A guide to puppy biting
Written by Louise Glazebrook
Puppy biting

When your hands are scratched and have been shredded by a puppy it can be hard to not scream or shout. The overarching thing we need to remember is that we are dealing with a baby animal, one who is finding it’s way in the world and trying to figure out what living amongst humans entails. 

Why do puppies bite?

There are actually many, many reasons why a puppy will bite you, to give you an idea of the array of reasons I’ve listed a few below:

  • To get rid of you, to stop you keep touching them when they don’t want it
  • They are in pain and trying to help themselves
  • They need to explore an item with their mouth to find out what it is
  • They have been overstimulated (refer to blog on overstimulation)
  • They are tired and can’t calm themselves down 

There are heaps more reasons but I’ve given you a variety so that you can see that we cannot just implement a ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to helping a puppy with their biting. As what works for one reason won’t work in another situation, which is where owners are going wrong – believing that you simply place a toy in their mouth and it will stop the biting. It won’t. 

Is puppy biting dangerous?

Most of the time, no it isn’t. However, if you are dealing with an overtired puppy who is exhausted, you may feel like their biting and mouthing is frenzied and full on which can feel scary. I’d refer you to the chapter in my book – The Book Your Dog Wishes You Would Read – all about puppy teething – you can listen to it on Audible or read it. As we need to be making sure we are setting our puppies up to succeed.

Puppy biting becomes dangerous when we aren’t learning from it, what made them start biting, how could we have changed their daily schedule to provide more rest etc. We need to examine what our puppy is trying to tell us by their behaviour, as this will be the best way to help them in the long run and reduce the biting you are experiencing.

It can become dangerous when we have children in the house and they are on the receiving end of the biting and mouthing. So we do need to make sure that puppies aren’t being teased, carried, pulled about or wound up – as it may start out nicely but it will end in a puppy mouth around a hand or jumping up and nipping a nose out of over excitement. So children and puppies need to be heavily managed using baby gates and giving our puppies plenty of different textures and things to explore and mouthe on e.g. whole cold carrots, broccoli stems, whole apples with seeds removed, old cardboard boxes, the list goes on. And you can get some great ideas of incorporating your children into your dog’s life using play by reading the blog on games for kids to play with their dog.

Can I let my puppy bite me?

I don’t tend to encourage this as it can then be very hard for a puppy to understand who will and won’t allow them to do this. So just not starting or allowing it, makes it a much easier boundary for your puppy to follow.

Should I tell puppy off for biting?

You would need to know why your puppy is biting – if your child has wound the dog up and they begin biting, it won’t be their fault. If they are utterly exhausted and haven’t been allowed to rest, again, it won’t be their fault. So understanding the reasons behind biting is really your key take away from this piece! It is something that I work on with clients on a 121 basis and within my Puppy Wonder Club – so if you would like help, do join us with one or both of these options.

I would highly recommend you get a baby gate in place, so that if you are finding it hard, you are struggling to work out what is going on, you can simply step over the baby gate and remove yourself. And then lob some whole carrots through the bars to get your puppy focussed on something else whilst you take a breather and recalibrate.

Raising a puppy can be so incredibly intense, tiring and trying – so being able to step away and just sit next to the baby gate is really important. Allowing everyone (you and the puppy) to calm down before deciding what your next tactic is. 

If we were working together we would be looking at your daily schedule, your exercise output for the puppy, mental stimulation activities and rest plus much more. I don’t tend to believe in the ‘5 minutes per month’ myth for exercising puppies, I think sticking to this rule can really cause huge problems in creating more difficult to handle puppies.

What can I give my puppy to help with the puppy biting?

One of the really important things to be incorporating into your puppy’s everyday life is a huge array of textures, items, objects and tastes – allowing your puppy to put things in their mouth is important, crucial in fact. Here are some ideas of objects you can provide your puppy with to explore and that you shouldn’t need to remove, stop them, get involved with – allowing them to pick them up, pull apart is all a part of the exploration.

  • Raw vegetables – carrots, peppers, frozen peas
  • Fruit – apple chunks, blueberries, strawberries
  • Plastic bottles with all labels and lids removed
  • Cardboard – boxes, tubes
  • Tea Towels or towels that you don’t use
  • Pieces of hose pipe to drag around
  • Canvas tote bag
  • Reusable coffee cups

This is just a short list to get you started but I’d advise creating sensory set ups for your puppy, like you may have taken your baby to when just a tiny tot. Dogs are multi sensory and need to feel, touch, explore, hear and taste objects and putting out items to allow them to do this is a perfect use of your time when you can see your puppy is trying to do this themselves – perhaps they are trying to gnaw on chair legs, maybe you can see them walking around looking for stuff to do – so take control of it and give them a whole heap of stuff to work through.

Do also read the chapter in my book on preventing resource guarding, as we do need to be very cautious with this and it can really start to kick in if you are removing everything from them, everytime they put something in their mouth. Which is another reason why I believe in these kinds of teething set ups even more, as a way to prevent resource guarding issues. 

Puppy mouthing vs. puppy biting

This can be incredibly hard to ascertain and it can vary greatly depending on your breed, as some dogs can really suffer with their teething much more than others.

If you genuinely feel that your puppy is becoming aggressive, that you are struggling and you don’t know what to do, please seek help. Leaving it won’t make it better. Please don’t use free videos online, these weren’t made for YOUR dog. We can go through things online or in person – to figure out what is going on and how to give you a clearer path moving forward. When a dog is jumping up and nipping your nose, hands, feet it can be so difficult to know what to do next, I’m here to help you figure that bit out.

L

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