How to teach a dog not to bite

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Author: Steph Coelho

Last Updated: January 31, 2023

Nipping and mouthing may seem cute while your dog is a puppy, but it can become a problem behavior as your pup gets bigger. Teaching a dog not to bite is crucial whether you’re dealing with a playful, mouthy puppy or an older dog with a bad habit. 

Below we cover why young dogs tend to nip and provide advice on how to teach a dog not to bite. 

Mouthing and nipping in puppies

Nipping and mouthing are normal behaviors for puppies. After all, dogs use their mouths to play with each other. Most puppies learn the strength of their bite when playing with other young pups in their litter. But puppies that don’t get a chance to learn critical social skills may express problem behavior

It’s your job to show your dog it’s not okay to mouth or nip when playing with their human friends. Part of puppyhood should include bite inhibition training. The earlier you address and redirect nipping and mouthing behavior, the better.

How to teach a dog not to bite

Bite inhibition training involves training dogs not to use their mouths when interacting with humans. Here’s what it may entail:

Offer alternatives

Teach your dog not to bite by redirecting their attention when they nip or mouth. With bite alternatives on hand, like indestructible dog toys, you can show them that biting and chewing toys is okay but nibbling at your hands is not. 

Encoure play

Making sure your dog gets plenty of time to play is also essential. This can include exercise and games like tug of war. Additionally, introducing them to other dogs in a controlled setting can help improve social skills and provide helpful feedback about bite pressure. 

Walk away

It’s no secret that dogs crave human attention. If you walk away and ignore them after they nip or mouth, you’re telling them the behavior isn’t acceptable. Consistency is key for this to work, so getting everyone in the household on board is important. 

Be vocal

Dogs are pretty good at giving each other feedback. When puppies play, they let out a yelp if another dog bites too hard. You can do the same to try and stop biting behavior. Just make sure to let out your yelp right away. This helps teach your dog that biting is painful and undesirable. 

If your yelps don’t seem to help and biting continues, you may consider using aids like a spray bottle filled with water or a soda can filled with coins to deter from biting. 

Use positive reinforcement

Positive reinforcement is a training technique that involves giving positive feedback to encourage a behavior. You can use it when teaching your dog not to bite by praising them when they direct their biting onto acceptable items like durable dog toys meant for chewing and playing. 

This form of training may also involve giving your dog treats. Avoid giving out treats when your dog stops biting, though. This can confuse the dog into thinking you’re rewarding them for biting behavior. Instead, you can treat them when they choose to bite their toys instead of nipping, mouthing, and chewing inappropriate items. 

Consider professional training

Some dogs may be more challenging to train than others. If you’re struggling to train away nipping and mouthing behavior, it may be worthwhile to contact a behavioral expert for help. This may be especially helpful with older dogs or dogs showing signs of aggression. 

Dos and donts

Here are a few helpful dos and donts for how to teach a dog not to bite:

  • Don’t avoid playing with your dog because they are biting and nipping. Try no contact games or redirect their mouthing and nipping onto a toy
  • Do use positive reinforcement instead of yelling at your dog when teaching them not to bite. 
  • Don’t purposely put your hands around your puppy’s face to initiate playtime. 
  • Do be patient since your dog may not understand right away that biting isn’t appropriate. 

When is biting a concern?

Play-biting is a normal part of puppyhood, but it can become a bad habit without proper training. If a dog continues to bite as an adult, it’s essential to address the behavior head-on. 

Curbing biting is especially important if your dog is showing signs of aggression, which may include:

  • guttural barking 
  • snarling 
  • snapping 
  • lunging 
  • growling 
  • exposing teeth 
  • biting 

Nipping and mouthing can also be signs of aggression. 

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), most dogs don’t attack or bite out of the blue. Often, there’s a build-up to this behavior, and people miss the warning signs. 

The American Kennel Club (AKC) explains that aside from play-related biting, dogs may also bite because:

  • They’re scared.
  • They are being protective.
  • They’re frustrated.
  • They’re in pain.

It’s vital to get help from a professional before harmless biting leads to injury in humans or other dogs. Biting and aggression can sometimes result from underlying medical conditions, which require the help of a veterinarian to diagnose and treat. 

Takeaway

Nipping and mouthing is typical behavior for a puppy. But it’s important to teach a dog not to bite early to avoid potential problems down the road. By redirecting biting behavior using tough, unbreakable toys, you can curb biting behavior before your dog reaches adulthood. 

If you’re noticing your efforts aren’t stopping the biting, consider getting in touch with a professional trainer. 

FAQs

How can you train a dog not to bite strangers?

This starts with training your dog not to bite you. A well-trained dog knows it’s unacceptable to bite humans.

How can you prevent problem chewing?

Chewing is a common problem with puppies, and redirecting can be a helpful way to curb it. Show your dog that indestructible dog toys are okay to chew, but other household items are not. 

Is it normal for my puppy to bite a lot?

Yes! Your puppy is learning about boundaries when it nips and mouths at your hands and arms. Teaching a dog not to bite is an important part of puppy training. If you notice the biting continues even as your dog enters adulthood, talk to a behaviorist about your options. 

Are some dog breeds more likely to bite than others?

According to the ASPCA, some breeds are more likely to display aggression than others, which may mean a higher bite risk. But the breed isn’t a good overall indicator of risk. Dogs have different temperaments, even ones from the same litter, so it’s important to consider their history and personality when assessing bite risk.