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Optimeal® Blog

How To Teach a Puppy Not To Bite

By Bridget Reed


If you have a puppy, chances are you know exactly what each of the 28 tiny teeth in their mouth feel like when biting your hand, your ankle, or your toes. All puppies “play bite,” but it can be annoying and potentially painful the older and bigger they get. 

That said, it’s important to train your puppy from a young age not to bite you or other people they come into contact with. In this article, we’ll look closely at several techniques for curbing your puppy’s biting behavior. 

Why Does Your Puppy Bite So Much?

Before we get to potential solutions to the puppy biting problem, you might be wondering why your furry friend bites so much in the first place. This section will provide a few reasons why your puppy may be biting.


Puppies use their teeth to explore the world and their surroundings. Just like human babies need to touch every object they can reach and put it in their mouth, puppies learn through biting things, other puppies, and humans. 

When your puppy bites something, they learn about that thing’s texture, how hard it is, what it tastes like, and whether or not it’s something they want to bite again. 


If your puppy seems to be biting more and more and they are between 12 to 16 weeks old, chances are they are teething. When puppies are teething, their gums can be sore as they lose puppy teeth and their adult teeth. Biting on different things, including you, may relieve this soreness. 


It is normal dog behavior to play bite to initiate playtime. You may notice that your puppy approaches you or other dogs with a play bow or approaches through little nips and bites. 

Although play biting is natural behavior, it is important to train your puppy to only play bite when playing with other dogs.

How Can You Teach Your Puppy Not To Bite?

Now that you know a little bit about why your puppy may be biting, let’s dive into some helpful techniques to help them learn not to bite you. Remember that playful biting is a normal part of puppy development, so training them not to bite you will take time and effort. Be patient with your furry friend.

Teach Them Bite Inhibition

One of the most effective ways to teach your puppy not to bite is to teach them bite inhibition. Bite inhibition is a term to describe a dog’s ability to control the force of their biting. 

Puppies need to be taught bite inhibition, or they will not be able to gauge the sensitivity of human skin and will always bite too hard. Luckily, the best teacher of bite inhibition is another puppy. 

If you have ever watched a group of puppies playing, you probably noticed that although biting was a part of play, no one was ever getting hurt, and puppies like to bite each other all over! 

When someone does bite a little too hard, the puppy that has been nipped will yelp, the biter will stop for a moment, and then they’ll go back to playing. In that quick moment of pause, the biting puppy will have learned valuable information about how hard they can bite safely. 

You can learn from puppy behavior and use a similar tactic to teach your puppy bite inhibition appropriate to human skin. Allow your puppy to bite your hands gently, but give a little yelp when he bites too hard. 

This noise will likely startle your puppy and cause him to stop biting. If your puppy does stop, praise them with verbal affirmations or a treat so that the good behavior is reinforced. 

Although bite inhibition is one of the best ways to teach your puppy not to bite too hard, it shouldn’t be overused. Only use the yelp method three to four times in a given 15-minute period, and make sure you are focused when you’re doing it. 

If it seems like yelping isn’t effective, you can try simply ignoring your puppy for 10 or 20 seconds after they bite too hard. If they come back and try to bite you again, you can stand up and move away from them.

Regardless of your tactic to show your puppy that their bite was too hard, it is important to return to them and encourage play again. Doing so will teach your puppy the valuable lesson that gentle play can continue, but the painful play has to stop.

As your puppy progresses, you can get stricter with your rules. Maybe try yelping or getting up for a moderately hard bite which will require that they are even more gentle with you. The more you train your puppy in bite inhibition, the closer you will get to the point where you can hardly feel your puppy’s bites.

Give Your Puppy Substitute Items To Chew

Another great way to get your puppy to stop biting your hands or fingers is to have a chew toy on hand to give them when they start to bite. Try to entice your puppy to only gnaw on the toy so that they learn you are off limits. 

You can also try incorporating substitute items into playtime with your puppy. Instead of roughhousing and wrestling with your puppy using your hands, try playing fetch or tug-of-war. 

This way, they’ll learn that they can play with you, but they cannot bite you. If you have a bigger dog, it may be a good idea to keep a tug toy with you so that you can immediately redirect their attention when you see them start to bite.

Pet With Treats

Try a simple distraction method if your puppy starts to bite every time you go to pet or scratch them. Whenever your puppy gets riled up and bites when you are petting them, feed them a few small treats or pieces of kibble from your free time. Hopefully, this will teach them to expect a reward if they are gentle while being petted. 

Try Time Out

Sometimes your puppy is just biting excessively and will not stop. If this occurs, you can try gently putting them in their crate or a confined area for a quick time out. 

While this method can be very effective, your puppy mustn't learn to associate their crate with punishment, so be gentle when you’re putting them in and let them out as soon as they calm down. 

Use a Pounce Prevention Technique

It’s very common puppy behavior to bite your feet and ankles as you walk. To prevent this behavior, carry a tug toy or a treat in your pocket. Whenever your puppy starts to bite, stop walking and offer them the tug toy. 

Once they’ve latched on, continue walking again. If you notice your puppy is more food motivated, you can try walking and holding the treat or kibble by your legs. Once your puppy walks a reasonable distance without biting your ankles or feet, you can reward them with a treat. 

Try To Figure Out Why They Are Biting

Although puppies just naturally bite, sometimes they bite to tell you something, just like how a baby may cry to let you know they’re hungry. Excessive biting may mean your puppy is tired out and needs a nap. It might also mean they need to go to the bathroom or are hungry or thirsty. 

Tire Them Out

Biting may also signify that your puppy has too much energy and nowhere to release it. If you notice your puppy’s biting is particularly bad, try to bring them to the park where they can run and get out all that puppy energy. 

Reinforce Positive Behaviors

When you’re trying so hard to get your puppy not to bite, you can sometimes forget to reward them when they are doing something good. A simple way to instill good habits in your puppy is to reinforce positive behaviors. 

If your puppy is particularly calm or quiet, give them a small treat, a bit of food, or some words of affirmation. This kind of positive reinforcement will help them learn good behavior. 

Socialize Your Puppy

Another great way to stop your puppy from biting is to socialize them with other puppies and friendly adult dogs. If your puppy has the time and space to expend their energy playing and play biting other dogs, chances are they will be less likely to bite you at home. 

Remember that just like humans, dogs benefit immensely from socialization with other dogs. If you are worried that your puppy may be a little too untrained for a dog park, you can try enrolling them in a puppy class where they will be monitored. 

Try a Taste Deterrent

You can try a taste deterrent if you want a more active approach to stopping your puppy from biting. It’s easy to pick up a puppy spray at your local pet store or make one at home by combining apple cider and white vinegar. 

Before you play with your puppy, simply spray the parts of your body and clothes that your puppy likes to bite. Continue to do so consistently for about two weeks. Hopefully, they will begin to notice that biting you comes with a bitter taste and will eventually stop. 

Practice Patience

As hard as it can be, remember that play biting is a natural part of any puppy’s development. Never resort to any type of physical punishment, even if it seems your dog may be biting out of aggression. Talking with your vet or dog trainer about ways to manage their biting is always best. 

Good Rules of Thumb To Prevent Puppy Biting

Now that we’ve taken you through some of the best at-home methods for stopping puppy biting, we have a few rules of thumb that may be helpful to follow if you’re trying to get your furry friend to kick their pesky biting habit. Although these rules are generally helpful, remember that every puppy is different, so you must find what methods work best for your dog. 

First, avoid waving your fingers and toes in front of your puppy’s face. Although it is the quickest way to get them to play, it also reinforces biting, even if you don’t want it to. 

For a similar reason, try to avoid grabbing or slapping the sides of your puppy’s face to engage them in wrestling or playtime. Especially for larger dogs, this is a sign that they can and should bite your hands and will be counterproductive to your other efforts. 

Although it may be your instinct to immediately pull your hands or feet away when your puppy starts biting them, doing so may encourage your puppy to jump forward and continue biting them. Instead of jerking them away and initiating a game with your puppy, try letting your hands or feet go limp. This will make you much less fun to play with and make it more likely that your dog will let go. 

To get your puppy to stop biting, make sure you don’t cut out play altogether. Play is one of the best ways to build a bond between your dog and your family. 

Instead, encourage gentle play that doesn’t involve biting, but make sure you spend time playing with your puppy daily. If a soft tap on the nose or top of the head seems like the best way to reprimand your dog for biting, always avoid physical punishment. 

Giving your puppy a light slap may encourage them to play more aggressively or can make them afraid of you. Any kind of physical punishment such as shaking their scruff, whacking their nose, or putting your fingers down their throat should be avoided at all costs. 

When Should You Be Worried About Your Puppy’s Biting?

Puppy biting is completely normal. However, you might want to look for some types of biting because they may signal future problems with aggression. Much like human kids, puppies can throw temper tantrums that involve more intense biting. 

Although it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between play and a temper tantrum, you can look to your puppy’s face for a clue to know what exactly is going on. If your puppy is relaxed and play biting, changes in their nose and muzzle may be slightly wrinkled, but overall their face and body will be relaxed. 

A puppy that is throwing a temper tantrum generally looks stiff and frozen. You may notice that your puppy curls its lips back to show its teeth or growls. All of the above are signs of a temper tantrum. 

During a puppy temper tantrum, you want to be as calm, unemotional, and firm with your puppy as possible. Once it is over, you may consider reaching out to a veterinarian or trainer to help you assess the best next steps in your puppy’s training. 


It can be annoying and sometimes even painful to have a puppy prone to biting. Luckily, there are several different methods you can use at home to train your puppy and get them to play gently with you and your family.


Importance of Puppy Training for Future Behavior of the Dog | JStage

A Timeline of Puppy Teething | AKC

What Makes Dogs Act Aggressive? New Research Offers More Info | AKC

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