitey Face?

Tell us a little about the doggy games your furry friends like to play in the comment section below.

UPDATE: We’ve learned over time that friendly games of bitey face can often escalate. A quick tip for puppies engaging in bitey face is to remove collars so your puppy’s jaw does not get stuck in the collar of the other puppy. You also might notice that some puppies modify the game by also biting and dragging the other puppy by the collar.

Another safety measure is to use the PetSafe Break Away Collar which will break free if the collar happens to get snagged on a puppy’s teeth or any other object like a kennel, fence, bush, crate, etc. 

Keep your puppies safe and always supervise playtime.

Why does my puppy bite my older dog in the face? Raven teaches Archer how to play bitey face. Here are some puppy biting training tips when a puppy engages an older dog in a game of bitey face. Of course we want to make sure everyone is safe and the game doesn’t escalate into a dog fight. #puppybiting #puppybitingtrainingtips #puppybitingstop #puppybites #puppybitesolderdog #biteyface
Why does my puppy bite my older dog in the face?

Top Picks For Our Puppies

    We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs - Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
    We Like: Bones & Chews Bully Sticks - All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
    We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats - We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
    We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.

Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.

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  1. 4 1/2 month old puppy played bitey face with other same age puppy, but now jowls are all swollen with scratched, bite marks. Is this okay?

  2. Bitey Face might be a great game if both dogs are enjoying it, but my 4 month old piranha pug puppy keeps attacking my 3 year old bulldogs face. I can’t leave them alone together for a second. She will launch herself at him and then hang on, like a shark. He rolls over onto his back and tries to kick her off, but she hangs on. Even when she draws blood, he doesn’t yelp. Sometimes he seems to enjoy the game a bit, but mostly it looks like he is getting stressed out by it and tries to walk away, but she keeps going at him like a crazed vampire bat. I’m scared he is going to get an infected wound and mostly keep them apart unless I’m able to watch and supervise. As soon as she starts attacking him, I pick her up and put her in her pen by herself. She seems to be learning, slowly that biting him ends the fun, but in the mean time, I feel very bad for my poor older dog. Bitey Face is not a fun game in our house and I don’t care if it is ‘normal’ dog play, I’m not allowing my dog to get his face and ears ripped up every day. I think this article is a bit irresponsible in supporting this kind of rough play.

  3. I need some help I don’t have a comment on your training I need some help with training I have a 13-month-old chocolate lab and she is chewing holes in my 12-year-old black labs face her jaws she’s got big huge sores and I don’t know how to stop the puppy from doing that Can you please help me

    1. I have a 7 month old black Lab and a 6 year old Golden Retriever. The black Lab is a lot for my older dog so I always monitor them when their together. If I can’t monitor them then I separate them with the crate, tie downs (when I can keep an eye on them, but not 100%), or just keeping them in separate rooms. I also use my leash extensively to control our young pups behavior and to keep him from overwhelming our older dog. Hopefully that helps, good luck with your training.

  4. Wolves do this in the wild to induce vomit from the parent so the puppy can eat. That’s all it is.

  5. my new puppy (3 months) bites and twists all along my older dog’s (3 yrs) neck. he has several scabs along his neck now. it doesn’t look like he’s having fun when she does this. it looks like he’s holding back from snapping on her because he knows she’s a puppy. but, he doesn’t yelp or anything. he does look angry and shows his teeth, and will “give it back to her” in terms of opening his mouth onto her face, but he doesn’t clamp down. it does not look or sound like he enjoys when the puppy plays this game. how do I ensure he’s safe, but also let them bond by way of rough housing? I try separating them, but that isn’t possible 24/7. thanks!

    1. We keep our puppies on leash almost 100% of the time when their inside so we can keep them under control around our older dogs. Also, you should give your older dog a place to go to get away from the puppy. Our older dog, Stetson was able to do this by jumping up on the bed.

  6. I have a 8 month old puppy (very hyper) and a 2 month old puppy (also very hyper) both of them love the game. But the younger puppy have razor sharp teeth and it’s braking the skin on my 8month old puppy. (Face, legs, ears, nose have open scars) he doesn’t seem to be bother by it at all… he just keeps on playing and looking for the younger puppy to keep on playing… should I be concerned?

  7. Um…..sorry but I don’t think his will help me because my puppy bites my dog’s EYES and he would whining in pain and my puppy would also pull his ears and face. So this didn’t really help me out.

  8. I have a 5 month old King Charles Cavalier, Hearts, that keeps biting my 8 year old Japanese Chin’s, Yoshi, ears and scruff around his neck. At first, Yoshi seemed to be annoyed but would end up running around and playing like he was a young pup again. It has been 2 months now and the puppy’s aggression has increased and we have noticed that Yoshi’s hair is getting shorter and thinner. It appears that the puppy is trying to exert dominance over my Chin, taking every one of his toys and biting chunks of hair till he yelps. I know he’s just a puppy and he needs to be taught, but I don’t know how. If I reprimand him when he does it, my Chin thinks I’m reprimanding him and starting to show signs of depression. Any mindful suggestions are appreciated.

  9. We have an eight year old chocolate Labrador female named Holly.. We recently got a golden doodle female called Poppy and she is over two months old. Poppy is constantly jumping up at Holly and biting her face.. Holly growls and walks away. Poppy is also doing this to our little Grandsons. It’s very stressful dealing with this. Any advice would be to much appreciated. Thank you Patty.

  10. I have a tiny 10 week old pug puppy Bailey and a larger (about 3 times her size or more) 10 week old Pomsky Puppy that has HUGE paws. They ABSOLUTELY LOVE each other and LOVE to play but my Pomsky Pounces on my Pug and she even caused 2 bruises on her back! I can tell they just want to play but a 15lb puppy pouncing on a puppy that weighs less than 5lbs and be really dangerous, especially if she has her belly towards the sky (and she loves to play like that), .that could kill her. she also kinda bullies her aquite a bit and tries to Pin her down. Every time we separate them ALL tgey do is cry to get back together. I even got a Doggy Playpen so they could still play and run around but they just CRY to be able to actually PLAY Teeth on Teeth and Fur on Fur! What can I do to STOP the Bullying

    1. Congratulations on your new puppies! If these were my puppies I’d manage the behavior of the larger puppy with a leash that way you can control her behavior and not allow her to get too rough with your little pug. Good luck with your puppies!

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