Puppy biting is a completely normal development stage.

The intensity and amount of biting varies from breed and individual.

Puppies will lose their first (deciduous) teeth at around 20-24 weeks old.

These first teeth are pin sharp! They are like this to trigger the weaning process at around 4-5 weeks old. This is when Mum thinks no more milk from me, time for solid food.

As well as the teething process being painful for puppies, they are also practicing using their mouths for biting and chewing to explore the world around them. They are discovering what is edible and what is not. They are rehearsing a completely normal predatory behaviour for their instinctual survival.

Factors that can make your puppy’s biting worse

Play styles – Rough and tumble style of play games raises a puppy’s arousal levels to chase and bite.

Diet – Insufficient quality proteins, additives, and preservatives. If the puppy is not receiving the correct nutrition, they will not have an overall feeling of being satisfied. This can make puppies irritable which is communicated via more biting behaviour.

Sleep –Puppies require up to twenty hours of quality sleep per day.

Bored – Lack of the appropriate interaction and stimulation through gentle exposure and socialisation can create the puppy to seek more mouth action. Not having the correct chew items to relieve some teething pain and alleviate boredom.

Needs – If puppy requires the toilet, is hungry, thirsty or tired then frustration builds up and this is then filtered outwards into more biting, chasing and nipping to try to communicate a need has not been met.

Human hands

Our hands have a direct influence on our puppy’s behaviour. Calm stokes are far and few inbetween at this age. Often stoking can excite and activate rather than calm and sooth. Some puppies may like this affection but for many puppies after a couple of strokes it ends up being a game of chase the hand and bite it. There will be plenty of opportunities in the future for hands on fuss.


What you can do to lessen your puppies sharp and sometimes relentless biting

A Predicable Schedule 

Just like human babies a good routine is as equally important for puppies too. A routine pattern of care set throughout the day helps puppies to settle better in knowing what’s happening next. For example, wake up and toilet time, breakfast and toilet time again and so forth. For the first few weeks a diary is a great idea to keep a record of your puppy’s daily routine

  • Feeding
  • Toileting
  • Interaction – Training and appropriate play
  • Self-amusement – chews – toys – puzzles
  • Sniffy short walks
  • Social/exposure trips out
  • Sleep

…… and repeat

 Appropriate Interactive Play

Puppies need this invaluable interaction with their human to bond and learn, how we play with our puppies is an important part of their development.

You will need 2 x large tug toys in comparative to your puppy’s size  (two of the same toy is advised) and some food treats

Sit facing your puppy and play with the one toy low to the ground, bring the toy alive, moving it from side to side. When playing tug games and the toy is in your puppy’s mouth do a back-and-forth motion rather than shaking the puppy’s head side to side, this action can hurt your puppy’s fragile neck, your puppy may shake the toy, this is fine as puppy is governing their own movement. Keep your sessions short in not allowing puppy’s arousal to get too heightened as this is when the biting can start to be directed onto you.

After your puppy has had a short game of tug, allow your puppy to win the toy. If your puppy runs off with that toy, then make your second toy come alive and your puppy will return as they will be more interested in your lively toy.

Repeat the play exercise adding the word ‘get it’ to play, allowing puppy to win again and again. Add the marker work of ‘win’ as you release the toy from your hands in allowing your puppy to take it. (The toy becomes the reward). You will notice your puppy starts coming back to you to initiate play.  Once playing is interactive with you, move on to a ‘drop’ cue, so that puppy releases the toy to you.

Drop cue 

To begin with stop moving the toy, the toy becomes dead and not as exciting. Your puppy may let go at this point, add a marker word of ‘yes’ and reward with making the toy come alive again. If your puppy doesn’t let go of their own accord, exchange with food, and add the word ‘drop’ at the same time. On repeated sessions you will work towards keeping the toy static and then saying ‘drop’. Be patient whilst your puppy’s thought process works and if they loosen their grip even a tiny bit or release the toy fully then say ‘yes’ and reward with a food reward or play again with the ‘get it’ cue.

If puppy’s teeth touch your skin in play, stop play and do something else with your puppy which has less hands-on interaction such as some basic training cue’s

*Also see the below information on bringing in a cue of ‘release’ when those sharp teeth accidently touch human skin in your interactive play.

Cues in Puppy Play

  • Get it
  • Win
  • Drop
  • Release (stop any movement if any teeth on skin occurs)

*You can move on with this play by standing and running backwards after your puppy has won the toy, this encourages your puppy to run towards you offering the toy to continue the interactive play.

Lessen the hands on activity

If your puppy bites your hands whilst you are stroking.  STOP the MOVEMENT of your HANDS immediately. This often stops the biting happening as soon as the movement as gone. Consider the above needs and change the situation by redirecting puppy onto a toy, a chew and into a quiet area for puppy to sleep.

Putting a ‘no teeth on skin’ training cue in 

You can also bring in some positive reinforcement training to help the process along. If your puppy starts biting or mouthing your hands, stop any hand movement and as puppy releases their teeth from your skin, mark this with your word of ‘Yes’ and reward with a treat. After a few repetitions add a cue word of ‘release ‘as the mouth lets go. Over repetition’s you can say the cue word of ‘release’ and puppy should let go, again be patient whilst your puppy processes the word, whilst keeping your hand still, on moving their mouth away use your marker word of ‘yes’ and reward.

Puppy chasing and biting at shoes, feet, or clothing    

When puppies chase and nip/bite they are most often looking for interaction. Consider have all the puppy’s needs been met which lessen biting as discussed earlier if they have been, then provide puppy with a chase the toy game, a flirt pole game or interactive tug game with you. This should tire puppy out ready for a calm chew time and sleep.

Appropriate chew items

  • Offering a variety of textures helps a puppy to have a choice of chew item.
  • Rubber items such as Kong’s or tug toys
  • Wooden olive or root chew items
  • Soft toys, but ensure it is robust enough for your puppy.
  • Harder plastic – Nyla bones
  • Raggy type toys
  • Natural chews such as goats/pigs ears/ vegetable chews, fish twists and lamb braids – never leave your puppy unsupervised with a edible chew
  • Ensure toy items are manufactured for puppies and do not use raw hide chews due to being packed with chemicals and easily choked on

*If there is still a big biting issue when you puppy is over six- seven months of age seek professional advice from a positive reward-based trainer

Click here to find out more about Mandy Rigby and the great team of ethical Puppy and Dog Trainers at Yes Good Dog Community Hub, covering Solihull and the West Midlands 

Puppy Biting Article By Mandy Rigby  PETbc BCCSDipAdvCanBhv   – Certified SA Professional