How do I stop my puppy from biting us? Teething tips.

Why do puppies bite?

Puppies bite due to natural instincts, teething, exploration, play, attention-seeking, fear, lack of boundaries, or discomfort. Understanding these reasons helps in managing their biting behaviour and teaching them appropriate alternatives. 

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Reasons why puppies bite

  1. Exploration and teething: Puppies use their mouths to explore their environment, much like human babies do. Biting helps them understand textures, objects, and the world around them. Additionally, puppies bite during teething to alleviate discomfort and facilitate the process of losing their baby teeth.
  2. Play and social interaction: Puppies often engage in biting during playtime as a form of interaction with their littermates or human companions. It's a natural behaviour for them to engage in mock fights, chase games, and tugging, which may involve gentle biting.
  3. Attention-seeking: Puppies may resort to biting as a way to get attention from their owners. They learn that when they bite or nip, they tend to receive a reaction or interaction, even if it's negative.
  4. Lack of bite inhibition: Puppies need to learn bite inhibition, which is the ability to control the force of their bites. When puppies play and interact with their littermates, they learn how hard they can bite before causing pain. If a puppy hasn't had proper socialization or play experiences, they may not have developed appropriate bite inhibition.
  5. Fear or discomfort: Puppies may resort to biting if they feel threatened, scared, or in pain. It's their way of defending themselves or communicating their discomfort.
  6. Overstimulation or tiredness: Puppies, like children, can become overstimulated or overtired, leading to increased nipping or biting behaviour as a way to release their energy or signal their need for rest.
  7. Lack of boundaries and training: If puppies haven't received consistent training and boundaries, they may not understand that biting is undesirable or unacceptable behaviour. Without guidance, they continue to engage in biting as they grow.
  8. Separation anxiety: Puppies experiencing separation anxiety may resort to biting or chewing as a coping mechanism when they feel stressed or anxious due to being separated from their owners or being in unfamiliar environments. 

Is it normal for puppies to bite?

Yes, it is normal for puppies to bite. Biting is a natural behaviour for puppies as they explore their environment, interact with their littermates, and go through the teething process. However, it is important to teach them appropriate bite inhibition and redirect their biting onto acceptable toys or objects to prevent any issues as they grow older.

How can I stop my puppy from biting?

To teach your puppy not to bite too hard (or ideally not bite you at all), you can follow these effective strategies:

  • Provide appropriate chew toys: Offer a variety of chew toys specifically designed for puppies. When your puppy starts biting, redirect their attention to these toys to satisfy their need to chew.
  • Use positive reinforcement: Reward your puppy with treats, praise, or petting when they exhibit gentle play or refrain from biting. Positive reinforcement helps them associate good behaviour with rewards, encouraging them to repeat it.
  • Avoid rough play: Discourage rough play that may escalate into biting. If your puppy gets too excited and starts biting, stop the play session and redirect their attention to a more appropriate activity.
  • Teach bite inhibition: Socialise your puppy with other dogs and provide opportunities for gentle play. This allows them to learn bite inhibition by understanding how hard they can bite without causing harm. If your puppy bites too hard during play, yelp or say "ouch" to mimic how their littermates would react, signalling that the bite was too rough.
  • Time-outs: If your puppy persists in biting, use a time-out approach. Remove yourself or the puppy from the immediate environment for a short period, signalling that biting leads to the end of play or attention.
  • Consistent training: Establish clear boundaries and consistently enforce them. Use commands like "no bite" or "gentle" to communicate with your puppy. Be patient and reinforce the training consistently over time.
  • Avoid physical punishment: Physical punishment can lead to fear, aggression, or other behavioural problems. Focus on positive reinforcement and redirection rather than punitive measures.
  • Proper exercise and mental stimulation: Ensure your puppy gets sufficient physical exercise and mental stimulation to prevent excess energy that can contribute to biting behaviour.

Why do puppies bite during playtime?

Puppies often bite during playtime as it is a natural behaviour rooted in their instincts and socialisation with littermates. Once they have left the litter and are settling into their new home, they will continue to bite during playtime with their new ‘littermates’ (i.e. the humans) until they learn otherwise.  Other reasons for biting during playtime include:

Mouthing and exploration: Puppies use their mouths to explore the world around them. During play, they may mouth or nibble on objects, including hands or clothing, to investigate textures and sensations.

Social interaction: Play is an important part of a puppy's social development. When playing with littermates or other dogs, biting is a means of communication and interaction. It helps them establish boundaries, practice their motor skills, and engage in mock fights.

Reinforcement of natural behaviours: Puppies are born with natural instincts to chase, grab, and bite. During play, these instincts are reinforced as they learn what is acceptable through feedback from their littermates or humans. It's a way for them to practice hunting and survival skills.

Is puppy biting a sign of aggression?

Puppy biting during playtime is typically not a sign of aggression. It is a normal part of their development and socialization. However, it is essential to differentiate between playful biting and aggressive behaviour.

Playful puppy biting is often gentle and accompanied by other signs of play, such as wagging tails, play bows, and relaxed body language. It is usually directed towards toys, objects, or hands in a non-harmful manner. Puppies may also exhibit inhibited bites, meaning they control the force of their bites to avoid causing injury.

On the other hand, aggressive biting involves intense, forceful bites that are accompanied by other aggressive body language cues such as growling, snarling, stiffening of the body, raised fur, or intense staring. Aggressive biting aims to cause harm or is displayed in response to fear, threat, or discomfort.

If your puppy's biting behaviour displays aggression, consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviourist for appropriate guidance. They can assess the behaviour and provide specific strategies to address and manage aggression in puppies.

Can teething cause puppies to bite more?

Yes, teething can cause puppies to bite more. When puppies go through the teething process, their baby teeth are replaced by adult teeth, which can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful. To alleviate the discomfort, puppies may have a natural inclination to bite and chew on objects, including hands, fingers, or furniture.

During teething, puppies may exhibit an increased desire to chew and bite as a way to soothe their gums. They may seek out different textures and objects to gnaw on to alleviate the discomfort. This behaviour is similar to how human infants chew on teething toys or objects.

It is important to provide appropriate chew toys and objects for your teething puppy. These toys should be designed for teething and provide relief for their gums. By redirecting their biting behaviour onto suitable toys, you can help satisfy their urge to chew and prevent them from targeting inappropriate items.

Will natural chews help to calm my puppy down?

Yes, chewing can help to calm down a puppy. When puppies chew on appropriate items, such as chew toys or bones, it can provide mental and physical stimulation, as well as a soothing effect.

  • Stress relief: Chewing helps to relieve stress and anxiety in puppies. The repetitive chewing motion can have a calming effect and help them relax.
  • Teething discomfort: Chewing provides relief for teething puppies. The pressure on their gums can alleviate the discomfort and itchiness associated with teething, which can help them feel more at ease.
  • Mental stimulation: Chewing engages a puppy's mind and keeps them occupied. It can help redirect their focus and energy onto a constructive and enjoyable activity, preventing boredom and potential destructive behaviour.
  • Physical exercise: Chewing requires physical effort, which can help tire out a puppy and expend some of their excess energy. A tired puppy is generally calmer and more relaxed.

It's important to note that providing appropriate chew toys and supervising your puppy during chewing sessions is crucial for their safety. Avoid objects that can be easily swallowed, pose a choking hazard, or are not intended for chewing. Monitor your puppy to ensure they are chewing safely and redirect their attention if they start chewing on inappropriate items.

Suitable natural chews for your pup include items such as Bully Sticks, Yak Bars, Split Deer Antlers, Lamb Horns or a Natural Chew Selection Pack.

By offering suitable chewing options and allowing your puppy to engage in this natural behaviour, you can help them find comfort, relaxation, and mental stimulation, ultimately contributing to a calmer state.

Hopefully that helps you with your new bundle of fluff!

With Wags and Woofs, 

Laura, Dolly & Reggis

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