The Best Way to Get a Puppy to Stop Nipping: Explained

The best way to prevent a puppy from nipping involves several effective techniques. Encouraging bite inhibition, steering their biting toward suitable toys, and positively reinforcing gentle mouth behavior are key strategies. While nipping is inherent to a puppy’s nature, it often proves discomforting and bothersome to humans. This discourse will delve into the reasons behind puppy nipping, methods to curb this behavior, and pitfalls to evade while addressing it.

Why Do Puppies Nip?

Puppies nip for various reasons, such as:

  • Puppy teething: Puppies start to lose their baby teeth and grow their adult teeth between 3 and 6 months of age. This process can cause discomfort and itching in their gums, which they try to relieve by chewing and nipping on anything they can find.
  • Puppy play-biting: Puppies learn how to interact with other dogs and their environment through play. Play-biting is one of the ways they communicate, explore, and have fun with their littermates and other dogs. They also learn how to control the strength of their bite and how to read the signals of other dogs during play.
  • Puppy mouthing: Puppies use their mouths to explore the world and learn about different textures, tastes, and sensations. They also use their mouths to show affection and curiosity towards humans and other animals. Mouthing is a gentle form of nipping that does not cause pain or damage.
  • Puppy attention-seeking: Puppies crave attention and stimulation from their owners and other people. They may nip to get a reaction, to initiate play, or to express their needs and wants.

How to Stop a Puppy from Nipping?

Puppy nipping can be stopped by following these steps:

Teach bite inhibition: Bite inhibition is the ability to control the force and intensity of the bite. It is an essential skill that every dog should learn, as it prevents them from causing serious harm to other dogs or humans. Bite inhibition is best taught when the puppy is still young and impressionable, as they are more likely to learn from the feedback of their littermates and their mother. To teach bite inhibition, you can use the following methods:

  • Yelp and stop the play: When your puppy nips you too hard, make a loud and high-pitched yelp, like another puppy would do. Then, stop the play and ignore your puppy for a few seconds. This will teach your puppy that biting too hard ends the fun and gets them no attention. Repeat this every time your puppy nips you, and gradually reduce the threshold of what you consider too hard, until your puppy learns to be gentle with their mouth.
  • Redirect to a toy: When your puppy nips you, offer them a toy instead of your hand or clothing. This will teach your puppy what they are allowed to bite and chew on, and satisfy their need for oral stimulation. Praise and reward your puppy when they bite the toy, and remove the toy when they lose interest. Repeat this every time your puppy nips you, and have plenty of toys available for your puppy to choose from.
  • Use time-outs: If your puppy does not respond to the yelp or the redirection, you can use time-outs to reinforce the message. When your puppy nips you, say “no” or “ouch” in a firm but calm voice, and then put your puppy in a safe and boring place, such as a crate or a pen, for a few minutes. This will teach your puppy that nipping results in isolation and loss of freedom. Do not use time-outs as a punishment, but as a way to calm your puppy down and reset their behavior.
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Reward gentle mouth behavior: While you want to discourage your puppy from nipping, you do not want to suppress their natural instinct to use their mouth. Instead, you want to encourage them to use their mouth in a gentle and appropriate way. To do this, you can use the following methods:

  • Use treats: When your puppy licks your hand or mouthes you softly, give them a treat and praise them. This will teach your puppy that being gentle with their mouth gets them positive reinforcement and attention. You can also use treats to lure your puppy away from your hand or clothing when they try to nip you, and reward them when they follow the treat.
  • Use clicker training: Clicker training is a method of positive reinforcement that uses a device that makes a clicking sound to mark the desired behavior. You can use a clicker to train your puppy to stop nipping, by clicking and treating them when they are calm and not biting, when they lick or mouth you gently, or when they bite a toy instead of you. This will teach your puppy what behavior you want them to repeat, and associate the clicker with something good.
  • Use verbal cues: You can also use verbal cues to communicate with your puppy and teach them what you want them to do. For example, you can use the word “yes” or “good” to mark and reward gentle mouth behavior, and the word “no” or “leave it” to stop nipping behavior. Make sure to use a consistent and clear tone of voice, and follow the cue with a reward or a consequence.
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What to Avoid When Dealing with Puppy Nipping?

Puppy nipping can be frustrating and challenging, but it is important to avoid some common mistakes that can make the problem worse or harm your puppy. Here are some things to avoid when dealing with puppy nipping:

Do not hit, slap, or pinch your puppy: Physical punishment is never a good idea, as it can hurt your puppy, damage your bond, and make them fearful or aggressive. Your puppy may also interpret your actions as play, and bite you harder or more often. Instead of using violence, use positive methods that teach your puppy what you want them to do, not what you do not want them to do.

Do not shout, scream, or scold your puppy: Verbal punishment is also ineffective and counterproductive, as it can scare your puppy, confuse them, or make them more excited. Your puppy may also think that you are joining the game, and bite you more or louder. Instead of using harsh words, use calm and firm words that convey your message, and praise your puppy when they do something right.

Do not pull away or jerk your hand or clothing: When your puppy nips you, your instinct may be to pull away or jerk your hand or clothing. However, this can make your puppy think that you are playing tug-of-war, and bite you harder or chase you. Instead of pulling away or jerking, stay still and make your hand or clothing boring and unappealing, and then redirect your puppy to a toy or a treat.

Do not play rough or encourage biting: Some games and activities can encourage your puppy to bite, such as wrestling, chasing, or teasing. These games can be fun, but they can also teach your puppy that biting is acceptable and rewarding. Instead of playing rough or encouraging biting, play games that do not involve biting, such as fetch, hide-and-seek, or puzzle toys.


Puppy nipping is a normal and natural behavior that can be stopped with patience, consistency, and positive training. The key is to teach your puppy bite inhibition, redirect their biting to appropriate toys, and reward them for gentle mouth behavior. By following these steps, you can help your puppy grow into a well-behaved and well-adjusted dog that knows how to use their mouth in a respectful and safe way.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why do puppies nip and bite?
Puppies engage in nipping and biting for various reasons, including playful interactions, exploration of their surroundings, teething discomfort, or seeking attention.

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How can I teach my puppy not to nip and bite me?
To discourage your puppy from nipping and biting, redirect their focus to a chew toy or appropriate object, vocalize a sharp sound like “ouch” to signify discomfort when they bite, and cease interaction or play if they persist in biting.

What are some safe and enjoyable ways to play with my puppy without encouraging nipping?
Safe and enjoyable activities to engage in with your puppy without promoting nipping include using tug toys, playing fetch, introducing them to basic tricks, or enrolling them in a puppy socialization class.

How can I alleviate my puppy’s teething discomfort?
Assist your puppy with teething discomfort by offering frozen or chilled toys and treats, gently massaging their gums, or seeking guidance from your veterinarian regarding suitable medications or supplements.

How can I socialize my puppy with other dogs and people without nipping?
Facilitate positive socialization experiences for your puppy by exposing them to friendly and well-behaved dogs and individuals, reinforcing calm and gentle behaviors with rewards, and intervening if play becomes overly exuberant or rough.

How do you deter a puppy from nipping at you?
Dissuade your puppy from nipping by employing redirection techniques and utilizing the same strategies used to discourage nipping and biting. Additionally, ensure they receive adequate exercise, mental stimulation, and rest to support overall behavioral well-being.

At what age do puppies cease nipping?
Puppies typically discontinue nipping and biting behaviors once they have shed all their deciduous teeth and acquired their full complement of adult teeth, usually around 6 to 7 months of age.

How should you address a puppy’s nipping behavior?
Avoid punitive measures when addressing a puppy’s nipping behavior, as these can instill fear, provoke aggression, or create confusion. Instead, focus on positive reinforcement and redirection to teach appropriate conduct.

Do puppies naturally stop nipping?
Puppies naturally stop nipping as they grow older and learn bite inhibition from their mother, siblings, and human caretakers. However, some breeds or individuals may need more guidance and training to stop nipping.

How to stop a puppy from biting your feet and hands?
You can stop a puppy from biting your feet and hands by keeping them away from your feet and hands, wearing shoes or gloves, using a spray bottle or bitter spray, or teaching them the “leave it” or “drop it” command.