How to Stop a Puppy From Biting


Puppy Biting


  • Why does my puppy bite?
  • How to stop a puppy from biting
  • Teaching your puppy the basics
Puppies are a handful, make no mistake about it. Nobody ever said it was going to be easy raising a baby animal into a well socialised and well behaved adult. Furthermore, you have a limited range of communication options and can’t just explain to them why a behaviour is inappropriate to be doing. It’s like living with a toddler, except they never stop being a toddler and you always have to find a different way to communicate.
Luckily, that’s not something you have to worry about. Years of research have gone into working out why our canine companions do what they do and how we can get them to behave in the way we want. An unwanted behaviour is only unwanted because we decide it’s undesirable. Your puppy has no idea of the difference between right and wrong so part of their basic training is teaching them the appropriate ways to behave.

Why does my puppy bite?

As you may have noticed, your puppy doesn’t have hands. When we interact with something new we are far more likely to pick it in our hands to see how it feels. Puppies essentially do the same thing but their main means of investigating is with their mouth instead. They quite literally don’t have any other option so when you first bring your puppy home, you’ll probably find your fingers in their mouth at some point.
puppy biting cushion
Puppy biting is a learned behaviour, we will often inadvertently teach them that biting is something that works. A cute little puppy biting your fingers with hardly any force at all might be something to coo over or encourage even because it’s sweet but as they get bigger, you might start to rethink this. By the time they’re big enough to start applying more pressure, they’ve already learned that biting gets a positive reaction from you. Most of the time, it doesn’t even matter if you give a positive or negative reaction, any reaction is good. If a puppy wants attention and bites you, no matter what your response to that is, it often works so they continue repeating the behaviour.
Puppies are also teething as they grow which means it feels good to chew and bite on things. If they’re uncomfortable because of teething, they’re far more likely to want to bite.

How to stop a puppy from biting

Stopping your puppy from biting isn’t going to happen in one night. Learned behaviours are repeated because they have worked so many times so you have to change that perception. It’s not about just picking one method and hoping it works. It’s often suggested to yelp like they’ve hurt you which might work the first couple of times but often quickly becomes a fun game to make you make silly noises for them. Puppies are clever and changing behaviour takes some management and training together.


Management when it comes to unwanted behaviours in puppies means putting in place preventatives to stop the behaviour from recurring. If you’re trying to stop your pup from stealing food from the counter, it means not leaving food out so they don’t build the habit. It’s a little trickier when it comes to biting behaviours, you can’t always keep your limbs out of reach so they have nothing to bite.
What you can do to reduce the behaviour is consider when your puppy is most likely to bite and stop encouraging it. That means not putting fingers in their mouth, you may even have to put a pause on rough playing until they learn more appropriate behaviour. Puppies love tactile play where they play with your hands but when wound up, they are far more likely to bite. Providing plenty of toys to play with and encouraging them to bite those will help to start the process of teaching them what is and isn’t appropriate. Puppies need something to bite, so outlets like toys and chews are a good place to start.

Ignore unwanted behaviour

Dogs are always learning, from young puppies right into old age so when they try something new and it works, they learn to keep doing it for the same result. If your puppy bites your finger or nibbles your toes and they get a fun reaction from you, it’s going to quickly turn into a game they repeat every time they want attention. Certain behaviours can be easy to ignore but, understandably, teeth hurt and sometimes you can’t stop yourself from reacting.

Ignoring your puppy when they bite doesn’t mean sitting still and letting them bite until they get bored. Granted, it would probably work but being able to sit and take a torrent of biting isn’t ideal. You can ignore biting behaviour by disengaging with your puppy whenever they do it. If they’re playing with a toy and start biting your hands instead, you can get up and leave the game. They will start to learn that when they bite, the fun thing stops.

If they’re biting for attention, leaving the room will demonstrate that it gets them the exact opposite result they want. For this to work, everyone in the room has to get up and leave, otherwise they will just try the behaviour with the next person. Your puppy will learn quite quickly that biting means all their friends get up and leave so it’s not a rewarding behaviour to practice.

Reward desired behaviour

If you’re ignoring undesirable behaviour to reduce it, rewarding good behaviour is also important so make sure it occurs more. If your puppy is playing with a toy, instead of trying to make the most out of the quiet and steal some time to yourself, play with them! If picking up a toy and throwing it around means that sometimes their favourite person will come and play, they’re more likely to do this behaviour when they want attention from you. If you train your puppy a basic sit early on and heavily reward the behaviour then this will gradually become a default behaviour.
puppy biting toy
A default behaviour is something that your dog can do that you like when they want something. It means that in a situation when your puppy wants your attention but doesn’t know what to do, they can try a behaviour that has worked well in the past like a polite sit. When you try to change an unwanted behaviour, you need to give your puppy the tools to give you something more productive. Instead of just teaching them what you don’t want, they need to be able to try other things. A puppy that wants your attention is going to try and get it either way so they need the tools to do it in a way you would prefer.
Armed with plenty of treats, you can have your puppy giving you preferred behaviours in no time when they want your attention.

Teaching your puppy the basics

While we can’t communicate with our fur babies directly, training them is a great way to strengthen your bond. It gives your beloved pooch ways to ask for what they need while you don’t have to endure behaviour you would rather not. Communication is important to develop early on. There are a number of skills you can teach your puppy to help you live in harmony with them. Take a look at some of our other puppy guides today: