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How to stop a puppy from biting

And what it means when puppies bite.

Raising a puppy comes with a lot of exciting firsts. You may beam with pride the first time your pup goes to the bathroom outside or when they spend their first comfortable night in the crate. But one scenario you may not feel too excited about is when your puppy starts biting. 

“Biting is very common in puppies because they are constantly using their mouths to explore and communicate,” Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian, explains. 

While a dog biting you or your things may not be the most pleasant experience, Dr. McCullough explains that it’s typically not rooted in aggression. Instead, they may bite to communicate that they don’t like something, as a regular part of play, when naturally expressing prey-hunting behavior or to massage their gums while teething (when a puppy starts losing their teeth), she adds. 

When do puppies stop biting?

Puppies usually start biting around 6 weeks old, Dr. McCullough shares. However, it's important to train your puppy to stop biting as soon as they start — if the behavior continues into adulthood, it could have more serious consequences, like injury to a person or another pet or destruction to your home. 

RELATED: New puppy checklist — everything you need to know about bringing your dog home

How to stop a puppy from biting

To protect your things, yourself and others from your puppy's biting, Dr. McCullough says to practice the following training methods:

  • Don’t encourage types of play using their mouth (or mouthing, which is when puppies put their mouth on a person or item like they’re chewing). 
  • If your pup starts using their mouth to play, stop playing and divert your attention — this shows your puppy that they can’t get what they want through biting. You can also redirect your dog's biting by giving them an appropriate chew toy.
  • Purchase enough appropriate toys for your pup to chew on. 
  • Teach your dog basic commands like “sit” or “touch” to distract them from the biting behavior. 
  • Meet your pup’s needs. Make sure your dog is always getting enough playtime, attention, rest, socialization and exercise.

When training your puppy to stop biting, there are some things you should never do, Dr. McCullough explains. 

“Pet parents should't punish their puppy for biting because this is a normal behavior and punishment — spraying water, yelling or hitting, can erode the human-animal bond and lead to fear and anxiety,” she says. 

How to help a teething puppy

Chew toys can also help to massage teething pups' gums. However, Dr. McCullough suggests avoiding toys that are too hard and made out of materials like nylon, antlers and bones, which can cause broken teeth.  

Being a parent to a puppy is full of teaching and learning moments — for both you and your dog. Limiting your dog's biting when they're a puppy will help them be their best selves throughout their lives.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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