No one likes to think their puppy might be aggressive. Honestly, puppies are rarely truly aggressive, but if you’re worried about aggressive puppy biting you’ve come to the right place. You’ll be relieved to know that most of the time puppy biting is perfectly normal, and actually, if your puppy isn’t mouthing or nipping you when they’re small you’re in the minority. We hope that sets you at ease a little. 

In this article we’re going to give you a deep dive into:

  • Is it aggressive puppy biting or just play?
  • How to stop aggressive puppy biting – pronto
  • Do’s and the don’ts if you think your puppy is biting you aggressively
  • When to seek help from a professional and how to choose one
puppy biting rope toy
Photo by Kobi Kadosh on Unsplash

Telling the difference between aggressive puppy biting and play

If you’re wondering if your puppy is biting you aggressively, or if this is part of normal puppy biting then you’re not alone. 

Many pet parents simply can’t understand why this soft and cuddly bundle of joy suddenly turns into the Tasmanian devil, whether it was something they did, or whether they have an ‘aggressive puppy’ on their hands. 

Aggressive puppy biting is not all that common in a puppy, play biting, mouthiness? Way up there on the ‘why is my puppy biting me hard’ list.

To see the difference between aggressive puppy biting and play biting/general puppy mouthing, we can ask a couple of questions, and think about ‘What’s the function’ of the behaviour i.e what purpose does it serve? 

Is your puppy teething? If the answer is yes, then rest assured that your puppy will be biting a LOT and that they simply haven’t learnt that nope, you are not one of their siblings and you don’t need to be chewed on like one. What’s the function in this case? Mouthing on things makes my teeth and gums feel better. Simples.

Were you doing something just before they reacted that they didn’t like? Well, the function might be to simply make you stop. Puppies learn that using teeth on skin makes the human stop what they’re doing (well duh, it hurts us of course we stop).

Is it in their breed’s genetic make-up to be a bit nippy or mouthy? Herding dogs are meant to run and nip at fast moving things (sorry kids!!) whereas your Retrievers like to have things in their mouths, and sometimes, often that’s our hands. Ouch. 

Here’s a handy table from our puppy aggression article that should help you figure out if it’s aggressive behaviour or if it’s playing. Dogs tell us a lot from their body language, we should listen more often.

A low growl – accompanied with a freezeA high growl with lots of movement
Snapping and grabbingTugging
A forward body stance – often frozen A backward stance with bum in the air – play bow
Stiff body posture – looks tightLoose body posture – looks wiggly
Tight furrowed brow – hard stare – closed mouthSoft face – open mouthed, lips covering teeth

How to stop aggressive puppy biting

So here’s some good news… aggressive puppy biting can be solved in three easy steps.  Firstly prevention – you can prevent aggressive puppy biting by making sure all their basic needs are met. You can then think about redirecting onto an appropriate toy when your puppy goes a little cray cray and you can also train an alternative behaviour so that instead of aggressively biting you, they’ll be doing something else instead… How does that sound? Great, right?

  1. Prevention – Making sure your puppy’s basic needs are met
  • Puppies need to sleep – sleep, sleep, sleep, we are always stressing about sleep to new owners but a lack of sleep is a huge one for aggressive puppy biting
  • Puppies bite defensively when inappropriately or over-handled – no they’re not toys, and they might not want to be pushed around and into a harness, gently does it, and oh don’t forget treats.
  • Chew toys – lots of them! Try out stuffed food toys like the Trixie Snack Snake, puppies seem to love them and it gives them something to scratch that teething itch.
small puppy trying to bite a football
Photo by Luiza Sayfullina on Unsplash
  1. Redirect onto a toy 

When your puppy is in a biting frenzy they NEED something in their mouth, seriously, you don’t want it to be you! We recommend long fleece strips plaited into long tuggers or if you want to ‘add to basket’ check out these excellent tug toys by tug-e-nuff.

  1. Train your puppy to do something else

If your puppy is one of those that bite your feet, or latches on as you walk across the lounge you’ll want to teach them to do something else when they come towards you instead. How about a nice sit? Or if they’re more fond of your hands, teach them to bring you a toy instead.

We have a bunch of suggestions and exercises to do to help reduce aggressive puppy biting in our very own Zigzag puppy training app. You can also check out our article on how to stop a puppy biting you too!

What not to do when your puppy’s aggressively biting

So we’ve given you some of the do’s but there are also a few things to keep in mind that you shouldn’t do when your puppy seems to be aggressively biting you.

Aggressive puppy biting will not be solved by:

  • Shouting at your puppy
  • Telling off or ‘aaahing’ or heaven forbid doing that ‘Psst’ thing – we have an article about that kind of dog whispering….
  • Using physical punishments
  • Holding your puppy’s mouth or jaw
  • Squealing – it will probably just make your puppy more excited 
  • Ignoring it – in the hope it will just ‘go away’. Of course, a lot of puppies will simply grow out of biting, but you’re going to be sore in the short term, and don’t you want to learn how to reduce it? 

When to seek professional help

If your puppy’s aggressive biting has come on suddenly and you’re worried then we would always suggest talking to a professional. It may just be a part of normal puppy mouthing, but in case it isn’t then you’ll want someone suitably qualified and experienced to guide you through this tricky time. 

Here at Zigzag, we have our very own team of puppy training experts who’ll be able to help you with aggressive puppy biting and more. Just get in touch via the app, they’ll be happy to help and put your mind at ease.

small puppy nipping owners hand
Photo by Daniel Lincoln on Unsplash

We hope you’ve found this article useful, and that it’s given you some pointers on what to do the next time you’re struggling with aggressive puppy biting and mouthing. Why not also check out our article on when your puppy will lose their teeth, or try reading tips for new puppy owners.