Play biting

All puppies bite as they play – the rough and tumble games help to teach the dog how hard to bite to cause pain and by being bitten by their litter mates, they learn what pain feels like.

Puppies have weak, under developed jaw muscles and it’s during this time they learn how to regulate their strength of the bite. When we bring a new puppy into our home, we need to help teach our dog what is and isn’t acceptable when it comes to biting and mouthing. See our tips for addressing Play Biting.

Recommended reading: Playing With Your Dog by Hanne Grice. ISBN: 1453529640.


How to tackle the problem…

  • You need to teach your puppy that biting hurts! When he bites you, even your clothes, then let out a ‘yelp’ or use a word like “Ouch” loudly and high pitched.
  • Immediately stop play, turn away, avoid eye contact and say nothing.
  • Ignore your pup for a few seconds (depending on the dog, the context etc, this may be up to approx 10-15 seconds) before you continue playing.
  • However, it is important you redirect the puppy’s biting onto something else like a chew toy, praising for chewing onto that item and not you.
  • If you feel his teeth again, repeat this process each time.
  • If it becomes too much, stop the game altogether and give a signal that play time is over.


Avoid rough play or any game where the puppy grabs your clothes, skin or hair. This only teaches him that it’s ok to mouth and bite people and will set you back in your efforts to avoid this.

Never hit, grab or yell at your dog – this not only can make your puppy fearful of you and cause him to distrust you, but it may also encourage your puppy to become highly aroused leading to an escalation in behaviour (e.g.) grabbing your hands or clothes, barking, jumping and so on.

Top Tips:

This method generally works really well for the majority of puppies, and after two weeks of being super-consistent in your approach, your puppy should learn that biting is no longer acceptable. However, there are always exceptions to the rule and this is where you may need to use a different strategy, so this is simply a guide – if you are experiencing problems, do speak to your trainer.

  • Take all fun out of the behaviour. No laughing, squealing, shouting or running about if your puppy bites.
  • As soon as he puts his mouth on you stop the game altogether and ignore your dog for a while to show him this was unacceptable.
  • Be consistent. It may take your puppy a while to grasp this concept but the more consistent you are the easier it will become.
  • Teach your dog to “drop” – remembering to trade items so he learns about sharing and that you’re not just taking things away from him.  And, teach your puppy a “leave it” request.  Both of these requests are useful as it helps him to learn to avoid picking something up or putting things in his mouth in the first place (like a slipper while you’re wearing it!)

Note: Many puppies bite or chew as their teeth hurt; use a dog teething gel on your puppies gum and encourage him to chew onto a rubberised toy (e.g.) Kong or something like a frozen carrot. Encourage your puppy to chew on this and praise your puppy as he chews on this toy.

Previous post:

Next post: