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Unleashed: It’s all in the bite…

Puppies are proper cute, there’s no denying that. They can be endless fun and you’ll take billions of amazing lovely photos of them when they’re playing, falling over, or mostly when they’re sleeping – which they do, a LOT. But despite the endless amount of cuteness, the additional seemingly endless amount of ‘biting’ can get annoying and leads to one simple question: “How do I get the biting to stop?” Short answer: You don’t.

By Russell D Russell

Sunday 11 April 2021, 11:00AM

Photo: Kate Gu / Unsplash

Photo: Kate Gu / Unsplash

Don’t panic, this doesn’t mean you need to let your pup slice their razor sharp puppy teeth into your shoes, toes, fingers and clothes all the time, but we do need to help them learn what we call ‘Bite Inhibition’. Puppies engage with each other, and indeed the world around them, by using their mouth to explore, pick things up and chew on them. And properly engaging with their littermates – young animals learn that biting their fellow pup mates with too much force – will lead to an immediate termination of engagement and may also lead to a reprimand. So whilst it’s perfectly natural for our pups to do this, there’s a few things we can do to show them not to nibble on us…


Like Neo said in The Matrix. “Toys. Lots of toys…” Ideally you want to go for variety here. Some will be hard rubber toys, others will be soft. Some may have stuffing, some may not. The more variety you have in toy options, the better. It’s always worth having a few ‘special’ toys that your pup only has access to at certain times – such as dinner time, or crate time – but otherwise, have a range of toys that are available at all times.

As far as your pup is concerned, if it’s on the floor, it’s probably a toy and if he does grab a toy, that’s the time to give him lots of attention, a big fuss and maybe even a treat. That way he learns, “Hey if I pick up this item [the toy] I get lots of attention and a treat. I should pick up this item [the toy!] more often!” The same is also true if you shout and chase him for picking up your shoes, so beware. Remember, they have NO idea of what a shoe, toy or potted plant is – it’s just all stuff to them – so engage and reward the good things they do.


Toys in general are great, but young pups also tend to follow you around, at which point flowing dresses, trousers, ankles and feet become fair game. Most moving objects are of interest to puppies, who enjoy bouncing on, and then mouthing them. And razor sharp teeth on toes is not a good mix. Target toys, such as a rope knot, can be handy as you can grab one and carry it with you, encouraging your pup to use it as a ‘target’ to chew on while you’re walking.


Using treats can sometimes be tricky when you have proper mouthy pups as fingers appear to be fair game. Instead of hand feeding, get your pups attention and drop treats on the floor behind them. Once they turn to get the treat, call their name to get their attention, and then drop another treat. This has the dual benefit of relating their name to something positive (the treat) and also showing them good things come from the floor, not your hands – so it may curb their tendency to either jump, or just mouth your (or your kids’) hands, rather choosing to wait for the treat to land on the floor. Remember, you’re after ‘attention’ first, before dropping the treat. Don’t just throw treats on the floor for no reason.


Sometimes, just trying to calmly pet our puppy can turn into a struggle, with sharp teeth scraping our hands. First, if pup is in a super high energy state, maybe don’t try to calmly pet or engage with them. Try playing with a rope toy, or a game of fetch. And later, when you are trying to calmly pet them, maybe have a chew toy (or two), that you can hold with one hand, whilst the other hand does the petting.


Management forms a big part of puppyhood. This involves keeping doors to other rooms closed at all times so a puppy is unable to get in there in the first place. Block off access to various areas with baby gates. Make sure all chewable items like shoes, kids toys, phone charging cables, remote controls and so on are all out of reach from our new puppy. Also, it’s worth having your pup on a leash almost constantly around the house. So wherever you go, puppy goes. This also prevents the puppy from being able to sneak off and chew something he shouldn’t when out of sight.


Shouting “NO!” is an obvious, almost reactionary tactic. But ultimately, it’s pointless. It might work the first few times, if you startle the pup, but over time he’ll just work out that loud noise you make doesn’t mean anything as there’s no consequence to it. Of course, if the puppy has just sunk his teeth into your thumb, you’re allowed to utter a few choice expletives, but just understand this more reactionary than a solid training plan.

If you would like some help with your puppy, then please contact us on 091-6541960, email, or check our website CPA is accredited with the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), as an American Kennel Club (AKC) Evaluator and a Professional Member of the IACP.

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