How to Keep a Dog From Play Biting

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Limit play biting from your puppy by discouraging rough play with other animals, keeping your hands away from his mouth and ignoring bad behavior.

Why Puppies Play Bite

Litter mates wrestle, tussle and play bite one another when they're young as a way to establish dominance, set boundaries and test their limits. A puppy’s siblings and mother will let him know if biting is too hard with an admonishing yelp. When pups are weaned and put into new homes, some of this behavior may continue with a puppy’s new owners or with other household pets. Play biting also may stem from teething, as biting and chewing can help relieve the pain of erupting teeth.

Tip

  • Hand-feed your puppy on occasion to teach him appropriate use of his mouth.

Prevent the Behavior

Don't give your puppy the opportunity to play bite. Have appropriate chew toys for him so if he starts to engage in play biting you can give him something more suitable to put in his mouth. Don't play tug-of-war, chase games or use your hands as toys. Don't play games where you grab at his nose or face or he may see it as an invitation to play bite. Pups may continue to play bite past the puppy stage if they get the idea their human parents like the activity. While it’s tempting to laugh and smile at cute play biting, it only reinforces the bad behavior and makes it more difficult to curb in the future.

Tip

  • Keep your dog tethered to you when working on training so if he tries to nip or bite you, you can gently move him away and redirect his attention.

Ignore the Behavior

When your puppy starts to play bite, say no firmly and stop the interaction by getting up, walking away or ignoring your dog. He'll soon start to see that the behavior isolates him, is not rewarded and results in less time with you. If he continues to play bite or becomes aggressive, talk to your vet about possible behavioral training to help modify this unwanted behavior.

Tip

  • Never reprimand your puppy by hitting him or yelling at him. It will only scare him and won’t curb the underlying problem.

Warning

  • Even play bites can hurt. If your dog is a regular nipper, steer him clear of children and don't leave him unsupervised with other household pets or guests that he may inadvertently hurt.

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