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Top Tips To Help With Puppy Biting

Help-my puppy is a land shark. Top tips to support you and your puppy through the painful teething stage.

Welcoming a new puppy into your home can be one of THE most exciting things ever. Snuggling on the sofa, falling asleep in your lap and their gorgeous puppy smell. But I bet nobody warned you about the biting and nipping, I mean like really warned you?! As much as we joke about the fact that it is like living with a tiny, furry t-rex. It is no joke for those of you that are on the receiving end.

Firstly, I want to reassure you that biting, and mouthing are normal puppy behaviours. However, that doesn’t stop them being annoying and sometimes painful. Are your hands and feet covered in puppy bite marks? Clothes getting ripped to shreds and you are wondering when is this ever going to end? Then read on while we give our best tips and advice on how to manage this phase and come out the other side, with your hands and clothes intact.

To stop your puppy biting and mouthing we want to give them a clear idea of what they can chew- but just how do we do that in a kind and safe way?

Let us first look at WHY puppies chew things.

Puppies and adult dogs use their mouths to explore the world around them. It is common for them to bite and mouth more as puppies and one reason for this is due to the fact they are teething. Whilst when a baby is teething we might like to offer Calpol to take the pain away. Dogs are not able to tell us when or where it hurts and so they will look to find the nearest thing to soothe them. The good news is that teething (breed dependant) stops at around seven months.

Overstimulation and rough play.

We all want to build a loving bond with our puppies, one that will last a lifetime and play is a wonderful way to do that. However, it is important to consider HOW we play and if that play can be attributed to any of the biting behaviour. Instead of riling them up through exciting play and then being annoyed when the play overflows into biting. Let’s set them and you up for success. Some things you could consider are setting a timer for play or choosing less arousing play. You may want to even consider swapping play for training sessions. This way you are still interacting with your puppy and building a bond, but it is in a much more controlled way.


Overtiredness is one of the key things that will play a part in your puppy biting. Puppies need around 18-20 hours of rest per day to cope with all the learning and growth that their brain and body are going through. A common misconception is that if puppy is biting they need more exercise and stimulation. However, this is the exact opposite. It is important that you teach your puppy an off switch and enforce down time to rest and nap. If you live in a busy home with children, it is important to help them to understand that puppy needs rest and so if they are sleeping or resting that they not be disturbed. If your puppy is struggling to switch off creating a safe, snuggly space away from the hustle and bustle is a good idea.

So, now we understand, WHY puppy is chewing, let us look at HOW we can help.

Mental stimulation

As previously mentioned, its often tempting when our puppies are biting to want to insist on more exercise. However, you and your pup can have just as much fun with mental stimulation than if they are physically exercised. Mental stimulation isn’t just great for helping you through the puppy stages, but it can be useful throughout the whole of your dogs’ life. As a puppy it can help with confidence building, problem solving and cognitive development. In addition, there are many household items that can be repurposed to help with this so no need to go and spend loads of money. Another great thought is to encourage them to work for their meals. So instead of giving them their food from a bowl each time, what about using an interactive feeder or teaching them to search for their food in the garden by scattering it about. Which taps in to their need forage and explore. Nose work is a brilliant way to calm all ages, breeds and personalities of dogs. Thirty minutes of intense sniffing is more tiring than an hour of physical exercise. Giving our dogs a job to do such as nose work is a great way to tap in to those naturally occurring behaviours.

Puppy proofing your living space.

Puppies have literally no idea what is ok to chew and what is not ok to chew and believe me it makes no difference to them if it’s a mangey old slipper or a pair of designer boots. Puppy proofing should be considered BEFORE puppy comes home not after they have destroyed something of value. So, take the time to pick up all the bits you don’t want puppy to chew, check for wires and cables and under sofas etc. It is also wise to consider what boundaries are in place. If you are allowing your pup to chew a mangey old slipper how will then know the difference between chewing an old one and then chewing a new pair? You can read more about this in our puppy proofing guide.  Provide suitable chew toys; As above puppy will not be able to generalise what is “legal” and what is “illegal” to chew so get some puppy friendly chews and toys ready. Nylabones and Kongs are both really good options. Kongs are best used when you have put some treats inside and frozen them down. If they are not frozen your puppy will make light work of getting the treats out. Freezing requires a bit of planning and preparation however it offers a number of benefits such as; The cold is soothing for the gums, it makes it more difficult for the puppy to retrieve the food and so takes longer for them to get the reward. It also provides a safe outlet for them to practise natural behaviours such as gnawing and licking which will provide mental stimulation and in turn having this need met will have calming effects.

Redirect, redirect, redirect.

Keeping a toy handy or a pocketful of treats is a great way of being proactive for incoming biting. Recognising the signs and body language that precede the behaviour is a great way to divert. Things to look out for might be; increase in energy, bouncing, pouncing and batting things with their paws. This means you can initiate play and get something into their mouth before they direct on to you. If you feel like play could make things worse, start initiating some training with them to engage their brain. Redirecting the behaviour before it starts can have a powerful way of building a bond with your dog, it also teaches them that good things come from hands when we see the behaviour we want.

Be prepared.

Most puppies will have certain times of the day or triggers that will initiate biting behaviours. Normally after they have eaten, after play or when something exciting happens-when you arrive home from work or children arrive home from school and sometimes even after a walk. Being prepared for these times in advance is going to make this phase much easier as you can be prepared with kongs, toys and treats or a chew to put them to bed with. Waiting for your puppy to bite for whatever reason is setting them up to fail and we want to give them as many opportunities to succeed and get things right from the beginning. Similar to toilet training it’s a good idea to make a note on your fridge or keep a diary of when the behaviour occurs. This way you can start to see patterns develop and help ensure that you are ready for those land shark moments are going to start.

Puppies and children;

Whilst the thought of having a puppy and a child to grow up together is a wonderful (and very rewarding experience). Puppies and children are not a great match and children and puppies should never be left alone unattended together. Overexcitement from a child can often either excite a puppy more which can initiate biting, or they find them unpredictable and become fearful of them. The best way to combat this is to have control and management in place to avoid this. Things like puppy pens, crates, stairgates and house lines can all ensure that we keep puppy and child safe. Interactions should be supervised, and parents should intervene if things look like they are going to topple over in to biting. This way both puppy and child are advocated for. Even though puppies and children have similar mental capacities that doesn’t mean that a puppy or a child understand that they are a completely different species to one another.

Stop playing if your puppy starts biting

Dogs learn by consequence, this means if a behaviour gets rewarded it will get repeated. This is the same if we are trying to extinguish or stop a behaviour. If your puppy continues to get feedback from you in anyway they will take that as a green light for them to continue. If your puppy puts their teeth on you, stop what you’re doing and stay still if they take their mouth away you can reward them by continuing to interact. If they continue, turn away and cross your arms – a clear signal that your attention has been withdrawn. If this doesn’t work, move away, leaving them to calm down for a moment before going back. If this still doesn’t work, then leave the room. Once your puppy is calm you can praise them. Over time your puppy will learn that mouthing means the fun ends, so they will gradually stop doing it.

Don’t tell your puppy off for mouthing or chewing

Whilst it can be tempting to say NO all this tells your puppy is what not to do and doesn’t provide them with a learning experience about what they should be doing. Likewise telling a puppy off or shouting can also have the consequence of making them scared or worried. Lastly, there has been information in the past that yelping is a good way to teach our puppies that their bite is too hard as this is what their mother or littermates would have done. However, we are not canines and as such we are an entirely different species. Which means the tone and pitch of the yelp wont sound anything like that of another dog and could encourage excitement or fear.

Final thoughts;

Please don’t ever be tempted to tap your dog on the nose when they mouth. Either with a hand or a rolled-up newspaper. Unfortunately, apart from hurting your dog and breaking their trust. All this will teach your dog is hands are unpleasant. When hands are seen as unpleasant, this can lead to fear-based behaviours.

If you are struggling with any aspect of puppy biting, please reach out to a professional qualified trainer. They will be able to guide you through the challenge whilst keeping your relationship intact. Finally, puppy blues are a real thing. It is very common for puppy parents to feel overwhelmed, anxious and have feelings that they are failing as a puppy parent and ask themselves daily; what have I done?!

I PROMISE it is just a phase and I PROMISE it does get better..

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