Does your puppy bite? Don’t panic – there are plenty of things you can do to help it learn to stop.
Why does your puppy bite?
Your puppy’s mouth is its main interface with the world around it. They use their mouth like we use our hands. It will bite to play, investigate the world, get your attention and to aid teething. Not because it is hungry or necessarily aggressive. So, don’t be cross or aggressive, but take a firm and consistent approach to biting, from as early as possible in a puppy’s life. Read on and we’ll give you an introduction on how to do this.
If your puppy’s biting and chewing are due to teething, these should reduce as the puppy gets older. That doesn’t mean it’s o.k. though – this can still be the start of a biting habit if you don’t teach the puppy not to. Using a frozen carrot as a chew can really help during teething.
Techniques for stopping biting
There are two widely used techniques to stop biting in puppies. The first and the more immediate is the ‘Oww’ technique. This involves SCREAMING “Oww” when the puppys teeth touch your skin. This has to be done loudly and it needs to be clearly directed at the puppy to cause the puppy to back off. The important part of this is to reward the puppy when it does back off. This can be just verbal reward. It’s important to understand that you are not rewarding the bite, you’re rewarding the puppy’s correct response to your negative reaction to the bite. The key to this technique is consistency, by you and all who handle the puppy, every single time any contact is made between the puppy’s teeth and your flesh. This technique should never be used with puppies that are of a nervous disposition or some terrier breeds, as their instinct is to bite things that squeak so it can wind them up even more.
The second technique is ‘Time out’. This involves separating the puppy from you or removing your attention when you feel tooth contact on your skin. I would recommend starting by ignoring the puppy if turning your back the puppy still is leaping all over you then you may need a physical barrier, such as a living room door. This should be done by taking the puppy the other side of the door, without saying anything to the puppy, and closing the door for a count of 3. It doesn’t need to be a long time. A few seconds is plenty. The point is to stop play or attention the moment it bites as the puppy needs to learn that biting stops play, ends all interaction and ruins their relationship with humans. This must be done consistently, every time the puppy bites, so it can be a long process but it does work.
Our group puppy courses can help you perfect these methods, and others, and guide you through the process.
I would advise against using a toy or food to distract from biting as this can reward the behaviour as well as distract.