Turning Nibbles into Nuzzles: A Comprehensive Guide to Preventing Puppy Biting

Filed in Dog Training by on June 29, 2024

turning nibbles into nuzzle

As a proud pet parent, welcoming a new puppy into your home is a joyous and bright new chapter!

Along with this joy comes guiding your new companion toward becoming a gentle adult dog.

While challenging, the journey to curb puppy biting will strengthen your bond and communication with your puppy!

Replace playful nips with affectionate licks and contented wagging tails.

Seize this opportunity not as an obstacle but as a stepping stone in shaping a loving relationship with your bundle of joy.

Understanding Puppy Biting Behavior

Puppy biting is a typical behavior! Young dogs explore the world mostly with their mouths.

Still, it’s necessary to guide them toward more acceptable behavior. Biting or ‘mouthing’ is a part of their natural development and a way to navigate their environment.

  • Teething
  • Exploration (with mouth)
  • Socialization (play biting)
  • Natural predatory instinct


Replace your hand or furniture with a chew toy when your puppy bites.

This will redirect the biting to something more appropriate. Puppies in the teething phase particularly need this!


Start bite inhibition training (see below) as early as possible!

When your puppy bites too hard during play, give a high-pitched yelp to signal that the bite was too hard.

Then, give your puppy a time-out. This can teach him to bite more gently during play.

Your little one doesn’t want the play to stop! Eventually, he’ll learn that ‘biting’ makes the play stop.

He needs to avoid your skin if he wants the game to continue!

  • Don’t punish or scold. Scaring your little one is the last thing you want to do! Removing play is all that is required.

Positive Reinforcement:

Always reward or praise your puppy when they show good behavior that you want to encourage.

You can even use treats to reward them when they chew on their toys (instead of you).


Make sure to be consistent with your behavior. If you don’t want your puppy to bite hands, never engage in hand playing that might encourage chewing.

You’ll also want consistency with your bite inhibition training (described below).


Allow your puppy to socialize with other vaccinated and friendly dogs who can often help ‘teach’ your puppy not to bite hard.

  • The importance of vaccinated playmates

Like human infants, puppies are especially vulnerable to diseases.

Be careful only to allow your puppy around unvaccinated or unknown animals once fully vaccinated.

Conditions like Parvo (parvovirus) are highly lethal but hazardous to young puppies!

Nearly all puppies that contract this virus and don’t receive swift emergency care will pass.

Remember, never use physical punishment to respond to a bite!

This can scare your puppy and potentially cause them to become more aggressive. It’s all about consistent training and patience.

If the biting continues to be a problem, consider professional training or speaking to a vet.

Managing Environments to Discourage Biting

Puppies explore the world with their mouths, and chewing is natural!

If left unmanaged, they may chew on inappropriate objects, such as furniture or electrical cords. This could pose a safety risk to both your puppy and your belongings!

Remove potential triggers:

Identify any objects or situations triggering biting behavior. If your pet becomes aggressive around certain toys or food, try removing them from the environment.

Provide appropriate outlets for chewing:

Biting can sometimes occur due to teething or excess energy.

To redirect this behavior, provide suitable chew toys or treats to give an outlet for chewing.

Create a safe space:

Establishing a designated safe space for your pet can help them calm down and avoid situations that may lead to biting.

This area should be comfortable, with items they enjoy, such as a bed, favorite toys, or a crate.

Implement positive reinforcement training:

Positively reinforcing good behavior can help discourage biting.

Use treats, praise, or affection as rewards when your pet shows appropriate behavior and avoids biting.

Avoid rough play:

Rough play can sometimes encourage biting behavior.

Teach children and other family members to interact with pets gently, avoiding aggressive or harsh behaviors that may trigger biting.

Consistency and routine:

Maintaining a consistent routine and structure can help reduce the anxiety and stress that can contribute to biting behavior.

Ensure your pet has regular meal times, exercise, and play sessions.

  • Remove triggers that may lead to biting.
  • Provide appropriate chew toys or treats for chewing.
  • Create a safe space with comforting items.
  • Reward good behavior with positive reinforcement dog training.
  • Avoid rough play or aggressive interactions.
  • Maintain a consistent routine and structure.
  • Seek professional help if needed.

Socialize with other puppies:

Encourage interactions with other puppies during the teething stage.

They can learn bite inhibition from each other through gentle play. This way, they can learn to communicate boundaries more effectively.

Socializing a young dog is crucial for good psychological development anyway, even if teething/biting wasn’t an issue!

Bite Inhibition Training

Bite Inhibition Training is a crucial aspect of a dog’s upbringing!

This aims to teach puppies how hard they can play bite without causing harm.

During play, puppies will naturally bite each other. If a pup bites too hard, the others typically respond with a sharp yelp and stop playing momentarily.

This gives the biting pup a powerful message that they bite too hard.

Think of this ‘soft mouth training’ as a game you play!

This should ultimately be a fun experience and not something that ends in uncomfortable punishment. The critical steps of bite inhibition training include:

  1. Allow for Bite Play:

Allow your dog to mouth your hands during playtime to understand that human skin is sensitive and must be gentle.

  1. React to Biting:

React promptly when your young dog bites too hard. You can yelp or say “Ouch” in a stern tone.

Doing this will show your puppy that their bite was too harsh and hurt you. This mimics how other puppies would react if they bit each other too hard!

  • The entire point of bite inhibition training is to mimic a young dog’s natural behavior. This is why it works so well!
  1. Time Out:

If your little pet doesn’t get the hint from your yelp or verbal cue, give them a short timeout.

Cease playing immediately, turn your back, and ignore them for several seconds. After the break, you can go back to playing.

This will teach your dog that clamping down on human skin or biting too hard leads to an end to playtime.

  1. Redirect Biting Habits:

Encourage your puppy to bite on toys rather than people’s hands or clothing. If your dog starts to bite your hand during play, replace your hand with a toy.

The redirecting principle in dog training involves redirecting or guiding a dog’s behavior toward a more desirable or appropriate alternative.

This is done when they exhibit unwanted or undesirable behavior.

The redirecting principle focuses on diverting their attention and energy towards an acceptable behavior (something else ‘fun’).

Redirection is preferred rather than directly punishing or scolding a dog for unwanted behavior.

This approach helps prevent the dog from becoming frustrated or confused. It also promotes positive reinforcement and associations.

  1. Reinforce Good Behavior:

Always remember to reward your puppy when they react positively to the training!

You can give them a treat, praise them verbally, or give them extra playtime.

Bite inhibition training aims not to stop the biting behavior entirely (since it’s a natural and healthy part of their learning and interaction) but to moderate it.

Training should start when the puppy is young, typically before six months.

  • However, this does not mean that older dogs cannot be trained – it may take longer.

Puppy Teething

Puppy teething refers to the stage in a puppy’s life when their baby teeth (deciduous teeth) begin falling out and are replaced by permanent adult teeth.

This process typically begins around 3 to 4 months and can last until they are about 6 to 8 months old.

  • 3-4 months- 6-8 months

Why they chew

Puppies may experience discomfort or pain as their adult teeth ‘erupt’ while their baby teeth are pushed out. As a result, puppies often seek relief by chewing on objects.

This behavior helps alleviate the discomfort and aids in the natural shedding of their baby teeth.

  • Increased chewing
  • Gum irritation or swelling
  • Drooling
  • Sensitivity around their mouth area
  • Tendency to bite or nip

Special chew toys

Provide them with appropriate chew or teething toys specifically designed for puppies.

These toys can provide relief by massaging their gums and helping the baby’s teeth fall out naturally.

Frozen items, such as wet washcloths or puppy-safe frozen treats, can temporarily relieve their sore gums.

Manage the puppy teething stage by discouraging inappropriate chewing on household items! Redirect their attention to appropriate chewing outlets.

Regularly inspect your puppy’s mouth to ensure that their adult teeth are coming in correctly and that there are no issues.

Conclusion: Combating Puppy Biting the Best Way

Provide praise, treats, or verbal cues like “good boy” to reinforce chewing on toys instead of biting.

Positive reinforcement helps them associate appropriate chewing with positive outcomes.

Training a puppy not to bite during teething requires consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement.

It’s a gradual process. With time and consistent dog training, you can help your puppy develop appropriate chewing habits!

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