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Prevent Puppy Biting: Effective Strategies to Stop Nipping

Adorable apprehensive puppy cautiously looking at camera - Learn how to prevent puppy biting for a happy and safe pet experience!

Puppies, while undeniably adorable, can also be a handful when it comes to their nipping and biting habits. From nipping at our fingers and toes to tearing apart our favorite shoes, their teeth can wreak havoc on our belongings and even leave us with painful scratches. Fortunately, there are effective techniques to stop puppy biting and chewing for good.

Training to prevent puppy-biting behavior is crucial for a harmonious coexistence with their human family. It not only prevents potential injuries but also ensures they grow up to be well-behaved and disciplined adult dogs. The key to success lies in understanding the root causes behind this behavior and implementing appropriate training methods.

In this article, we will explore various techniques that have proven to be successful in curbing puppy biting and chewing behaviors. From redirecting their attention to teaching them bite inhibition, we will guide you step-by-step on how to train your adorable furry friend. So, say goodbye to painful bites and chewed-up furniture and get ready to enjoy a peaceful and harmonious life with your beloved pup! 

Key Takeaways to Prevent Puppy Biting

•   Biting is a natural behavior for puppies and is a way for them to explore the world1.

•   Puppy socialization is important in curbing biting behavior and helps them understand the boundaries of play2.

•   Teaching bite inhibition techniques can help stop biting behavior3.

•   Children and adults may use slightly different strategies.

•   Rewarding good behavior helps the puppy learn appropriate ways to interact4.

•   The Video below shows strategies for adults to use. Continue reading to learn how to help your child with appropriate strategies and techniques.

Understanding Canine Behavior to Prevent Puppy Biting

You’ve got to understand that biting is a natural behavior for your puppy, as it’s a part of their exploration and learning process. When they’re young, puppies use their mouths to explore the world around them, just like human babies do. This doesn’t mean you have to endure painful nips, though. It’s crucial to teach them about bite inhibition—how hard they can bite without causing harm.

Dog communication plays a vital role here. Puppies learn from their mother and littermates about acceptable play behavior. If you observe dogs at play, you’ll notice they give subtle signs before escalating into biting.

Puppy socialization is another key aspect of curbing this issue. By interacting with other dogs, your puppy will understand the boundaries of play and misconduct better. If possible, find playmates for your puppy with mature dogs that will naturally but non-aggressively set boundaries.

Implementing Bite Inhibition Techniques for Children

Teaching your pup bite inhibition techniques can really help curb their natural tendency to use their teeth during play. It’s important you do this early and consistently, imparting a sense of gentle handling.

1.   Start with Simple Inhibition Exercises: Introduce soft toys for them to gnaw. Keep the puppy focused on the toy. However, if the puppy starts to bite the child, have the child let out a loud 'Yipe!'. Most puppies will be startled and back away when you yelp. Now try to resume play.

2.   If the Puppy Continues to Bite: Have your child "yipe" and completely stop play and interaction. Practice having your child pretend to "freeze" for 10 seconds and avoid eye contact with the puppy.  Try having your child fold their arms across their chest during this time.  It will help keep the fingers still and out of the puppy's reach.  Puppies usually learn to inhibit their bites to avoid losing their playmate. 

3.  Next try to resume play and encourage gentle and slow hand movements.  When puppies get stimulated they will respond and use their mouths to "touch" the child back in the same manner.

4.  If the nipping continues, a time out may be required before resumming play.

 5. Praise Both Child and Dog: Children as well as pups should be acknowledged for making an effort for gentle and appropriate play and handling.

Implementing these techniques will not only make interactions safer but also strengthen your child’s bond with their furry friend. Remember that puppies need a lot of rest, and they will get extra mouthy if they are overtired or hungry. Use a crate or X-pen and allow them to rest. Be aware that children will not always recognize if a puppy is overtired or overstimulated and you will have to step in. Always supervise interactions between your child and your puppy.

Help Protect Your Child with “Stop, Look & Paws”

Our Dog & Child Safety Activity Kit

Using Distractions, Toys, and Strategies to Redirect Behavior

Introducing distractions and toys can be a great way to redirect your pup’s natural inclination to use their teeth during play. Choose toys that are safe and appropriate for your puppy’s age, size, and breed. Durable chew toys are often the best choice as they withstand your young pet’s strong jaw and sharp teeth.

The timing is crucial for introducing a toy as a distraction when they are actively biting. I’ve had many clients try to follow the advice they heard or read online to redirect a dog to a toy as soon as the puppy bites. The clients are usually frustrated because it doesn’t seem to deter their puppy. The step that they are missing is to give a verbal correction—”no” or a negative sound like “eh,”eh”—the first nip. Then allow the puppy to briefly stop biting before redirecting to a toy. See the difference? One way you are rewarding the biting with a toy and the other way you are first correcting and then redirecting.

Another good strategy to prevent puppy biting is teaching appropriate games for your children and the puppy to play. Fetch, Hide & Seek, or Nose Work Games are all wonderful games for both your child and your puppy. Besides being fun for interacting with your puppy, toys and games will help satisfy your canine’s natural urge to chew and play.

Avoid wrestling and chase games, which encourage biting, jumping, and the puppy using its mouth to grab, hold, and tear. Although these are natural canine urges, they should not be encouraged with your child, as they usually backfire and children can accidentally get hurt.

Positive Reinforcement to Prevent Puppy Biting or Chewing

Rewarding your dog for non-biting actions with positive reinforcement can be highly effective in curbing unwanted behavior.

Here’s how you can do it:

Start by recognizing and rewarding patience.
◦ When your puppy is calm and not biting, show appreciation with quiet praise or treats.
◦ Encourage moments of quietness and tranquility

Next, promote gentleness.
◦ Reward the puppy when they interact gently with you or others.
◦ Use verbal affirmations such as ‘Good dog’ or ‘Well done’.

Consistent positive reinforcement and clear communication will make your pup understand that non-biting actions result in rewards. Remember, patience is key during this process. With time, your puppy will learn to associate calmness and gentleness with positivity, and soon you will have a well-behaved pup who understands that biting isn’t an acceptable behavior.

Prevent Puppy Biting: Some Bite-Size Questions

  1. How can I stop my puppy from biting?
    To stop your puppy from biting, you need to teach them bite inhibition. This involves redirecting their biting behavior to appropriate chew toys and teaching them that biting humans is not acceptable. Using positive reinforcement, you can train your puppy to understand that biting is not appropriate behavior.
  2. Is it normal for puppies to bite?
    Yes, it’s normal for puppies to bite. Puppies explore the world with their mouths, and biting is a natural part of their development. However, it’s important to teach your puppy not to bite humans and redirect their biting behavior to toys instead.
  3. Is there another way I can teach my puppy not to bite?
    You can use the yelping method. Whenever your puppy bites too hard, yelp loudly to imitate the sound another puppy would make. This will startle your puppy and teach them that biting causes discomfort. You can also redirect their biting to a chew toy every time your puppy bites.
  4. How long does the puppy-biting stage last?
    The puppy-biting stage usually lasts until they are around 4-6 months old. During this stage, puppies are teething, and biting helps alleviate the discomfort they feel in their gums. However, with consistent training and redirection, you can help your puppy overcome this biting phase.
  5. Can a dog trainer help stop puppy biting?
    Yes, a professional dog trainer can help you stop puppy biting. They have experience dealing with puppy behavior and can provide you with effective techniques to train your puppy not to bite. They will also guide you on appropriate methods of redirecting your puppy’s biting behavior.


  1. https://www.paws.org/resources/nipping-and-rough-play/
  2. https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/common-dog-behavior-issues/mouthing-nipping-and-biting-puppies
  3. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/training/stop-puppy-biting/
  4. https://www.humanesociety.org/resources/positive-reinforcement-training

Tips for Successfully Taking Your Dog to Work

Taking your dog to work can be a fun and rewarding experience for both you and your furry friend. However, it also requires some preparation and planning to ensure a smooth and successful office visit. Here are some tips to help you and your dog have a great experience:

Does Your Dog Have What It Takes to Be a Therapy Dog?

Therapy Dog

Therapy dogs are amazing animals that volunteer with their human handlers in various settings, such as hospitals, schools, nursing homes, airports, and more. They provide comfort, support, and joy to people who need it the most. But not every dog is cut out for this important job. Therapy dogs need to have certain traits and characteristics that make them suitable for working with different kinds of people in different kinds of situations.

So how do you know if your dog has the potential to be a therapy dog? Here are some of the main traits and characteristics that you should look for in your furry friend:

 **Calm demeanor**: Therapy dogs must be calm and relaxed in any environment. They cannot be easily startled, stressed, or agitated by loud noises, unfamiliar people, or other stimuli. They must be able to handle being touched, hugged, or petted by strangers without getting nervous or excited.

 **Patience**: Therapy dogs must be patient and tolerant of people’s behaviors and emotions. They must be able to cope with being ignored, interrupted, or rejected by some people, while being attentive and responsive to others. They must also be able to wait calmly for their turn or their cue from their handler.

 **Confidence**: Therapy dogs must be confident and self-assured in their abilities and skills. They must not show signs of fear, anxiety, or insecurity when faced with new challenges or situations. They must trust their handler and follow their commands without hesitation or doubt.

 **Love of human contact**: Therapy dogs must love and enjoy interacting with people of all ages, backgrounds, and personalities. They must be friendly, outgoing, and sociable, without being overly enthusiastic or intrusive. They must be able to adapt to different people’s preferences and needs, such as giving kisses, lying on laps, or sitting quietly by their side.

  **Adaptable**: Therapy dogs must be adaptable and flexible to changing circumstances and expectations. They must be able to adjust to different schedules, locations, routines, and tasks. They must also be able to cope with different weather conditions, transportation modes, and equipment.

If your dog has these traits and characteristics, they might be a good candidate for becoming a therapy dog. However, having these traits is not enough. Your dog also needs to have proper training, certification, and registration from a reputable organization that evaluates and registers therapy dogs. You can find more information about the requirements and process of becoming a therapy dog team on websites.  This first site is for a local place in Santa Rosa, California


http://Therapy Dogs International](https://www.tdi-dog.org/)

http://or [Pet Partners](https://petpartners.org/).

How to Create a Good and Safe Relationship Between Your Dog and Your Toddler

Dogs and children can be great friends, but they need some guidance and supervision to get along well. Dogs may not understand children’s behavior, and children may not know how to respect dogs’ boundaries. Here are some tips on how to create a loving and safe relationship between your dog and your toddler.

1. Never leave your toddler and dog unsupervised.  Even if your dog is friendly and well-trained, accidents can happen. Always keep an eye on them and intervene if you see signs of stress or discomfort from either party.

2. Invest in baby gates. This will give both your toddler and dog the freedom to roam and have their own separate spaces for playing and napping. You can also use baby gates to block off areas that are off-limits to your dog, such as the nursery or the kitchen.

3. Provide an example of calm interaction with the dog.  As a dog parent, you need to make sure that you are petting and interacting with your dog regularly. This will show your toddler how to treat the dog with kindness and respect. You can also teach your toddler some basic commands, such as “sit” or “stay”, and reward the dog with treats when he obeys.

4. Teach your toddler to respect the dog’s body, safe zones, and belongings.  Explain to your toddler that dogs don’t like to be hugged, kissed, pulled, or poked. Show your toddler how to gently stroke the dog’s back or chest, and avoid touching his face, ears, tail, or paws. Also, teach your toddler not to bother the dog when he is eating, sleeping, or resting in his crate or bed. Finally, teach your toddler not to take away the dog’s toys, bones or food, and provide him with his own toys instead.

5. Demonstrate correct behavior. If your toddler does something that annoys or scares the dog, correct him immediately and calmly. For example, if your toddler grabs the dog’s fur, say “No, that hurts the dog. Let go gently.” Then show him how to pet the dog softly. If your toddler chases the dog, say “No, that scares the dog. Stop running.” Then show him how to walk slowly and quietly around the dog.

6. Praise and reward positive interactions. When your toddler and dog are playing nicely together, give them lots of praise, treats and attention. Your dog will learn that good things happen whenever kids are around, and your toddler will learn that being gentle and respectful with the dog is fun and rewarding.

By following these tips, you can help your dog and your toddler develop a strong bond that will last a lifetime.

Body Language of Fear in Dogs

Dog Body Language of Fear Poster

Many bites could be avoided if owners recognized the subtle signs of dogs feeling stressed, anxious, or fearful.  If you notice your dog exhibiting any of these signs remove them, if possible, from the situation to avoid your dog escalating to a dog bite. Share this poster with your child and learn together how to identify these important body language signals!

Thank you to Cattle Dog Publishing for creating the useful poster!

Dog Body Language When Things Are Going Well!

How to identify dog body language is a very important skill to develop.  To be an advocate for both your child and your dog and  to be sure there isn’t miscommunication, learn how to identify both signals when dogs are happy and enjoying interaction as well as when you need to step in to intervene.

This post will shows body language when things are going well.  See our other post for body language to indicate stress and a potential dog bite.
Relaxed loose body language – Overall the dog seems to be enjoying interacting with children and looks relaxed and happy.   If lying down, he may have his head over his paw or paws crossed.  The whole body may be wiggling with the tail. He may also be sitting in a relaxed manner with a happy expression on his face.
Mouth may be open and you can see their tongue and it can look like they are smiling, (not hanging way out as though they are hot, tired or stressed)
Eyes look soft, happy, relaxed
Eyes look peaceful or squinty 
Ears are relaxed - not tightly pinned down or very erect and rigid. They may be turned to the side, lowered but relaxed.
Tail may be wagging softly – Also look at the base of the tail. It most likely will be level with the back or hanging in a relaxed way, but if it is wagging it will be wagging loosely and in a relaxed manner. A note about wagging -as I’ve mentioned in my “Stop, Look and Paws” learning activity – a wagging tail itself is not always a sign that a dog is happy. It can mean they are excited and want to interact, but the interaction may not always be positive.  You need to look at the whole body for overall relaxed body language

Red Light, Green Light Game for Dogs and Kids!

Dogs are strongly influenced by the emotion or activity level in a room. Generally, most children have a higher level of energy than adults when it comes to daily life and often the result of this high-level activity can be a child running from room to room or place to place.

This high level of movement is very attractive for dogs, especially young dogs! It will be no surprise to you that for a dog, chasing things that moving is a natural instinct.

In my experience it is almost impossible to get children not to move quickly or run from room to room or place to place. However, we can teach them to be aware of the dogs approach and give them an alternative behavior to avoid the final interaction of jumping from the dog.

The game is quite simple and won’t take very long to learn the rules and play a couple of practice rounds. Before you know it, your child will be automatically doing this as they go from room to room.

Prior to starting the game your child will need to learn their “Red light” part.

Start by practicing 3 things that will be a part of “Red Light”:

1.  Stop feet from moving.  Standing with feet together will work the best.
2.  Fold arms across  chest with hands tucked.
3.  Turn  head and gaze away from the dog.

When starting this game it may seem a little counterintuitive as we are going to actually engage the dog to chase by having the child start running and moving. The only way to practice stopping the dog’s jumping and nipping behavior and empowering your child is to set the dog up to do the behavior that we want to control.

To start the “Green Light” part of the game:

The child can do any movements with their arms. They can jump up and down as they move – anything that seems to get the dog’s attention to move towards the child.

The only exception, and a very important rule, DO NOT call the dog’s name, because you always want the dog to come when called and when they reach you it should always be a positive result not ignoring them as in this game. 

“Red Light “ part of the game:

The child has to watch the dog or be aware of the dog’s approach and as soon as they see their dog getting close, a foot or so away, the child needs to immediately stop moving feet, tuck arms and look away.

The goal is for the child to stop before the dog makes any physical contact!! I can’t stress this part enough.

The child can start moving again once the dog starts to move away which can happen within a few seconds. Then they can start the “green light” part again!

95% of the time this works! Parents are usually amazed and children tend to think this is some type of magic!  So what about the 5%?  Occasionally, even if the child does everything correctly, the dog may still jump on the child.

In this particular case the adult needs to be the “referee”.

Initially when you first play, you need to supervise and if you find that your dog still jumps, even though your child does everything correctly, you will play referee.  As referee you will use something that makes an abrupt sound to interrupt the jumping behavior and momentarily startle the dog out of what they are doing to give you an opportunity to redirect the dog. There are multiple things that make abrupt sounds, penny cans,

Penny Can

Doggie Don’t, small bullhorn, heck, you could even use a wooden spoon on the bottom of a pot!

The best way to use a tool that makes a sound is to link it to your voice with a verbal correction.  Even shouting the word “Hey!” or “eh, eh!” will do the trick.

That said, it is much more common for the dog to continue jumping because the child did not stop their movement in advance of the dog reaching them.

One final word.  Since this is a variation on “Red Light, Green Light”  children may expect the words to be verbally called out.  You or they can actually do this as well, but it is not necessary to play the game, however, it may still be fun to do!

Dog Safety Presentations in Our Community

dog safety in petaluma schools

Since the 2019/20 school year, North Bay Animal Services and Kids-n-K9s have worked together to bring dog safety presentations and dog body language education into our community by way of  local schools.  Although Kids-n-K9s has been visiting schools the since 2017, it wasn’t until our local animal shelter helped to kick it into high gear by providing free of charge, the Stop, Look & Paws sets to each child.  Kids-n-K9s continues with the complimentary presentation to each kindergarten or first grade class with an in-person visit or through Zoom to make a personal connection to each child.

Here are just a few “Thank You” comments from teachers and students!

“With great appreciation to North Bay Animal Services we thank you for your donation. Mrs. Zoromski (Kids-n-K9s)came to teach us and we learned from her, thanks to you, what we should and should not do! We are wiser and smarter. Thank you, from the children in the kindergarten classes at Meadow Elementary.”

“Thank you North Bay Animal Services for donating our dog safety activities (Stop, Look & Paws). We learned how to be safe around dogs. We got to teach our family by using the cool sticker activity. We can use it over and over again like a cycle. Sincerely, Cinnabar kindergartners”

“Dear North Bay Animal Services, Thank you for helping to make the dog safety presentation available for kids in our community. We’ve enjoyed Lesley‘s visits the last three years. The kids love it. Also, we love the sticker game. It is so awesome! First Grade Teacher,  Harvest Christian Elementary.”

“Mrs. Zoromski, Thanks again for meeting each of our classes. The kids loved the presentation and the information was presented in a way that was meaningful to them. The kids also enjoyed the dog safety sticker activity books from North Bay Animal Services. Thank you for reaching out to us! Kindergarten Teachers – Sonoma Mountain Elementary”


Dog Bite Warning Signs

Often dog bites occur because no one noticed and acted on the early warning signs given by the dog. My clients usually say, “He didn’t give us any warning…he just bit.” What is more likely is that the signals that the dog was giving were not recognized. To help with this, I’ve put a list of body language cues and behavior to be aware of that can indicate the dog maybe preparing to bite.

1. Observe the dogs face for early signs of stress and stop child/dog interactions if you see them.

  •  yawning -when they are not tired
  • flicking tongue 
  • darting eyes – as though looking for an exit
  • panting – when it’s not hot

2. If a dog actively moves away from the child or situation, do not let the child pursue them. It’s likely the dog is making a choice to feel safer or more comfortable. If the child continues to pursue him, the dog could feel forced take the next step and say, “Leave me alone!” with a bite.

3. Listen for growling. It may be soft, with no teeth showing, but it should be interpreted as the dog communicating that he wants the attention from the child to stop.

4. Look for an impression that the dog does not seem to be enjoying the attention and the following:

    •   stiff body – with a frozen stance or hunched back
    •  hard starring eyes, or half  moon eyes – (whites of the eyes are showing)
    •  tightly closed mouth

If you see any of combination of these signals, avoid the dog as these actions often occur moments before a bite.

Sometimes it’s the children’s behavior that needs to be addressed.  Just because a dog seems to tolerate when a child is laying on it, hugging it, pulling ears, legs, or the tail doesn’t mean the dog should tolerate this behavior. If the dog turns to leave or hides under an object, like a table, do not allow the child to grab for them or reach under the object for the dog. Look at the dog for signals they are or are not enjoying the attention and redirect the child. In my Stop, Look & Paws sticker activity, I address these issues in a way that will engage the child to make safe choices before a real life scenario occurs.

If kids are looking to interact with the dog that’s great, so help them find ways that are appropriate to interact. There are ways that children interact that can be fun for both children and the dog. In my future blogs I’ll give suggestions on ways children can interact that is fun for children and dogs.

Now that you have read this blog post, look at the photo of the boy kissing the dog. Do you see any of the signals given by the dog that would concern you?

I hope this information is helpful to keep child/dog interactions safe. Check our other post for body language cues that indicate your dog is enjoying interacting with your child

When It’s Not the Dog That is the Problem – Behavior Modification Plans for Kids

Behavior Modification for kids

Usually people come to me with questions to help them change an unwanted behavior with their dog towards their children. However, occasionally people come for guidance to stop an unwanted behavior that their child is doing towards dog.

I have had parents ask for help with a varying behaviors that range from not-so- serious to very serious.  Not-so-serious might be picking up the puppy too much. A much more serious behavior would be laying on or kicking at the puppy. Usually parents have already tried lecturing and have been unsuccessful.

In any of these situations I start with fact gathering questions.  Some examples of information I would like to know would be: How old is the child? Why is the child doing the behavior?(angry, they think it’s funny), describe when and where the situation usually happens, does the parent think they have the ability to always supervise when the dog and child are together or are others supervising?

In some of the more serious situations, I needed to discuss the option of rehoming the puppy or dog for it’s own safety and the safety of the child if the child’s behavior doesn’t change. Take a normally social puppy/dog who loves kids and then allow a child to jump on it, kick or poke at the eyes continuously and you will see a social dog go to a fearful dog and then an aggressive dog. At a minimum, the dog will not trust the child and avoid their presence. Keep in mind, given the right circumstances any dog can bite!

One of the most helpful strategies I’ve used in the past to help change a child’s behavior is to set up a Behavior Modification Plan (BMP)

BMP are common for teachers to use in the classroom. I, myself have used BMPs many times to help children learn new behaviors or stop old behaviors. This takes some effort to set up, but can be very motivational for children to change a behavior and it can give parents a clear strategy.

A BMP identifies a very specific goal for a child to either start as a new habit or stop an old habit completely. The BMP is like a contract or agreement with your child. The contract or agreement has two separate parts.

The first part is a page that has a place to write the specific behavior goal that the child will try to reach (i.e “I will help my puppy by petting him gently when he is on the ground and not pick him up.”).  Write it on the BMP with your child. Either they can write the sentence or they can dictate to you and you could write their sentence.  Try to word it in a positive way.  In addition to the goal, this would be the time for the parent to share that if they reach the goal they can earn a reward! This could be that at the end of a week the child gets a small toy. Remember when the dentist had a treasure box full of small trinkets?  You can even pre-collect a box to use so the child has a choice and see the possibilities at the time you introduce the BMP.   At the end of the month, they may earn a larger reward if they achieve their daily and weekly goals. It could be a trip to a favorite place, like a to see movie or go to a restaurant.  Because it is difficult for kids to keep on the right path for a whole week it will be important to continue to use something positive to track their progress. This is where the second part comes in.

The second part is another page that looks like a calendar with open boxes to either use a smiley face, a star, a sticker or stamp, to track day-to-day progress. For this discussion, let’s just say you are using stars. Depending on the age of the child, the day may be broken down into two parts – a.m. and p.m.. Each day, you  monitor your child and dog and if your child can get through the morning or afternoon and achieve the goal, they either earn a star or not. If they were successful record the star and let them know that they did a great job! If they weren’t successful just say, let’s try again. No lecturing. No excuses.

You also have to decide how many “stars” must be earned in a week to reach a goal and win the prize. If there are 14 opportunities, you may decide that there has to be at least “10” stars before the prize is given.

An important element of this is that as a parent you do not give reminders of what the child is supposed to be remembering to do. They will learn to take responsibility on their own.  Once they start earning those stars and prizes they will usually feel a sense of accomplishment and motivated.

Hang the chart in a location to easily seen as a reminder and to be able to track success.  The links in this post will give you the pages needed to get started.  You can print multiple copies of the calendar page and fill in the month and days at the top. 

Constant supervision is required and should be anytime you have a child with a dog.  When you can’t supervise, temporarily separate the dog from the child.

In my opinion, a good balance of both positives and negative consequences work the best to achieve goals. It is just important to find the appropriate “right” positive and negative for the individual child, their age and the situation. If you are struggling as a parent to help your child change a behavior, a Behavior Modification Plan may be just the thing to help turn things around in a positive way.

If you need more help or have questions to setting up your own Behavior Modification Plan, please don’t hesitate to reach out!