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Bringing home a new puppy means lots of playtime, petting, and walks around the block. But with most new dogs, it also means biting. If you’ve ever adopted a puppy, you’ve probably noticed their eagerness to nip at everything around them. It begs the question…is there a way to stop puppies from biting?
Regardless of how “normal” puppy biting is, there are a couple of tricks pet owners can use to nip biting in the bud. In this guide, you’ll learn more about bite inhibition training and bite replacement options, such as puppy chews. Here’s what you need to know about stopping puppies from biting:
According to VCA Hospitals, puppies bite for two reasons: to alleviate teething pain and to explore the world around them. Just like human babies try putting everything in their mouth, puppies do the same — except puppies, unlike babies, have 28 razor-sharp teeth within their first weeks of life. This can make for a lot of pain at playtime.
In order to stop your puppy from biting during play, trainers suggest practicing bite inhibition. The basic idea of bite inhibition is to let your puppy know their bites hurt by yelping when they bite too hard. Bite inhibition teaches your dog that mouthing is okay, but that biting will cause play to stop.
This concept comes from the way puppies play with their littermates. Puppies often don’t realize the force of their bite until they bite too hard and their puppy sibling yelps in pain. The yelp startles the puppy, causing them to stop playing for a few seconds. This early socialization is key to bite inhibition, but it isn’t an option once you take your puppy home (unless you adopt multiple dogs at a time). Older dogs can also help model proper behavior for your puppy, but you’ll have to wait until your puppy is all caught up on vaccinations before you let them play with dogs. So what can you do in the meantime?
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In order to replicate this situation, you should play with your puppy as normal. Keep playing when they mouth you or put their mouth on your skin without biting down hard. When your puppy bites too hard, let out a loud yelp and let your hand go limp. After you imitate these actions, your dog should stop playing. Wait at least 30 seconds before initiating play again to let them know that biting causes play to stop. If they lick your hand to comfort you, praise them and then slowly let play resume. The idea is to teach them that biting causes play to stop and you to yell, both of which are “bad” in the puppy’s eyes.
As your puppy learns that mouthing is allowed but hard bites aren’t, it can be helpful to give them something else to bite on (instead of your hand) when they are teething. The ASPCA recommends substituting a toy or puppy chews when your dog starts nipping. Some good substitutes include strong rubber chew toys that can stand up to lots of use and chew treats like long-lasting dog bones, which are a tasty way to alleviate your puppy’s biting urge.
Try to always keep a toy and/or treat on hand so that you can introduce it as soon as your dog tries to chew on something they shouldn’t. For example, if they start gnawing on the furniture, immediately distract them with a chew toy. If they try to pounce on your shoes while walking, distract them by holding a high-value treat at waist height to get their attention instead.
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Get Puppy Chews from Best Bully Sticks
Implementing bite inhibition and replacement can help stop your puppy from biting in the long run. But if your dog continues to bite, or persistently bites aggressively, talk with your veterinarian. There may be something more serious than teething going on if your dog keeps biting and your vet can help you figure out what might be causing it.
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