Puppy nibbles might be cute at first, but they can get old quickly. Eventually you might be asking yourself, “When do puppies stop biting?”
Not unlike human babies, one of the ways a puppy explores the world is with their mouths. Both babies and puppies tend to put everything they find in their mouths to investigate it.
But if your puppy’s biting behavior is causing you stress and frustration, you may be looking for answers about when this phase will come to an end. Luckily, puppy biting doesn’t last forever. Read on to find out why puppies bite, when they stop biting, and how to help redirect biting to appropriate toys.
Why Do Puppies Bite?
As mentioned earlier, puppies tend to bite and gnaw as a way to explore their surroundings. Every time they sink their teeth into something, they are essentially asking, “What is this?” “What happens if I chew on this?” “Does it taste good?”
Chewing and gnawing are also a way for a puppy to relieve the pain and discomfort of their gums and mouth during teething. Plus, the act of chewing releases endorphins that reduce stress and improve mood.
Puppy biting may also occur when a puppy is full of energy. He may run around the house like a wild child, grabbing this, biting that – whether it’s your pant legs, arms, or hands. This crazy puppy behavior is often referred to as puppy zoomies.
When Do Puppies Stop Biting?
The puppy biting phase usually subsides around 12 months of age. This is assuming that your puppy’s daily needs of interactive play, exercise, and positive training lessons are being met.
Your puppy has sharp puppy teeth, called deciduous teeth, that will fall out as they age. These 28 puppy teeth will be replaced with 42 permanent teeth – a process that usually lasts until a puppy is around 7 months of age (longer for smaller breeds). During this time, your puppy is officially teething. Their mouth and gums may be sensitive, and they’ll have the urge to chew and gnaw. You may also see a little red staining on some of their toys. It’s not uncommon for puppies to swallow their baby teeth, so don’t worry if that happens.
One theory is that a puppy has sharp teeth so that when they play with their littermates and bite, the receiving puppy will yelp, causing the biter to stop biting or to bite softer. This is referred to as bite inhibition. Bite inhibition teaches puppies to be gentle when biting.
During the final stages of your puppy’s adult teeth coming in, they will also be entering a new phase of their life – adolescence (or the ”teenage” phase). They may get a bit more boisterous in other ways, so be sure to continue meeting their daily needs and try to think of new and fun ways to entertain them.
If a puppy bites you out of frustration, or over a prized object, this may lead to more complex behavioral issues. It is recommended to contact a professional positive dog behavior specialist to assist you with what is normal and how to address your pup’s needs.
How to Stop a Puppy From Biting: Helpful Puppy Training Tips
Now that we have a little background on the whys and whens of puppy biting, let’s get down to how to stop a puppy from biting. Your puppy training shouldn’t focus on teaching your puppy not to bite, but rather what to bite on.
Remember, puppy biting and gnawing are normal and important behaviors. We want to teach our puppies to stop biting us and to bite and chew on their puppy teething toys. Here are some helpful tips:
Try Rotating Toys
Provide your pup with a lot of puppy teething toys, safe puppy chews, and other interactive toys. Keep a large stash of new puppy toys in a closet so that you can rotate through. Each day, take a new toy out and put an older toy in. This method will help keep your puppy interested and engaged with their toys instead of objects you want them to ignore.
Keep Puppy Toys Where Your Puppy Goes
Have a pile of puppy toys in all the rooms you and your puppy frequent. During training, it’s important that your puppy has quick and easy access to their toys so that they can make the right choice instead of the wrong one. It’s unrealistic to think your puppy will go to the other room to their puppy toy box to grab a toy. They’re more likely going to grab whatever is in front of them and start chewing, so try to make sure that they have enough appropriate options available.
Participate in Playtime
Remember to play and engage with your puppy frequently. Those expensive toys aren’t going to be exciting if they’re just sitting on the floor doing nothing. Instead, you want to wiggle or toss the toys and have a nice play session with your puppy. Think outside or inside of the box. Toss a toy in a shallow box and encourage and show your puppy how to retrieve it. When they master this game, toss it in the box and gently flip the box lid down to increase the challenge. Not only will this teach your puppy to chew on their toys and not the rug, it’s also a huge part of the bonding experience.
Take your puppy on fun adventures to the park, the pet store, or even a neighbor’s home. You may be asking yourself what does this have to do with puppy nipping? A well-socialized, exercised, and entertained puppy is less likely to need to find an outlet for their energy, since you’ve done that for them. By providing your pup with stimulating and safe puppy enrichment and teaching them to chew on their toys, you’ve decreased the chances of them looking for something to do (or to chew!).
What to Do When a Puppy Nips You
Even with the best puppy toys, engagement, and exercise in place, those sharp puppy teeth may still occasionally find themselves on your hand, foot, or clothing.
A gentle reminder to the humans in the house: this still is normal puppy behavior, and your puppy is still learning. This process does not happen overnight. It takes practice and maturity of the puppy, so hang in there.
The first thing you can try is giving a quick yelp. Then, remove your hands from your puppy’s mouth, stand up, and look away from them. Don’t yell at them, don’t tell them no, don’t point your finger at them, try to close their mouth, thump their face – none of that. Those behaviors are more likely to lead to more mouthing and can quickly escalate to a more defensive puppy, which is the last thing you want.
When your puppy looks up at you, calmly tell them how smart they are and wiggle their toy around. It’s not a bad idea to have one of their toys in your pocket, so you always have quick access to something they can have. When they engage with the toy, praise them. If they nip you again, repeat the process. If your yelp stimulates your puppy, skip that part and just go to the “stand-up and ignore” step.
If you find yourself in this scenario more often than not, it’s time to take a good look at your interaction with your puppy. It’s very likely that they need more time with you. Bump up the sniffy walks, trick training, game playing, and new toys. If you feel like you are doing everything right, yet your puppy just won’t stop biting, it’s time to hire a professional positive reinforcement dog trainer. They will be able to assess your situation and can offer lots of toys and games, as well as troubleshoot any issues you may have. It’s always easier to have a professional by your side when you feel overwhelmed.
Puppy Biting FAQs
Why is my puppy biting me aggressively?
If you think your puppy is biting in a non-friendly way, please seek the help of a professional dog behavior specialist. They may be frustrated with a specific behavior of yours, such as reaching for their toy or food, or touching them. This would need to be addressed.
If, on the other hand, they just seem to be excited, they are getting too stimulated. Try playing games at a lower intensity level. Stop during games for a quick sniff, then start back up again.
When do puppies lose their baby teeth?
Puppies start to actively lose their deciduous teeth around 4 to 5 months of age. Their adult teeth are set around 6 to 7 months of age. Toy and small breeds may have a bit of a delay.
How long do puppies teethe?
Puppies start teething around 4 months of age and finish around 7 months.