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Puppy biting : A guide for new owners
Posted on 1st August 2023
Bringing home a new puppy is an exciting yet terrifying time. Often the visions of cuddling up with your new bundle of fluff go out of the window as your puppy turns into a land shark!
Puppy biting is a normal behaviour which can become worrying when you can't stop it or don't undertand what your puppy needs.
Puppies explore the world with their mouths, just like human babies explore with their hands. Biting is a natural instinct for them, and they use their mouths to learn about their surroundings, play, and interact with their littermates and caregivers. Biting is also a way for puppies to communicate their needs and desires, such as hunger, fear, or discomfort.
There are usually some common denominators as to why puppies bite. Here is our quick guide.
Puppies play with their mouths. If you saw them with their litter mates you can see how hard this can be sometimes. When we get them home, they don't understand that human skin is so delicate.
They will naturally play with things that move such as hands, feet or dangly items such as the bottom of clothing.
Teach them to play with toys when playing with you and avoid rough and tumble play where you encourage mouthing of hands.
Have a read of our blog on how to play like a dog here
Tired puppy biting
Puppies, just like toddlers who are unable to regulate their own emotions or ask for what they need, can very quickly become over tired and restless. Usually this biting is frantic and gets worse if you try and stop it or when you try and touch them.
It can feel like you have a Jekyll and Hyde puppy. The biting is not directed at anything and they seem angry and out of character. They may also have the zoomies
Pop them in their safe space and let them rest. Make sure they have something to chew on and are not too hot or cold.
Try and make sure other people don't disturb them. Puppies need 16-18 hours of sleep and rest a day. For more on this have a look at our Puppy Sleeping Guide
Teething puppy biting
Puupies start to lose their teeth at around 13-14 weeks old and when the new teeth are coming through, they will need to chew.
This can result in chewing on parts of you, including fingers or toes.
Give them plenty of chew toys and rotate them frequently.
Get off me biting
Puppies don't have a huge number of ways to tell us they don't like something other than walking away or using their teeth.
Where we can use language and ask people to back away or stop, they haven't got the same use of words that we, as humans, tend to listen to.
If you do something which scares, frightens or makes your puppy jump or if you remove something they want or try and stop them enjoying something, they may well use their bite as a defense mechanism.
There is lots we can do to build resilience in our puppies and also to teach them that things are not so scary.
Please listen when your puppy asks for space and seek help from a professional as this type of biting can lead to more serious problems later on.
I like biting things
Certain breeds like to use their mouths more than others.
Our gundogs are bred to hold things in their mouths, our bull breeds like to grab and pull on things and our terriers to hold and shake.
Watch a litter of working breed puppies and you can easily see how grabbing and holding onto things with their mouths is a normal behaviour.
Know your breed and teach them appropriate outlets for needing to do this so they only bite legal items!
Puppies will get more bitey when they are hungry just like babies will suckle when they need to fill their tummies.
If it's coming up to feeding time and your puppy is biting, give them a snack to tide them over or consider increasgin their food if they are growing quickly.
If your puppy is frantic about food and has trouble with poo or they have gone off their food, please have a chat with your vet to make sure there are no underlying issues.
Your puppy may bite at other times such as when they need the toilet.
However, it is a normal behaviour and we should not be surprised when they do it.
The important thing is that you recognise there is a need behind the biting. Creating a routine and schedule helps you be able to predict what your puppy needs.
Managed in the right way and they will grow out of biting.
Please seek help if you are struggling or concerned about your puppy biting.