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8 Reasons Why Puppies Bite & How to Stop It

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Siberian Husky puppy biting a hand

It’s probably one of the most irritating things about getting a puppy. He is as cute as a button, and you want to hold him. But, then, he bites—and hard, too! Those baby teeth are sharp. Undoubtedly, it’s a bad habit that you should get under control quickly. You may find it helpful to find out why he’s acting that way to determine a solution for the problem.

Let’s first look at some typical reasons for this behavior. Then, we’ll offer several ways to nip it in the bud. After all, the sooner you act, the quicker you can start enjoying your puppy.

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Why Your Puppy Is Nippy

It’s essential to understand that a biting puppy isn’t necessarily an aggressive one. It’s normal behavior and a form of communication. You’ve probably noticed that there is the emotion behind his nippiness. Paying attention to how he’s acting can provide some valuable clues about stopping it once and for all.

Remember that instinct is driving his behavior. He’s just doing how nature has hard-wired him to respond. Most puppies go through this stage in their early development. However, as you’ll see, the tendency can vary for other unexpected reasons.

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Top 8 Reasons Why Your Puppy Bites

1. Your Pup Is Cutting New Teeth

checking puppy teeth
Image Credit: Chang-Pooh24, Shutterstock

Puppies will start getting their baby teeth when they are under 4 weeks old. They’ll have a full set of 28 chompers by 6 weeks. Puppies are not unlike human babies. They explore their world with their mouths. It seems like anything ends up there. It’s a vital learning time for dogs. Without hands and fingers, their mouths must serve this purpose.

2. Your Pup Is Finding His Place in the Pack with Role Playing

If you watch a group of littermates or the other pups in your pet’s obedience class, one thing is crystal clear. They are chasing and biting each other to work out the hierarchy in the group and which one is the top dog. Again, it’s instinct at work. From an evolutionary perspective, it’s vital. It means more food and a better chance of survival. Evidence suggests that dogs are carnivores and behave like them.

3. The Roughhousing Went Too Far

labrador puppy bites cage
Image Credit: Olya Maximenko, Shutterstock

Dogs share about 84% of our DNA. It’s not surprising then that they also show emotions just like people do. That can explain why tempers flare when playtime goes sour. Your puppy is angry and acting on his feelings. It’s not long before the biting starts. After all, you and your pet aren’t too far apart when it comes to reacting when you are hurt.

4. Your Pup’s Prey Drive Is in Gear

The prey drive in canines is an interesting behavior. You’ll see it in dogs raised to hunt. Think terriers, Beagles, and Foxhounds. They chase anything that runs from them. Nature drives them to nip and bite their prey because selective breeding has encouraged this behavior. You’ll see it herding breeds like the German Shepherd, too. They’re merely trying to keep the livestock in line.

5. Something Scared Your Puppy

You may notice that your new puppy is a bit spooky when you first bring him home. He gets startled by every unfamiliar sound or object he encounters. His natural reaction is to bite. He may also nip if something wakes him up from a sound sleep. He’s just defending himself against a perceived threat. That’s why it’s essential to approach a pup slowly, especially in those first few days.

6. It’s Nap Time

puppy biting teddy bear
Image Credit: Anna Hoychuk, Shutterstock

Puppies and children are not too different when it comes to nap time. If they get overtired because they missed it or they played too hard, they’ll get cranky. A child might hit and slap. A pup will bite. It’s another example of how emotions can rule the day—and your pet’s behavior. Luckily, there’s an easy solution with a welcome dose of quiet time.

7. Your Pup Is Under the Weather

Changes in your pup’s behavior are a vital clue to what’s going with him. A puppy that is coming down with some illness may get mouthy because he doesn’t feel right. If he ran around too much, his blood sugar might have taken a nosedive and ruined his mood. Dogs don’t hide their emotions. If something is wrong, you’ll likely see it sooner instead of later.

8. Your Puppy Is in Pain

Likewise, a puppy that is in pain might bite and show other aggressive behavior. As with illnesses, your pup is trying to protect himself. If he’s hurt, he’s more vulnerable to attack from a predator. Unfortunately, he can’t tell you what’s wrong. However, if he’s acting out of character, something is definitely going on that needs your attention.

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The 3 Methods to Stop Puppy Biting

We’re going to focus on the behavioral side of things. The last two reasons we gave will probably mean a visit to the vet. Suffice to say that getting nipping under control fast is imperative. The last thing any pet owner needs is a dog that bites. The other thing to remember is never to hit your pup with your hand or anything.

As we’ve discussed, dogs experience emotions, too. Aggression on your part is likely to cause the biting to escalate and perhaps get out of control. One of the best ways to manage bad canine manners is to socialize your puppy. That can help prevent nipping from things that scare him. It can also keep him more active. Research shows that it can, in turn, reduce fearfulness that may fuel this behavior.

We strongly urge you to allow your pup to meet other dogs and people often. Many vet hospitals offer puppy playtime, which can introduce them to other canines and people. He’ll soon learn that new things aren’t necessarily a threat. Instead, they offer more ways to have fun.

beagle puppy biting a chew ball
Image Credit: tetiana_u, Shutterstock

1. A Substitute for Your Hand

If your puppy acts like your hand is a toy, offer him a suitable replacement instead. Remember that using his mouth is instinctive. Using positive reinforcement is an excellent training technique. When he bites, give him something else, such as a chew toy. He can still satisfy his instinct to gnaw on something that is more appropriate and less painful for you.

2. Direct Your Pup’s Energy Elsewhere

Sometimes, there’s no getting around it. Puppies will be puppies and just want to play. Often, it’s not a bad thing, either. A game of fetch will redirect his energy and his nipping elsewhere. If you’re lucky, he’ll wear himself out, too.

3. Time Out

Whoever invented the concept of time out for kids was on to a smart dog obedience technique, too. If emotions are running too high, it’s best to separate your pet from the action until he calms down a bit. We suggest taking him to another room in the house or bringing him inside instead of using his crate. It’s essential that your pup only has positive associations with it.

When he settles down, he can join the action again. The great thing about this method is that it teaches your puppy that biting and aggressive behavior have consequences that are no fun.

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Final Thoughts About Nippy Puppies

Getting a new puppy is a happy event. It’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship that can bring much joy to your home. However, a pup that bites is a common bane of pet ownership. It’s not cute or wanted behavior. The essential thing is to get it under control before it becomes a nuisance. It’s part of being a responsible dog owner. The sooner you take action, the more you can enjoy your new canine friend.

Featured Image Credit: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock

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