Puppy play biting

This is a blog for puppy owners. The number one complaint I get about young puppies is play biting people. Boy does it hurt with those tiny sharp teeth.

Firstly, let me explain why puppies play bite then I’ll go into how to prevent it. It’s really important to understand why puppies play bite and mouth to help keep our frustration in check. Puppies do not play bite as a way of becoming ‘top dog’ or ‘the alpha dog’; this is a very outdated and scientifically disproved theory of dog behaviour. Puppies actually mouth as a way of playing and interacting with us. If you watch puppies and dogs playing it is very common for them to play bite and mouth each other. After all they don’t have hands to high five or hug when they meet so they interact by playing and mouthing each other.

play biting logo

It is natural for puppies to play by mouthing each other

Puppies also mouth more during teething; around 4-6 months when they lose their baby teeth. Their mouths can be sore and they find a great deal of pain relief through mouthing things. Finally, puppy’s mouth as a way to explore their environments, by mouthing items they gain a lot of sensory information about it. After all, they don’t have hands to pick things up and handle them to find out.

So there’s the main reasons why puppies mouth a lot whilst little. Now onto how to stop them mouthing your hands and ragging on your sleeves and trouser legs. You will need to start this the moment you get your puppy home (and even earlier if you are a breeder) in order to prevent them getting into the bad habit. Here’s my top tips:


  1. When your puppy is play biting or mouthing you try to stay as calm, still, quiet, and thus boring, as possible. The more your shout at, push off and look at your puppy when they are mouthing you, the more excited they will become. To most puppies, any attention, whether it be negative or otherwise, is still attention. After all, they don’t understand English.
  2. Purchase a load of soft, long, squeaky dog toys. Have one on you at all times around the house and out and about. Have one in every room of the house and by the front door. As soon as your puppy goes to mouth you, you are going to redirect them onto a soft toy. In order to get them excited about the toy, move it around quickly on the floor whilst keeping your body as still as possible. Keep the toy just out of their reach, moving away from them until they are super excited about catching it, then let them have it. Praise them heavily for mouthing the toy and not you.
    Teddy tug with bert

    Use long toys to keep sharp puppy teeth away from hands

  3. Around visitors and children, or when you don’t have time to give your puppy 100% of your attention, have them on a house line (a two meter light weight lead for use in the house, only use whilst you are present). Let them drag the lead around and take hold of it any time you need to move them away from anyone they start to mouth. This is great way of stopping them practising a behaviour you don’t like without giving them any attention.
  4. If all else fails, try a little ‘time out’. This means either you leaving the room or taking your puppy out of the room using the house line (and preferably  placing them behind a baby gate). Give them one minutes time out then let them back in, trailing the house line behind them. If they mouth again, take hold of the lead and pop them out for another minute. Continue to do this until they get the idea that mouthing equals them being put on their own. Note: if your puppy is barking after their one minute time out wait until they have stopped before allowing them back in, otherwise they will bark more each time.
leskie puppy kong

Save your table legs and provide your puppies with frozen Kongs to chew on


If your puppy is mouthing and chewing other things that they should not be, such as furniture, make sure you are providing them with things that you would prefer them to chew. My favourites are Kongs. Stuff them full of sticky, dog friendly, foods such as wet dog meat, soaked kibble or small amounts of peanut butter (xylitol free!), pate, cream cheese, banana, honey and freeze them to keep your puppy busy for hours. Keep forbidden items out of reach, or block access to areas with them. When my dog was a puppy we pretty much cleared the ground floor of our house to the point it almost looked like no-one lived there! Then, after their puppy chewing stage is over you can slowly reintroduce the areas or items that were restricted.

puppy tuggy

Tuggy games are great for bonding and for satisfying your puppies need to play and chew. Your will also need to teach your puppy to drop on command.

In summary, do not punish your puppy for play biting, as mentioned, it is physiological need as they grow. Make sure you prepare yourself with the soft toys to redirect them to and a house line and baby gate, to avoid them practising the behaviour, then make sure you stay consistent and follow through each time. Shouting at, tapping their nose, yelping at or hitting your puppy when they mouth will only make them nervous of you, ruin your bond and potentially encourage them to growl or snap at you to get you to back off.

About the Author: Holly Keeling. Dog Trainer in Sussex, England. Mother to furrbaby Leskie 5yrs and little humans Teddy 3yrs and Louie 1yr. Outdoor lover. A blog about raising kids and dogs and my life as a dog trainer. View more blogs here.

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Holly Keeling. Dog Trainer in Sussex, England. Mother to furrbaby Leskie 5yrs and little humans Teddy 3yrs and Louie 1yr. Wife to Tim. Outdoor lover. A blog about raising kids and dogs and my life as a dog trainer.

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