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My Puppy is Biting Me ... or my kids!

After house training, puppies biting people is one of the most common behaviors that dog owners want (and need!) to address.

You bring home the most adorable puppy and they gnaw on your finger like a little baby. You never thought you could see anything cuter. A month later, they are a confident puppy chewing on your arm. You think to yourself, this is NOT cute!

It always surprises me what people allow their dogs to do, biting them is one of them. I think the human side of us allows this behavior because we can endure it (we've endured more!) or we think the puppy will grow out of it. I am here to tell you not to endure it and your puppy learns a lot from what behaviors your reinforce. No amount of puppy teeth on human skin should be tolerated, because no amount of adult dog teeth on human skin is tolerated.

puppy biting
Puppy Max in his playpen

At this point, you know your puppy is biting, you don't want them to keep biting, and you need a plan to help you be confident in your dog ownership. Here are four options for what you can do when your puppy starts biting you:

  1. Put them in a playpen or kennel

  2. Ask them to be "gentle"

  3. Tell them to go to their bed and stay

  4. Have someone else lure the puppy away

Put them in a playpen or kennel

This option is management. Management is creating a scenario where your dog can not do the unwanted behavior. If your dog is in the playpen, he is not biting you. If your dog is in the playpen, you are not reinforcing the biting.

You can put them in an enclosed area for a short amount of time, let them calm down, and then let them out of the kennel and direct them to a calm activity if they don't choose one themselves.

Quite often, when dog owners put their mouthy dogs in a kennel, the puppy ends up falling asleep because he was overtired.

puppy biting

Some people have a hard time with putting the dog away, but this method is the best for not reinforcing the bad behavior. This is an option when they can't be redirected, they aren't listening, they are overexcited, or you simply don't have the time to train because you're cooking dinner.

Ask them to be "gentle"

This is training! Train your dog "gentle" every day for about two weeks straight. This is the minimum they need to associate the behavior of 'no teeth' to the command "gentle". See video below on how to train "gentle".

After you have taught the behavior, try asking them to do it in real life. So your dog opens his mouth on your arm and you say "gentle". If your dog removes his teeth, you say "yes!". They did it! They removed their teeth in the moment. You can then redirect them to a better game, a teething ring, their bed, a toy, etc.

If they do not remove their teeth, they have proven it is too hard to do this behavior in the moment. Perhaps they are too excited or too distracted or simply don't know what you are asking. That's ok. They aren't there yet. If they can not remove their teeth and be gentle, then they should be managed (go in their playpen).

Tell them to go to their bed and stay

This option is for breaking the association between "i bite" and "i get attention".

Step 1: your dog bites you

Step 2: you tell them to go their bed and stay for 5 seconds

Step 3: you release them and give them attention without them biting you

puppy biting
I would much rather a dog beg for treats on their dog bed than anywhere else!

For this option, make sure you are practice bed over and over again so you can point them to their bed without using a treat. The stay allows your little puppy to calm down enough to be redirected to something else.

puppy biting
It doesn't have to be a bed! Even a mat will give them a place to go.

Have someone else lure the puppy away

This is a great way to use biting as a training opportunity.

Puppy: Max

Person A: Jennifer (Child)

Person B: Tyler


Max is biting Jennifer.

Tyler lures Max away from Jennifer. *Tyler is using a treat and gives Max a treat at least 5 feet away from Jennifer.

Max turns around and goes back to Jennifer (What do you think Max is doing here?! He is going back to bite!)

Tyler says "Max" before Max gets to Jennifer.

Max turns around.

Tyler says "Yes!" and lures Max further away from Jennifer.

Max turns around and goes back to Jennifer (Oh Max! You are so relentless, you puppy, you!)

Tyler says "Max" before Max gets to Jennifer.

Max turns around.

Tyler says "Yes!" and lures Max further away from Jennifer. He asks for a harder command such as sit or stay.

Tyler then redirects Max to another activity (since he really really wants Jennifer and can't think of anything else to do!)

This scenario allows Jennifer to not reinforce the biting at all. Max wanted Jennifer and Jennifer did nothing! Tyler gets Max away from the thing he can't have, Tyler treats Max, Tyler gives Max something else to do.

There you have it. Four options! Use them all. Try them in different scenarios. The most important thing is to not let your dog bite you!

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