Anti-bite training is best done early in a dog’s life. If your dog is beyond puppyhood and still bites, don’t worry. There’s plenty of effective ways to break the habit and learn healthy ways to play!

Puppy

Puppies explore the world with their mouth, so you can expect some play biting when they’re young. They may be adorable, but don’t let your pup’s cuteness keep you from teaching them healthy habits. Here’s some tips for teaching puppies to play nice:

  • Be vocal. As soon as your puppy bites say, “OUCH!” This is equivalent to a dog’s yelp, and mimics the way they tell each other what hurts and when they’ve crossed a line.
  • Don’t get physical. Puppies just want to play, so a better way to punish your pup is to stop playing (immediately) when they bite you. This teaches them that biting gets them nowhere, and is no fun.
  • Praise your pup! When they stop biting, or don’t bite in the first place, let them know how good they are. This helps them associate love and affection with safe social skills.
  • Play with other puppies. Socializing is critical to developing a well-adjusted dog, and their interaction with other puppies will help their behavior with you.
  • Teach with Toys. When your little buddy gets rowdy, give him something safe to chomp on. That way he’ll start to distinguish between what’s okay to bite and what’s not.

Adolescent

If your dog continues to bite into adolescence, start fixing the problem right away. Training doesn’t have to be complicated, but does have to be consistent. Find what works best for you and stick to it!

  • Begin with obedience. Re-learning basic commands – sit, stay, come, etc. – is beneficial because it establishes you as the boss, which is essential as a dog approaches adulthood.
  • Sit first. Make your dog sits before you pet, feed, or play with him. It may seem tedious at first, but daily repetition is the best way to instill healthy habits.
  • Play is a privilege. Use play as a reward for good behavior. And when he misbehaves, stop the fun and withhold affection until he calms down.
  • Have toys handy. Always have a dog toy nearby, especially in situations where your buddy tends to bite. This will give your dog a safe outlet.
  • Stay positive! Training your dog not to bite is a big deal, but making it fun will help create a positive learning environment.

Adult

This is the toughest stage to discourage biting. Even if it’s only occasional or in the spirit of fun, start corrective training immediately. Your dog doesn’t have to be mean or aggressive to inflict serious injury. No matter how old your dog is, there’s hope for healthy habits. Start now and stay at it!

  • Seek professional help. A licensed dog trainer can help your dog (and you) develop effective training techniques and lifestyle changes.
  • Be patient. It’s difficult to unlearn a lifetime of bad habits, so embrace the challenge, and never take frustrations out on your dog.
  • Cut out the roughhousing. If your dog has a biting problem, try not to play fight or wrestle. This assures that your dog doesn’t get confused by mixed signals, and reinforces the fact that even ‘play biting’ is not okay.

Biting is a serious issue, but earnest training can undo bad habits. Always remember, love and consistency are essential for changing your dog’s behavior. Many people think they can’t be strict with their dog because they love them. In truth, it’s just the opposite. Because you love your dog, commit to healthy behavior – the earlier the better!