Adopting a new puppy can be a great source of happiness for both you and your family. You have probably been getting ready for this moment for some time now, and it is understandable to be very excited.
However, every owner should be aware of the complications and difficulties that could come with introducing a puppy into the household. While this should not stop you from dedicating all of your love to your new furry friend, being aware of the obstacles you might be facing can avoid your serious frustrations.
Being prepared in advance might help you build a better and more regarding the relationship with your dog. So let’s have a look at how to stop a puppy from biting your feet or nipping your ankles. Learn about all the training tips you’ll need in the weeks to come!
Why do puppies like to bite and nip?
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Biting and nipping is a natural behavior in puppies and small dogs. You will notice your furry friend starting to mouth objects, and often your fingers, as soon as he or she starts teething.
Dogs, similarly to other animals, prefer to examine and manipulate objects with their mouths rather than with their paws. This is comparable to babies holding toys or putting items in their mouths. nipping is a dog’s natural way to find out the uses and shapes of things that they have never seen before.
Investigating objects is a hobby that dogs take up as soon as they feel confident enough to be able to overcome it if needed. This is why this behavior is more common in puppies that are already a few months old.
If you have noticed new teeth in your puppy, be aware that this is a telltale sign that he will start nibbling and biting soon. With a little training, it is possible to limit this behavior to a short amount of time.
While it is impossible to stop a puppy from biting your feet entirely when he just started discovering the world, this habit should be controlled and limited to a healthy time frame.
As we have seen, puppies are most likely to start biting and nipping as soon as their first teeth show up. From then onwards, they will be looking for items and toys to chew on in order to sharpen their newly found teeth.
While this can be extremely frustrating in the household, there are a few precautions that you should keep in mind when bringing a puppy in your home. During the teething process, your dog will be strengthening his teeth on everything he can chew.
This might be the armrest of your sofa, blankets, and shoes. In this case, supplying enough toys to chew might save your furniture from being bitten away.
This process can take up to three months. While at the beginning it can be fun to see your puppy playing around the house, be mindful that his teeth will become razor-sharp in a matter of a few weeks. In this case, starting their training early can help you develop healthy habits later on.
Like baby humans, puppies like to play. If you have spent a few hours observing your puppy, you would have realized that they mainly use their mouths, and often teeth to play with other puppies and humans.
While at the beginning of the teething, this behavior can’t hurt either you or other dogs, as soon as the sharp milk teeth come through, you should teach your dog the right way to play.
In fact, while other dogs can tolerate biting and nipping to a certain level, your skin probably can’t. Remember that a dog’s skin is designed to be tougher and stronger than human’s and, as soon as your dog gains strength, it might be impossible for you to keep playing with a nipping puppy.
Usually, in the litter, your puppy would have been exposed to other puppies and therefore not been able to realize what is the correct behavior to have in front of their human friends.
Letting your dog playing with other puppies can be very stimulating for both you and your furry friend. However, you should be correcting this behavior if it carries on within your household.
Discern playfulness from aggression
While mouthing and biting is completely normal behavior for a puppy, be aware of the line between playfulness and aggression. This does not mean that your dog will turn aggressive one day and keep this personality for months. It does refer to a moment in which your dog might be scared, annoyed, or angry. This can turn the game into aggression. Let’s have a look at when this can happen and how to solve it.
This can happen unexpectedly, and you might not be able to understand what the trigger was. Similarly to kids, this can happen when you are forcing your puppy to do something they are not willing to do. Alternatively, be aware that some puppies don’t like being handled or constrained if they don’t ask for it. In this case, they might use biting or nipping to escape from a situation deemed uncomfortable.
The telltale signs that your dog’s mood has changed is a tension in their bodies and faces. If he is old enough, he might also be growling softly at you. In this case, it is recommended to leave your puppy free for a minute and let him relax before continuing with the training exercises or games.
Escalation of the game
If you have been playing with your dog for a while and you notice he is overstimulated or excited, this can lead to an aggression outburst. This is not due to your dog being poorly trained but rather to the excitement of the moment. This can also happen if they are upset because of “losing” the game or frustrations.
If you notice your dog suddenly becoming extremely active or excited, it is recommended to let him cool down for a few minutes. After playing on his own for a while and giving up on the toy, he will calm done. And you can resume the game!
Know your dog
Different breeds of puppies can have different personality traits. This can be an essential factor to take into consideration when trying to stop your puppy from biting your feet.
Some breeds can, in fact, be more aggressive or less prone to training.
Smaller breeds are famous for being more active and energetic. While this can be a charming personality trait, if overexcited, they can turn aggressive or hostile. Moreover, smaller dogs can feel threatened if held or constrained, which can trigger a biting reaction.
Generally, larger breeds tend to be calmer. Puppies are still more energetic than adult dogs, but they have a higher tolerance for playing and stimulation.
How to stop a puppy from biting and nipping? Get the course here.
We have already examined that puppies tend to bite and nip naturally. While this behavior is normal in the first three months of their lives, it is important to stop this inappropriate behavior soon enough. Failing to do so can lead to a future difficulty to retrain your dog and eliminate the rooted negative behavior. There are a few techniques that any owner can use when their puppy is still young to stop a puppy from biting their feet or fingers.
Many owners enjoy “rough-housing” or very physical playing activities with their young puppies. This can be fun and very stimulating for your dog when he is still a baby. However, as your dog’s teeth become sharper and stronger, many owners struggle to make their dog drop the bad habit that they have picked up.
In fact, your dog can easily hurt you while playing, and he is unable to understand when the game is over. This means that he won’t be able to lower the high level of energy that he has picked up during the game and he’s potentially dangerous.
In this case, experts recommend to avoid “rough-housing” altogether or limit it to the first week of your puppy in your house. If this continues, your dog will learn that it is okay to bite your hands and feet during playtimes.
Avoid negative reinforcement
It is recommended to leave your dog to calm down after an exciting playing time, especially is the session ended with you getting your hands and feet nibbled. However, if you are trying to punish or shout at your dog for his misbehavior, he will most likely see this as you giving him more attention.
This can also lower the trust your puppy has in you. This can deteriorate or compromise the relationship you are trying to build and ultimately encourage him to have aggressive behavior.
Lastly, dogs that have been subjected to physical and verbal punishment are more likely to become hostile towards you and other people, especially strangers.
Reward and Praise your dog
Puppies, especially during their first months, are incredibly sensitive to rewards and praises. This is your best tool to use during training or game times. If your dog has been playing well and has not attempted to bite you, reward him with treats and cuddles. This can help reiterate positive behavior and increase the level of trust that your dog has in you.
While on the moment this is not considered big progress, building a healthy relationship will help you house training your dog later.
What to teach your puppy to stop him from biting your feet?
A proper house training can take up to three months, and it will require a high level of commitment from your part as well as your dog’s. There are some training techniques that can help you speed up the process and obtain better and long-lasting results. While often repetition, positive reinforcement, and dedication are enough to teach your puppy the right behavior, these tips are suggested by expert dog trainers.
Redirect your dog’s biting
While you don’t need to stop the biting altogether, you need to be able to direct this habit away from your skin or feet and focus it on more appropriate objects. Equip your house with chew toys, bones, and props that your dog can nip freely.
In order to redirect your puppy to appropriate toys, retract your hand when he is trying to mouth you and offer an alternative instead. Have a toy or rope at hand and wave your dog towards it. If he accepts the invitation and decides to bite and nip a chew toy instead of your feet, praise him or reward him with treats immediately.
However, make sure that your praise comes straight after the act. If you wait too long, your dog might be associating the treat exclusively with the biting, rather than with the positive choice.
Distract and stimulate your puppy
To avoid your puppy biting your feet or shoes, create an efficient distraction that will keep his focus on other objects.
“Find the Treat”, and non-contact games can satisfy the need of your dog to bite and to nip to discover new items. However, start training your dog to respond to the commands of “leave” or “let go” if he becomes overexcited, aggressive, or possessive towards the toy. Do this simply by rewarding him if he does let go of the prop.
To provide mental stimulation, let your dog play with adult dogs or vaccinated puppies. This will allow your puppy to bite away his friends and learn that in that case, nipping is a positive way of interacting. Adult dogs will also teach your puppy when a bit is too strong and how this can hurt other dogs or people.
Use a deterrent
There are useful products on the market that can be used as a deterrent. If your dog biting habit does not fade away within a few months, consult your vet on what is the best option for you and your furry friend.
Sprays and creams can be applied on your shoes or on the items your puppy likes to bite the most. These deterrents create an unpleasant smell or taste that puts your dog off from nipping the covered object.
To use these products during training for a prolonged period of timps that you should be taking in advance.
Let your dog taste the product by applying it on a piece of cotton or cloth. Successively, make your dog smell the cloth. This will help him become familiar with the spray and understand that that smell is associated with a bad taste.
Secondly, after he tastes the spray or cream, eliminate the availability of water for your dog to wash his mouth. In fact, if your dog is aware of where is water bowl is, he will run to eliminate the unpleasant taste immediately. However, this will make the training inefficient as your dog knows that a solution to the bad taste is just around the corner.
This training is considered effective if exercised constantly for 2 to 5 weeks.
While the techniques mentioned are already effective to stop a puppy from biting your feet, there are a few tips that any owner should keep in mind to speed up the training. These are exercises that you can introduce daily in your behavior around your dog and not only during the training sessions.
Ignore him when he is biting your feet
Puppies like to be stimulated and play with. The moment you allow yourself to give attention to your puppy, he will most likely continue with his current activity, whether this is positive or negative. Therefore, keep still and avoid giving your dog attention if he is biting your shoes.
You will notice your puppy losing interest quickly and move onto something more exciting, such as toys and ropes. If you see your puppy running towards your feet, stop immediately and put on a boring attitude. Alternatively, offer one of the biting replacement options that we have seen above.
Moreover, it is recommended to stop playing instantly with your puppy if you feel his mouth or teeth touching your skin. Take a break by ignoring him and letting him calm down.
Don’t pull away
If your puppy has caught your hands or feet, don’t pull away. This can trigger an extra reaction in your dog, and you will suddenly be playing chase.
Teach your puppy gentle-play and non-contact activities instead. If he has caught your fingers or shoes, maintain that position and make a high pitched sound, as if you were hurt. If your dog lets go, reward him and praise.
However, if you are forced to repeat this exercise very often, it only means that your puppy has been overstimulated by the game and it is time for a time-out.
Don’t stop it altogether
While you don’t want your puppy biting your feet and hands, it is important to avoid stopping this behavior altogether. It is recommended to control it and inhibit the biting instead. This implied that your dog biting would become less aggressive and forceful.
While “rough-housing” is not recommended to teach this lesson, let your puppy mouth your hands and feet softly. By praising him, he will realize what is the right pressure he should be applying on his bite to avoid hurting you.
This is an incredibly important lesson for puppies. In fact, no owner would like their dog to be terrified of any new object because they don’t feel like they should be examining it. By teaching your puppy to mouth softly, you would be encouraging positive learning behavior while avoiding him hurting you while playing.
What precautions should you have?
Training your puppy properly to avoid him biting your feet can take quite some time. While you will most likely be successful, there are some precautions you should be taking in the meanwhile to be completely safe during training.
- Avoid moving your fingers around or on your dog’s face. This will encourage your puppy to mouth your hands.
- Avoid retracting and extending your arms and feet in front of your dog. This movement will most likely catch his attention and trigger his chase instincts. In this case, he will most likely try to catch and bite your feet. If this happens, keep still until they have become boring for your dog.
- Don’t slap your puppy. Negative reinforcement or playful slaps will make your dog answer to the perceived aggression by biting harder or stronger. Moreover, if your puppy is afraid of you, you will struggle to teach him what the right behavior is.
- Encourage your puppy to play with you. Rather than rough contact games, rely on less energetic playing activities.
- Make your house puppy-proof. It’s not just your hand and feet that will get bitten or nipped at often. Couches, sofas, tables, and shoes are just as good targets.
Should I get professional help?
If you have been working with your puppy for over a few months and you were not able to see satisfying positive results, you might consider reaching out for professional help.
Expert dog trainers can offer step-by-step guides that can help you speed up the progress. These courses are often personalized and built around the specific needs of you and your dog. They are incredibly effective and can help you with building a frustration-free relationship with your puppy.
To Wrap Up
Introducing a puppy into your household can be extremely exciting. However, there are a few things that every owner should be aware of to avoid future frustrations. Biting and nipping is completely natural in your dog, but you should be able to stop this behavior after the first few months of your puppy in your family. This is if you don’t want to see your cute puppy nibbling on your new sofa!
Are you a puppy owner? Have you been experiencing these troubles? How did you stop your puppy from biting your feet? Let us know by leaving a comment below!