Updated: Jul 14, 2021
Puppies have so much to learn about living in a human world, and the most important gift we can give them is lots of patience and understanding whilst they navigate their new reality.
Human babies explore the world with their hands and mouths, they touch everything they encounter and often try to put things in their mouth for further examination. Puppies don’t have hands that can pick items up, so they explore their world by putting everything in their mouth, whether it is appropriate or not. This includes things like human hands, feet, fingers and toes.
Mouthing, nipping and biting is a very normal form of puppy interaction and is never done with malice or aggression, so never punish them for this behaviour.
As puppies lose their baby teeth and grow their adult teeth, they go through a painful teething stage, just like human babies, and chewing can relieve the soreness in their gums so they often chew on inappropriate objects in the home such as cables, wooden chair legs and plastic objects during this phase.
Puppy-Proof your home by making sure your puppy does not have access to unsuitable items, and distract your puppy from chewing on household items, or on you and other family members by offering them something satisfying to chew on.
Any time your puppy tries to bite you or an inappropriate object, quickly replace your hand or the item with an appropriate chew. You could try a stuffed puppy KONG® or a wet face washer that has been frozen, which will be cool and soothing for your puppy’s sore gums during their teething period.
Puppies learn bite inhibition by playing with other dogs. Take your pup to Puppy Playgroups, Doggy Day Care or for playdates with friends who have social dogs.
Redirect the bite by offering your puppy a chewy treat or toy when he starts nipping at you.
Provide mental Enrichment for your pup by teaching them tricks, playing games, offering treat puzzles and sniffing safaris or giving them a stuffed KONG® to chew on.
If your puppy won't stop biting you, stop playing and leave the room. Leave the puppy alone for a minute before returning. If your puppy starts biting again when you return, leave again. Consistency is key here. In time your puppy will learn that biting signals the end of an enjoyable play session–the last thing they want!
Make sure your puppy gets plenty of rest. If your puppy is biting because they are overtired, pop them in their crate or a quiet room for a nap.
If your puppy continues to bite inappropriately, you can ask your veterinary clinic for a referral to a Certified Veterinary Behaviourist or Trainer.
©Rebeca Mas 2021
For more information on how to manage common puppy problems, read Sniff Play Bark - Your Essential Guide to a Happier Dog