As adorable as they may be in their infancy, a puppy’s teeth can feel especially sharp, and as a result can accidentally scratch and cut their owner during playtime. In their early years, dogs often use their bite to examine new objects, as well as play-fight with their siblings. But as an owner, it’s important to ensure that this negative behaviour isn’t carried through to adulthood.
So, how easy is it to stop a puppy from biting? With a consistent approach, an owner can easily inhibit a puppy’s urge to bite by mimicking the yelp it’s siblings would make during play - or ‘mouthing’ – to startle the puppy into releasing their brother or sister.
How does this help?
In the early stages of life, puppies tend to favour their mouths over their paws when they investigate a new object or person. And while this behaviour is completely innocent and often brought on during the teething stage of development, if they don’t learn to stop before they mature, their adult teeth can easily injure a human or another animal.
When they play with their siblings, puppies will grab hold of one another using their teeth. This behaviour is a result of evolution as the puppies learn to hunt. However, as this is a form of play, puppies will almost always release their siblings if they hear them yelp in pain, and imitating this response can help you, as an owner, learn how to stop a puppy from biting.
So, how do you do it?
If you are playing with your puppy and you feel them latching on to your hand, do not withdraw it - this will encourage them to chase it and try again. Instead, let your hand go limp whilst letting out a yelping noise. This sound will, more often than not, cause your puppy to become startled and release your hand. Once your puppy has let go, keep your hand in place, but proceed to ignore the puppy for 20-30 seconds before resuming play.
This approach can be used several times in a play session, but if they are nipping or biting incessantly, then the puppy should be punished by stopping play and ignoring them for a longer period of time.
Are there any other methods to learn how to stop a puppy from biting?
One of the times a puppy will always use their teeth is if they are trying to get to a treat – and if you hold a treat in a closed hand, the chances are you will end up with a few scratches.
More than likely, the puppy will spend a minute or two desperately trying to get the treat from inside your hand before eventually giving up. When they do give up, keep track of the moment that they withdraw their nose/mouth and reward them with the treat. This method of operant conditioning helps the puppy to associate a lack of biting/nipping with food, and with constant reinforcement, this will become second nature for them.
It’s always worth investing time and effort into learning how to stop a puppy from biting as it helps them to leave behind this anti-social behaviour as they grow up. So go slow, and help your pup to mature into the best possible version of themselves.