HELP! My Puppy won't stop biting me!!! Training tips for your baby shark!
with Melissa Dallier of ACanineAffinity, Training Advocate

So you got a puppy. But what you didn't realize was that this adorable, squishy, snuggly puppy had a mouthful of razor sharp teeth and he knows how to use them.


Most of my puppy clients are shocked to find out that their puppies are tiny little biting machines. They bite hands, feet, pants, hair, shoes, furniture, noses... well you get it. Most just want it to STOP. Here's the thing. We can't just say NO BITING - We need to teach our puppies to use their mouths and jaws the right way so that when they grow up and have super strong jaws they don't hurt anyone or anything. This is the process of teaching:


Bite Inhibition


What is it?


Puppies are little biting machines. They bite things that move, things that don’t move, each other, your hands, anything. Not only is this normal, it is an important part of their development. When puppies play, they learn from their playmates’ yelps and body language when a bite is too hard. Over time, a puppy figures out how to use her mouth more gently (inhibit her bite) to keep play going. 


Why you need to allow some biting.


Your puppy needs to learn that human skin is fragile and can’t be treated as roughly as a fur coat. Let your puppy bite you every now and again so you can let her know which bites are too hard. Otherwise she won’t learn to inhibit her bite. A dog without good bite inhibition, if ever startled, scared or feels the need to bite for any reason on instinct, she may cause serious injury. If she has good bite inhibition the chances of doing harm are much lower. 


Rule of thumb: From 6-18 weeks of age, allow your puppy to bite when playing as long as it is not too hard.


How to teach your puppy to bite more softly.


·       Always try to redirect your puppy onto a toy the first few time he bites hard. If he continues to try to bite your skin, then the result should be a brief “time-out”. Stop play and calmly leave your puppy alone and/or put her in a confinement area for a few minutes and leave her view.  Return when she's a bit more calm and try again, if your puppy bites hard again, repeat the process. 

·       Leave your puppy with appropriate chew toys at all times 

·       Don’t phase out play biting all together until your puppy is reliably biting softly. Then you can re-direct her to toys or other activities when getting mouthy. 


Rate how hard your puppy bites:

1 – You can feel it, but barely.

2 – There’s some pressure, but you barely flinch.

3 – Wow, those little teeth are sharp, but it’s tolerable.

4 – Ok, that hurts a bit. It might even leave a mark.

5 – Ack! That hurts and your hand is now bleeding. 


For approximately one week, if she gives you a level 5 bite, work to redirect to toys consistently and take breaks from play if your puppy can’t be redirected, this means she is too excited for that level of play and needs to learn to calm a bit. If you are consistent, level 5 bites should get softer over the week (or so).


The following weeks repeat the process for anything that is a 4 or above. Continue this process until your puppy consistently delivers only level 1 bites. 


Additionally practice interspersing asking for easy behaviors while playing with your dog and keeping play sessions short. For example:


15 seconds of play

Cue a sit - reward if successful - if not, is puppy too excited? Do you need to use a food lure?

20 seconds of play

Cue a sit - reward if successful - if not, is puppy too excited? Do you need to use a food lure?

10 seconds of play

Cue a hand touch - reward if successful - if not, is puppy too excited? Do you need to use a food lure?


Take a break and repeat in a few minutes. This will teach your puppy to play and calm and play and calm.


Training Tip: Think about when your puppy is most likely to play bite and be ready with favorite toys/chew items. Have your puppy on leash so it is easy to move him into confinement for a break if he gets too aroused with play.  For example, when playing tug, when your puppy is excited about something, and when you come home from work.