Updated: Nov 21, 2022
A guide with quick tips to help with your puppy's biting.
In puppy class, I always ask the participants, "who's puppy bites"? as a joke because I know they all do. Everyone laughs and raises their hands.
"It's how they play and explore their environment."
I like asking this question (even when I know the answer is yes), to show participants that the other new puppy parents are also struggling with this common puppy behaviour.
Here's the thing, puppy biting is indeed normal. It does not mean your puppy is aggressive, bad, dominant or giving you a hard time. Like how we use our hands, puppies use their mouth. It's how they play and explore their environment.
When we better understand our pups, the easier it will be for us to adjust our expectations for them. Dogs are not perfect, and honestly, there is no such thing as the "perfect dog" or "perfect puppy". Which is why I avoid using use terms in any content I create. It's just not possible and unfortunately, sets us up for failure when our puppy doesn't fit into this idealistic perception of what our relationship ought to be.
Tip #1 - The quick "stop biting" trick
We are always looking for quick fixes, but know that in dog training, these do not exist. This first tip will help your puppy immediately stop biting you, but then you will need to move on to the following to following tips to redirect or practice new skills.
I love using "go find it" as a way to get my puppy off of me and put their nose on the floor. It's quick, it's easy and with a little bit of practice before hand, works very well. Here's how to do it:
Before you puppy is in their biting frenzy, practice "go find it". Toss a couple pieces of food on the floor and cue your puppy "go find it"! With your finger, point out the pieces of food on the floor and encourage them to sniff it out. Tossing a few pieces will also encourage them to keep looking (which is extra helpful when puppy is in that bite-y mood).
Practicing "go find it" before you need it will help create a foundation for this new skill. I wouldn't teach someone to ride a bike during a race.
The idea behind "go find it" is getting your puppy off your arm or clothing and immediately put their nose on the floor. While they go find their treats, you have a chance to 1) escape or 2) get something to redirect them with!
Tip #2 - Meet their biting needs
All dogs love to chew and teething puppies especially! It's important to keep in mind that biting and chewing are favourite pastimes and not a phase or behaviour your puppy will grow out of. Our job as their guardian is to show them the ropes and how to live with humans. In doing so, we need to meet their needs.
Stuffed animals or "unstuffed" animals are really great to encourage your puppy to tug, dissect and chew on. Keep on eye out incase your pup tries to ingest any stuffing - which in that case, unstuffed animals might be a better suitable option.
Chews: bully sticks, yak chews, animal parts like feet or necks, dehydrated fruits or veggies all make great chews for our puppies. If your puppy is sensitive, you might want to reach out to your veterinary team for suggestions. If your puppy is picky, you will audition a bunch of different kinds before finding the one they like. It may also be a fun outing to bring them to the pet store with you and let them sniff out their favourites.
"Biting and chewing are favourite pastimes"
Tip #3 - Socialize, socialize, socialize
Your puppy's best teacher? Other puppies! Supervised play is one of the best ways to socialize your puppy and let them work on their social and play skills - which are priceless!
I suggest finding a local puppy social event that is supervised by a certified fear free trainer!
I host weekly puppy socials at a café in Laval. During these socials, I let the puppies play off leash. Separate them by size or intensity to ensure everyone has fun and protect our shy pups for being bulldozed. I also supervise to make sure play is okay and perform consent tests as needed.
A consent test is done by holding back the "bully" or the one who is more rough and let their friend vote with their feet. What's their next move? Do they try to continue playing with their friend? Or do they walk away to do something else. If the "victim" puppy, (the one who is always being chased, or being pinned down), continues to come back for more, this is play! Even if it doesn't seem fair, we will continue to monitor and perform consent tests to make sure they are having fun. If the victim puppy walks away, this is their way of saying, "That was too much, I want to do something else now." In which case, we will redirect the "bully" and find another playmate that suitable for their play style.
Puppy Life skills as your go-to guide!
The next thing you will want to do is check out my book "Puppy Life Skills" that is available as a E-Book or paper back on amazon. This book is filled with information on how to continue working on your puppy's biting, socialize and build important life skills that will help make your life together so much easier.
Want to jump start your puppy's training? Check out the puppy life skills: online course!