Nipping and play biting is a normal occurrence in puppies. If we watch them play with their play mates, we will notice that is what they love to do all day. As cute as it is, puppies that small are already exhibiting dominant behaviors, either when they compete on their mom’s nipple or struggle in a play match.
If watched carefully though, we may see that one pup may suddenly squeal out of pain when bitten by a rambunctious play mate. When this happens, usually, the other puppy will withdraw from playing. This occurrence is called: bite inhibition. In other words, rough puppies are taught by their play mates that they must stop and that the game has gone to far. The biting puppy will learn that biting hard is not acceptable, and that their playing friend withdraws when this happens.
Because a puppy loves to play so much, when their play mate withdraws they learn a valuable lesson: that they must inhibit their bite and be more delicate. This is a very important stage in a puppy’s development and this is why puppies should not be taken away from their litter mates and moms until they are at least 8 weeks old. Get a younger pup and you may likely have a biting issue.
Teaching a dog not to bite should start as a puppy. If your puppy is biting, try to imitate what a puppy play mate instinctively does: squeal like a puppy and withdraw from the game. Your puppy should learn pretty quickly.
For more persistent cases there are other approaches: tell your puppy “no” and turn your back to him and ignore him. DO this every time he seems to bite too hard. Biting hard will be no longer fun and all puppies hate to be ignored. In very obstinate cases tell “no” and spray the puppy with some water. However, this may cause your pup to dislike water in the future. You can also spray your hands with bitter apple spray so your puppy will taste the bitter taste every time he bites and tend to do it less. However, even in this case, there are down sides such as your dog may be reluctant to lick you which is a sign of submission.
In adult dogs, the same approaches may be used when play time turns too rough. Simply squeal in pain or say “no” and stop the game immediately. While this type of play bite nipping may be controlled, if your dog tends to bite aggressively you need to consult with a dog behavior consultant that will come to your home and assess the situation.
Biting aggressively is a very serious issue and your dog will need to be evaluated to see if there are flaws in his temperament or if you as an owner, lack the important leadership role. Never try to solve adult dog biting issues on your own, it may be down right dangerous and not worthy, so play it safe and consult with the experts: there may be a solution for you and your dog.
*Disclaimer: All remedies suggested are not to be used as a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If your pet is sick please refer to your veterinarian for a hands on examination. If your pet is exhibiting behavior problems please refer to a professional pet behaviorist.