Biting is part of canine development especially when they are teething. This is because this is the phase when puppies love sinking their fangs into anything, including your hands and feet. The habit however has to be quickly controlled to avoid future problems, and ensure that you get your dog to stop biting.
Unchecked biting can lead to behavioral problems in adult dogs as while nips may seem cute from 10-pound new puppies, it is something serious when bitten by an 80-pound adolescent dog! So if you want to get your dog to stop biting, it’s better to start training it when it is a puppy with the help of the following 10 methods.
1. Teach Your Dog What Acceptable Behavior Is
You need to teach your puppy to learn to control her biting by redirecting her bite from your flesh to a toy or chew bone. If you start this early on young puppies, it is usually all that’s required to stop her from biting. So if your pup starts biting your hands, let out a firm “No!” and replace your hand with a toy, chew toy or even an ice cube if your puppy is teething.
In other words, you not only need to teach your dog to stop biting, but you also have to teach her what is okay to do. This is essential as your dog naturally uses her teeth while playing. However she should be taught not to use her teeth on your body or clothes but that it is okay to bite objects.
This is best done by keeping a toy or something chewy and edible nearby when you hang out with your puppy. Then whenever you notice signs of your puppy’s teeth about to getting engaged, you need to place the chewy into her face as soon as possible. Remember your dog will not know biting is wrong if you don’t show her what acceptable behavior is.
2. Make Your Puppy Realize She Is Hurting You
You need to make your puppy know, and realize that she is hurting you each time she bites you. Remember, dogs do not know that their bite hurts; it is only when they realize this will they stop biting you. In fact, young puppies who don’t know their bite hurt playfully bite each other.
It’s only when one puppy is bit too hard that he gives out a high –pitched yelp. The puppy who is bit obviously stops biting and the puppy who had bit her will also be taken aback and momentarily stops playing.
So when the puppy starts playing again, and gets the same reaction if she bites too hard, she soon realizes that her bite is painful and will hurt other puppies and people. The puppy thus learns to modify her behavior based on this evidence.
Similar, you need to make your puppy think she is hurting you if and when she bites you. Let out an “Ouch!” or an “Arrr!” whenever your puppy bites you. Make sure you startle her with your voice, and pull your hand away and stop playing with your puppy for a while. After doing this a few times, your puppy realizes that her playmate or will go away if she bites you.
3. Do Not Use Violence or Physical Punishment
Do not make the mistake of slapping or hitting your puppy in the face if she bites. This will not help in any way at all. In fact, it may lead your puppy into thinking that you are playing with her and bite you more or may become afraid of you.
This leads to even bigger problems than biting as she may end up not abiding or responding to your because of this fright. Similarly, never play tug of war, wrestling or chase games when your dog bites, thinking it will stop your puppy from biting. On the contrary, these games only encourages the biting as your puppies enjoy themselves thinking the tug of war is a game.
4. Make Your Puppy Feel Uncomfortable
In case your puppy has a bad habit of biting, you need to firmly say “No!” as soon as your puppy latches onto your hand. You need to quickly place your thumb inside her mouth, under her tongue with your other finger under her chin.
Maintain this hold for about ten seconds, while making sure it is not too tight. Your puppy will slowly start feeling uncomfortable and will also not be able to bite you. She slowly generates a negative association of ending up with this grip every time she tries to bite you, and thus stops biting you because of the discomfort felt.
5. Use Taste Deterrents
In case your puppy has a severe case of biting problems, you can try this extreme step. All you have to do is put on a pair of gloves and apply some foul tasting substance on them. Make sure it’s something your dog doesn’t like so that she she realizes that it’s not tasty when she bites you. This foul taste creates a negative association about biting for your dog.
Of course, the smart dogs realize that it’s not foul-tasting sinking their teeth into your hands when you take off your gloves! If this is the case, you can try spraying the taste deterrent on your body and clothes which your dog likes playing with.
However make sure that you stop all movements if your dog bites you and wait for her reaction to the taste deterrent and that you praise and continue playing with her when she lets your hand go. After spraying the taste deterrent on your body and clothes for at least two weeks, your puppy develops a strong distaste for both your hands and ankles.
6. Use Choke or Pinch Collars (Extreme Cases)
In case of older puppies aged about 6 months, you can put a choke or pinch collar on your puppy, and give a short, sharp tug whenever she bites you. Pretty soon, your dog develops an unpleasant association and connection with this correction whenever she bites you. However as this is an extreme step, it is better to resort to it only on rare occasions, when all other methods don’t seem to work at stopping your dog from biting.
7. Use Physical Isolation
In case yelping does not help stop your dog from biting, the next time your puppy bites you, yelp and also remove your hand to show that playtime has ended. You next have to ignore your puppy for about 20 seconds as physical isolation from the pack sends strong vibrations to the puppy that she has done something wrong.
Once the 20 seconds are up, stat playing with your puppy once again. Repeat this each and every time your puppy bites you. This helps communicate the message to your puppy that gentle play is encouraged and okay, and that rough play is discouraged.
8. Reward Good Behavior
Do reward your puppy if she tries to lick or comfort you in between biting incidents. Her trying to comfort you shows that she realizes she has done something wrong. So give her a treat or praise her as this encourages her, and makes her realize that it’s not okay to bite, and that she is rewarded if she does not bite.
9. Keep Your Dog Busy
Teach your puppy good and mind-diverting habits to keep them busy so that they stop biting. You can encourage her to play with other well-mannered dogs who do not bite, so that your dog learns how to play nicely with dogs around her without biting. You can also enroll your puppy in a puppy training class to learn other essential skills while having fun.
As playing with your hands is fun, it may give your puppy the wrong idea. Instead, encourage other modes of play where there is no risk of your puppy biting your hands, ankles, fingers or toes. Keep your dog engaged with new and interesting toys as bored dogs are more likely to seek your attention by biting. So keep rotating her toys so that she does not end up bored playing with them. Your dog needs lots of exercise as well-exercised puppies end up tired, and are thus not so rough while playing with you.
10. Stop Playing With Them For a Bit
If you have a habit of playing with your puppy, stop playing with her if and when she bites you. Instead, give out a high-pitched, loud and sharp yelp to let her realize that her bite is not an acceptable action. While it is reflex action to jerk your hands back in pain if she bites you, it can also encourage your puppy to play harder and continue biting.
A moving hand also encourages your puppy’s prey drive and make her want to continue biting you. Instead, let your hand go limp when she bites you as limp hands are no fun to play with. However do continue playing if she releases her bite, and yelp and stop playing if she bites you once again. Repeat this no more than thrice in a 15 minute period.
However in the process of stopping you dog’s biting habit, it is also important that you do not end up discouraging your normal play sessions! It is important you play with your dog as it forges a bond between you and your puppy.
So do not stop your playtime with your puppy; instead, teach her what is right and what is wrong while playing. If you do not play with your puppy, or give her her daily exercise, she only ends up feeling more fidgety and this increases the chances of her biting you out of boredom and frustration.
Accidents can happen
Of course, no matter how much you try teaching your dog to stop biting, there is always the chance of accidents happening. Your puppy’s tail may get closed in car doors, or you may rub her ears when a painful infection has just started, making her bite you in protection and pain. While these situations are inevitable, you can at least prevent most of the other cases and situations to stop your dog from biting you.
However in extreme cases of puppies who bite to assert their dominance over you, it is important that you stop the habit immediately. This is because having a dominant puppy only leads to more behavioral problems in the future.
If this is the case, it’s better asking an experienced animal behaviorist or a professional dog trainer for help and advice at controlling your dominant puppy and teaching her to stop biting. You need to learn how to show your dominant dog that you are in control and not her.
No matter which method you use to get your dog to stop biting, you need to follow the golden rule of consistency. This means that everyone in the family, and anyone else who comes in contact with your puppy should use the same strategy whenever your puppy bites them. You only end up confusing your dog if each person employs a different method to get your dog to stop biting.
It is especially important that you teach your children how to handle your puppy’s bite and make sure they are supervised while playing with you puppy. Remember, your children too have to learn how to play with your puppy just as your puppy has to learn how they should play with your children. It is however even better if your children do not participate in training your dog to stop biting.
There is no point in training your puppy for too long as it only overwhelms them. They in fact only end up ignoring you and continue biting. You need to use your own good judgment about the amount of time you will spend training your puppy, and the training method you want to use.
Don’t expect your dog to stop biting overnight, it can take a long time. You need to be both patient and have perseverance in your endeavors, especially in case of puppies with a high prey drive. You also have to be ready to receive quite a few bites while working to get your dog to stop biting!