A bite from any dog can be a shock, but it’s important to remember that
play biting is normal behaviour for any puppy.
Much like human babies, a puppy explores the world with their mouth.
Learning what they can chew and bite and what they can’t is known as
mouthing and often involves nibbling and play biting with their owner’s
hands. In most cases, this happens when your pup is overexcited.
In my experience, breed can often play a part too. While it’s true that all
dogs can bite, some breeds are more likely to display more severe play
biting. Working dogs such as German Shepherd or Rottweiler are typically
more predisposed to testing with their mouths, as are terrier breeds such
as a Jack Russell.
At what age will my puppy grow out of play biting?
Mouthing and play biting is a common phase for most pups and I often
reassure owners that their pet will almost always grow out of it when
they’re around three to five months old. Biting is also part of the natural
teething process – this normally lasts until your pup is around seven
months of age.
How can I stop my puppy from biting?
Learning to read your puppy’s body language can help change biting
behaviour. When you’re more aware of when your pup is uncomfortable, over
stimulated, or overtired, you can remove them from the situation before
they’re tempted to bite.
My advice is to always be calm around your puppy and if they become too
playful or ‘bitey’, simply end any interaction. You can make sure that
playful nipping doesn’t escalate by sticking to five consistent rules…
Always avoid using hands directly and don’t encourage play biting.
Instead, encourage puppies to mouth toys rather than nipping at clothes.
Keep toys close to hand so you can redirect the nipping as soon as it
Always be mindful that you’re not sending your puppy into a frenzy
during play and if you feel like this is happening, stop, let the dog
settle down and return to them later.
If you find that your pup becomes overexcited and nipping behaviour
continues, calmly walk out of the room, ignoring your pup until they have
calmed. This will teach them that play biting results in the game stopping.
As a part of your early training with your pup, you need to teach a ‘no’
command so that you’re communicating effectively with your growing dog.
As with all forms of training, I always recommend using positive
reinforcement – giving your pup a treat when they do the right thing. This
will help their understanding of the right behaviour.
How should I react if my puppy bites?
Although it can be painful, try not to think of a bite from your pup as
them being aggressive. If you find that your puppy is biting your hand,
just move it away and use a simple command like ‘no biting’. But remember
not to shout – just speak calmly and with a flat voice.
If that command doesn’t work and you’re feeling at a loss, then just stop
there. In my experience, leaving the room and letting your dog calm down
before returning a few minutes later will usually lead to a much calmer
Do you recommend any toys to help with biting?
I get asked this a lot. As a general rule, toys that are strong and durable
are the safest. Here’s what I recommend…
A rope with two loops – this toy can be used as a pulling game, but be
careful not to overexcite your puppy with an aggressive game of tug of war
as this could result in biting.
Rubber stuffable toy – you can put some soft dog food in this toy to help
keep your puppy occupied for slightly longer periods of time.
Rag toy – this toy comes in different sizes and is therefore great for
all breeds. The rag toy is perfect for dealing with puppy biting because it
has many tassels that a puppy can really get into.
What else can I do?
Just like us humans, puppies can get irritable if they don’t have enough
sleep, mental or physical stimulation, or if they feel hungry. All of this
can lead to play biting.
So it’s important to make sure that your pups get the right amount of sleep
and rest so they’re not overtired, eat regular meals throughout the day to
stave off hunger, and get plenty of play and exercise to keep their minds
How should I manage play biting around children?
Children love puppies and vice versa – both have lots of energy and both
can get overexcited. Unfortunately, this can often lead to play biting.
I always recommend that an adult supervise any interaction between
young children and a puppy. Children can sometimes be a little rough in
their handling and may unwittingly pester or corner a puppy. Helping
children to understand how to play with a pup and behave in a calm, gentle
manner is really important.