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Play biting – how to control it

Puppies like to chew but they must learn early on that human hands, skin and clothes are off limits.  When a puppy is playing with his littermates whenever he bites another puppy too hard the pup will yelp, stop playing and move away.  From this behaviour the puppy learns to inhibit his bite.  By mimicking this behaviour we can elicit a similar response in the puppy. Play should be resumed within about a minute so the pup is rewarded for stopping the unwanted behaviour.

Unfortunately, some puppies are relentless biters and need more encouragement to stop.  If your puppy bites, stops, then immediately starts again try leaving the room for 30 secs then return with a toy to chew and resume playing.  The length of isolation can be increased to a couple of minutes if necessary.  With these puppies it is advisable to avoid rough and tumble games.

Your puppy should have learnt by 20 weeks of age that it is unacceptable to place his teeth on human flesh.  Some pups also like to bite ankles and hang off clothes.  An ankle biter may be due to this being the only real part of a person that he sees on a daily basis.  Try getting down to his level a bit more often.  With a puppy that likes clothes, stop this behaviour right from the start and give him an alternative to chew.  If this is a particular trait of your pup avoid giving him old clothes in his bed to snuggle in to.  Avoid any punishment e.g. shouting, smacking – as this may cause an aggressive response from the puppy, or any games which will increase the likelihood of the puppy biting!  A pup cannot possibly know that in certain circumstances he can bite you but must never bite the kids!  Be persistent: play biting may stop but start creeping back if not continually reinforced.

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