Puppy Bites. Help?

I need your help, dog people. Living with Bella has been great. Things are going really well with the potty training, walks, routine. She is a sweet dog. There are a few things I could use help with, however. I know I should probably hire a dog trainer or something, but money is a bit tight right now so I am trying to do some of this on my own.


Sometimes she bites. It’s not aggressive, I don’t think. But honestly, I can’t be sure. I haven’t ever lived with a dog. I know nothing about dogs. But I am pretty sure it’s a puppy thing. And a few other dog owners have reassured me that she’s not aggressive. It’s that she goes too far because she just doesn’t know. Twice now, she’s been playing with another pup and that puppy has let out a squeal. I know this is the way they say, “TOO HARD!” but what can I do to curb this? Can I? Is she too old for that type of lesson? (She’s about 10 months old. We think.) Is this because of her past? Will she overcome that? Can she?

She does it with Em as well. Em is her absolute favorite person. He is her playmate. She is happiest with Em. And he adores her too. They play together. But sometimes she gets TOO excited and she’ll nip at him. And he gets freaked out and scared and runs off. And that makes her chase him more because she thinks he’s playing.

I’m told that no biting is OK when training a puppy and you need to bark and she’ll lick your “wound” letting you know she’s sorry. So we’re working on that. But I don’t know how this works with other dogs and their walkers. I am such a newb. I don’t want to piss anyone off. I also want EVERYONE to like my dog! :]

I seriously doubt she’s an aggressive dog. You would never see her and think, MEAN DOG! BEWARE! but I do want her to stop biting. I’m not sure how to go about this. Is it normal? Will other dog owners get mad at me if she bites? She’s been bitten several times and has let out a squeal. (On one occasion she was attacked by another dog and that dog went for her throat. She screamed, fell to the ground belly-up and cowered. I almost peed my pants. The guy was very apologetic, but I was pissed because he said the dog was friendly. DOG POLITICS!)

But I digress.

There are a few other things as well. Like, how weird she is with Toby. But I’ll get into that at a later date when I have more time to write. Anyway, any insight on puppy biting, curbing this and other dog owners, all of this is welcome.

Consider me an absolute dog novice. I have intuition and google and the energy, but I don’t know what’s right and wrong when it comes to dogs. Cats! Cats I get. Not dogs.


  1. The best way to get her to stop biting is to say “OUCH” every time she bites. Even if she only puts her teeth on you, say “OUCH” loudly and suddenly.

    This will basically teach her that humans are wimpy little creatures and, “gee, I don’t want to bite them because then they make a terrible noise and that’s no fun”. The key here is consistency and doing it every time she bites.


  2. You’re right, it’s not aggression at all. It’s play. She’s learning her limits and bite inhibition. Best to shout “ouch” or make a loud squeal and pull your hand away and stop playtime. EVERY SINGLE TIME.

    She would normally be learning this from her littermates, you’re her littermates now! Emory has to learn how to respond properly or puppy will continue to think it’s a game with him. In addition to letting out a little squeal, if they are on the floor he could fold his arms across his chest and put his face down or turn around to indicate to her that he’s not playing. Or get up onto a chair with his limbs tucked in and not look at her. That sort of thing. You want him to disengage immediately and also feel safe (he’s really in no danger that you need to worry about).

    It takes time and patience and is not something you’re going to teach her overnight. You’re teaching her to be a good dog citizen of the world and this is a really important step! Good luck!


  3. Thank you both! OK, you’re making me feel better. I have been with cats for so long, I am very confused about this dog thing. (They don’t purr!! How can I know they’re happy!??? :] )

    I will teach Em this, definitely. And continue to say “OUCH”.


  4. I’d suggest in the short term not doing “OUCH” but doing a high pitched squeal , like she and the other dogs do when they bite too hard. Then transition to ouch, but she’ll pick up on the squeal faster. If it’s you, you can also try to ‘retreat’ a little bit, hold your head down and be silent for 20 seconds — make her think she hurt you. the idea is to use the instincts they had as pups to know when you’re playing too hard.

    If you jump on youtube, you’ll see a lot of videos where people show different techniques of the squealing, showing that it hurts, along with muzzling the dog a bit.

    Dogs are very mouthy. they can’t use their hands like we do, so they use their mouths like we use our hands. most ‘bites’ are play or affection, but they just don’t know their own strength.

    The unfortunate thing, is that you don’t just need to do corrective behavior – but also constantly test her — setting her up to both succeed and fail a bit.

    When dogs play, they always bite. The question is how much / hard, and is it playful or not. One of your neighbors, kingston, likes to bite Henry’s ear or neck and just get dragged by him. Another pup, hershey , likes to taunt Henry into biting her legs. She’s not happy until he nibbles on them.

    Most owners won’t care about the playful bites that scare the dogs. It’s honestly good for them – it reminds the dogs that if i can get bit hard, i might bite hard too! The things other owners will get pissed about, is if your dog keeps biting their dog and scaring/hurting it, and you’re not doing anything about it.


  5. I concur with disengaging immediately when the pup acts up, it has worked for me with a rambunctious Golden in a house with a rambunctious 8 y/o kid. Also, a good old spray bottle, filled with plain old tap water, works wonders as a deterrent with out being harmful. When my pup gets a little full of himself all I have to do now is hold up the water bottle and he settles down. Just to clarify, I never shot the water toward his face, usually I’d aim for the neck area as not to hit the delicate areas around the eyes & nose. He recognized the meaning of the all mighty water bottle in less the 5 uses, so I view it a success.


  6. We shouted TEETH! and stopped the play immediately, but it’s the same as OUCH. The important thing is to stop the play for a minute immediately after.

    It will take a while. Especially if she’s teething. Make sure she knows what’s OK to chew on. Praise her for chewing on the right things. Give her the right thing to use her teeth on when she’s using them on the wrong thing.


    1. I actually like the TEETH! idea because I think Em can get the hang out of that better than OUCH! or NO! or Squealing.


  7. I would a) make sure that every time she plays with a human there is a dog toy involved…she mouths that instead of people and b) if she does play bite (I agree this doesn’t sound like agression) right then, that you pinch her tongue to the roof of her mouth and say “no bite”.
    You want to be sure that she realizes humans are the dominant beings and thus that small amount of “pain” makes her submissive.
    With regard to her working it out with other dogs, now is a good time to keep socializing her. At 10 months she is still learning, do this before month 13 though as then they are teenagers and behavior is more set. Go to dog parks, arrange dog play dates, but some yelping is fine in dog play.
    Hope that helps!


  8. You guys have helped a great deal. I just took her out for her afternoon walk and she got some good ol’ puppy play in with a corgi. It was awesome. I feel much better about how she plays.

    I think I just ran into a very uppity person the other day who made me question her. This gal is very overprotective of her dog. I see her all the time and nothing or no one is good enough. They have played many times together and at first this woman was super excited about the way they play. The third time, Bella made the pup squeal and she had enough of us. :[

    So I began to question myself and Bella.

    Thank you guys! You dog people rule. Not nearly as crazy as we cat people have always made you out to be.


  9. I was raised with the idea that the kids and dogs were one pack and we played accordingly.

    We’ve used “ouch” or a whimper to indicate pain so the dog figures out what is OK. Bella is still probably trying to figure out the list of things that everyone does during the day, what is “normal” for everyone, and how to interact with the kids.

    When my brother was maybe 3 or so he was nipped while was playing with our dog. He yelled ouch and then straightforwardly took our dog’s paw and bit him back, explaining to my Mom and to the dog that he saw it on White Fang (?!) I can’t remember him ever being bitten again. Not recommending that– but my brother did take a keen interest in wolves (the group dynamics, how they operate) and dog training after that. This was in a pre-Dog Whisperer era… my family has loved the book “The Art of Raising a Puppy” from the monks of New Skete. They also have a book called “How to be Your Dog’s Best Friend.”


  10. I would also caution against simply approaching other dogs out walking. Those dogs may have issues of their own and may not welcome a strange dog approaching. That’s a great way to get your puppy hurt and give her additional issues.

    Second the advice on squealing. Follow it up with a “NO” if the message isn’t gettign across.


  11. bring bella to the waterfront tonight!


  12. You will definately run into all manner of dog owner, especially in a city environment.

    Something to keep in mind, while a dog is usually physically mature by 1 y/o (this will vary depending on breed), they are usually still quite puppyish in their behavior till about two. Like a child you can expect lots of little slip ups in training, your just have to keep at it. I find even with my two Labs (6 & 3) they still need an occasional reminder, usually when playing with each other spills out into the house too much. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re hard at play ;)

    I totally agree with the disengaging and using “teeth” instead of “ouch”. If you can (I understand how difficult this could be) try to get your son not to run because as you mentioned the dog totally sees that as a continuation of the play.


  13. When I took our dog to puppy training it was stressed that the corrective word should not be a word that could be used in another context. The word “no”was a forbidden corrective word. In fact, the word given to us was “fooey” a nonsense word that can not be confused. The trainer was a police dog trainer and I have to say our dog is very gentle. But, when he plays with other dogs they are crazy. The biting and rolling and barking and chasing could look aggressive but the dogs are all smiles. If a yelp is let out they back off and restart gentler. I wish humans did that.


  14. exactly what everyone said above, just use “teeth” instead. Puppies play rough, they learn the limits from their mom, who will disengage immediately upon rough play.

    The only thing I might add, is if she mouths you – you can gently shove your arm whatever in her mouth a little further, making it uncomfortable for her. She will get the idea fairly quickly. I think this would be hard for your son to pick up, so I would just recommend the “teeth” and turning his back on her, and keeping his back to her until she calms down and is clearly stopping her behavior.


  15. i concur with everything above. especially giving her two years to calm. but just wanted to add that things might take a bit longer for her to learn since she gets to have puppy play time. so she will have to learn that a little rough and tumble with a dog at the park is ok but not so ok with the boys at home. also it took our dog a long time to learn to treat our 5 year old not as an equal. we finally had him be the one to feed the dog and it has helped a lot. he now sees our son as someone to obey not just as a playmate. that really helped stop some of his rougher puppy play with him. also, the throat thing is scary but it is more common than you think. my dog and my parent’s dog do it to each other all the time when they play. i’m not saying it was cool for that dog to do that but just know it can also be a way of play and you will probably see it happen again some other time when the dogs socialize.


  16. It sounds like she was having a FRAP, a very common puppy occurrence which is also adorable if you ask me. I think the biggest hindrance you have right now is your lack of confidence and fear that you can’t do this.

    Bella sounds like a lovely little dog. You can do this. I think you just need to relax a bit. No one was hurt, it doesn’t sound like anyone was in danger of being hurt. Just be careful your fear doesn’t make Emory fearful too.

    And, really, if you meet the trainer and decide it wasn’t a good decision, then it wasn’t a good decision and someone else will welcome her into their life. But that’s a decision you’d best make sooner rather than later. The younger she is, the better chance she has at being adopted by someone else and perhaps the less traumatized she’ll be by being given up.

    Can you do this? Yes.
    Do you want to do this?…?


  17. I’ve been reading back through your recent dog posts, and wanted to chime in with other commenters. We brought home a 3 month old black lab cross (german shepherd and husky, maybe?) stray in August. She was biting so much and so hard that I doubted we could keep her. I called in an obedience instructor for a consult ($50 for an hour session) who said the puppy lacks “bite inhibition” training. The pup’s gotten better, but whenever she nips we needed to yell “ouch” in a really startling, very dramatic, kind of embarrassing tone. We were told that in the long run having a puppy that learns not to nip, is better than a dog who never nips and hence doesn’t get the early bite inhibition training — they’re pretty much a ticking time bomb.

    Hope it get better.


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