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How to Train a puppy to stop play-biting

Updated on December 13, 2010

Puppies are fun and playful while they are young. They have very sharp teeth that can cause you pain when they playfully bite at your hand or ankles. This is a result of puppies having new jaws and teeth that are still developing. One of the warning new owners are given with a puppy is to never play tug-o-war because it can damage their jaw or teeth.

The reason that Mother Nature has given puppies these little needle point teeth and underdeveloped jaw is so that they can play-bite safely. Even though while young he plays with his other siblings the same way as he does a new owners hand. The difference is that while playing with the other puppies in the litter when the puppy bites to hard the sibling will yell out a high screech yelp which then he will stop and back off immediately. Once a few moments go by he then starts to play again but the biting is a lot softer then before. Same thing happens when the puppy is suckling on his mother for milk. If there is too much pressure from the puppy the mother will yelp a little bit which tells the puppy he is being to hard and they will slow down or soften their suckling.

This is how Mother Nature decided to help inhibit the force of there biting prior to having there jaw muscles start to form properly. Usually the jaw muscles start to fully develop around 4-5 months of age as well as you see his adult teeth start to form more around this time as well.

The learning process that the puppy goes through in these early months is one of natural order. There bite inhibition is a vital and early lesson that they need to develop. This is why they are born with the teeth and jaw muscles of a little piranha. The force of his jaw and bite is one he has to learn to control even when biting humans.

Many owners of new puppies are told to stop all play biting with their puppies. But, this can have additional reaching and rough consequence in the future. If during the first few years of life the puppy is trained not to play bite at all he will never fully develop the control he needs over his jaws. So it is best to teach that play biting is ok but that softer biting is the goal. Once he understands that soft biting is always the way to go and not hard biting then after a few months you can teach him not to bite at all.

How to Properly Train the puppy not to bite so hard

1. The object here is to let the puppy play-bite you by allowing the puppy to softly chew your hand when he continues to bites down more than he normally does, “Yelp” sharply and significantly loud while moving your body away in a form of rejection. Don’t forcefully pull your hand out of the way let the puppy move away from your hand himself. If you pull your hand away sharply or in tune the puppy will continue to think you are still playing and just jump after your hand and will teach him to get it after a yelp. After the puppy backs away turn to look at him again and in a cute puppy sorry face he may come back and gently lick your hand. Then allow the puppy to resume playing like before and this time there should be a softer gentler bite to his demeanor. If he continues then just repeat the same process and rinse and repeat.

Repeat this as often as you need to and you will find that in a few days the biting will turn into what I knowing as mouthing. The puppy ill have learned that exerting too much pressure results in a bad thing and while mouthing will not do any because of your sensitive reaction to his biting. Now you can teach him the off command to stop mouthing or biting altogether.

The "OFF" Command

2. To start training with the “off” command we will start by putting your dog on a 4-5 ft leash. Take a puppy treat or a piece of sausage to use as a reward. Start by getting your puppy into a sitting position and taking the treats over his head kind of teasing him. Hold the treat between your forefingers gently lean in and allow him to take the treat and say god take it. Repeat this a number of times and then offer the treat and don’t say anything. When the dog starts to go after his tasty treat turn your head sharply and bring both hands close to your chest with the treat and gently say off. Using a small bell or toy will sometimes help the dog focus at this part so if you have one hold it in the other hand and it will help him see what you are trying to teach him.

As you continue to perform this exercise the puppy will start to respond to you by using the word good. This indicates to the puppy that his behavior is correct. The take it commands is the permission command, you are in essence saying that this is a treat you and I are going to share but only when I give you permission. The permission is “take it”. You are also in control of the greatest possible resource for your puppy and that is food.

While training you want to keep saying the OFF command until you see the puppy turn and the other way. Watch for it and when he does turn away say good “Take It” in a fun praising tone then give him the treat. Rinse and Repeat until your puppy starts to turn away naturally since you are not offering the treat or giving permission.

3. When you are in the house keep a lead on the dog as long as you are present. When he jumps or tries to bite children you will immediately grab the lead and say OFF for the bit and OFF for the jumping. Allowing the puppy this slight corrective jerk on the lead at the same time will help him understand it is not a desirable behavior. Don’t praise the puppy when he stops because you would be praising the jump or the bite in his mind. Rinse and repeat until he starts to understand and will naturally not jump or bite any more.

If the above exercises do not seem to work for you and your puppy after you have giving it a good effort another option that you may want to consider is using a sprat of bitter apple. It is a biting repellent that is made to help repeal the tactics of biting hands and feet so spray a little on and when the puppy tries to bite he gets the sour taste and will stop biting.


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  • profile image

    CEllis 7 years ago

    Thank you. Just got a new puppy, 9 weeks. I take her out for walk around the property quite frequently. At first she was no problem. In the past couple of days she's gotten really bad with biting and nipping a my legs. It's quite obvious she wants to play, but boy it hurts. :) I've had a number of puppies before and when they've done this a few chastizes and they stop. Never had one like this, normal chastizing and positive reward just makes her go at it worse. She thinks it's just me 'playing' back.

    Anyways I was so frustrated I got on google. Found this and just went out and tried the yelping technique suggested. She immediately stopped, looked surprised and looked up at me. Then she tried again and I yelped yet again. She stopped again. After a few more goes she stopped entirely and left my legs alone.

  • JBeadle profile image

    JBeadle 7 years ago from Midwest

    Good advice. We have a new puppy and have found our older dog did learn off and stopped the play biting but it took a long time. Hopefully, the process will go a bit quicker with this one. We need to work on "come" way more too. They do come great in the yard - not so much if they get out!

  • Kadmiels profile image

    Kadmiels 7 years ago from Florida

    i agree sarah it is important to teach at an early age since we know as adults we are set in our ways lol

  • profile image

    Sarah 7 years ago

    It's important to teach puppies from an early age the correct behavioral patterns. It can be hard to change these patterns when they get 'embedded' so to speak into the dogs mind as being correct and fine if you don't nip it in the bud.

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

    My hands and arms show evidence of the Piranha teeth! Ouch. I usually let out a squeal like a puppy and that deters him for a (short) while. LOL. I'll be revisiting this hub again as my new pup continues to develop.

  • Kadmiels profile image

    Kadmiels 8 years ago from Florida

    but there are things that you can do to reduce the behavior to a more acceptable level

  • profile image

    reeltaulk 8 years ago

    That's like not wanting a baby to crawl before it walks....instinctively puppies behave that way. Something you can't stop or can understand because it is their nature. Their mouth and paws are naturally a way to communicate and bond at that stage