Why Do Puppies Bite?
Puppies are adorable! Puppies have that intoxicating “puppy breath.” Puppies are fun and exciting! Puppies also bite! Why do puppies bite? Are they being mean? Do they have aggression issues? Probably not.
Just as toddlers put everything they find into their mouths, so too do puppies. Dogs and puppies explore the world around them by scent and by taste. It may seem “cute” when your puppy is wrestling with you and nips your hand or tries to chew on your hand when you’re petting him, but it can lead to bad “mouthy” habits as your puppy grows into a dog.
Why Do Puppies Bite?
- Puppies bite because that’s the way they “taste” and “test” the world. It may be tempting to wrestle around with your puppy or give him a vigorous belly rub, but if you do that and if he bites your hands and fingers, he will learn that’s the way to interact. Instead, offer him a toy to chew rather than your fingers.
- Stop playing. As soon as your puppy bites your hands, stop the game you were playing with him. Give him a few moments to calm down, then play again. If you stop playing you’re showing him that you don’t accept the biting and when you begin playing again he is getting positive reinforcement that he can play … until he bites again.
- If your puppy tries to “herd” you or nips at your toes while you’re walking you want to distract her with a toy. Show her that the toy is an appropriate item to chew on, while your toes are not.
- A dog who is instinctively a herding breed will nip at your heels when you move. To train him out of that behavior, stop moving as soon as you feel his teeth on your foot or pants. As soon as he takes his mouth off you, start moving again. He will learn, through positive reinforcement, that if his mouth isn’t on your flesh, you will walk.
- Don’t make a noise. Some trainers, in the past, have advocated that a pet parent “scream” or “yip” when their puppy bites them as a way to teach them not to bite. In fact, prey makes noise when it is being attacked and your puppy biting “prey” is instinctual behavior. If you’re quiet and remove yourself from the puppy’s mouthy grip, you’re teaching him the behavior isn’t acceptable.
- You’re not a littermate. Puppies interact with their siblings by wrestling and running and biting one another. If you’re emulating puppy behavior by wrestling with your puppy you’re acting as a littermate and might get bitten. Don’t wrestle or encourage that behavior.
- Distract your puppy. Every time your puppy starts to bite, give him a toy or some other appropriate item upon which to chew. Keep toys nearby and when your puppy bites, remove his mouth from you and offer the toy. He will learn that chewing you is not acceptable but chewing his toy is.
Puppies rarely bite because they’re being mean or aggressive. Puppies bite because they’re, well, puppies and that’s what they do. It is up to a responsible pet parent to assure the puppy doesn’t bite and that he won’t grow into an adult dog who may bite other humans. Positive reinforcement training starts early. Teaching your puppy that biting is unacceptable is a lesson that will carry through your dog’s life and may prevent dog bites when he is older.
About FIDO ~ There are many reasons a dog may bite, and it’s not always 100% preventable. In addition to financially protecting dog owners from dog bite claims, our Canine Liability Policy also covers other injuries to people, including scratches and fall injuries caused by dogs and injuries to other animals. Please contact us today for more information at (407) 865-7477, ext. 101.