Puppies are undoubtedly adorable. Their little paws, wide eyes, and cute ears are enough to make you want more than one. Something that’s not so adorable about puppies? Their teething phase.
As puppies teethe, they want to bite everything and anything they can – including your fingers! It may be cute at first, but it can lead to undesirable behaviors as an adult. Plus, those puppy teeth are sharp! Here is a guide to help stop your puppy from biting you.
Some products can be used to deter your puppy from biting off-limit things. Products like No Chew Spray or Bitter Apple leaves an unpleasant taste in their mouth when they lick it. But, it’s not as easy as just spraying an object and hoping for the best.
First, they need to associate the taste and smell with no chewing. To do this, spray a small amount on a cotton ball or tissue and put it in their mouth. They’ll most likely spit it out immediately where you can then let them smell it so it makes the association.
Then, spray it on the item. Though it may sound mean, don’t let your dog have access to water for up to an hour to ensure the deterrence method works. Spray the product on the item you don’t want them to chew or lick once a day for two to four weeks. You can even use it on your hands to help your puppy associate the taste with chewing your fingers.
With enough time and patience, your puppy will learn your fingers are off limits in no time. Using a combination of these three methods will help effectively teach your tiny teething friend what is acceptable to bite and what isn’t!
If you just added a new puppy to your family, make sure you provide them with the safety of a Nuzzle collar. To learn more about Nuzzle, click here.
Why do Puppies Bite?
Biting (including nipping and mouthing) is a normal behavior in puppies. All puppies go through the “landshark phase.” Puppies use their mouths to play because they don’t have dexterous fingers and hands as we do.
If we watch puppies interact, we will see how they are constantly nipping each other in play. Puppies find legs, floppy ears and tails irresistible to play with because they move and provide interactive fun.
Play in many animals encompasses rehearsing behaviors that will later on turn handy in life. In dogs, many play behaviors mimic hunting. We can see the stalking, the chasing and the pouncing.
Movement triggers predatory drive and therefore a puppy moving away and running will be readily chased. A moving tail will be nipped. The forward moving legs will be quite an attraction too with funny episodes of a pup trying to walk while the other pup is latched on to a leg with a crocodile hold.
Deprived from a littermate to focus on, it is natural for puppies to therefore want to play with the humans in their family in the same way they play among each other.
Fingers, arms and legs soon become their favorite tug-toys to interact with. And the more they move the better!
Withdrawing a hand from a pup’s mouth therefore attracts the pup more than going limp and motionless as a lamppost. No puppies are interested in interacting with lampposts after all (other than perhaps to pee on later on!). Why? Because they are inert and pretty boring.
How to Stop a Puppy From Biting Feet and Hands?
How to stop a puppy from biting hands and feet?
When giving guidance to puppies it’s important to focus more on what we want puppies to do rather than on what we don’t want them to do. Using aversive training techniques such as alpha rolling the puppy, giving a scruff shake or tapping the pup on the nose may trigger more problems down the road such as fear or even defensive aggression.
On top of that, these methods don’t teach puppies what we want them to do and leaves a behavior vacuum that will likely be filled with some other undesirable behaviors (chewing the table, chasing the cat).
So if yelping may not work to stop puppy biting and correcting the puppy physically is counter-productive, what is left for dog owners to do? Easy, the solution is to make playing with your hands and legs extra boring and training some replacement behaviors and making these extra rewarding.
Now a disclaimer is warranted here: Puppy nipping is not a behavior that will go quickly away. It’s been rehearsed for a while in the litter with littermates (who have stronger skin than us!) and it’s strongly instinctive.In order to stop a puppy from biting feet and arms, you will need to be equipped with lots of patience and persistence.
Puppies bite because they want to play, and we don’t want to deprive puppie from play. Instead, we want to redirect play to appropriate toys and teach fun games through fun training. Following are some tips to stop a puppy from biting feet and hands.
” Using physical correction can cause a fear response and can result in the puppy’s using aggression in an escalating fashion. A better approach is to both address the biting at the time it occurs and prevent biting as an option for the pup.”~John Ciribassi, veterinary behaviorist.
Tips to Stop a Puppy From Biting Feet and Hands
- Turn into a lamppost. This helps to make the rough nipping at your feet, arms, legs extra boring. When you are walking and you see your puppy approach, stop in your tracks and become boring like a tree. Movement triggers more biting and the more we resist by moving, the more a puppy will latch on and treat us as tug toys.
- Next, ask for a replacement behavior below (that you have trained prior to the point of a certain level of fluency). You have several options as to what replacement behaviors to use. They all offer the puppy an opportunity to perform a behaviors that is incompatible with biting. Teaching these replacement behaviors requires you to carry a treat bag on you during the day so that you are a ready to redirect at a moment’s notice when you walk around. Kibble rather than treats can be used for those concerned about extra calories or digestive upset.
- Train your puppy to target hands rather than nip them. You first sit down and train your puppy to target a target stick stick in a low distraction area (you can use any long object like a ruler or wooden spoon) and make it an extra rewarding activity by clicking (or saying yes!) when your puppy targets it with her nose. You can toss the treats rather than handfeed them so to make the activity extra fun and burn excess energy. You can then start asking your puppy to target the target stick as you are standing and then as you are walking (remember to stop in your tracks as your pup approaches) and can end the session by tossing several kibble/treats on the floor in various areas as you walk away.
- Train your puppy to ‘sit.” You need to train sit prior in a low distraction setting and then progress to asking it when you are walking (remember to stop in your tracks as your pup approaches). As your puppy approaches, say “sit” and then reward by tossing the kibble/treat the opposite way as you walk away. If your puppy eats quickly and then catches on with you as you’re walking away, stop walking and rinse and repeat the exercise of asking the sit. This works great because you are adding obedience training, giving your puppy a workout and preventing her from rehearsing the troublesome behavior. Win-win!
- Train your puppy to do some attention heeling (dog walking next to you looking into your eyes) inside the home (no leash needed). If he can stay so focused on your feet, he can eventually be taught to stay focused on your eyes. Every time he makes eye contact with you, you toss a treat across the room so that he gets a workout too. Now, with the short attention span of puppies, don’t expect to get long sessions of attention heeling, but just a quick glance works. You can start by stopping in your tracks asking for attention and then add gradually motion (walking) as you progress.
- What to do in the meanwhile, prior to your dog learning the replacement behavior well? As you work on training a replacement behavior, you may wish to redirect her when she approaches and you stop walking to some toy such as a tug toy or a flirt pole to prevent rehearsal. You can also try tossing a ball the opposite direction.
- Although you aim to stop a puppy from biting hands and feet, you don’t want a puppy to stop all forms of mouthing altogether. Puppies need to learn how to inhibit their bite (put less pressure) before their jaws develop and they are able to inflict quite some serious damage. As tempting as it may feel to start rough-housing or wrestling with the puppy to teach this valuable lesson, it is best to refrain from doing so as this only teaches the pup to play rough. Instead, try using a tug-toy in lieu of your hands. Should your puppy ever miss and bite your hands, drop the toy and stop playing. Another option is to keep a treat in your closed hand and release only when the pup is gentle with his mouth. You can also work on getting your puppy to develop a soft mouth during quiet times by allowing gentle mouthing and providing positive feedback for using a soft mouth. It’s important to practice during quiet times at first because if your pup can’t control his bite when relaxed, you can’t expect him to be able to when he’s highly aroused. Make it crystal clear that no-biting behavior and licks get praise and continued attention while bites make you stop the interaction and even go away.
- Last but not least, provide more training, mental stimulation and brain games (pick brain games that allow him to chase things and get rewards out of them like kibble out of a bottle or a Kong Wobbler) so that he should seek them more and more which can turn your hands and legs pretty boring after a while because he gets more out of these activities when he’s bored.
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Why is My German Shepherd Puppy Biting and Nipping?
Little pups that bite on hands or chew on toys are doing so because they are developing teeth.
They chew on toys because their gums feel irritated and to make the pain go away, they bite and chew on things. This behavior during the teething period is very normal and not much of a problem. However, if a GS pup doesn’t leave its biting habit behind when it has grown into an adult, it becomes a huge problem for everyone.
Another reason that GSDs bite a lot is that they did not receive proper training as pups. When people start to appreciate or encourage GS biting or nipping, they are making it develop this into a habit. Your dog will start to bite at visitors and household items. This is a problem that needs to be controlled right away or else someone will end up getting hurt. If you let your GS bite and nip, you are letting it take over.
Biting and nipping is also a play game for GSD pups. They like to bite other pups in the litter, and this is usually harmless. However, when a pup gets hurt unintentionally, it makes a loud sound. This sound is an indication for the pup that it is hurt, and it is time to stop.
How to Stop a German Shepherd from Biting and Nipping?
There are several ways you can train your pup not to bite or nip. If your pup is biting because of teething, it is not a problem. However, if your pup’s biting habit is getting out of control, adopt the following strategies to get control over it.
- The first step is to tell your dog that biting is not acceptable.
- You will do this with the help of voice commands, body language, and hand signals.
- If your pup bites at you, make and ‘ouch’ sound.
- Pull your hand away and say ‘No.’
- Move away from your pup and stop playing.
- When you stop playing with your pup the moment it bites, it will associate no play with biting.
- Repeat this practice whenever your GSD bites or nips.
- It will help your GSD learn that biting and nipping is not appreciated.
If this method doesn’t work and your GS pup is still biting, try this:
- Start playing with your pup.
- Let it grab your hand and as soon as the pup bites, say ‘No’ in an authoritative tone.
- Put your thumb in your pup’s mouth and under its tongue.
- Put your other finger lightly beneath its chin.
- Your pup will not be able to bite you and in this uncomfortable situation, it will try to get your fingers out of its mouth.
- This is an effective technique that will make the puppy feel uncomfortable and it will avoid biting you.
- Remember, you will have to repeat this technique several times until your pup completely hates taking your hand in its mouth.
This doesn’t work either? Try this:
- If you are playing with your pup and it starts biting your hands, say ‘No’ immediately.
- Pull your hand backward and pinch your pup in the neck.
- Do not pinch too tightly.
- This will make the pup associate pinching with No, and it will soon stop biting you.
Be Consistent in what You Teach
If you are trying to train your dog to behave and stop biting and nipping, make sure you are doing it with consistency and repetition. While training a GSD, you will need to repeat your technique several times until it starts to learn. Your GSD needs to know that biting and nipping is not acceptable and will upset you.
You will also need to become the leader of your dog, not a friend of the same level. When you are a leader, you control the dog’s behavior. When the dog accepts you as a leader, it starts to follow the rules you set and the commands you give.
Do not let your puppy bite on your hands during the training process.
Doing so will create confusion in your dog’s mind, and it will not be able to learn that biting is not good.
Teach our puppy bite inhibition.
Hand-feeding is a good way to train for bite inhibition.
Some dogs may have low bite thresholds. This means that they resort to biting or aggression even with fairly low, seemingly harmless stimuli.
One of my dogs, a Shiba Inu, can get mouthy when he is excited or frustrated, when I restrain him, when I stop him from doing something, and much more. Because of this, it is extremely important to train him to have good bite inhibition.
I start bite inhibition exercises as soon as I bring a puppy home. Even though puppy teeth are sharp, a puppy does not have the jaw strength of an adult, and is not capable of doing as much damage. Once my puppy has a soft mouth, I train him to stop biting on people.
Hand-feeding is a good way to teach our puppies to control the force of their bites. I hand-feed my puppy at least some of his kibble every day. If he bites too hard when getting his food, I do a sharp ouch or yelp, and ignore him for a few seconds. This teaches him that if he bites too hard, the food stops.
If my puppy is taking food from me gently, I praise him and keep the food coming. Often, I will combine hand-feeding with puppy obedience training and dog grooming sessions. Hand-feeding can also help prevent food aggression issues, so I continue this practice throughout my dog’s life.
We can also get Ian Dunbar’s book After You Get Your Puppy, for an overview of bite inhibition training.
Initially, Dunbar may come across as somewhat alarmist. We may feel that if we do not meet his somewhat unrealistic dog socialization and puppy training demands, things are going to go badly. I just try to ignore the alarmist talk, and focus on the bite inhibition and handling exercises, which are quite useful.
I am very thankful that my puppy (now adult dog) has a soft mouth. Because my Shiba Inu has good bite inhibition, we were able to solve many of his subsequent issues, which would have been difficult to deal with if he were biting at full strength.
Good bite inhibition allowed us to solve many of Shiba Sephy’s problems, which would have been difficult to deal with if he were biting at full strength.
When Our Puppy Bites …
When our puppy bites, it is important NOT to jerk our hand away. If we jerk away, we will likely get scratched. In addition, sudden and quick movements may make our puppy think that it is a fun game. This rewards the biting behavior, and encourages him to bite on us even more.
In the worst case, quick movements can activate a dog’s prey drive, and encourage aggressive behaviors. Therefore, it is important to control this reflex action, and stay still. In addition, I give a no-mark or yelp as a puppy might do to his litter-mates, when they are playing too rough.
I usually yelp when it is an accidental dog bite, for example when my dog gets his teeth on me while taking food out of my hand. Yelping is also appropriate for puppies that are still learning the rules. Otherwise, I use No for adult and adolescent dogs, who should know better.
After the no-mark, I always follow-up with a positive command, e.g. redirect him onto a toy.
When our puppy is biting us, it is important NOT to jerk away.
1. Redirect Our Puppy onto a Toy
Redirect our puppy onto a toy.
This technique is especially useful for an untrained puppy. It lets him know that it is ok to bite on a toy, but not ok to bite on people.
For example, my dog gets excited and starts biting when I scratch his tummy. Therefore, I used that as a training exercise to get him to bite on a toy, instead of on my hand. Since I can start the exercise anytime I want, I control the environment and make sure that I have multiple soft toys nearby for use. I make sure to reward my dog very well with food and affection when he redirects, so that I further reinforce the behavior.
A toy can also be useful for those cases where the puppy is losing control, and getting a bit too excited or frustrated. Giving him something to redirect his excitement or frustration at, may help to calm him down.
If I do not have a toy handy, I can also redirect by giving my puppy an alternate and simple command that he knows very well, e.g. Sit.
My dog gets excited and starts biting when I scratch his tummy, so initially, I used that as a training exercise to get him to bite on a toy instead of on my hand.
Dogs like their freedom and they like being with their pack.
Most dogs value their freedom to roam around the house and backyard. Dogs are also pack animals, and like being with both human and canine members of the family. Since a timeout takes away both of these things, it is an extremely effective method of dog discipline.
When giving my dog a timeout –
- I make sure to put him in a really boring room, with no windows that he can reach. Currently, my dog’s timeout area is the laundry room.
- I check that the room is safe, and contains nothing that he can chew, play, or interact with in any way.
- Finally, I ensure that nobody gives puppy any attention during his timeout period.
It is better not to use a crate for timeouts. Crates are useful for transportation, management, and more. Therefore, I ensure that the crate is a happy place, where my dog feels comfortable going to for some peace and quiet, for sleep, and to chew on his favorite toy.
I find that a timeout is the most effective way to stop my dogs from biting. However, I only use it when my puppy is deliberately acting out, and not for accidental bites.
Initially, I start with a short 1 minute timeout. If my dog continues to bite right after he comes out, I return him to the laundry room for a much longer period of time (about 15 minutes). Be flexible with the timeout duration, and adjust it according to our dog’s age, temperament, and behavior. Some trainers do not believe in long timeouts, while others may ignore their dogs (timeout lite) for hours.
Do not use timeouts for training mistakes or lack of motivation.
Shiba Inu – Independent, Aloof, and Stubborn
Some trainers suggest using aversive techniques to stop dog biting. For example, one suggested making my hand into a fist (so my fingers are safe), and then pushing my fist gently in when my puppy bites. This is uncomfortable for the puppy, and he will likely release our hand.
While it did get my puppy to release my hand, it did not reduce his biting behavior. In fact, my dog responds badly to any aversive methods. Doing this made him want to bite on me even more, because he got a reaction, and now has something (my fist) to fight with.
The same thing occurred with spraying water on his muzzle; he just started attacking the water bottle.
Ultimately, aversive techniques were not very effective with my dog, and caused even more behavioral issues. With aversive methods, it is difficult to trick a puppy into thinking that the bad stimulus is not coming from us. This can compromise a puppy’s trust and weaken our bond with him.
Instead, when my puppy bites,
- I first use a no-mark, for example, No or Ack-Ack to let him know that it is an undesirable behavior.
- Then, I redirect him onto a toy or give him an alternate command, for example Sit. If he stops biting and follows the command, then I praise him and reward him with attention and a fun game.
- If he continues to bite, I start with a timeout-lite by first withdrawing my attention. I do this by standing up, folding my arms, and turning away from him.
- If he escalates his behavior and starts to jump or bite on my clothing, then I quickly remove him to his full timeout area.
I always try to set my dog up for success by managing his excitement level. When he starts biting, I try to redirect and turn things into a positive learning experience. I only escalate my response when I absolutely have to, and I try my best to minimize those instances.
Shiba Inu Sephy did not respond well to aversive methods. Reward training yielded much better results.
The thing to always remember is that all attention (even negative attention) is attention. So the worst thing you can do to your puppy is ignore him. My rule is teeth touches skin stops play. If his teeth touch you you make a loud noise (hey!) and stop interaction for 10 seconds. If he does it again, same thing but do it for 20 sec. A third time is no more play. You mark it verbally and remove yourself (the reward).
And remember to try to remain calm. The more energy you give him, the more he’ll send back to you.
The other technique I use is to pick him by placing your hand under his body and turn him away from you, holding him. He will squirm around and might try to get to your hand but if you’re holding him correctly (from underneath him, palm up, holding him around his belly) he won’t be able to reach you.
You hold him until he settles, then let him go. Chances are he will come right back at you. You calmly repeat the process once again. And again, and again, and again. You do it until he eventually realizes that this is no fun and he moves on to something else. Every time you do this it should take less and less time as he realizes it always ends your way, so why go through it over and over.
You see the worst thing that can happen to your dog is that nothing happen. If you get frustrated or try to “correct” the behavior, you’re only giving it attention – and all attention is a positive.
You also want to make sure you’re providing enough exercise, which just about everyone underestimates.
Taking the time and effort early on will be well worth it as your puppy will learn the rules and be a happy, well-behaved member of your family.
Give Your Puppy a Chance: Why Ignoring Works
I see dog handling this way: Give your puppy the chance to make the right choice instead of waiting for them to make a mistake. Either reward your puppy for good behavior or ignore the bad behavior. Never scold, shout or hit – just ignore. And praise them when your puppy gets it right. Give them treats, play with them or just cuddle. Reward your puppy.
With this mindset, you don’t have to tell your puppy not to bite. Instead, when your puppy bites, you just let them know about their poor choice by staying still. This is the consequence of your pup’s action. If they keep biting, you let them into their crate. They’ll be excluded from the community. This is a severe consequence.
On the other hand, it’s important to remember to praise and reward your pup when they play without biting, or when they only bites what you allow, like a bone or chew toy. It’s important that your pup knows the consequence of ll their actions, including the good ones.
Here is some valuable information to help you stop puppy biting before it becomes a big problem.
- It starts before you get your puppy. Today we often get a puppy when it’s seven or eight weeks old, but your work in securing a healthy puppy should start months before that. If you want to make sure that your animal is sound and well, buy your puppy from a good breeder or a trusted shelter. Find a caring breeder or shelter who is in it for the dog’s sake and not just for profit. Someone who loves the dog and her puppies will take their responsibilities seriously.
If you do not do your job, you could end up with a puppy who has been born in a stable and who has never seen humans or even been outside. For such a puppy, there is so much new, so much to fear – and maybe even a real cause to bite.
- Learn to play the game – both of you. If you have done your homework to find your new puppy, your new best friend should be a trusting and loving puppy. Puppies are so ready to be a member of your family, which means playing with you. But if your pup gets too wild, they might not be able to avoid biting. Remember, it’s the way your pup plays and learns. So, always pay attention to their level of arousal.
Puppies learn the best if they are excited, but not overly excited. You must make sure that your puppy is always in the right state of mind for learning and being happy. This is even more important if you have children around your puppy. Although you may want them to get along and have fun, you must also teach your children not to play too wildly with the new puppy.
In my experience, it’ll always end up being the puppy’s fault if something goes wrong and frankly, that’s not fair. So, be careful and wise, instead of being sorry. Be aware that puppies will use their mouth. My puppies use their mouths with me when they are excited, but I never allow them to bite. Does that sound strange? It isn’t.
As mentioned previously, my puppies play with their mouths open without biting down. In the same way, they hold my hand. So, they open their mouths around my hand but never bite – the same way they play with each other. Most dog breeds can learn bite inhibition.
- Set your puppy up for success by diverting their attention. When at all possible, set your puppy up for success. Instead of waiting for them to bite, divert their attention. Observe your pup’s actions, so you know can get to your them. This way you will recognize when there is a danger, and before anything happens, you can calm your puppy.
You can also divert their attention with a ball or something else you allow them to bite. Make it possible for them to be excited and still have success. In my opinion, puppies often bite because they get excited. They simply get so happy and overjoyed, they can’t control themselves.