My puppy is biting me. How do I tell if it’s playing or being aggressive?

A playful dog will have a relaxed body and face. Their muzzle might look wrinkled, but you won’t see a lot of tension. Play biting is usually less painful and you may see playful posturing (e.g. front end down and rear end up and wagging).

An aggressive dog’s body and face will look stiff. The muzzle will still be wrinkled, but they will also pull back their lips and show teeth. Aggressive bites usually occur quickly and are painful.

How can I prevent play biting?

Puppies naturally play rough with other puppies. Their skin is much thicker than ours. You need to teach your puppy that humans have very sensitive skin so they must be gentle. If your puppy bites your hands, let out a high-pitched yelp and let your hand go limp. This should startle your puppy and cause it to stop biting. Immediately praise your puppy for stopping.

Never use your hands for play or wrestling. Instead use a toy or a chew bone when your puppy tries to gnaw on your hands. Puppies spend a great deal of time playing, chewing, and investigating objects and if they don’t have an appropriate object to chew, they will often use our hands and feet instead.

If your puppy is tired, it will be less likely to use you as a plaything. Play games, have puppy playgroups, and take long walks to help tire your puppy out. Make sure to rotate toys so they stay interesting to your puppy.

My puppy keeps on biting me. What should I do?

If yelping doesn’t work, first distract your puppy by saying in a stern voice “too bad” or “hey”. Once your puppy stops biting, you should immediately praise it and then give your puppy a toy to play with. If your puppy does not stop biting, you should try a “time out” by ignoring your puppy and leaving the room for 10 - 20 seconds.  Leave toys in the room while you leave to try and tire your puppy out.

If a “time out” doesn’t work, use bitter apple spray on your hands. This should make it distasteful for your puppy to bite you. Praise your puppy after it stops biting your hands.

Avoid jerky movements (it might seem like a game) and never hit or slap your puppy. This can cause fear, which may lead to aggressive behavior.

If you are still having issues, consider obedience training or contact a certified behaviorist for help.

 

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