Puppy Biting – When & Why?

As a dog trainer, one of the most common problems owners come to me with is their puppies mouthing. Whether its clothes, hands or ankles, most dog owners will have gone through the dreaded ‘shark’ stage. There’s a of information out there about how to stop puppies biting things they shouldn’t (you’ve heard it all before: distract them, give them something appropriate to chew) but it’s also important to understand when and why puppies bite. This can help us to keep a handle on puppy biting; the key to altering any behaviour, is to understand the driver behind it in the first place. 

  • Some puppies bite because of breed specific traits; some breeds are particularly mouthy and like to have things in their mouths, such as gun dogs and working breeds (labradors, golden retrievers, spaniels – to name a few).
  • Biting can also be fun for puppies. They enjoy grabbing things and tugging so biting is a good outlet for this drive.
  • If a puppy is bored then they are likely to bite or chew for something fun to do.
  • Hungry puppies can also bite more as they are inclined to snatch at things in case it is a tasty treat.
  • It is also possible for puppies to bite as an attention seeking tactic. Puppies learn fast and may realise that biting is a great way to get attention from people. They may also bite as their way to ask us to play.
  • Sometimes puppies will become mouthy if they are petted for too long. They may be overstimulated or they may be asking you to stop.
  • Overstimulated, over aroused and overtired puppies also bite more. Young dogs tire extremely quickly and need a lot of rest and so when they are tired or overwhelmed, they can become cranky and this can lead to biting.
  • Like human babies, puppies learn about the world through their mouths and so biting is a way for them to get information about what is going on around them.
  • Our actions may be encouraging biting. For example, sitting on the floor with an excited pup provides them with a living climbing frame with loads of different components to bite, hang off of and chew.
  • Additionally, making high-pitched, squeaky noises and jerky movements is exciting for a puppy – and this is often behaviour seen in small children. There is a good reason why lots of puppy toys have a squeaker.

Whilst there are many reasons why puppies bite, biting to assert dominance is not one of them. They do not mouth in order to assert themselves as a “pack leader”. Luckily for us (and other dogs), the vast majority of puppies will grow out of biting when they reach between three and five months of age.


Further reading:

Blue Cross: Why do puppies mouth and play bite?

Instict Dog Training: 6 reasons your puppy is biting you