Behavioural Problems in Puppies and Adult Dogs – Part 1 – Biting

Behavioural Problems in Puppies and Adult Dogs – Part 1 – Biting

By Rickie Haughton

Why is my puppy biting me and what should I do about it?

This is a very common question posed by puppy owners. There can be many reasons for your puppy biting, but first you must ask yourself the all important question:

“Is the puppy really being aggressive or is it just playing with you, like it would with its brothers and sisters?”

When puppies play with each other and with their mum, they are very rough. Their teeth are needle sharp and they use them without any worries. The puppies have quite tough skin and so this play does no real harm.

If the puppy were to treat you in the same way it would probably draw blood. So when you play with your new puppy you have to teach it that you are the leader of its pack and it must obey you.

Use the word “No”, said in a stern voice to discourage unacceptable behaviour. If the behaviour persists, it can be reinforced with a light tap on the snout. Remember this is only a baby and can not be expected to behave perfectly at all times, so try to distract the puppy from what it is doing before resorting to harsher methods.

One way of stopping your new pet from biting you is to push its bottom lip into its mouth underneath your finger when it bites. This has the effect of making it bite itself and usually cures the problem if used in conjunction with a voice command.

If you do not address this issue when the puppy is young you could find that your adorable puppy grows into a very unruly adult.

All dogs are pack animals and as such need to feel and be part of a pack. You and your family are now that pack and it is vital for your family’s happiness and the puppy’s that it realises from a young age that it is at the bottom of the pack. Even the youngest member of the family has to be higher in status than the dog no matter what its age.

As the dog gets older it may try to assert itself more and raise its position in the family pack. This does not mean that it will become aggressive; however, it will try to dominate the lower members of the pack. This is not acceptable and must be strongly discouraged. Provided that you maintain your position as the pack leader and show your disapproval of the dog’s actions there will rarely be a problem.

Use your tone of voice to impart your wishes to your puppy. It is very important to use a commanding tone when giving the puppy an order. Saying “sit”, for example, in a very soft, pleading tone will have very little effect on the puppy. If, however, you use a firm, no nonsense tone, the dog will soon learn to recognise what is required. Do not raise the volume, just alter the tone.

There are two very definite don’ts when training your puppy; Firstly, never ever hit the dog with anything including your hand (as I said earlier, a light tap on the snout is ok, but nothing harder) Secondly, remember that love and affection and a small treat is always far more effective than punishment (most dogs will do and learn anything if rewarded with little food treats).

It is strongly recommended that you enrol your puppy in a good local training class. If you do not know of one then either ask your vet or consult a reputable breeder. The Kennel Association for your country will probably have information on this subject.

Rickie Haughton is a Kennel Club of Great Britain registered dog trainer and has bred, shown and trained dogs for over 35 years. His expertise covers all aspects of breeding, rearing, showing, training and behaviour in breeds of all sizes. Together with his wife, Lesley, they own the Bassmas Basset Hound and English Mastiff Kennels in Somerset, England. Occasionally they have puppies for sale to approved homes only. They can be contacted at This article can also be seen at

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