How to teach your puppy not to bitePuppies are very much like human babies. The world is a sensory experience for them, something to be explored in every way possible. Just as a baby or toddler puts everything he finds into his mouth, puppies explore the world through biting, chewing and nibbling on everything they come across. Here’s the problem with that: Puppy teeth are sharp! There small, sharp teeth can inadvertently hurt someone. More importantly, however, what seems like cute, innocent play when the puppy is small can actually be a very dangerous behavior when the dog is full grown. A dog needs to learn that chewing and nibbling or biting is not acceptable behavior. But how?
It’s very important to let your puppy know that he needs to be gentle when playing with people or other dogs. He needs to know that biting and chewing hurts and that it is not acceptable behavior. To do that, it’s important to start right away when he is small. Don’t let him form bad habits by letting things slide in the name of “he’s just a puppy.” Puppies are very receptive to training, just like human babies absorb everything they see and hear.
From the beginning, never let your puppy nibble on your hands during play. It may seem like a game (and it probably is) but your puppy needs to learn from the get-go that it is never ok to use his teeth on humans. Don’t stick your hands in your dog’s mouth, either. He will instinctively chew or bite to defend himself – and why wouldn’t he? You’d chew on someone’s hand if he thrust it into your mouth! Putting your hands in your dog’s mouth will only serve to encourage the very behavior you are trying to change.
Correcting a biting behavior will be most successful if you are very attentive to cues that indicate when a dog is about to bite. When you sense that your dog is about to bite or chew, firmly say no and immediately offer your dog an approved item for chewing such as a rawhide bone or a chew toy. Offering a safe chewing alternative will satisfy your puppy’s need to chew while still correcting the undesirable behavior. It’s not enough to tell a puppy they simply can’t chew – they have too strong an urge to chew and nibble, just like a teething baby. Instead, you need to teach them the difference between what they are allowed to chew on and what is unacceptable. It will take some trial and error, but your puppy will eventually catch on. When the biting behavior is finally curbed, be sure to offer lots of praise for your puppy’s hard work!
Teaching your puppy not to bite people can be a bit of a challenge at first, but if you stick with it your puppy will soon catch on. By teaching him how to respect people and not use them as his personal chew toys, you’ll have a well-behaved puppy whom everyone enjoys being around. You can get on with the business of enjoying your puppy without worrying that those razor-sharp little teeth will hurt someone (or destroy your favorite chair!).