Bringing a new puppy home is always incredibly exciting. You may find yourself daydreaming about the adventures you’ll have together or the time you will spend lazing on the couch watching movies. Before long, however, you may find that the adorable furball you took in is really a pincushion in disguise. Puppy biting can be painful and concerning for new owners. It intensifies as your puppy grows, and the little thing can’t seem to stop chewing on anything they can get their mouth on, including you!
As adorable as they are, puppies can turn into vicious balls of fur if biting persists for too long or intensifies uncontrollably. Just as normal as it is for a puppy to use biting to experience the world, there must be a distinction between actual aggression and play biting. Owners also need a way to communicate to their puppy when it is time to stop biting.
Your puppy chewing on things is normal, but sometimes it can be nearly impossible to go near them if it goes unchecked. There are many reasons why a puppy bites, and not all are innocent. In this article, we will break down everything about puppy biting, covering why they do it, and tips on managing this often painful and destructive behavior.
Why is my puppy biting?
Puppies begin growing their adult teeth at 12 to 16 weeks of age. Around this time, you may notice a sharp increase in biting. This is often a phase that puppies eventually outgrow. You can expect this to happen until they reach four to five months of age.
The increase in biting happens because, like all other living creatures, puppies explore the world through their senses. Everything around the puppy is new, and their paws aren’t as useful as our hands to inspect new objects, so they bite.
While you may not like that your puppy bites, it is a form of social learning for them. Puppies actively pick up things with their mouth and bite to understand what things are, and why they are there. Think of puppy biting as the initial phase of kindergarten for dogs.
Is puppy biting normal?
Expecting a puppy not to bite is like expecting a bird never to chirp. They are puppies, and puppies bite! You should always anticipate that your puppy will engage in this behavior in one way or another. Biting isn’t a sign of something bad going on with your pup. It is how they explore the world and socialize. It is unrealistic to expect a biting or teething puppy to simply stop biting things. This being said, you don’t need to let your puppy use your arm as a piece of chewing gum.
Although puppy biting can be a major concern for new owners, try to remember that biting is completely normal for puppies. They sometimes even do it to relieve pain like a human baby would when teething.
You should let your puppy bite, but as mentioned at the beginning, they must exercise their desire to explore things with their mouth in a controlled manner. If biting is left unchecked, this behavior can quickly become destructive. This goes not only for the objects your puppy picks up from the floor, but you, other members of the family, and your furniture.
Here are some insightful tips to help you manage puppy biting.
Tips to manage puppy biting
- Don’t physically punish your puppy: Never, ever physically punish your puppy for any unwanted behavior. It can severely damage your bond, and often the puppy won’t understand why you are hitting them. This can easily lead to more behavioral issues down the line and cause more trouble.
- Give them an outlet: Your puppy is full of energy and aspiration to explore new things. Providing an acceptable outlet for biting, such as a chew toy, can help minimize their desire to chew on you. A toy your pup enjoys chewing or biting will substitute your fingers and any other item in the house. The trick is finding a high value toy for the puppy! This will also teach them that biting in itself is not a problem, but that certain things are theirs to bite and other items are off-limits.
- Understand why: There are other reasons for puppy biting other than exploring and teething. Puppies bite when they are overtired, hungry, or frustrated. While you think the pup bites because they are getting aggressive, they simply might want some food. Examine if there is something else behind the biting other than excitement or aggression.
- Ignore your puppy: When biting occurs at the wrong time or place, ignore your puppy or ask them for an alternative behavior. Do not retract your hand or make high pitched “ouch” sounds, because this can turn biting into a game. Prey will often make sounds and engage the dog’s natural instincts to bite again. Ignoring the behavior will teach them that biting equals a big nothing from you. Once your dog understands biting will get them nothing, they will eventually do it less and less.
- Stay consistent: Be consistent in teaching your puppy when and what they can bite, as well as when not to and what not to bite. Creating a routine during playtime, just as daily walks for pottying, is the perfect practice for managing puppy biting. Consistency will also help your puppy make a clear distinction between good and bad behavior.
- Introduce time-outs: If these somehow don’t work with your dog, consider putting your puppy in a time-out. When biting happens, gently bring your puppy into the crate and don’t let them out until they calm down. Once they are calm, take them out of the crate. It is critical that you don’t do this every time or let the puppy stay locked in the crate for too long. Otherwise, the puppy may associate the crate with punishment instead of seeing it as their safe space.
Puppy biting is completely normal and should be expected. Just like human babies bring things into their mouths, puppies bite to explore the wonders of the world. Expect your puppy to engage in some biting as they explore their surroundings. Your puppy should outgrow this phase by the time they are five months old, though it can take a bit longer for some puppies.
If biting turns into destructive behavior you can’t fix, you might need the help of an expert. Getting assistance from a professional dog trainer to fix unwanted behaviors while your dog is still young can save you a lot of trouble in the long run. If you’re near Columbus, check our puppy training program or private lessons to help your pup learn their obedience commands, establish impulse control and ultimately calm down. Starting training with your puppy early can help you turn your new mouthy menace into the well-mannered dog you ultimately want.