This issue ranks at the top of the common list of troubles people call us with. In most cases, people have already gotten a large amount of bad “advice” on the subject before contacting us. The unfortunate thing is that most of the information given to them actually led to the bad behavior getting worse, or it turned typical behavior into aggressive growling or snapping.
Puppies bite; that is a fact of owning a puppy! Since dogs do not have their own hands and thumbs, they instead use their mouths to investigate things within their environment, as well as to play with other puppies. The next time you get an opportunity to see puppies playing together, you will notice a lot of biting amongst them. However, the puppies are not being aggressive they are simply “play-biting”.
This behavior is as normal as eating. Puppies use the “play-biting” to help learn to control and inhibit biting behaviors. Therefore, you will need to provide plenty of opportunities for your puppy to exercise his desire to bite. Beware, however, not to reinforce his biting. For instance, if he tries to bite at you and you take hold of his muzzle, yell at him to stop, lunge after him, or even shake him by the scruff your dog can view it as attention and a way of playing. If you allow this to go on, the biting WILL become worse.
If this sounds like your dog, with the biting and mouthing during play or when you are simply trying to pet him, you should end the interaction immediately by moving away from the dog and leaving the room. Your dog will soon learn that biting will cause him to lose his playmate because you will leave. A well-respected behaviorist named Dr. Ian Dunbar says to let out a yelp and the word “OUCH” when your dog puts its mouth on you. This is very similar to the response he would get if he were playing with another dog or puppy. You need to remember to BE PERSISTENT! Persistence will work with most puppies as it is something they will catch on to. After a brief time out period, you can once again resume play. However, if your puppy begins to bite your children, you will need to supervise all future interactions between the two. If your children do not yelp effectively, you will to be there to do so for them.
Please note that ignoring the puppy refers to not looking at, speaking to, or touching the dog in any way.
Some puppies are much more persistent than others, while some also bite harder. These dogs have a harder time controlling themselves. You must stop all roughhousing play the instant the dog bites you!
If you are unable to settle the puppy down, you should calmly place him inside his crate with a toy he can chew on for a little bit.
In the end, biting is a completely normal behavior. Do not get fooled into thinking the dog will out-grow the behavior. The dog will need to be taught, otherwise if his biting is reinforced the dog will only become better at it with age. If you learn to manage the biting properly, you puppy will quickly learn how to treat human skin with respect and kindness.