How to Stop a Puppy from Biting: Effective Strategies to Reduce Aggressive Biting in Puppies

Behavior & training
Puppy Biting Pant Legs

Ever wonder why your adorable, cuddly puppy turns into a tiny piranha with needle teeth the moment playtime starts? Puppy biting is a common frustration for new pet parents, but it doesn't have to be a permanent fixture in your life. It’s completely normal behavior for puppies to explore the world with their mouth by chewing and biting on things, but it can be painful when they bite at your hands and feet with their sharp puppy teeth. When you bring home a new puppy, it’s important to learn how to train a puppy not to bite as soon as possible to lay a good foundation of knowledge as your puppy grows.  

Reasons for Puppy Biting  

Puppies are naturally curious and explore their world through their mouths. This means biting, licking, and chewing are all part of their normal development. Let’s dive deeper into some of the reasons that puppies bite in the first place so you can learn how to stop puppy biting.  

Reason 1: They’re a Playful Puppy  

Puppies are bursting with playful energy, and unlike human babies who can use their hands to explore, puppies don't have the benefit of opposable thumbs. Because of this, their mouths become their primary tools for interaction and discovery during playtime. They use mouthing, biting, licking, wrestling, and chewing to experience the world around them. While playtime is necessary for a puppy, it’s important for puppies to learn from an early age that they can’t bite your hands or feet when playing. Providing your puppy with safe chew toys gives your puppy an opportunity to fulfill his need to play and chew while keeping your hands safe.  

Reason 2: They’re Teething 

Did you know that puppies are in a teething phase for almost half of their first year of life? Puppy teeth begin erupting around six weeks of age, and they begin to fall out around twelve weeks old. At twelve weeks old, the permanent teeth begin to erupt, and by about six months of age, all the permanent teeth should have erupted. Teething is painful for a puppy, so puppies may chew more and seem more “mouthy” than usual to alleviate the discomfort.  

Reason 3: They’re Tired 

Have you ever been around a tired toddler who won’t take a nap? Puppies are similar! When puppies get overly tired, they become bitey, nippy, and seem to throw tantrums by getting into things they usually don’t. If you’ve ever had a puppy, you know that they particularly tend to get into this wild mood around 7pm. Many trainers lovingly refer to this as the “puppy witching hour.” Puppies often become restless around this time and may even run around with the zoomies!  

Reason 4: Genetics 

While all puppies bite as they grow and develop, some breeds of puppies will bite more than others since it is genetically hardwired into their DNA. Herding breeds like Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and German Shepherds are predisposed to having more serious puppy-biting issues because they’ve specifically been bred to herd livestock.  

Reason 5: Aggression 

If you’re new to owning a puppy or just don’t understand how much biting they do, dealing with puppy biting can be overwhelming at first and may even make you question if your dog is aggressive. The good news is that most puppy biting is completely normal, and with time and training, your puppy will grow out of it. While true aggression in puppies is very rare, it is possible. If you notice your puppy biting out of fear or frustration, or if the biting is coupled with other aggressive body language like growls and stiff body posture, you should contact a professional dog trainer as soon as possible.  

How To Stop A Puppy From Biting 

Avoid punishment-based corrections in training. When training a puppy, it’s important to work on understanding why your dog is doing something and then using positive-reinforcement methods to reward good behaviors. If your puppy is biting at your hands, stay calm and put your hands at your side or out of your puppy’s reach. Reward your puppy with a high value treat when they calm down and stop trying to nip. In my experience, most puppies love cheese and hotdogs and learn quickly with those treats when they are rewarded for good behavior.  

Encourage gentle play and interaction. Many people play with their puppies by getting them really worked up. This level of energy can make your puppy a bit frantic and more likely to bite. Instead, work on playing with your puppy in a calmer, quieter manner. Alternatively, you can also work on playing with your puppy in a high energy way but then immediately stop the play and reward your puppy once they calm down. 

Redirect your puppy’s attention onto an appropriate toy. When you bring home a new puppy, you’ll have an important new puppy essentials checklist, and that will involve buying plenty of toys and chews! When your puppy is getting out of control or biting your hands or feet, you can try redirecting their attention by grabbing a toy like a tug toy, waving it to encourage them to bite that instead, and playing with them. You can also redirect your puppy to chew on a safe chew toy.  

Understand your puppy’s needs and triggers. Puppies need to get their energy out, so stick to a schedule that focuses on dedicated playtime, socializing, enrichment, and training. It’s important to meet your puppy’s physical exercise needs as well as their mental needs to make sure they don’t have any pent-up energy.  

Provide a proper environment for rest and relaxation. While a lot of these tips involve making sure your puppy is getting his energy out, it’s important to focus on making sure your puppy can relax too. It might seem counterintuitive, but relaxing can be hard for puppies, so it must be trained, like anything else. Teaching your puppy a “settle” command and rewarding them for laying down calmly at your feet will teach your puppy how to relax.  

Seek professional help if necessary. While most puppies will eventually grow out of their biting phase with these tips, if your puppy is still struggling, you should seek professional help from a positive reinforcement-based dog trainer. Plus, they can help you with other puppy training basics, like the best way to crate train a puppy.  

Puppy Chewing Toy to Help with Biting

Prevention and Management Tips for Puppy Biting 

When you bring home a new puppy, it’s important to consider your game plan for preventing and managing biting. Puppies are quick learners, and just like any behavior, the more they practice biting, the more ingrained it can become. While you’ll still need to work on training techniques, you can minimize the opportunities your pup has to rehearse this unwanted behavior. This not only keeps your hands and feet safe but also lays the groundwork for a smoother, more positive training experience for both of you.  

Meeting your puppy’s needs with a schedule. Puppies thrive on consistency. They need a consistent daily schedule so they know what to expect. Making sure there is adequate playtime, socialization, training, and enrichment throughout their day, along with their meals and naptimes, will ensure that your puppy is fulfilled and happy.  

Redirecting to appropriate toys. At the first sign of your puppy become overly bitey, immediately redirect your puppy’s attention either with a game of tug or onto an appropriate, safe chew toy. From my training experience with puppies, I’ve learned that just standing straight like a tree will make you look less interesting and will encourage your puppy to play with his toys.  

Training alternate behaviors. Teaching your puppy to settle and calm will be a useful skill your puppy will need throughout his entire life, and it could prevent him from getting worked up and attempting to bite. Additionally, you could even play games with your puppy, like fetch, or enrichment games, that will still be a fun, positive bonding time with your puppy but is less likely to cause him to bite. 

Recognizing and avoiding triggers. If your puppy has specific triggers that cause him to become extra frantic and bite more, it’s best to avoid those altogether. For example, if your puppy tends to only bite when you sit on the floor, or if you wave your hands around them in a specific way, then make sure you play with him standing up and not waving your hands in that way.  

Consult a professional for guidance and support. Consider a dog training class for your puppy as well, because a class with a professional will educate you on how to understand your dog while providing a good learning experience for your puppy. If your puppy’s biting doesn’t seem to get better with these tips, it’s even more important to consult with a professional dog trainer to prevent it from getting worse.

Puppy Biting is Just the Beginning 

While you're busy training and showering your new furry friend with love, it's important to consider their long-term health. Unexpected accidents and illnesses can happen, but puppy insurance can offer peace of mind by providing comprehensive coverage for unexpected emergencies or sickness, allowing you to focus on what truly matters - building a strong bond with your pup. 

In addition to pet insurance, consider a wellness plan as an optional add-on. These plans can be a helpful budgeting tool for new pet owners. They go beyond basic accident and illness coverage and can help you spread out the cost of essential preventative care for your pup, such as vaccinations, spaying/neutering, routine checkups, and even training! Training is like puppy boot camp... but way cuter! It'll help your pup graduate from " land-based piranha with needle teeth" to "obedient best friend." 

From Biter to BFF: Mastering Puppy Nips and Building a Furever Friend 

Puppy biting is a normal part of development, and with a little patience and training, you can transform your playful landshark into a cuddly companion. 

Think of those nips as clumsy attempts at communication and play. Training with positive reinforcement can help your pup understand the difference between a chew toy and your precious fingers. Imagine the future – a world filled with playful games of fetch, gentle puppy kisses, and evenings snuggled up on the couch with your best furry friend. 

So, embrace the adorable awkwardness of puppyhood! With the right tools and a whole lot of love, you'll be navigating those biting phases in no time, paving the way for a lifetime of adventures and unconditional love with your furry BFF.