I just got a 3-month-old German Shepherd Dog. I now know what “play biting” really is!! Puppies play with their mouths and don’t realize the harm they may be doing…after all, they are just playing.
Here are some interesting things to consider and learn how to control your puppy.
Puppy biting is completely normal and natural. Dogs and puppies use their mouths to interact with their environment. Puppies are adorable little descendants of wolves, and their teeth are what they use to explore the world around them. Their teeth were once used as weapons, and they must use them to learn what they can and cannot do.
Why Do Puppies Bite When They Play?
Puppies love to play-bite and it’s their way of investigating. When puppies play with one another they can learn about their strengths and what they can do with their teeth and jaws.
Puppies have sharp puppy teeth that they use to learn their abilities and then learn to constrain their force of bite before their dog teeth grow in. Then, as they grow, they will have a safe tool to eat, and solve conflicts if necessary.
When Do Puppies Stop Biting?
Puppies stop biting when they are taught that human skin is sensitive. Bite inhibiting behaviors can be taught by a human or by playing with other dogs. Bite inhibition and bite training is a part of puppy behavioral development. It goes along with house and trick training.
Taken from a Forbes interview, Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian, animal behaviorist, and dog trainer, explains, “Puppies bite other puppies in play and they learn that their bites hurt because they have needle sharp teeth. So they learn to inhibit the force of their bites before they develop strong jaws.”
By socializing and nursing, your dog can learn bite inhibition too. Puppies will play bite and learn that their teeth hurt by yelping and discontinuing play. When puppies nurse, their mother will teach them bite inhibition by walking away from bitten.
As they grow and learn what their teeth and jaws are capable of, they can learn to control their biting for what they need to do. When puppies are taught that play biting is ok, they will continue to do it. But, if they are taught that any kind of bite hurts and/or is not nice, they will stop.
Dr. Dunbar believes that bite inhibition is one of the most important things a dog can learn. Bite inhibition can be taught in 3 months to a newborn puppy and it can be reinforced throughout their lives.
How to Get Your Puppy to Stop Biting
During socialization, if nipping or biting occurs, playtime often stops. Training your puppy to know that playtime is over if biting happens is a good way to teach bite inhibition. If biting happens, it is best to say, “Ow!” Then, pull your hands away and look away, or even walk away, reinforcing that if biting happens, playtime ends. Read this very useful article by Dr. Nick Dodman on Nipping and Mouthing of Pups.
It is important to understand that as bite inhibition training begins, the first step is to teach them to inhibit the force of their bite. If the puppy is taught to never put his mouth on you, then when it does, he won’t know his strength or that your skin is fragile. As you practice, the puppy will use a smaller amount of pressure each time and it will become less frequent over time.
- Written by: Rachael Forfia
- Edited by: Dr. Debra Primovic – DVM