Although it’s natural for a puppy to bite while he’s playing, it’s a behavior that needs to be redirected at an early age, in the appropriate way or the dog may become aggressive when it reaches adulthood.
Is your puppy chewing everything he shouldn’t, including your hands? Biting at a young age does not usually pose a risk to you, besides having those sharp little teeth on your skin, since the intention at this stage is usually just play. Although it’s natural for a puppy to bite while he’s playing, it’s a behavior that needs to be redirected at an early age, in the appropriate way or the dog may become aggressive when it reaches adulthood.
Why your puppy bites you?
- Nature. Everything in nature has its reason for being. The first three months of life, puppies must be with the mother and her siblings. Dog Moms are responsible for disciplining their puppies and between siblings they learn how to control their bite; they understand what it feels like to be bitten. Therefore, they correct each other in an appropriate way. When puppies are removed from their mom and siblings too early they skip this valuable life lesson. Since she does not have his siblings, he will do it with those around him. That is one of the reasons why the appropriate age to separate a puppy from its litter is after he is three months.
- Curiosity. Telling a puppy not to bite is like telling a two-year-old child not to touch. It’s almost impossible! Dogs have no hands to explore, so they use their mouths. Which means that they will bite anything that moves, including your hands, toes, pants, shoes, etc.
- Toothfairy. Another reason why your puppy may be biting everything is because he may be losing his teeth and his gums start to itch and hurt. Puppies start losing their teeth some time around four months and it may last about two months. Every dog is different.
Possible solutions for a puppy that bites everything
It is important to know your puppy. If you have a puppy that chews on everything, here are some possible solutions to your “problem” but I recommend that you read books about their breed so that you understand your dog at all his life stages
- Toys. For puppies, I always recommend strong chewing toys that are almost indestructible. In your favorite local pet store, you can get hard bones, hard rubber toys and hollow toys you can stuff with treats. This will keep him busy for a while. It is important to satisfy his desire to chew. Saying “NO” is not enough.
- Don’t hit him! If you lose your patience, it’s best to put your puppy in his crate for a while until he calms down or redirect his chewing to a toy. Hitting a puppy could cause him to become aggressive towards humans, plus needles to say it's inhumane.
- Exercise him. Play fetch or walk him everyday.
- Train him. Most probably you don’t expect your puppy to be a champion or to finish a master’s degree in college, but training him will help him channel his energies into work. During training I like to focus on control exercises and on the foundation of every basic command. That way, your puppy will enjoy training and will start responding more to you instead of looking for other things to do. At Lucky Pet we have new puppy classes every month. Register here.
- Don’t rough play with him. Whenever I do my initial interview to owners of puppies with excessive chewing “problems” it turns out that there is someone in the family who plays roughly with the dog. He grabs it by the face and causes it to bite. PLEASE DON’T DO THAT, unless you want a bigger problem (this time without the quotes). Then he won’t understand why they scold him when he bites. You can play tug of war but always under control. You tell him when he can grab the toy and when to let it go.
Written by Mariel Calderon, dog trainer at Lucky Pet