A new puppy is a joy to have in the home. But not if the puppy keeps biting you or your family. While playful biting might not be much of a concern, there’s the fear that it could turn into more aggressive behavior later on. So, what should you do if your puppy is behaving this way?
It’s normal for puppies to bite and nip, especially during the teething phase. But owners should correct this behavior immediately, as it could lead to serious problems later on if left unaddressed. After your vet rules out any health issues, focus on redirecting your puppy to chew toys and providing socialization training.
Let’s explore the reasons why your puppy bites you, whether this is normal behavior, and how you can put a stop to it for good.
Why Do Puppies Nip and Bite?
Biting and nipping might be something your puppy will grow out of. However, it’s perfectly normal for you to feel concerned about your puppy’s biting tendencies, as this could be a warning sign of aggressive behavior.
Therefore, it’s crucial to understand the root cause of the problem. There are a number of potential reasons why your puppy nips and bites you, such as:
Puppy Fear Could Be the Issue
Puppies go through fear phases as a normal part of their development. The first phase occurs approximately between 8 and 11 weeks. It’s very typical for puppies to nip and bite more during this phase.
Puppies can continue to bite out of fear throughout puppyhood. Puppy fear can turn into puppy aggression. To prevent fear aggression from manifesting in your puppy, it is essential to teach them social skills.
To do this, use positive reinforcement and obedience training that doesn’t entail punishment. This will help build a well-behaved, mild-mannered dog by alleviating their fears.
Also, encourage supervised play with other puppies so your dog can learn proper social skills. Puppies can learn an enormous amount from each other during play, including bite inhibition.
Your Puppy Could be Teething
During teething, puppy teeth hurt a lot. Thus, most puppies will try to bite and chew to ease the discomfort. If your pup is teething, offer him chew toys to distract them from the pain.
Also, when your puppy attempts to bite you, let them know that their behavior is inappropriate by walking away or yelping in a loud voice. This will help your pup to understand that they should not bite you.
It Could Be Normal Puppy Nipping
You could also be dealing with normal puppy nipping (also called mouthing). If this is the case, try to restrain your puppy from playing rough. Playful nipping that doesn’t break your skin is alright, but from 15 weeks onwards, don’t allow your puppy’s teeth near your skin.
Puppies will also sometimes flea bite you, a sort of soft nibble that dogs do to themselves when they are irritated by flea bites. This is not dangerous and is more annoying than anything else.
It can be tempting to allow a young puppy to chew and tug on your hands and arms in a playful fashion, but this only teaches them that it is okay even after they are no longer puppies. It’s best to set the rule early of no teeth on human skin and stick to it.
If the nipping and biting continue after this age, you may need to enroll your puppy in socialization classes or professional training to put an end to it. Remember, you should never hit a biting puppy (or any dog at any time, for that matter). Instead, halt playtime, ignore your pup or walk away. Your puppy will soon learn that misbehaving will cost him his playtime.
Signs of Aggressive Behavior in Puppies
Puppy nipping could easily progress into hand biting. You need to take action if your puppy exhibits high energy levels or aggressive tendencies.
Your pup might sometimes over-react to being corrected or sudden movements. They might run away from you when you try to touch them. It’s crucial to train your puppy without fearing that they will turn aggressive and bite you.
In general, it’s important to look out for any signs that might indicate your puppy has the potential to turn aggressive. It’s also crucial to seek veterinary guidance to confirm whether the puppy’s behavior is merely puppy play or a more serious health problem.
Common indicators for aggressive behavior include:
- Lip curling
- A challenging stance
- A dead-eye stare
- Ears pinned back
- Aggressive barking
If you recognize that your puppy exhibits a number of these signs, you may want to seek help in quelling your dog’s naturally aggressive behaviors. Fortunately, there are quite a few ways to put an end to your pup’s biting and nipping.
How To Put an End to Your Puppy’s Aggressive Behavior
The sooner you act on your puppy’s biting, the better chance you have at resolving this negative habit. Besides, unless your puppy suffers from a severe form of genetic or neurological disorder, it’s best—and much easier—to tackle their inappropriate conduct while they are still young.
But what is the appropriate action to take? Generally, consulting a veterinarian should be your first step. After that, at-home and professional training is crucial.
Consult Your Veterinarian
The first thing you need to do is pay a visit to your veterinarian so that they can examine your puppy. If your puppy just can’t seem to stop biting and nipping, they could have genetic or medical issues requiring immediate attention.
Teach Your Puppy Gentleness
Bite inhibition training will help your puppy control the force of his nipping. Without this knowledge, a puppy tends to bite quite hard while playing with people.
Some trainers believe when a puppy learns to use a gentle bite during play, they’ll be unlikely to bite hard or even break the skin. Puppies typically learn bite inhibition while playing with fellow puppies or from their parents.
As they chase, wrestle and pounce on each other, they will also bite. But if one puppy bites the other hard enough to elicit a yelp, the biting puppy will be shaken by the reaction, and both will stop playing for a while.
Through such an incident, a puppy learns to control their bite so as not to hurt his playmate. Therefore, you can also teach your puppy how to be gentle when interacting with people. Besides, socializing your pup from an early age is a smart way to help lessen its defensive and aggressive instincts.
Consult a Competent Dog Trainer
In most cases, obedience training can help change your puppy’s behavior for the better. Reach out to a professional dog trainer whose training tactics rely heavily on punishment-free positive reinforcement. Additionally, they should have previous experience dealing with aggressive dogs.
You might also want to take your pup to a dog behaviorist for a temperament test. The test can help determine whether there is a serious problem. Some puppy aggression can resemble canine autism or ADHD symptoms.
In addition to the above, you can also stop your puppy from biting, nipping, and mouthing by :
- Giving your pup time-out whenever he nips, mouths, or bites you.
- Provide your puppy with a toy to chew on if they are trying to gnaw on your hands or feet.
- Teach your pup to be comfortable when they are pet, stroked, or touched by using the other hand to distract him with treats.
- Allow your puppy plenty of opportunities to play with other pups to help them dispense with extra energy.
- Consider having your pup receive supervised playtime by enrolling them in a puppy class where they can also learn new skills.
It’s important to point out that if your young dog fails to receive appropriate training against biting from an early age, you could find yourself in trouble.
The reason? A dog owner is generally liable if a dog bites someone — especially a child. Not only could you be on the hook for medical payments, but you may have to euthanize your pup if it causes serious harm to someone.
A nipping and biting puppy is not something you want to excuse or ignore. Still, you may want to exercise a little patience and not be too hard on your puppy since playful mouthing is not unusual behavior for a puppy.
To put an end to your puppy’s biting and nipping, you’ll want to contact a veterinarian and confirm that the problem isn’t a medical one. After that, you can seek socialization training and professional obedience training courses. By taking these steps, you can enjoy a well-behaved, non-aggressive dog.