So it seems like you weren’t told that your new, most cherished puppy would go from cute and cuddly, to bitey piranha in a flash.
You’re not the only one going through this – snappy puppies are something that almost every puppy owner goes through. But before you have no shoes left, we’ve written this handy article that will help you reduce that biting in as little as five days.
Let us be frank though – teaching your puppy not to bite is not the most fun. It can be painful (never underestimate those sharp, tiny teeth) and frustrating at times. But for this one you’ll just have to bite the bullet (ironic) and stay consistent and patient like you’ve done so far. The nipping and biting will stop one day, we promise!
PRO TIP: Teaching your puppy not to bite you should be one of the first things you teach them – especially if you have children!
Wouldn’t want your children to pick up on your puppy’s habits and start biting you too. Just joking, but it will be important for their safety.
Why is my puppy biting me?
Your puppy is biting you because it is indeed, quite normal for them to do so. When they were around their littermates, being mouthy and nippy was simply the way they interacted with each other – so being moved from there into your home, they now have to learn the new rule of ‘no biting humans’.
Also, puppies don’t have hands like us (newsflash) – so they use their mouths and sharp teeth to explore everything. Baby Shark springs to mind…
When do puppies teeth – and does it affect how much they bite?
Below, you’ll find a timeline for puppy teething. We’ve included the stages your puppy’s teeth will go through to help you understand why they may be biting or chewing more at a certain age.
|Puppy’s age||What’s going on & how much are they biting||What should I do?|
|0-2 weeks||No teeth – your puppy is born blind and relies on his sense of smell to investigate things. Their teeth are just gummy slugs at this age – no real biting! Just sleepy suckling from the mother’s milk bar. True bliss.||Nothing – just coo at the photos your breeder sends you.|
|2- 4 weeks||Your puppy will start growing teeth – they will be playing with their littermates, and testing out biting on them, as well as learning to constrain it.||Nothing! They’re at the breeders – but might be a good idea to start researching what to do when you bring them home though.|
|5-8 weeks||Your puppy will have all of their razor sharp teeth and will be starting to wean onto soft puppy food.||Not your problem yet! They’re still at the breeders – their poor mum and littermates will be getting the brunt of the mouthing!|
|12 weeks||Finally, your puppy will be teething – their adult teeth are pushing through and their baby ones will be falling out.You will see an increase in biting and mouthing at this age||Ah, now you’ll start seeing your puppy’s piranha side. Lots of chew toys and lots of sleep will be needed. Also, plenty of handling training to teach them not to use their teeth defensively.|
|5-6 months||Your puppy will have all of their adult teeth. Now is the time they’ll have an increased need to chew as they will be strengthening their jaw – it’s normal, all part of a dog’s survival.They will likely be chewing chair legs, and furniture at this age…check before you sit on anything so you don’t end up on your bum.||Lots and lots of chew toys will help you through this phase.|
How to stop your puppy biting you in 2 easy parts
Part 1 – Reduce puppy biting by checking your puppy’s lifestyle.
To stop puppy biting, we first need to make sure all of your puppy’s basic needs are met. Here’s a checklist of things you (and they) will need to help you give your puppy the perfect anti bite lifestyle.
Sleep: Puppies should sleep between 18-20 hours of the day! I know it sounds a lot, but they have to recharge those batteries.
Hunger – As your puppy grows, they’ll need to eat more. They don’t always tell you that in the books, so it’s a good idea to check how much you’re feeding them.
PRO TIP: If their teeth are sore, they also might not want to eat much. Moisten the food with a bit of water so it’s gentle for them to eat instead. You can also spread it on a Lickimat if eating the food wet is more their thing too.
Not sure if you’re feeding the right amount? Check out our article on how much to feed your puppy – everything you need to know is there.
Having a routine: When it comes to puppies, routines are key. They help puppies learn that the world is reliable and make it easy for them to know what’s coming next – helping them to feel more secure and less stressed about living in it.
We’re also here to help you figure out your puppy’s daily routine – our article here will be a good read.
Satisfying a need to chew: You know how good it is to scratch an itch. Puppies have the same with biting, especially at 12 weeks. You’ll tell by how much more agitated or irritable they become for wanting to bite everything in their way. They’ve got good reasons for it – their teeth and gums are hurting, and they just don’t know what to do with themselves! To help them out, give them fillable chew toys such as West Paw Toppl or Squirrel Dudes, and pop some treats in to make them even more toothsome. Pun intended.
Physical Exercise: Adrenaline can be quite the thing that makes your puppy’s jaws go like a woodchipper. Complement high arousal activities such as playing fetch, chasing toys, running in the garden as well as low arousal exercise such as sniffing, swimming and gentle enriching walks to make sure your puppy is not constantly ‘high’ on adrenaline and wanting to shred everything to pieces.
Mental Exercise: Enrichment makes up for what your puppy would do in the wild, by tapping in to their breed specific behaviours. It helps puppies to feel mentally fulfilled, essentially. Think about challenging their brains with sniffing, digging, shredding and chewing.
Get Training: Training is a basic requirement for your puppy to know how to move around in the world, as well as making your life easier. There aren’t many people who are fans of jumpy dogs, unfortunately. Our guide here has a wide range of professional and certified trainers you can pick from!
Positive Handling: Puppies can learn to bite defensively when they don’t want us to do something like putting on harnesses, collars, coats or picking them up. Handling, of course, will be a huge part of their lives, so practice lots with many food treats so that they enjoy as much of it as they can.
Part 2 – How do I actually stop the puppy biting?
After seeing your dressing gown cords, swishy skirts and dresses, flappy trouser legs ripped to shreds, we fully understand you asking this question.
Here’s your solution: When you’re in the moment, with what feels like an alligator on your arm, the best method to get you out of a jam is to redirect your puppy onto a toy – simple as that.
What we want to accomplish, is to teach our puppy to ‘bite this’ (a toy), and not ‘not this’ (hands, toes, or clothes).
Here’s how to stop the puppy biting:
Step 1: Before you walk in to see your bitey bundle of joy – sneak that nice tug toy into the back pocket of your jeans.
Step 2: Before your puppy gets to you, pull the toy out so that they have an appropriate object to have in their mouths – not your hands or other body parts!
Step 3: Stay calm – no need to wind them up and encourage biting, just keep it gentle and low key. You can drag the toy along the floor calmly to lure them in a little more. This will help your puppy want to stay on the ground, and be less encouraged to jump up.
Step 4: If it didn’t go quite right, and your puppy is already biting you again, here’s what you can do:
- Make the toy come to life: Puppies like things that move away from them, make weird noises or that spring in surprising ways. Drag it on the floor and make your best impression of peacock noises to get your puppy interested. Be persistent!
PRO TIP: Puppies aren’t really into having toys shoved in their face, so let’s not do that.
Step 5: Give your puppy lots of gentle praise when they choose to bite the toy – job well done.
Step 6: If they carry on biting, stand very still so that you’re no longer a moving target – we’re sorry but this may hurt. But it WILL get better with practice!
Pro Tip: If you’ve got a bit of an ankle biter, we recommend wearing Wellies or boots inside to protect yourself. It can actually be quite hard to shake them off (as you would expect from a baby crocodile) – as they’ll think you’re playing a game, and shaking off can make the biting worse.
What else can I do to help reduce puppy biting?
Need more advice? Good, we have plenty more.
Don’t tell them off: We know puppy biting can be really hard and hurt a lot. But getting cross will make your puppy more frustrated, and won’t be so effective at making them learn what we want them to do.
No biting? Reward: In case of any positive interactions that happen where biting isn’t involved – focus on giving them lots of positive feedback and giving them treats.
PRO TIP: Rewards are also for when your puppy licks your hands instead of biting them. Sloppy puppy kisses for the win.
No rough playing or wrestling: We know there is little that is more fun than playing rough with dogs. But for now, wrestling will definitely increase puppy biting – we couldn’t guarantee it more. Save it for when they’re older!
Keep temptations away: Tie your hair up, and avoid wearing appealing clothes that may encourage your puppy into biting such as long skirts or swishy trousers. You’ll be able to pick up your fashion sense in no time, don’t worry.
Training: Teach them all the good stuff about hand touches, and how to take treats nicely (unlike a hungry piranha). For more information on training, make sure to go on the Zigzag app – all of the best bits are there in one place
Teething Gel: Teething Gel is magical in helping to soothe your puppy’s sore gums.
Controlled play sessions: A calm adult dog can teach your puppy all about bite inhibition in a language that they can actually understand. If they bite another dog too hard, play will quickly stop, and no more fun will mean a lesson learned. Puppy classes can be great for providing a safe space to do this – click here to know how to choose a puppy class.
What toys should I use to stop puppy biting?
Long soft tug toys are great. They give us distance between those needle teeth and our hands, whilst being gentle on our puppy’s sore gums.
PRO TIP: Puppies are generally keen on toys that simulate hunting, pouncing and chasing that are also soft on their mouths. This is also why chasing dressing gown cords or nibbling cushions is considered a delicacy in their eyes. Just keep that in mind when they’re hanging off you first thing – they’re just practicing natural behaviours!
I like to make my own tug toys (it’s far cheaper) and have lots dotted around the house so that they’re readily available before and when there’s a biting attack! In the Zigzag app, we show you how to make your own plaited fleece tug toys…then we can match and be friends.
My puppy is biting me hard! What should I do?
Hard puppy biting is often linked to frustration and over-arousal (not the kind of naughty arousal – I just mean hyped up). If this happens, go back to the checklist at the beginning and see what can be improved to help your puppy, maybe they need more:
- Sleep: This is a big one. You may need to really enforce nap times and try to get them into a routine – using a crate or playpen is great for this.
- Mental Stimulation: Depending on their breed, they might need to be stimulated differently. Does your terrier need to dig or chase? Maybe your spaniel needs more sniffy games?
- Physical Exercise: Low arousal activities that still tire them out are better than high arousal ones which will increase adrenaline – your puppy is way too young to become an adrenaline junkie.
- Chew toys: Frozen chew toys (especially with treats inside) are great to give them something crunchy to chew on and soothe those gums.
- Training: You might need to go back to the drawing board. Work out what you want your puppy to do instead of biting you (like biting another toy), and train them to do that instead.
My puppy bites me when they get the zoomies – what do I do?
Ah, the legendary zoomies. Try to predict the times your puppy is going to have one of their Jekyll and Hyde moments, and give them a stuffed chew toy in their crate or pen. Prevention is always a way better option than having to find a way to stop them in the middle of these frenzied attacks.
In case they are in the middle of a zoomie, you’ll need to try and redirect them onto a toy or get them to do a low arousal activity like scatter some treats or kibble on the floor to break the zoomie cycle.
Don’t worry we’re not rewarding them for the zoomies – we’re barely even training, we’re just making a situation safe by using food. Food really does fix anything.
What are Zoomies anyway?
Zoomies are when dogs experience a build-up of excess energy (or stress) which then explodes. Boom.
The proper name for them are Frenetic Random Activity Periods (or FRAPs for short) and – here is the good news – they are a completely natural and normal behaviour for a dog. Personally, I find them hilarious when my adult dog randomly does them after a bath or when she goes for a walk in the snow. But it’s true that they’re more common in puppies.
You’ll probably start to see a pattern of when your puppy is likely to have them. They typically happen first thing in the morning, when you come back from work, or when the house becomes very busy. When exciting things happen, really.
We don’t blame you – zoomies can look quite frightening for owners. Seeing your puppy start racing around the house, doing wall of death on your furniture or spinning round in circles is not what you may think of as usual. You might look out for puppies feeling extra bitey during zoomies! Watch your ankles.
– Nylabone Teething Keys: A firm fave at the ZigZag HQ. They look like actual baby teethers…if having a fur baby is your thing.
– Buffalo Horn: These are made from keratin, so they’re gentler on teeth than bone or antler. But they also last a long time, and you can also stuff the hollow ones with food.
– Yak Chews: Made from Himalayan Yak Milk, these are a hit for most puppies.
– Ice Bone: These are great for sticking into the freezer for glorious days of soothing sore gums.
Meh, we used to do that in the old days. The logic was that if we squealed (pretending like we got hurt), puppies would inhibit their bite, and learn to mouth gently.
But today, we see a couple of problems with this:
– We’re not dogs, we’re humans: Thank you Captain Obvious. That being said, are we really teaching them not to bite hard by them practicing on our hands?
– Can be thought of as a good game: For a lot of puppies, something that squeaks as they give a bite can make them go even more bonkers.
So after putting in some thought and testing, we found that teaching through redirection and making sure our puppy’s needs are met first is much, much faster and efficient.
However, for some puppies an ‘ow’ and then removing your attention can be a good trick, so take it on a case by case basis and do what’s right for your puppy. They’re all different!
Bite inhibition is where a dog learns to bite to a certain pressure without damaging or breaking the skin.
Puppies learn this from their mother usually – if they bite too hard when feeding, she’ll get up and walk off. Their littermates can teach them too, by squealing and ending the game.
Nope, not at all. Biting is just a regular part of your puppy growing up and learning about the world. Don’t panic – no need to start thinking about sending them to army school.
Some breeds such as Labradors are more grabby and mouthy because they simply like to hold things in their mouths.
Others such as Border Collies are bred to nip at sheep to get them to move, so it’s no surprise they can be more ankle bitey.
Terriers like to rag and hang off things – sorry bingo wings, it’ll all be over soon.
If you’re consistent and patient, you will notice a huge difference in puppy biting in as little as 5 days.
Giving your puppy the right lifestyle, identifying when the zoomies are coming, pre-empting those biting sessions, and always being proactive about giving them a toy to bite on will work wonders.
Just try it and see.
If you’d like more information on biting or guidance, our experts on the Zigzag app will always be happy to have a chat.