Sign up now to our fantastic weekly pupdates

All About Painful Biting Puppy; The Why, The Do’s & The Don’ts

May 7, 2021
May 7, 2021

Puppy bites and teething are one of the toughest parts of raising puppies. 

When you’re raising your wonderful little ball of fur from a young age, it’s almost certain that you are going to have to deal with them biting you, and your family, and your friends and anyone who potentially tries to get into puppy’s life. 

Biting and mouthing are within the same spectrum. Teaching your puppy not to bite (sometimes mislabelled as bite inhibition – which is very different! See later in the post).  

I’ve raised my own puppy, and I’ve helped train a lot of other puppies with their parents to get through this phase. It’s not an easy one, everyone struggles, even I did. Usually because I was overtired myself, struggling and getting all too frustrated. But that’s fine, I was human and I felt my emotions. The key part was that those emotional responses were never directed at puppy.

I find that understanding is always the key to getting a new puppy parent, like yourself, to sympathise with their pup and get into their head. Then once they are in their puppy’s little head they can figure out why your puppy is doing what they’re doing and how to approach it as a consequence.

So, here we go! 

Pug Puppy chewing parents feet and socks! They're outside, so I don't think they want the bathroom... what do you think?
Pug Puppy chewing parents feet and socks! They’re outside, so I don’t think they want the bathroom… what do you think?

Why Does My Puppy Bite Me?

There’s a lot of reasons why puppies bite. A lot of it is just nature. But, in order to live harmoniously together it’s something puppy needs to learn is not appropriate on human skin, because we’re pretty fragile creatures, even if we are the top of the food chain

Over Arousal

Puppy can become over excited, essentially. And you know when you were play fighting with an older kid (for me it was my older cousin) and you used to get too into it and they’d just be laughing? And your aunt would go “It’s all going to end in tears!” exactly the same principle (And yes, that was genuinely what happened with me, all the time! Fun to look back on though.) it means that your puppy is going into a state of over excitement, over exuberance and it won’t end well. 

Overtired

Such a common thing and a common reason behind things that go wrong with puppies (and not just biting, but general behaviour) that I’ve written a whole blog behind overtiredness and what you can do to resolve it. It’s basically when your puppy goes beyond that point of being just tired and becoming over tired? They become cantankerous.  

Upset

Sometimes, if we are disrespectful of puppy’s space, a bite can be a warning. Normally this is the last stage of escalation for a dog or puppy, but if they’re in pain perhaps, or if you’re being a little too rough with them? A bite might be warranted to tell you to back off. Now, I’m really hoping this isn’t the case for most of you, if it is, listen. Give them a little more space, respect them a little more and maybe go get a vet check done.

Corgi puppy chewing on parent - uh-oh - do we think this puppy might be hungry?
Corgi puppy chewing on parent – uh-oh – do we think this puppy might be hungry?

Teething 

Somewhere between 12 weeks and 16 weeks your little puppy will go into a teething phase of development. Oh yes. 

As bad as this is for babies? I’d safely say it’s worse for dogs – they have more teeth than us afterall! So, if their mood sours, they get sulky or whiney, or if their chewing begins to reach new levels during this? Do not be surprised. Your puppy will really need relief, chewing relief around this stage, and despite being painful for them, chewing will relieve some of that pain. Make sure to stock up on natural treats and chews of varying textures, because your puppy will have a preference, and it’s better to be over prepared than under prepared, let me tell you! 

How Do I Get My Puppy To Stop Biting Me?

Edsel the elephant by Fluff & Tuff - one of my favourite toys for dogs, it's really resilient and perfect for redirecting your puppy bite
Edsel the elephant by Fluff & Tuff – one of my favourite toys for dogs, it’s really resilient and perfect for redirecting your puppy bite – it’s available on amazon, it’s pricey – but it lasts

Redirect

Take a toy, ideally a favourite toy (for most puppies? A squeaky toy is wonderful here!) and engage them in a really fun play session. Most of the time when puppies begin to bite? They’re actually looking for you to play, and that’s the way they know how to ask. So, we have to teach them the right way to ask so that we can succeed at living together harmoniously! 

So! Grab a toy, and make it fun. How do you do that? Well. Think like prey. Tease them with it a little! But let puppy win, it’s great for their confidence! Oh, and remember to intercept any bites directed for you! 

bully puppy on their bed with a chew, what a perfect way to encourage a nap to help with the biting!
bully puppy on their bed with a chew, what a perfect way to encourage a nap to help with the biting!

Maybe A Nap?

Naps are my favourite! 

Well, I mean, as a method to help puppy stop biting. 

Do you know how often a case it is that a puppy’s biting is exacerbated by the fact that they’re tired? Overtired? Or flat out exhausted?

Puppies cannot and will not self regulate. If you think that they’ll just take themselves off for a nap, you’re probably wrong. Most puppies will go, and go, and go again if they’re having fun and it kind of ends in tears. 

You would be surprised how much sleep your puppy actually needs to strike the right balance. Did you know that’s information in our pupdates that we send you every week? Cool, huh? 

Remove Self

I’m not a big fan of this one, I feel like it doesn’t give enough guidance on what to do. But sometimes it’s an option. Removing yourself and consequently the fun stops the undesirable behaviour from happening, which is a method of management. Just please don’t take this as the primary route, because oftentimes puppy is biting for a reason, and you need to satisfy that reason. 

Lessen play

If it’s during play that puppy tends to go a little wild and become uncontrollable? Then you’ve gone a little too far. Now, I rarely see this happen. But on occasion over arousal becomes a problem (it’s often the case that puppy is actually overtired instead) all that needs to happen is you need to bring the play down a few levels. It’s gotten too intense. And if you can get a nice sit out of them, maybe it’s time for a little quieter time, even if it’s not a nap, but just a little bit of relaxation and rest.

Little Golden Retriever puppy making an oops by trying to play with her child sibling by biting, oh dear...
Little Golden Retriever puppy making an oops by trying to play with her child sibling by biting, oh dear…

How Do I Get My Puppy To Stop Biting My Kids?

Management.

Essentially? Whilst puppy is learning what to bite and what not – keeps your kids off the menu. Intervene before things escalate, and if that means that puppy is on a leash for all interactions with your child? That’s what it means! 

Also, make sure the children in the family are well versed in things like “Running makes puppy excited”, “Screaming makes puppy excited” and try and set everyone up for success in this scenario. Whatever happens? Ensure that you’re now allowing unsupervised interaction, because this is where things will deteriorate.

Will My Puppy Grow Out Of Biting?

Nope! 

Sorry. It’s not going to be that simple.

You have to teach this behaviour. Dogs don’t learn not to bite humans. It’s part of our building a relationship with them and our desire to cohabit that drives this (much like dictating where our dogs go to the bathroom!). So start as quick as you can, and teach puppy what to bite as opposed to telling them what not to bite. 

They will, however, grow out of those needle teeth – but don’t be fooled into thinking that’s your respite – because this actually means that puppy is getting stronger! Which is just as much of a problem, trust me! 

frenchie puppy being held by clueless panicking owner who definitely needs our weekly pupdates!

New puppy?

why not get the
answers straight
to your inbox
every week, before
you start struggling?

How Long Does The Teething Phase Last?

Not all puppies hit it at the same age, and teething can start anywhere from around week 12 up until finishes about a month later. Some puppies are done with it in a week, others take a little longer. Just please do remember to be patient with them. 

We cover the teething phase in depth in our pupdates!

Why Are My Puppy’s Teeth So Sharp?

Puppy teeth are like needles that much is really obvious from the moment they stick that cute little face around your finger and you go “Ow… excuse me?” (or something much worse!) you know those teeth are sharp as can be. And actually? That is exactly why they are sharp! They’re sharp to get a reaction, so that puppy knows and understand what is alive and what is not. 

They don’t currently have the jaw strength to bite hard and get a reaction with their more blunt adult teeth, so sharp instead of strong for those puppy teeth!

When Does My Puppy Bite Me The Most? 

There can be lots of times that your puppy will bite you. Try checking out the reasons above first, but there can also be a pattern of timeliness. You may notice (for instance) a common one is extra bitey puppies in the evening. Which is rotten because you’re exhausted from your day and now the puppy is deciding you’re going to be a chew toy. Well… bugger it. It can be incredibly frustrating.

But, this one is actually the easiest one to combat. This is a failure of routine or a call to say that your old routine needs a little adjusting! Maybe moving puppy’s evening chew to about 10 mins before puppy get’s all into their jaws mode will make a big difference. 

yorkshire terrier puppy who has been redirected to a toy very successfully! Well done puppy parent for proactively dealing with the situation
yorkshire terrier puppy who has been redirected to a toy very successfully! Well done puppy parent for proactively dealing with the situation.

Are Puppy Bites Dangerous? 

Generally speaking, puppy bites are not dangerous. I’ve never heard of it becoming an issue, and it shouldn’t.
A Puppy bite can break the skin, and a puppy’s mouth does tend to have more bacteria in than a lot, so there is a chance of infection, I would suppose, but so long as proper care is administered and the wound is kept clean? It’s not quite the same as a high grade dog bite.
You may, if you live in an area where Rabies is, and the puppy in question is not vaccinated and possibly exhibiting symptoms – it could be possible to contract rabies – but please don’t be too alarmist about it. Safely cautious. 

Why Is Teaching Bite Inhibition Different To Teaching A Puppy Not To Bite?

Bite inhibition is actually teaching your dog that biting is okay so long as the pressure is not too much. This is something that dogs and puppies typically learn between eachother – but not with humans. 

It’s something that is take advantage of with working golden retrievers (famed for their “Soft Mouth”) and with other retrieving breeds. It’s the basis for any carrying a dog may do – and this is fine, in itself! But it’s a very specific thing to teach and is very different to teaching your puppy not to bite. 

Labrador puppy biting parent's sleeve, I think this little one is looking for some play time! Time to Redirect!
Labrador puppy biting parent’s sleeve, I think this little one is looking for some play time! Time to Redirect!

Things Not To Try To Discourage Puppy From Biting

Pet Corrector Spray

Aka, a loud, scary blast of air to try and make them jump and associate bites with scary things. Now. This is rough on the dog because it can lead to a number of fears. It is also not resolving the puppy’s need nor is it demonstrating what to do instead of biting you. It’s a rotten phase, and it can be a large contributor towards feeling the puppy blues – but it’s not justification 

Jar or Tin of Pennies.

Similar to the above, the principle being, puppy bites, you make a loud, scary noise and they associate biting with bad things. For similar reasons to the above? It’s not really going to help you. Not to mention, what happens when someone doesn’t have a jar of pennies to hand, puppy may learn to focus their biting all on one person…

Bitter Apple

The idea being that people don’t taste nice. Works for some, but, what happens when puppy learns that some humans are okay? Then you’ve got to start over, oh! And some puppies learn to love the taste, oops! 

“No Bite!”

Okay so this one has always confused me – I have to say. So, exclaiming “No bite!” apparently helps? I mean maybe with your frustration, but at what point does that tell the puppy what to, or not to do? Also, unless your puppy is a genius and already understands No, and Bite as english words, you may be shouting “sausages!” as far as puppy knows… Ditch it! Let’s move on.

Smacking puppy (anywhere)

I once heard someone wondering (hopefully humorously) if their puppy had a fetish because he didn’t seem deterred when she smacked him on the bottom – now … as humorous as that is? It’s also not right. On many… levels. Puppies don’t get fetishes, to start! Next, this obviously falls as an aversive, and it only tells puppy what not to do. Not what to do instead. I mean, try learning another language (i.e. how to communicate with a human) when they’re just telling you “no!” you’re going to learn slowly and be frustrated the entire time. Especially if your needs are not being met. 

Hold their muzzle

A dominant move that a ‘mummy dog’ (or momma dog) might use to encourage submission in a puppy – which some people deem to be okay. Again, we’re not dogs. Don’t try and be a dog. Be a human! You should be good at that! Let’s use knowledge and science to give puppy the very best chance to succeed. 

visla puppy trying to chew hands, biting is part of the teething phase and is such a tough phase
Visla puppy trying to chew hands, biting is part of the teething phase and is such a tough phase

Shouting

Yelling is rarely the right response, I mean sometimes it may happen (because sometimes those bites really hurt!) but really do try not to direct anger towards puppy. It’s not really puppy’s fault that they learn through their mouth, and that they learn with a mouth full of needle teeth as opposed to babies who gum you, or nom with one or two flat teeth… Try to be understanding, take a deep breath and go back to the drawing board. 

Yelp

The problem with yelping… So this one kind of harks back to the dominance theory mindset that we discussed in How to train your puppy like a tiger and imagines that puppies dogs don’t know that we are a different species entirely… which they obviously do. The logic being that “their littermates would squeak or yelp to let them know that they were being too rough” and yes! It’s a keen observation, but it doesn’t translate to other creatures, afterall, any hunting dog would be entirely useless because if it’s prey squeaked it would let it go, and go “Oh sorry buddy, didn’t mean to hurt you” — and that’s not what happens is it? 

It’s also the very same reason that dogs love squeaky toys! So don’t be a squeaky toy. 

Bite their ear

This one, I think, originated in snow dogs – a disney movie – and even that mocked it! So please! This is not an acceptable way to train your puppy. 

Patience, Kindness & Consistency.

When you approach these problems with all of these three things? You’re going to make strides. But I do have a final tip. Don’t do keep changing your approach. Yes – dynamically problem solve (like a nap for overtiredness and a toy for engaging in play)  – but don’t throw every approach at every problem and see what sticks. This ends up being really confusing for puppy and they can struggle to understand how to deal with these problems themselves. Which is no good for anyone. 

I feel like you’ve got a good foundation for this now. Getting this under wraps is really important. Remember to be consistent across all people too, even when you’re socialising. Letting them mouth a stranger is a no-no, even if they say it’s ok – it’s not. 

If you’re still in need of assistance? Do reach out! You know I’m here to help! And sometimes a fresh set of practiced eyes on a problem (even on a video call or a messaged video) can really quickly resolve an issue or put a plan together.

You may also like

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

0 Comments

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related posts

What Age Should I Introduce My Puppy To My Other Dog?

What Age Should I Introduce My Puppy To My Other Dog?

When is the right time to introduce them to your other, older dog to make the best introduction between them? Getting a new puppy is a big commitment, and the idea of introductions can feel like a terrifying step, because your older dog is so much older, and could (if...

read more
If My Dog Has Seizures Can His Or Her Puppies Have Them Too?

If My Dog Has Seizures Can His Or Her Puppies Have Them Too?

Seizures in dogs can be very stressful for an owner, but is this condition acceptable in a dog you wish to breed? This is a question that can be asked by newer breeders or dog owners, or those who have had an “oops” litter. It’s a good question to ask before a...

read more
5 Fun & Practical Tricks For Your Puppy To Learn

5 Fun & Practical Tricks For Your Puppy To Learn

Some tricks are fun, and some are practical, to me? Practical first, but you definitely need to have fun with it too! I'm going to run through 3 critical practical tricks or cues that your puppy needs to know, and then 2 that are fun (because no matter how phenomenal...

read more
​ ​ ​ ​