Puppy biting: What makes a pup nip and how to handle it
August 06, 2021
You wouldn’t know by looking at that adorable ball of fluff, but that puppy of yours has a set of spiky little teeth. He can’t understand that when he nips you, even in play, it hurts. Other than wearing boots indoors for the rest of your life, along with a set of elbow-length Kevlar gloves, what can you do about puppy biting?
Help is on the way. Our guide to puppy biting and nipping will help you understand what drives the behavior, when to worry about it, and how to show your young canine the right way to behave. Keep one thing in mind: Your dog is maturing and growing. Teaching your dog to keep his teeth off your body won’t happen overnight.
How long does it take for a puppy to stop biting?
Most pet parents notice the biting starts ramping up shortly after puppy comes home to stay, usually around 9 weeks of age. Once his full set of adult teeth grow in, anywhere from 8-10 months, that drive and urge to bite will ease up.
When the new puppy biting is getting over the top, with chomping on your fingers, tugging the hem of your pants and pouncing on your feet with a nip, these are signs your puppy is just being a puppy. Take heart; puppy nips and bites are normal.
For most young dogs, curbing the biting is a process that requires a combination of teaching and allowing your dog to mature. That means puppies do outgrow the biting, but they need coaching from humans so they learn how to be gentle and not clamp down on the hand that feeds them.
Why do puppies bite in the first place?
New puppy biting comes with the territory, especially if they’ve descended from a herding breed. Here are just a few reasons that drive this behavior:
Clamping down can soothe their achy gums.
Licking, biting and gnawing are ways for puppies to experience all the tastes, textures and sensations of the new world. The mouth helps your puppy explore and make sense of the world. But it’s not fun when you are the target.
Along with chasing, pouncing, growling and wrestling, biting is part of the game litters of puppies play with each other.
Puppies are bumbling creatures that are still figuring out their coordination and control.
After a growth spurt, it can take time for the pup to adjust and learn to function in his larger, more powerful body. At the same time, training and teaching can feel like an endless loop, where they re-learn the lesson that bites hurt others.
Is it normal for puppies to bite aggressively?
There may be times when your pup’s bite punctures the skin. Or, he might be overexcited or overtired, which can make him extra bitey. These behaviors are normal. What’s not normal is if it happens all the time. One thing you’ll want to think about is your dog’s intent. Is he playing, or is he feeling scared or overwhelmed and responding with aggression?
To understand whether your dog wants to play or assert his might, you’ll want to pay attention to his body language.
How to tell if your puppy is play-biting
When your puppy bites and displays the following, it’s normal behavior, even if the puppy is over-the-top in his approach. When your pup was with his littermates, play fighting was an important pastime. It’s also an important part of their development and how they learn to socialize and behave around other dogs.
- Performs the “play bow” (the dog stretches out his front paws, lowers his head and raises his rump)
- Wagging tail
- Darting from side to side
- Ears are up and mouth is open
How to tell if aggression is causing puppy to bite
It’s rare for puppies to show aggressive behavior unprovoked. When they do, it’s a sign they’re not developing normally. Sure, it can feel like your puppy is being aggressive, especially if you can’t make it down the hall without an attack from “Baby Shark.” But knowing the signs of aggression — and understanding they probably don’t apply to your pup — can put your mind at ease.
- Rigid posture and tail position
- Baring teeth accompanied by growling and snapping
- Direct stare
- Ears pinned back
How do you stop your puppy from biting your clothes, hands and feet?
In the beginning, it melts the heart when a puppy grabs hold of your pant leg. He’s trying so hard and it’s the cutest thing ever! It doesn’t take long, though, for the behavior to get old. While punishment and traditional discipline won’t be effective fixes, here are some things you can try to divert him, guiding him toward appropriate behavior.
Speak your puppy’s language
A litter of puppies will spend hours wrestling, pouncing and playing together. Inevitably, someone will get nipped too hard and the puppy playmate won’t like it. To show their pain and umbrage, the puppy lets off a high-pitched yelp, and they might even withdraw from the game by walking away and perhaps even shaking themselves off. That sends the offender a message: “Hey! That hurts! Stop it or we can’t play anymore!”
Some pet parents find when they speak puppy’s language, the puppy gets it.
When your puppy chomps, here’s what to do:
- Make a loud, high-pitched expression of pain: “Ouch!”
- Stand, turn away and fold your arms. Avoid eye contact. Pause for a few moments.
- If your pup keeps biting and pouncing, leave the room for a minute or two (as long as it’s safe to leave him there).
- Return to the room and try to resume the game.
This teaches the puppy there’s no reward in biting the human.
Teach your dog well and learn Why dogs beg and how to end it.
In addition to speaking canine, here are some other things to try when puppy bites are getting out of hand:
Don’t tug back
Don’t yank away your pant leg or you’ll send the wrong message: You’re in the game! You’d love to play tug-of-war! And before you know it, he’s pouncing for another grab and growl.
Present a chewy or a tug toy
Keep puppy’s favorite chew toy handy, and offer that in place of your pant leg. You’ll be teaching your canine what they can and can’t chew on. Pants, no. Chewy, yes.
Distract and divert
Does your pup respond to simple commands, such as sit or touch his nose to your hand? Offer the command as a distraction, an alternative that stops the unwanted behavior and begins another.
Find the right focus
Steer him away from direct contact forms of play. Focus on fetch and tug-of-war. Avoid wrestling and other games where your furry friend can get in biting reach of your hands, clothing and feet.
How do I calm an excited puppy?
When there is too much puppy biting and nipping in your day, the culprit is usually one of two things. He’s either overtired or hasn’t had enough interaction.
Take a timeout
Puppies tend to get chompy they’re overtired. When it’s getting over-the-top, it might be time to give him a break in the kennel or a penned-off room to settle down. Just make it a gentle transition without presenting it as a punishment.
Run off some energy
Biting can also be symptomatic of a bored puppy that wants extra attention. Since dogs are social creatures, young dogs need a lot of interaction with other dogs as well as their humans. It may be time to head outdoors for a romp, or a vigorous play session with his favorite toys.
Puppy diet for a healthy start
Give your puppy a strong start in life with NutriSource puppy diets, formulated for small and medium breed puppies as well as large breed puppies. Healthy foods are the foundation for strong healthy teeth, proper nutrient absorption and solid stools. After all, no one wants a puppy with diarrhea!
Not only does NutriSource offer optimal nutrition in the right-sized bites, NutriSource formulates all foods with its innovative Good 4 Life® system. Good 4 Life has the probiotics and prebiotics that optimize your pup’s development because they help pup’s body absorb minerals and other nutrients. With less going to waste, you’ll have fewer messes to pick up in the back yard.
Ready to pick up a bag of NutriSource? Shop local!