How to Train a Puppy That Bites
What to Do About Puppy Mouthing continued...
What to Do Next: Teach Your Puppy That Teeth Don’t Belong on Human
- Substitute a toy or chew bone when your puppy tries to gnaw on fingers or
- Puppies often mouth on people’s hands when stroked, patted and scratched
(unless they’re sleepy or distracted). If your puppy gets all riled up when you
pet him, distract him by feeding him small treats from your other hand.
This will help your puppy get used to being touched without mouthing.
- Encourage noncontact forms of play, such as fetch and tug-of-war, rather
than wrestling and rough play with your hands. (Refer to our article, Teaching your
Dog to Play Fetch, to learn more about this game.) To keep tug-of-war safe
and fun for you and your puppy, you’ll need to follow strict rules. Please see
our article, Teaching
Your Dog to Play Tug-of-War, for detailed guidelines. Once your puppy can
play tug safely, keep tug toys in your pocket or have them easily accessible.
If he starts to mouth you, you can immediately redirect him to the tug toy.
Ideally, he’ll start to anticipate and look for a toy when he feels like
- If your puppy bites at your feet and ankles, carry his favorite tug toy in
your pocket. Whenever he ambushes you, instantly stop moving your feet. Take
out the tug toy and wave it enticingly. When your puppy grabs the toy, start
moving again. If you don’t happen to have the toy available, just freeze and
wait for your puppy to stop mouthing you. The second he stops, praise and get a
toy to reward him. Repeat these steps until your puppy gets used to watching
you move around without going after your feet or ankles.
- Provide plenty of interesting and new toys so that your puppy will play
with them instead of gnawing on you or your clothing.
- Provide plenty of opportunities for your puppy to play with other puppies
and with friendly, vaccinated adult dogs. Playing and socializing with dog
buddies is important for your puppy’s development-and if he expends a lot of
his energy playing with other puppies, he’ll feel less motivated to play
roughly with you. Consider enrolling your puppy in a good puppy class, where he
can have supervised playtime with other puppies and learn some important
new skills! Please see our article, Finding Professional
Help, to locate a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) in your area
who offers puppy classes.
- Use a time-out procedure, just like the one described above-but change the
rules a little. Instead of giving your puppy time-outs for hard biting, start
to give him time-outs every time you feel his teeth touch your
- The instant you feel your puppy’s teeth touch you, give a high-pitched
yelp. Then immediately walk away from him. Ignore him for 30 to 60 seconds. If
your puppy follows you or continues to bite and nip at you, leave the room for
30 to 60 seconds. (Be sure that the room is “puppy-proofed” before you leave
your puppy alone in it. Don’t leave him in an area with things he might destroy
or things that might hurt him.) After the brief time-out, return to the room
and calmly resume whatever you were doing with your puppy.
- Alternatively, you can keep a leash attached to your puppy during time-out
training and let it drag on the floor when you’re there to supervise him. Then,
instead of leaving the room when your puppy mouths you, you can take hold of
his leash and lead him to a quiet area, tether him, and turn your back to him
for the brief time-out. Then untie him and resume whatever you were doing.
- If a time-out isn’t viable or effective, consider using a taste deterrent,
such as Grannick’s Bitter Apple®. (For more information on
taste deterrents and how to use them, please see our article, Using Taste Deterrents.)
Spray areas of your body and clothing that your puppy likes to mouth before
you start interacting with him. If he mouths you or your clothing, stop
moving and wait for him to react to the bad taste of the deterrent. Praise him
lavishly when he lets go of you. Apply the bad taste to your body and clothes
for at least two weeks. After two weeks of being punished by the bitter taste
every time he mouths you, your puppy will likely learn to inhibit his mouthy
- Be patient and understanding. Playful mouthing is normal behavior for a
puppy or young dog.
Because mouthing issues can be challenging to work with, don’t hesitate to
enlist the help of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT). A CPDT will
offer group or private classes that can give you and your dog lots of
assistance with mouthing.Please see our article, Finding Professional
Help, to locate a CPDT in your area.