Puppy Nipping

Teach your pup not to treat people like her personal chew toys.


Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
3-minute read
Episode #2

From Nibbles to No Teeth at All

Once your puppy’s learned to be careful, he’s ready to learn not to use his teeth on skin or clothing at all. Now you give your puppy an “Oops” and a time-out the second his teeth touch you – even if it was an accident. That’s step 2. You might wonder why we don’t cut to the no-teeth rule in the first place. Yes, there is a reason.

Accidents happen. People close their dogs’ tails in car doors. They trip over old, arthritic dogs. They rub their dog’s ears just when a painful infection has taken hold. The nicest dog in the world can wind up delivering a bite. We teach the no-teeth rule in two steps because we hope our puppies learn that (A) they shouldn’t use their teeth on people, but also (B) human skin is super delicate. So, dog, if you’re going to bite, it won’t take much force to make your point. Trainers don’t know for sure that this lesson will stick in an emergency. But the two-step method is about as close as people can get to the way puppies learn similar lessons from other dogs.

Teach Your Puppy to Stop Biting with Toys

Now, time-outs are all very well. But the first order of business is always, always, always to show your puppy or dog what it is okay to do. Dogs often use their teeth in play – that’s normal and fine. They shouldn’t use their teeth on us or our clothes, but they can learn to bite objects instead. So, when you’re hanging out with your puppy, keep a toy or a chewy edible to hand. Look for signs that your puppy’s teeth are about to engage, and get that chewy in her face as fast as you can.

The oldest piece of dog training advice in the world is also one of the best. Teach your puppy early to behave the way you’d like to see when she’s an adult. Teach those good habits gently and carefully, and they will stick for life.


About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).