When Do Puppies Stop Biting?
Managing This Stage Of Puppyhood
If you’re a new puppy owner, you’re probably experiencing the joys (and frustrations) of puppyhood. Particularly as you’re trying to teach them to be models of canine society. Puppies are adorable, but they can also be a handful, especially when it comes to biting.
Puppies have sharp little teeth and they love to use them, which can be painful and even damaging to clothing, furniture, and skin. So, when do puppies stop biting?
If you’re worried that your puppy’s tiny teeth will never cease to destroy, you’re in the right place.
Today, we’ll take a closer look at the biting behaviour of puppies and when you can expect them to grow out of it. Let’s dive in.
Understanding Puppy Biting Behaviour
So why do puppies bite?
Puppies explore the world with their mouths and teeth, just like human babies do. Biting and mouthing are natural parts of puppy behaviour. Why? It helps them to learn about their environment and communicate with other dogs.
Oddly enough, a puppy’s mission to “taste the world” is more about enhancing smells than anything else.
Dogs reportedly have a far worse sense of taste than humans do. But it’s a canine’s extra smelling organ that creates the need to taste things too.
Puppies also bite during play, which is how they learn social skills and develop bite inhibition. Bite inhibition is the ability to control the force of their bite, which is important for interacting with other dogs and people without hurting them.
So here are some important takeaways before we sink our teeth into the topic further *wink wink*:
1. It’s not personal
Ever cried because your puppy has ruined your best jeans? I have!
Granted, I was 14 years old but still.
It’s important to remember that puppy biting is not personal or vindictive. It can certainly feel that way, but your puppy is just excited. It’s normal for puppies to be a little overzealous in their excitement.
By depersonalising puppy biting and realising it’s normal, you’ll be more inclined to try gentle training techniques over punishing your pup.
2. It’s not (usually) aggression
You may not consciously register your puppy’s bites as “personal”, but if you interpret them as aggression, you are personalising the act.
Again, puppy biting is not personal nor aggressive. It’s a normal part of growing up.
There are tiny sliver of puppies out there who may be biting aggressively. But their aggression will appear with other clear signs.
Signs that your pooch is being aggressive include:
If you think your dog is being aggressive rather than playful, consult a dog behaviourist for advice. Fortunately, it’s better for your pup to be aggressive in puppyhood than later in life, as training can help ease their aggression.
3. It’s a natural behaviour
Remember that the puppy biting stage is a rite of passage that all dogs must go through. Some dogs phase out of it sooner than others, but it’s rare that puppy biting will continue onto adulthood if given the proper training. That’s what we’ll discuss in this article.
When Do Puppies Stop Biting?
So how long do puppies bite?
The good news is that most puppies will stop biting by the time they reach six months of age. Most dogs grow out of it between three and five months of age. (2)
By this time, they will have developed their adult teeth and learned important social skills and bite inhibition from their mother and littermates.
Related: When Do Puppies Lose Their Teeth?
However, some puppies may continue to bite beyond six to eight months, especially if they haven’t received proper training and socialisation. It’s important to work with your puppy to teach them appropriate behaviour and bite inhibition.
How To Manage The Puppy Biting Stage
So, we’ve established that the puppy biting stage is inevitable. But before we train your pup to be a better canine citizen, how do you manage the biting stage?
1. Warn your guests
You’ll soon be used to your dog nipping and mouthing, but your visiting grandmother may not be.
Give your visitors the heads up that your puppy may playfully bite them. This is doubly important when it comes to interactions with children.
Should you keep your puppy away from others when your pup is going through their biting phase?
Absolutely not! Socialisation is vital to your puppy’s growth.
Part of preventing your dog from becoming a statistic is socialising them fully. But we’ll talk more about socialisation a little later.
2. Don’t wear your best clothes during playtime
Remember those jeans that my puppy ruined? They were my favourite jeans. But it was my fault for not foreseeing the terror of tiny teeth.
My advice? Wear your leggings and old stained t-shirts around your puppy during playtime. They’ll end up with heaps
of holes but at least it’s no love lost!
3. Provide plenty of exercise
Ever noticed that your puppy is more likely to bite when you get home from work and they haven’t seen you all day?
This is because they have a ton of built-up energy. Puppies have a lot of energy in general, and they need an outlet for it. Providing plenty of exercise can help reduce your puppy's biting behaviour.
simple way to solve this is to walk your dog shortly after you get home from work. This redirects their energy straight away.
How To Stop Puppy Biting - 10 Tips For Success
So the puppy biting stage is in full swing, and you’re ready to train your pup to curb this behaviour. Here’s the section for you. We’re going to talk about the action steps to take to stop puppy biting for good.
These tips will also apply if your pooch is older than six months and still terrorising you and others with their teeth.
1. Redirect Their Attention
Redirection is the single most effective tip to stop puppy biting in my experience.
If your puppy starts to bite, redirect their attention to a toy or chew bone. It helps to have a small chew toy in your back pocket at all times to stay consistent with this rule.
This will teach them that it’s okay to chew on appropriate items, but not on people or furniture.
2. Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is the basis of our philosophy here at Gentle Dog Trainers.
How do you do this well? Simple!
When your puppy is calm and playing nicely, reward them.
You can reward them with treats or praise or more playtime. Whichever works best for your dog’s personality.
Note: If you’re going to use praise as a reinforcer, try not to squeal or overly excite your puppy. Getting them too excited could encourage biting behaviours even more.
3. Teach Bite Inhibition
Bite inhibition is a fancy way of saying “bite control”.
Can your pup nip without injuring the person or animal they are nipping? This is a crucial part of a dog’s socialisation into a sensible canine member of society.
Bite control is about navigating mouthing more gently.
Because let’s be honest. Your dog is going to use their mouths a lot when interacting with you and other humans. How else will they take treats or toys from you?
To an extent, this skill will naturally evolve over time. Your pup will become more adept at taking things from human hands without injuring them.
But you can help them with this process. How? Try these methods:
- Complex chew or puzzle toys
Using toys that rely on your dog’s dexterity help to train them gentler biting techniques. A good example would be a chew toy with different textures. Navigating the various textures, nodules and ridges effectively coaches your pooch’s dexterity over time.
- Feed treats of different sizes
Another way of training your dog’s dexterity is by using your fingertips. All you need is an array of treats of different sizes.
When you feed your pup a treat, hold it between your fingertips and allow your dog to eat around your fingers to get at the treat.
This will train your dog to navigate your fingers and adjust their bite to get to the treat.
- Yelp for help
If your puppy bites too hard, let out a yelp or a high-pitched sound to let them know that it hurts. Then, stop playing and ignore them for a few minutes. This will teach them that biting too hard ends the fun.
This technique only works some of the time. Many dogs think that your yelp is an expression of your excitement. So your puppy may get even giddier.
Experiment with this technique as it may work for you. But if not, try the other techniques I’ve mentioned here to teach bite inhibition.
5. Socialise Your Puppy
So let’s revisit socialisation. Socialisation is important for teaching puppies appropriate behaviour and bite inhibition. You need to expose your puppy to other dogs and people in a safe environment.
Playing with other dogs is crucial for bite inhibition training because dogs instinctively have a way of warning each other when the play is too rough. If you can, arrange some play dates with older dogs to bolster your anti-bite training.
6. Use bitter spray
If your puppy continues to bite on furniture or other inappropriate objects, you can use a bitter spray to deter them from chewing on it.
For skin, a dog-safe nail-biting repellent would work if you coat your fingers in it.
7. Provide chew toys
Puppies need to chew. The biting stage often coincides with the teething stage. Sometimes puppies teethe on furniture and your knuckles because it feels soothing.
8. Supervise playtime
It's essential to supervise your puppy during playtime and intervene if their play gets too rough. This is especially important when your dog is playing with young children. This can help teach them appropriate behaviour and prevent injury to both people and other animals.
9. Be consistent with training
Consistency is key when it comes to puppy training. You need to stick to your training plan and provide clear and consistent rules for your puppy to follow.
This goes for your family members too. Let them know the training tactics you’re using and make sure that everyone is on the same page.
It's important to remember that puppy biting is a temporary behaviour, and with consistent training and socialisation, your puppy will eventually outgrow it.
However, be patient and consistent with your training efforts. It can take a while. Keep at it and you’ll slowly see progress.
10. Seek Professional Help
What if you’ve tried everything but your puppy is still biting? What do you do?
If your puppy’s biting behaviour is extreme or you’re not seeing any progress with training, it’s important to seek the help of a professional trainer or behaviourist.
This is even more important if your puppy is biting after six months of age.
Don’t know where to find a reputable professional? Ask your vet! Vets tend to be very connected when it comes to dog training professionals.
Troubleshooting: Solving Your Puppy Biting Problems
Consider me your puppy-biting agony aunt. Let’s get into these scenarios:
Scenario 1: My puppy keeps biting me, I’ve tried everything
Have you really tried everything? I encourage you to read around the topic as much as possible and learn the wide range of techniques that can help.
If you’re certain you’ve tried everything, it’s time to involve the professionals. A dog behaviourist should be your last port of call but they can be transformative for your puppy’s behaviour. If you can’t afford private consultations, try a puppy training class.
Scenario 2: My puppy is biting all the time, it never stops
If your puppy is biting all of the time, it sounds like they are understimulated. Try increasing their exercise program and playtimes to ensure they are burning their energy in productive ways.
Scenario 3: My puppy keeps destroying my clothes
There are two scenarios when puppies destroy clothes. The first is during play biting which is the topic of this article. If that’s you, wear cheaper clothing during play times and try out the tips in this post to stop play-biting behaviour.
If your puppy is using your clothing as a chew toy, that’s what we call destructive chewing. Luckily, we have a whole article about destructive chewing to check that out for advice.
Final Thoughts: The Puppy Biting Stage Does End
Puppy biting is a natural behaviour, but it can be frustrating or even painful.
Thankfully, most puppies will grow out of it within a few months.
By redirecting your puppy’s attention, using positive reinforcement, teaching bite inhibition, socialising your puppy, and seeking professional help if needed, you can help your puppy grow into a well-behaved member of canine society.
- Bekoff, M. April
27, 2019. “Dogs: An Exciting Journey Through Their Sensory Worlds”. Psychology Today. Retrieved April 5, 2023. https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/animal-emotions/201904/dogs-exciting-journey-through-their-sensory-worlds
- “Puppy biting and mouthing”. Blue Cross. Retrieved April 5, 2023. https://www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/puppy-biting-and-mouthing
- Donovan, L. July 7, 2022. “Puppy Socialization: Why, When, and How to Do It Right”. American Kennel Club. Retrieved April 5, 2023. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/puppy-socialization/