Why does my puppy / dog bite?

It can be frustrating and upsetting when your cute puppy just seems to want to chew on you. On your hands, arms, legs, clothes and even your face. Before trying to work out how to stop your puppy / dog biting you need to delve into what is causing this behaviour in the first place.

There is a distinct difference in biting between basic puppy “mouthing” and the more serious biting or snapping at you and your family. The EJRTCA website puts it well “First of all, chewing is normal puppy behavior. Watch a mother with her pups and you will see how much of this goes on. This is why breeders should not sell their pups before they reach 8 weeks old, giving the mother a chance to raise the pups with manners, and learn not to bite.” Puppy bite training should be complete with the the first 6 months of a dogs life – so we take over the responsibility of the mother.

The Perfect Paws website lists the three main causes for biting as:

  • Lack of Socialization – when you took the puppy from the litter it’s social skills with other dogs ended there. By mixing with other dogs they can continue the rough and tumble play and continue to discover the boundries of play and pain. By not socialising with dogs and humans your puppy can be fearful and this fear can cause him to lash out.
  • Trust and Respect Inhibits Biting – Just as with humans, there needs to be trust and respect between both parties. Otherwise the other party won’t want to “play nice”.
  • Use of Reprimands – Never EVEN attack your animal in a form of punishment (hitting, kicking, slapping – whatever). This creates both fear and distrust. You need to be consistance and fair. So don’t yell at your dog for soiling the carpet, ESPECIALLY after the event. You took on the puppy, so you should clear up after it calmly.

So in short, the reasons that your puppy will be biting are that it is testing the boundries of what it can get away with, it will be teething and need to chew or worst of all could be fearful of you and the situation that it is in.

Further reading:

25 Responses to “Why does my puppy / dog bite?”

  1. umm... Says:

    So, if all this stuff is the puppy testing its boundaries, how are we, the responsible owners of said puppy, supposed to establish that staining my rug is a bag thing? I’ve had terrific success with a quick smack on the nose. After about three stains the problem went away. A friend “talked” to his dog and the damn thing still wizzes the floor.

    Dogs aren’t humans, so they’re not going to respond to our logic. They need simple answers. Staining my rugs is a bad thing, killing the neighbor’s bushes is fine. The dog figured that out and I don’t think we have any trust issues. Your suggestions for reprimand use and spoiling the carpet simply doesn’t make sense. How can they possibly learn if we’re not allowed to react?

  2. Dogowner Says:

    I totally agree. A light slap on the bottom along with a shout is the best way to convey your will. Later on a raised voice will suffice. When i return home, my dog is so happy it could climb onto me or chew on my hand if it reaches and demand attention for like an hour and it won’t stop until i calm it down with a strong voice command (literally a shout). What am i supposed to do, bite it back? Believe me, i tried, doesn’t work, leaves you only with dog fur between your teeth and bite marks on your face ;-)

  3. Stop a second and think about this. Says:

    In response to “umm…”
    First off, the entry states that attacking your dog AFTER they have misbehaved is not acceptable. Dogs simply will not remember what you’re scolding them for if you choose to reprimand more than a few seconds after the misbehaving. If possible, it is best to reprimand during poor behavior.

    Secondly, “punishment” does not have to be physical. A horrendously obnoxious noise of some sort will yield equal, if not (ultimately) better, results than physical attacks.

    Aaaaaand this is why a thing called positive reinforcement exists.

    “How can they possibly learn if we’re not allowed to react?” Great question, but reactions do not need to be abusive mate. :(

  4. umm... Says:

    There’s a difference between punishment and abuse. Abuse is a bad thing. Punishment is necessary. To call the way I discipline my dog abuse would be like calling a pat on the head abuse. They’re simply not the same. I prefer the raised voice, but it doesn’t always work with big dogs. Look at how a mom treats her puppies; she doesn’t coddle them when they mess up, she snaps at them. We, the owners, take the place of the mom when it comes to establishing acceptable behavior.

    Positive reinforcement is a bunch of BS when it comes to animals. Even humans have mixed results with it. Avoiding punishments is a greater motivation than gaining rewards, especially when all a dog wants is to simply be in the room.

    I really think that there is a special place in hell for those who abuse their pets. Discipline is not abuse; it can become abuse in ignorant hands. I am happy to say that I am not ignorant. If it works for your dog, then stick with it, but my experience has shown that a smack on the nose is WAY more effective than a treat.

  5. .... Says:

    won’t a treat just positively reinforce the bad behavior? are you supposed to stand your dog outside after the fact and hope it will pee, then give them the snack for peeing outside? not practical… but i hate dogs anyways. unfortunately i live with one because of my parents.

    by the way, if you point your dog’s nose close to the poo or pee and then smack it i think it will remember what it did wrong just fine.

  6. rex Says:

    “by the way, if you point your dog’s nose close to the poo or pee and then smack it i think it will remember what it did wrong just fine.”

    did your parent rub your face in your shit when u crapped your pants?
    why do it to an animal, if you dont like them, leave them alone ffs.

    go do that to a matured pitt bull terrier, i dare you.

    if animals recieve constant abuse, how are they supposed to know when they are being yelled at for being bad or if it is just random.

  7. umm... Says:

    Okay, seriously, dogs are not people. The simple fact is that we are smarter. All animals thrive in simplicity. They do not respond to our logic. No, my mom didn’t rub my face in my diaper to potty-train me, but that’s because we have language to explain and understand acceptable behaviors; we don’t speak dog; our vocal cords can’t make the proper sounds. So what does that leave us? We can’t use logic. We can’t use language. Why not use a more universal method: corporal punishment. Hitting is NOT abuse. Consistent hitting with no provocation is abuse. Hitting anything when they mess up may be considered wrong by some, but there is no legitimate definition that considers it abuse.

    I’ll admit that if an animal receives constant abuse, the effects of discipline will diminish significantly, but if you save the “abuse” for the times when they misbehave then they will associate the reprimands with whatever behavior you’re trying to discourage.

    To answer rex’s question, you treat animals differently because they need to be treated differently. The owner should assert himself (or herself) as the Alpha, the leader. If you let the dog control you then you simply will not be an effective owner. You are supposed to be the leader; the moment you let your pet have control you have failed. The moment you let them have control your ability to keep them in check disappears quickly.

    As for the Pit-Bull, I’ll agree that it’s probably not the best course of action. This is because all dogs are different. My method of discipline won’t work with all animals. Some may respond really well to the positive reinforcement approach, but I’s wager that most respond better and more quickly to real punishments.

    I’m not advocating abuse by any means, but a smack on a dog’s nose is no different than swatting a kid on the behind for some behavior. All things in moderation. You have to find the balance between too much and too little until you find effective.

  8. lugzz Says:

    i myself have never laid a single hand on my dog, who is now a 1 year old australian shepherd. She is my first dog and she has never relieved herself inside my home after the first three weeks of having her. She does not bite/mouth anyone, she doesn’t counter surf or steal food. She is an awesome dog…..great nature/personality….playful….loves to meet new ppl and other dogs…..when she meets other dogs she lays down until the other dog comes over to greet. All I can say is that positive reinforcement and kennle/crate training are the best way and the only way. If I notice a behaviour that I don’t want her doing…..i vocally correct her and the praise when she does good. This has to be full time training and consistent. Not a 1/2 hour a day….if she does the behaviour again she goes into her crate for 3-5 mins….All that a happy dog wants is to be with their owners…..when she loses her freedom for a certain behaviour 2 or 3 or 4 times she knows not to do it. It works like a charm with no hard feelings or the dog behaving ONLY when the owner is around out of fear…..anyway…..

  9. tele Says:

    You need to catch him on the act, you need to stop him and punshed him when he is biting on something that he is not supposed to.
    Punishing your dog after what bad behaviours they had done, will not stop them from doing it again . For example, if you dog had already made bite mark on your sofa. Punish afterward you found it out will not teach him that he is not supposed to chew on the sofa. Because he would not knew which baviours is causing his punishment.

  10. john f. Says:

    There are a lot of reasons why a puppy may bite. It’s good to try to find a breed-specific forum or community for your puppy’s breed, such as http://www.YorkieTalk.com for Yorkshire Terries (Yorkies). It may give you better information on what to expect.

  11. robin Says:

    or maybe he/she wants to just hold your hand?

  12. Chris Andrews Says:

    Hi Guys, First of all, thanks so much for all the feedback! I might also add, that this would going to be posted in two parts the “Why” and the “How do I stop it”. I’ll get onto the “how to stop it” another day.

    I kinda fall between both camps here. The problem being that it doesn’t matter if you’re resorting to physical or verbal methods of control – the thing to remember is fairness and consitancy, and following through with your actions.

    The same with children, if you threaten an action and don’t follow through then your words are meaningless. And in the case of a dog they’ll simply end up ignoring you. This tends to mean that your actions get harsher and harsher and harsher. So if you use physical actions against your dog this can end up with owners that are violent to their dog and a pet that is scared and likely to lash out back.

    Also, pushing your dog’s nose into it’s own poo is a completely pointless excersise. Especially long after the event. In fact, any anger after the event will not be understood – and anger at the event could be interpreted by your dog to think “Oh God, I won’t poo in front of him again!”.

  13. krOkro Says:

    great to find a post like this on torrentspy the week we get a new famly member.
    during week days i’m in my dorm so i just met our new 12 weeks old german pointer yesterday :)
    i hope the “How do I stop it? gets posted soon my right arm is scrached all over and i fear for my feet. those seem to be the perfect practice for hunting

    her tail doesnt indicate that she’s afraid of me though

  14. Cock Macho Says:

    when one of my dogs soils the floor, i just eat him in front of the others.

  15. sjd Says:

    knob head!!!!!!!

  16. rainybutterfly Says:

    That’s a great article. I found some really great information here too. Check it out. http://www.getadoggy.com

  17. Dog Training Tips Says:

    I would agree with Stop a second and think about this’s comment.

    It’s about educating the dog what is right and wrong.

    Think for a moment, we too cannot communicate with a baby. They will pee and poo and cry as and when they like. No matter what human language we use, they will not understand, except continuous education. Dogs are no different, they will learn eventually what is right, however you must know what to do first.

    We humans do not learn to care for a baby naturally. We learn from trial and errors, we seek out information, books and our parents for tips and cause. Same applies for any dog training. We need to educate ourselves on basic dog training before we can teach our dog successfully proper behavior.

  18. s.o.s Says:

    my friend has got a new puppy, a german shepherd, i am nice to it i play with it when ever i see it…but it ALWAYS bites me, it dosent bite anyone else just me?! i don’t no why! i dont hit it i just shout and say “no bad boy” but somtimes he dosent stop! please help! i is it the way i smell maybe because i do have a cat but so does another of my friends who also comes to see the pup but he never bites her and she has a parrot,tortoise and a cat! PLEASE HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!!! xxx

  19. Chris Andrews Says:

    Hi Sos.

    (I’m not a qualified dog trainer, so I don’t speak as one)

    I think this German Shepherd reckons he’s found himself a great new playmate. Puppy biting is unlikely to be with vicious intentions. Obviously this doesn’t help you. If you’re petting it or engaging with him in any way when he starts to mouth and bite then stand up, fold your arms away from temptation and turn your back. And keep turning away from the dog until it gets bored, which eventually it will.

    I would hope that the dog’s owners would choose to step in and repremand the dog at this time. He’s a young bag of hormones so it may require removing him from the room each time he starts – unfortuneately he’s not your dog so you can’t dictate to your friend how to train his dog.

    With repetition and consistant behaviour to the dog, he’ll eventually learn that you’re not there to play fight.

    Without observing you and the dog, however, it’s hard to say. If you feel in danger in any way then let your friend know and don’t go there. But it’s important to address this behaviour when he’s a pup, with him being a large strong breed.



  20. Julie Says:

    my english springer spaniel is a year and 6 months old, and yet he finds it absoloutly necessary to take my arm into his mouth and nibble on it.. its not hard bites but its the fact that my arm is now in his mouth… why does he do this??

  21. renay Says:

    i have a 6-month old chocolate lab…from the first day i got him (he was right at 7 weeks old) he has an OBSESSION with my hand. it’s like a security blanket or something…he never licks my hands…i can never pet him or hold him or rub his belly (though when he takes my hand in his mouth, he rolls over on his back like he wants me to rub his belly) because he always goes for the hand! i’m telling you, it’s an obsession and i have no clue how to stop it. for 4 months, i’ve tried everything—i’ve tried the calm, consistent displining; i’ve tried the swatting the nose; i’ve tried grabbing his mouth with my hand and closing it and repeatedly (thousands of times) saying “NO!”. i’ve tried the whole “time-out” thing. i’ve done them all at the same time.

    can you tell i’m exhasperated!?? any ideas? any suggestions? i have no physical contact with my pup without a constant struggle to outwit his mouth so that i can actually pet him! help.

  22. stacey99 Says:

    its probably teething if its a puppy of course!

  23. Becca Says:

    I have a 4 month nearly 5 month old staffordshire bull terrier puppy and he nibbles and bites non stop and the trouble is a lot of my friends have toddlers and older chikldren and they genuinly find this painful! I have tried pinning him on his back after squeeling aloud the lot and nothing works as for “tapping him”, that’s not for me thanks! I’de rather find a more modern and effective way of dealing with my dogs behaviour rather then use old fashioned methods which would end up making my dog turn on me! Yes the mother dog does it but 1) she is a dog and 2) it’s not like she can ask other people/bitches for discipline methods lol

  24. Steven Says:

    Please email me at stevencms12@hotmail.com
    I have a 10 month old Black Lab and I was just outside playing with him and he keeps jumping on everyone.
    So when he would jump on me today I kept pushing his head downand push him back.
    Then he kept biting, but not like in a mean way.
    He just kept coming after my hand sorta, but not actually biting biting…
    so is this probably just puppy play or something Ishould worry about?
    Please email me.

  25. Hiriburu Says:

    I recently acquired beagle/jack Russel Puppy; This thing is a mini “Jaws”…
    Any way regarding the “P&P” training I was home when she did it for the first time; I grabbed her by the collar just on the moment and said “NON” very firmly she then gunned to her bed and was mad at me all afternoon.

    This was her second day at home so I might have been a little to much for her. HOWEVER since then (4 week have passed) and I think she is “P&P” trained; We had no incidents what so ever; The key here is to go outside every hours at first and then space up those walks 30 mn per day.
    Within few days you can see the results and have your puppy “P&P” trained.

    I Also taught her to go at the door each time she needed to go (just by standing in front of the door EACH way and not move until the dog makes some kind of wimp, sit, or put his/her paw on the door.
    I then reward her with a special treat – dogs love bread…
    (Remember to do this COMING BACK as well but without treat – just a vocal greetings)
    This is so working (I’ve had 2 dogs back in France)

    As for the biting… there is NOTHING YOU CAN DO as long as the puppy is exited or want’s to play!
    I remember once someone in my family had a puppy; The dog bit my hand every time we visit… one day I grabbed the dog by the neck put it down bit him back… after that… we were best friend :)
    I am planning on doing the same thing with “Jaws..”

    Happy new year

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