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A Plethora of Articles about Those Nip Nip Nippy Puppies

Puppy Biting -More Than Bad Manners by Ian Dunbar PhD, MSVC

Puppies bite and thank goodness they do! Puppy biting is essential for your puppy to develop a soft mouth., Puppy biting seldom causes appreciable harm but many bites are painful and elicit reaction. The pup learns it's jaws can hurt and therefore, begins to inhibit the force of its biting before it acquires the formidable teeth and strong jaws of an adolescent.

Completely curtailing puppy biting may offer immediate relief but the puppy will not have sufficient opportunity to learn that its jaws may inflict pain. Consequently, if ever provoked as an adult, the resultant bite is likely to be a hard one. Certainly puppy biting must be controlled but only in a progressive and systematic manner whereby the pup is first taught to inhibit the force of its bites, before puppy biting is forbidden altogether.

Once the puppy develops a soft mouth, there is plenty of time to inhibit the frequency of its now gentler mouthing.

It is not necessary to hurt, frighten, or punish the pup to teach it biting hurts. A simple "Ouch" is sufficient. If your pup acknowledges the "ouch" and desists, praise and resume playing, but in a calmer fashion. If your pup ignores the "ouch", emphasize "ouch" and leave the room. Your puppy has lost its playmate. Return after one or two minutes time-out and make up by having your puppy come, sit and calm down before resuming play.

Once your pup's biting no longer hurts, still pretend it does. Greet harder nips with a yelp of pseudo-pain. Your puppy will soon to get the idea, Whooahh! These humans are super-sensitive. I have to be much more gentle. The pressure of your puppy's bites will progressively decrease until biting becomes mouthing or slobbering.

NEVER allow your puppy to mouth human hair or clothing. Hair and clothing can feel neither pressure nor pain. Consequently, allowing a pup to mouth hair, scarves, shoelaces, or gloved hands etc., inadvertently trains the pup to bite harder, extremely close to human flesh!

Once your pup exerts no pressure whatsoever when mouthing, then and only then, teach the pup to reduce the frequency of mouthing. Teach the meaning of "Off" by hand feeding kibble {see the SIRIUS Puppy Training video), so your pup may learn gentle mouthing is OK, but it must stop the instant you say "Off", At this Stage, your puppy should never be allowed to initiate mouthing (unless requested to do so). Please refer to our Preventing Aggression booklet for a detailed description of the essential rules for
bite inhibition exercises such as play-fighting and tug o'war .

Byway of encouragement though, mouthing-maniac puppies generally develop
exceedingly gentle jaws as adults, since their many painful bites have elicited ample appropriate feedback. On the other hand, puppies which seldom play and roughhouse with other dogs, puppies which seldom bite their owners ( e.g., shy, or fearful pups), and/or breeds which have been bred to have soft mouths, may not receive sufficient feedback concerning the power of their jaws. This is the major reason puppy class instructors go to great lengths to encourage shy and Standoffish dogs to play in class. Should a dog ever bite as an adult, both the prognosis for rehabilitation and the fate
of the dog are almost always decided by the severity of the injury , which is predetermined by the level of bite inhibition the dog learned during puppy hood. The most important survival lesson for a puppy to learn is: Bites cause pain and of course, the pup can only 1earn this lesson, if it bites, and if the bites gives appropriate feedback.

More on "biting" from Dr. Ian Dunbar's puppy training video ...

Dogs must learn to inhibit their bite before they are 4 months old. Normally, they would learn this from their mother, their littermates and other members of the pack, But, because we take them away from this environment before this learning is completed, we must take over the training.
By allowing your puppy to socialize with other puppies and socialized dogs (naturally in a safe manner because of vaccinations) they can pick up where they left off. Puppies need to roll, tumble and play with each other. When they play, they bite each other everywhere and anywhere. This is where they learn to inhibit their biting. This is where they learn to control themselves. If they are too rough or rambunctious, they will find out because of how the other dogs and puppies react and interact with them. This is something that happens naturally and it is something we cannot accomplish. It can only be learned from trial and error. There is nothing you can say or do to educate them in this realm. They must learn from their own experience.

Another major advantage of dog to dog socialization besides the fact that it will help your dog to grow up not being fearful of other dogs is that they can vent their energy in an acceptable manner. Puppies that have other puppies to play with do not need to treat you like littermates. So the amount of play biting on you and your family should dramatically decrease. Puppies that do not play with other puppies are generally much more hyperactive and destructive in the home as well. A major cause of biting is due to lack of socialization. Lack of socialization results in fearful or aggressive behavior.

The two major reactions a dog has to something it is afraid of is to avoid it or to act aggressive in an attempt to make it go away. This is the most common cause of children being bitten. Dogs that are not socialized with children will bite them. The optimum time to socialize is before the dog reaches 4 months. With large breed dogs, 4 months may be too late, simply because at this age the puppy may already be too large for most mothers of young children to feel comfortable around. For most owners, the larger the dog is, the more difficult it is to control, especially around children. If there is anything you do not want your dog to be afraid of or aggressive towards, you must begin to socialize your puppy with them before it is 4 months old.

There are many other reasons your dog will bite and you will have to take an active role in teaching them. However, before you can teach your dog anything, there are two prerequisites that are essential. They are trust and respect. If your dog doesn't trust you, there is no reason why he should respect you. If your dog does not respect you, your relationship will be like two 5 year olds bossing each other around. If your dog does not trust and respect you, then when you attempt to teach your dog something, he will regard you as if he were thinking, "Who do you think you are to tell me what to do?"

Never hit, kick or slap your dog. This is the quickest way to erode the dog's trust in you. Yes, he will still love you. Even abused dogs love their owners. A unique characteristic of dogs is their unconditional love. You don't have to do anything to acquire your dog's love. But you must do a lot to gain your dog's trust and respect. Another area where we destroy our dog's trust in us is when we scold or punish them for house-soiling mistakes
and accidents. When housetraining your puppy, there is never a right time to punish or reprimand. If you catch your dog in the act, say "No" and quickly pick him up and carry him outside. When he does his business, praise him loudly. You have no right to scold him, because if he is going in the wrong place, it is your fault, not his. If you find an accident after the fact, just clean it up.

If you watch a litter of puppies playing, you will notice that they spend much of their time biting and grabbing each other with their mouths. This is normal puppy behavior. When you take a puppy from the litter and into your home, the puppy will play bite and mouth you. This is normal behavior, but needs to be modified so you and the puppy will be happy. The first thing to teach your new puppy is that human flesh is much more
sensitive than other puppies and that it really hurts us when they bite. This is called bite inhibition. A puppy has very sharp teeth and a weak jaw. This means that the puppy can cause you to be uncomfortable when mouthing or puppy biting you, but can not cause severe damage. An adult dog has duller teeth and a powerful jaw. This means that an adult dog can cause significant damage when biting.

ANY DOG WILL BITE GIVEN THE RIGHT CIRCUMSTANCES! If a small child falls on your adult dog and sticks a finger in the dog's eye, you should not be surprised if the dog bites. If you do a good job teaching your puppy bite inhibition, you should get a grab and release without damage. If you don't, you may get a hard bite with significant damage.

M. Shirley Chong has a wonderful article on the Keeper Page at on teaching bite inhibition.

She has two basic assumptions:

1) Any dog, no matter how stable and well socialized, could be pushed far enough to bite. I don't think there's a dog alive that wouldn't bite if it thought it was defending it's own life.

2) Although I try my best to protect my dog from situations where they could be defensive, life happens and I may not always succeed.

If the worst happened and my dog were pushed to the point of biting, I'd rather have a dog that knew how much pressure is enough to make their point rather than a dog that rips someone's face off due to a lack of experience in biting.

A dog that causes a bruise or superficial scratch is much less likely to be condemned to death by the local authorities than one that leaves deep punctures and/or rips.

Ian Dunbar studied over 130 cases of serious dog bites. In every single one of those cases, the dogs had been brought up with bite prohibition (love that word for the distinction, Helix!) rather bite inhibition.

Yes, it's true that dogs raised with bite inhibition do bite more. But I believe that they cause fewer injuries and less severe injuries.

And playing bitey-bitey games with dogs is lots of fun.

I want my dogs to be experts in just how to bite humans just as I want them to be experts at dog aggression. My intention in both cases is to have a safer dog.

M. Shirley Chong
The Well Mannered Dog
Grinnell Iowa
here is a web site for some wonderful articles on puppy issues overall.

Another point of view

First take into account the breed-derived behaviors and the human recipients. A lab or golden retriever pup uses his mouth a lot on everything in his environment. Before permanent teeth emerge even gentle mouthing is painful to us humans. Children and the elderly and sensitive individuals find any mouth contact unpleasant. The dog is not doing anything unusual, but it hurts nonetheless. This pup should have limited and controlled exposure to these people until he has less painful teeth as their screams and slapping at his face and pushing him away are often stimulating and exciting and bring on more and harder mouth use even in a naturally gentle-mouthed dog. A naturally hard biting dog such as a terrier or protection breed will use his mouth to test and explore the environment and tends to grab, shake or pull at clothes, arms, hair etc. with excited enthusiasm. This exploratory mouth use quickly leads to a harder mouth use which even though it is not intended as aggression may be interpreted as such by the recipient. I include these explanations because I feel it is important for the owner to understand that their puppy is not a savage beast, but simply learning how to use one of his most important sensory tools. It also helps them understand how their natural reaction (screaming, slapping and jerking hand away) to the mouthing increases rather than decreases the behavior. First tool would be chew toys that can be held in the hand with some distance between hand and mouth. Rope toys (several of them with different sizes of rope and types of knots) that are 16-24 inches long give the person something to hold that the pup can bite and interact with but not be able to get close to the hand that holds it (not used as a tug toy!)

If pup tries tug play, I just release the rope and turn away and pick up something else. Pup can't play tug alone and comes quickly to the other object. Long chew bones that can be held or even knotted strings of old socks with objects inside (tennis balls etc.) can serve the same purpose.

The pup is interacting with the human in a highly satisfying way, but learning what appropriate chew objects taste and feel like and should he get to a body part, a quick "ouch" and a substitution of a rope or other object should get him back on the track. In addition, if at all possible, it is important that they have real puppies to use their teeth on and real adult dogs to tell them where they can and cannot put their teeth. No one can
teach a dog manners like another dog! A huge abundance of chew play things like plastic bottles, kongs with stuff in them, real knuckle bones and lots of patience and a place for a time out when you can't stand the little monster another minute will help cover the rest. Sorry this got so long, but it is so hard to deal with even when you know what to do!

No one should tolerate or ignore nipping and clothes grabbing. It hurts, it's dangerous, it damages our clothing and most of all it damages our relationship with the little barracuda a.k.a. one's new puppy.

I consider my pantleg a part of my far as "yipping goes" well I've never considered it effective. This whole "when a pup yips the other one let's go is rather mythical too...I have seen plenty of puppies in a litter continue to hang on when a littermate yips". Watch puppies and let me know IF everytime a pup yips it's littermates let go. It's not something I've seen watching lots of puppies...some do, some don't. Have a toddler "yipping and owwee wowwee" as the pup is attached to his footie pajamas and you have a recipe for a very fun game for the puppy and a painful one for the toddler.

I teach pups not to bite hands, legs etc. by immediately removing all attention for the behavior this is easy if you are bending over to pet pup for example: you bend and here come teeth, stand up. You stand up. You stand up. You pet.

Simple. The use of teeth = (negative punishment) I go away.

Now some pups or dogs when you "go away" attach to your legs...ouch! Now I don't squeal ouch but this does at least hurts your pants. If you 501's could shout they'd be screaming "hey this hurts"!!

Now you can try "stop and ignore", with a dog like my JRT she didn't mind if the pants were moving or perfectly still...grab, growl, shake, twist fun, fun, fun! The behavior of grabbing/shaking is self reinforcing (my pants don't need to c/t that)...if I ignore a self reinforcing behavior it WILL not go away. It's like telling an owner with a dog digging holes in the backyard..."ignore it and it goes away". Nope not so. Besides it does really hurt especially if they catch some flesh in the process, it trips humans, it annoys house many other ways a dog can interact with a human that are much more pleasant then playing tug with our bodies or our clothing.

So there I was in the yard and barracuda was attached to my leg?! Hmmm....I would simply bend over, grasping the top of her muzzle and rolling gums remove her mouth from my leg. THIS should not be confused with any sort of "pinch the puppies gums and hurt them business". Painless for them and removing a puppy mouth this way keeps your hands safe. Simply remove puppy mouth. You now also have a hold of puppy or dog's collar. You grasp in such a way that they cannot twist and mouth...hold them at arms length away from you. Then you simply need to shake vigorously (I mean you shake them) just wait. Don't look at them, don't say anything to them.

Hold and wait. This pup is so obnoxious and you are so completely bored and totally unimpressed with their skills of grabbing your body with their sharp little puppy teeth.

The dog/pup is flopping around perhaps like a fish out of water...annoyed, irritated. Wait. At some point they will relax = immediately release them.

*If you want to C/T now go ahead. They go right back and grab your pants again. Here we go again, repeat the above.

I am NOT exaggerating when I say that Lucy and I had a very long initial session in the yard. I'm sure I removed and held the JRT by the collar at least 30 times in a simple walk across my back yard (maybe more frankly). I don't care, I am a very patient person...biting doesn't work, don't attach yourself to me or anything connected to me. Next day it was 25, next interaction 20 times etc.

At the end of two weeks I sent home a JRT that you could pick up and set down no biting. Hold in your lap no biting. Walk across the room no biting. Flip on her back and clip all of her toenails no biting. Restrain in any position, no biting. No biting...'cept for her toys.

Unfortunately, I don't know the author of the above article, as I got it via email, but if I am notified, I'd love to have the author listed here!

Bite Inhibition
Paws Forward K-9 Obedience School
A Division of Lexington Pet Care Center
Cher McCoy

It is normal for puppies between about six and sixteen weeks old to be obsessed with playfighting. When two puppies of this age meet, they want to wrestle. At this age, as everyone knows, the puppies have needle sharp teeth, so they really can be felt but they can't cause any serious damage. What puppies are learning at this age is a very valuable lesson. How much and how little to bite.

Every dog is capable of biting and any dog, regardless of how stable their temperament, can be pushed into a situation where they feel they must bite to defend themselves. The difference between the dog who bites only enough to get the message across and the dog who rips off the side of a child's face is Bite Inhibition.

For many years the traditional methods for teaching puppies never to bite involved scruff shakes, cuffing the puppy under the chin or the infamous "alpha rollover." And what was the most common complaint by people who used these methods? Their puppy immediately bit harder. We taught them to bite harder.

So, how do puppies learn bite inhibition? By biting, of course! Trying to teach a puppy bite inhibition without allowing them to bite is like trying to teach someone to fly an airplane without ever letting them get in the plane. It can't be done.

Puppies learn very quickly when they have bitten another puppy too hard. They get feedback. It's really very simple. Just enough bite is rewarded by more play. Too much bite and the other puppy yelps and stops playing. And this works for us as well. Let the puppy bite and then in a very high pitched tone, yelp! Or, say OUCH! A normal pup will back off for a second. If you are good at this, the puppy will probably use a calming signal by sitting or by giving an apology lick. It would be wise to practice your yelping alone without the puppy present so you can get good at this. Should the puppy come right back and bite harder, give another yelp and then walk away. It's important you go somewhere the puppy cannot reach you. Here's the message you are sending:
If you can't play nice, I'm not playing, period.

The puppies learn very quickly how much bite is enough to keep the play session going and how much bite it takes to stop the play altogether.

When you find there is a time that you don't want to play the biting game, teach the puppy a cue that means not to bite. It is best learned through the Leave It exercise. Your pup will soon learn that when you hold out your closed hand that it means to back away, to leave it. Your held out closed hand will be non-verbal signal and the verbal cue will be Leave It. By the time your puppy reliably backs away from you when you say Leave It, no matter what the circumstances are or where you are, your puppy will be ready to start incorporating Leave It to stop mouthplay.

Start off gradually, using "Leave It to stop mouthplay once every ten times the puppy initiates mouthplay. C/T when the puppy backs off. If the puppy doesn't back off, walk way and give a Time Out.

Don't give up mouthplay altogether, though. You worked hard to develop that soft mouth and it's like any skill that depends in part on muscle memory, it needs to be practiced to keep it.

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