How to Train a Puppy That Bites
- Avoid waving your fingers or toes in your puppy’s face or slapping
the sides of his face to entice him to play. Doing these things can actually
encourage your puppy to bite your hands and feet.
- Do not discourage your puppy from playing with you in general. Play builds
a strong bond between a dog and his human family. You want to teach your puppy
to play gently, rather than not at all.
- Avoid jerking your hands or feet away from your puppy when he mouths. This
will encourage him to jump forward and grab at you. It’s much more effective to
let your hands or feet go limp so that they aren’t much fun to play with.
- Slapping or hitting puppies for playful mouthing can cause them to bite
harder. They usually react by playing more aggressively. Physical punishment
can also make your puppy afraid of you-and it can even cause real aggression.
Avoid scruff shaking, whacking your puppy on the nose, sticking your fingers
down his throat and all other punishments that might hurt or scare him.
When Does Mouthing Become Aggression?
Most puppy mouthing is normal behavior. However, some puppies bite out
of fear or frustration, and this type of biting can signal problems with future
Puppy “Temper Tantrums”
Puppies sometimes have temper tantrums. Usually tantrums happen when you’re
making a puppy do something he doesn’t like. Something as benign as simply
holding your puppy still or handling his body might upset him. Tantrums can
also happen when play escalates. (Even human “puppies” can have tantrums during
play when they get overexcited or upset!) A puppy temper tantrum is more
serious than playful mouthing, but it isn’t always easy to tell the difference
between the two. In most cases, a playful puppy will have a relaxed body and
face. His muzzle might look wrinkled, but you won’t see a lot of tension in his
facial muscles. If your puppy has a temper tantrum, his body might look very
stiff or frozen. He might pull his lips back to expose his teeth or growl.
Almost always, his bites will be much more painful than normal mouthing during
If you’re holding or handling your puppy and he starts to throw a temper
tantrum, avoid yelping like you’re hurt. Doing that might actually cause
your puppy to continue or intensify his aggressive behavior. Instead, be very
calm and unemotional. Don’t hurt your puppy, but continue to hold him firmly
without constriction, if possible, until he stops struggling. After he’s
quieted down for just a second or two, let him go. Then make plans to contact a
qualified professional for help. Repeated bouts of biting in frustration are
not something that the puppy will simply grow out of, so your puppy’s behavior
should be assessed and resolved as soon as possible.