5 Dog Trainer Tips to Teach Your Puppy to Stop Nipping
Step 11 of 16 in the Dogly Puppy Channel
with Melissa Dallier of ACanineAffinity, Training Advocate

So you have a puppy - congratulations on your new family member! What you might not have realized, until now, was that this adorable, squishy, snuggly puppy has a mouthful of razor-sharp puppy teeth and knows how to use them.

Most puppy parents are shocked to find that their puppies are tiny little biting and nipping machines. They bite hands, feet, pants, hair, shoes, furniture, noses... well you get it. Most pet parents 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 to be adult dogs and have super strong jaws they don't hurt anyone or anything with their nipping. This is the process of teaching bite inhibition.


Bite inhibition - what is that??

Most puppies are just naturally little nipping machines. They bite things that move, things that don’t move, other puppies and other dogs, your hands, anything. Puppy biting and nipping is not aggressive behavior. Not only is this normal puppy behavior, it is an important part of your puppy's development.

When puppies play, they learn from their playmates’ yelps and body language when a bite is too hard. Over time, puppies figure out how to use their mouths more gently (to inhibit their bite) to keep play going. 

Why you need to allow some biting and nipping

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 him/her know which bites are too hard. Otherwise your puppy won’t learn to inhibit his or her bite.

A dog without good bite inhibition if ever startled, scared, or feels the need to bite for any reason on instinct, may cause serious injury. If your dog has good bite inhibition the chances of doing harm are much lower.


How do you help your puppy learn bite inhibition?

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

Try this

1) Always try to redirect your puppy onto a toy the first few times your puppy bites hard.

Redirecting your puppy to something that's appropriate behavior you want to see is always your first and best move. Let your puppy nibble to his/her heart's content on chew toys or (if your pup won't deconstruct and ingest it) a comforting, soft toy.

2) If your puppy 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 your pup in a confinement area like a playpen or behind a baby gate for a few minutes and leave your puppy's view.  

3) Return when your puppy is a bit more calm and try again.

If your puppy bites hard again, repeat the process. 

4) Leave your puppy with appropriate chew toys at all times.

It's a good idea to always give your puppy a good outlet for any need to chew or bite. You'll be setting up your puppy to avoid getting into trouble - or as we always say, setting your puppy up for success by anticipating.

5) Don’t phase out play-biting all together until your puppy is reliably biting softly.

Then you can redirect your puppy to toys or other activities when getting mouthy. 

Pro tip: size up the degree of your puppy's biting to make the best plan to stop puppy biting.


Here's how to rate how hard your puppy bites:

  1. You can feel it as your puppy nips, 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. 

Try this

  • For approximately one week, if your puppy gives you a level 5 bite, work to redirect your puppy's mouth to toys consistently.
  • Take breaks from play if your puppy can’t be redirected. This means your puppy 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.

Give me an example

It should look something like this:

After 15 seconds of play

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

After 20 seconds of play

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

After 10 seconds of play

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

Stop playing and repeat in a few minutes.

This will teach your puppy to play and calm and play and calm.

Pro tip: Think about when your puppy is most likely to play-bite (when playing tug of war, when you come home from work, when your puppy is excited about some happening or thing) and be ready with a favorite chew toy.

Have your puppy on leash at these times so it's easy to move your pup into confinement for a break if he/she gets too aroused with play. Anticipation and knowing your puppy always helps manage your way to success together!

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Next up in the Puppy Channel on Dogly

Now that you know how to help your nipping puppy enjoy more gentle play without biting, have fun together!

Check out the rest of the Puppy Channel for more on training or jump over to the Life Stage Feeding Channel to find out which foods will help your puppy thrive with recommendations from a certified canine nutritionist.

If you have any questions on puppy biting behavior or any training with your puppy, just ask us in the Community discussion! Or get customized training help in your dog's plan here.

Melissa Dallier of ACanineAffinity

Training Advocate
Dogly loves Melissa because of Melissa's "every dog is different" view on science-based positive training.

Melissa guides you

Separation Anxiety - Puppies - Enrichment - Reactivity - Manners - Walking

Melissa is certified

Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) - Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer (CSAT)