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My 2 month old puppy is teething and has a natural proclivity for biting things; anything and everything. While I understand that this behavior is natural and might stop after a while, he also bites people and that's becoming a problem as he grows older.

I've tried saying a firm, "No" and ignoring him for about 10-20 minutes after he starts biting, but he'll still jump and bark and try to bite the flesh. He'll follow me if I distance myself from him and then bite me, so there's really no ignoring him. It's particularly more concerning when he tries to bite people that are sleeping.

I looked through the comments and answers posted here and here and I like the idea of temporarily confining my puppy (e.g. using baby gates) but I don't have those so I resort to putting a leash on him and tying him to a newel post.

That results in him calming down after a while but not before he barks incessantly and tries to break free of the leash. After a few minutes, he'll whine and guilt-trip me into cutting him loose, which I do. However, the biting behavior will still continue albeit after a little while.

So my question is this: "Is it okay if I tie him to a post temporarily if I am unable to effectively distance myself from him while he's biting? If not, what's a better alternative?"

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    10-20 minutes is way too long for a timeout. Your puppy has an attention span on the order of seconds, maybe a minute or two. After that, it has no clue why it's tied up anymore. Also, look up extinction burst to see why you're creating a problem when you release your puppy when it's barking. You'll have to wait for a quiet moment (i.e., a second or two) before cutting it loose. – ThomasH Aug 26 '15 at 14:16
  • @ThomasH Thanks! That was helpful. I'll decrease the timeout period. I also didn't know about extinction burst until now. It sounds like it might be a good thing if you don't give in early to the dog's outburst. If anybody else needs to look it up, there's a good explanation here. – Vinayak Aug 27 '15 at 2:50
  • He'll follow me if I distance myself from him Generally speaking, for social creatures with an alpha hierarchy (as is the case for dogs) the loser is the one who walks away from a confrontation. If you mean to "win" the conflict (by telling your dog off), the dog should be retreating, not you. – Flater Jan 26 '18 at 15:35
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Overall, I'm not too fond with the post (or seeing people tying up dogs in general). It might help, but it really depends on the individual dog and your actual situation, I guess.

Always keep this in mind: Just because something worked (or didn't work) for someone else, it doesn't mean it's the same in your case.

The important part in your situation is the fact that the dog understands "biting = getting on the pole" and that's something it won't understand, if overused or in any and all situations. If you tie it up to calm down, you can't do it, if you have to leave the dog alone. Otherwise you'll most likely mess up impressions/understanding.

Imagine tying up the dog and leaving. It might immediately think it did something bad (not necessarily biting). This could be a completely unintentional association. Let's assume the post is outside. The dog peed on the grass. Seconds after, you tie up the dog (because you go to work). Now the dog thinks "peeing on the grass = bad". What's next? Try to pee on the carpet instead?


Instead, I'd try different things:

First, try to get the puppy something it's allowed to chew on. There's a huge selection of toys, just make sure it's robust and made for puppies.

You can buy special tied up ropes for pulling and biting. Play together with one of those. If you're bitten, try to make a high pitched noise, stop playing, grab the toy, push the puppy off, and turn away. If the puppy follows, push it away again and try to growl a bit. Leaving the room might be optional.

As an alternative distraction, try buying some dried lamb ears (or rabbit ears in case of bigger dogs): They're a nice distraction, won't screw up nutrition values (stay reasonable) and will tire the dog out a bit. Bonus, they're fine for dogs of all ages and will help with teeth as well.

You don't need any baby gate. Just leaving the room might be enough, if you have to. To push a bit further, just close the door for a few minutes. Make sure there's nothing left behind the puppy might destroy or eat. This doesn't have to be long, even half a minute might be enough. Just make sure the dog doesn't get the signal to bite you, if it wants to be alone for a bit (e.g. to sleep).

Also try to not give in too easily. Otherwise the dog will learn to just cry if it wants something, every single time.

In more extreme cases, let's assume you've been bitten and got a small tiny wound (like a red dot of blood or some scratch), stop playing immediately, turn away repeatedly, play a bit "fearful" (don't exaggerate), you could even try to sob a bit yourself, and while doing so, give your puppy a chance to sniff on the wound. I can't vouch for this, but at least in our case our puppy immediately noticed "whoa, I screwed up, sorry, sorry, sorry", started to lick me and the biting was over for the rest of the day.

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  • Thank you for the detailed answer. I'll try out your suggestions and see if they work out for me. I remain hopeful that they will :-) – Vinayak Aug 23 '15 at 8:27
  • @Vinayak If it doesn't, you might want to add the actual breed (or at least assumpiton, if you're not sure), because depending on that, there might be other (more effective) ways to tire the puppy out. E.g. in our case (Husky) all we had to do was go on another walk for 15-20 mins. :) – Mario Aug 23 '15 at 19:59
  • My puppy's breed is Labrador Retriever. Does that help? Thanks again! – Vinayak Aug 24 '15 at 4:18
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    @Vinayak Ah, well, shouldn't be too hard to find something to tire the puppy out then, even it's just fetching a ball. Your dog is just in that age, trying to test out limits, etc. Tire it out, show what's acceptable and in 1-2 month all the issues should be gone. :) – Mario Aug 24 '15 at 8:01
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The other answers give helpful advice, and I would like to emphasize a couple of points:

  1. Retrievers are very mouthy in general -- they were bred to pick up game in their mouths and bring it back to the hunter. So they tend to play biting games more than many other breeds.

  2. Bite inhibition is THE most important lesson a puppy must learn. A two-month-old puppy cannot harm you. If they bite as hard as they able, they might inflict a minor wound but nothing serious. A six-month-old Labrador puppy, however, can do serious damage with a hard bite. When puppies play together, and one puppy bites another too hard, the wounded puppy will yelp with a loud cry. Try this with your puppy: when he bites, say "Ouch!" loudly with a high-pitched voice, and turn away. You can gradually decrease the pressure you accept without an "Ouch!", and the puppy learns that humans cannot tolerate the game at anything other then a gentle level. But it is a big mistake to never tolerate a puppy mouthing you, because they will not understand how to inhibit bite pressure.

Here is a more detailed explanation: Dr. Ian Dunbar's puppy bite inhibition

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With puppies, they generally don't realize how much they are being hurtful, they don't know their own strength yet. I've had a lot of success in teaching that simply by over-reacting and acting like I'm really, really hurt. 1-3 times doing this and the dog figured it out and stopped. (Note that the dog might not seem to 'care' or be concerned, but a successful 'teaching' occurs when the dog appears to be watching).

I've also had a lot of luck in teaching him not to bite. Some owners like to play games with the dogs teeth and their hands and that doesn't translate well when the dog is older. Ignoring works really well, especially when combined in rewarding the right behavior (say, sitting calm when petting is wanted).

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I think there are a lot of good answers here, but I still wanted to add a couple of things. One, I think several of the posters are correct in saying that you should yelp or say "ouch!" loud and sharp and quit playing. That is how puppies socialize with one another. If one plays too hard, the other puppy lets them know this way and quits playing with them. They learn that they don't get what they want by doing this.

Another good way to help teach a puppy this is if you can find the right older dog. I've had two that were good at this. A puppy would try to play and they'd ignore them. When the puppy got too rambunctious they'd growl, if they didn't desist immediately, they'd snap and knock them down. They didn't hurt them or actually make contact with their teeth, but they shocked the puppy and made their point. Typically, the puppy would look shocked, hunker and come back licking at them, and if the dog growled again, they'd go off and play somewhere else. They didn't act afraid of that dog, but they definitely respected them more from that point on. That's what you're trying to imitate. You warn them, then deal with the issue in an appropriate way.

Another example are two of my horses. I've had them since they were born and they're full brothers. Both of them were with their mother in a pasture beside another mare. The babies both worried their mother to death, jumping on her, biting her, etc... She'd squeal and hump her butt up, but wouldn't every actually correct them. When they got old enough, the next door mare they grew up with would be the first one to get turned in with them. She was sweet and wasn't an aggressive mare, but she did protect her personal space. Both babies, a year apart, did the same thing. As soon as she was let in, she walked to a patch of grass and started grazing. They ran right up and reared up on her back and bit at her neck like they did with their mother and she let loose and kicked them in the chest. They all ran around for a while and settled down. The baby came back, being apologetic to the other mare and kept getting closer. She warned them several times, but when they touched her, she let loose again. They were stunned, but they listened to her signals from then on and also paid attention to other horses when they signaled this way. She wasn't trying to hurt them and they were more shocked than hurt, but they learned a lesson.

Now, I'm not telling you to hit your dog. The point I'm trying to make is that you have to find a correction that fixes the issue in a way the dog understands. I don't believe tying them or putting them in a kennel solves the issue. I think letting them out when they whine is creating another issue that you won't want.

Basically, try to think of how you want your perfect dog to be and work on it a little every day. To fix the biting issue, I'd do a couple of things. One is be consistent with whatever you do. For instance, if a dog begs for food and you say 'no' one time, but slip them a snack anther time, or someone else does, then you've basically taught them that they should keep begging, because sometimes it works. If you always consistently say 'no', then eventually they stop asking. Another thing to do is to make sure the dog is exercised, mentally and physically. Playing in the yard burns off physical energy, but you need to burn that mental energy as well. Structured walks, where they aren't allowed to stop and do stuff at random are good at this. They get physical exercise, but they also have to focus on matching your pace and watch for your turns. Puzzle toys can help as well. A tired dog isn't as liable to jump and bite. Granted, as a puppy, the stamina isn't going to be great, but we have a 1-mile walking path and when I have puppies I take them on it. When they seem tired and lagging, I carry them. When they squirm I let them walk. It doesn't take long before they can keep up the whole mile and are ready to out pace me.

Next is something hard to describe. When you correct your puppy and have something you don't want him to do, such as jumping and biting, many people say 'no', maybe they even yell/scream it. However, you have to wait for the dog to give in. A good example of this is a dog that focuses in on a cat or squirrel or whatever. The dog focuses in and tries to go for it. The owner tugs and pulls on the leash. Then they get in front of their dog to body block it. Then they walk toward it and back it up. They say they stopped their dog and they're doing some of the right things, but the whole time, the dog is focused beyond them on whatever it is they want and they haven't given up on it. You aren't correcting it till they've broken their focus and given up on the bad behavior. Another example would be people who try to put their animals off the furniture. They are lying there and the dog's all over them. They tell the dog to get off and it doesn't, so they push it off. It stands there and stares at them and the make it stay there for a while and then let it back up. They feel like they've accomplished something because they put the dog off and made it stay for a little while, but the whole time the dog was just waiting till it could get back on the couch. I would want to tell the dog to get off, then drive it off more than put it off. Sometime clapping the hands or flapping a blanket will work best, though with some dogs, this can encourage rough play and biting the blanket, which you don't want, so don't do this if you have this type of dog. Keep in mind that they more you claim a space and ask your dog to leave it, the easier it is in other situations, so if you've made a habit of asking your dog to move off, they will easily do so when asked to leave the couch.

A good alternative is to teach your dog the 'Spot' command. This is where the dog has a 'spot', such as a kennel with an open door, a mat, wherever. When you say 'Spot', the dog goes there. He can't be on the couch or jumping on you and be in his 'spot' too. I also wouldn't want the dog standing there staring at me, because he's still focused on what he wants. I will send him/her off if they do this. With repetition, you'll be able to say 'off' and they'll hop up and go find somewhere else that's comfortable for them. That's ideal for me.

So keeping all this in mind for your jumping issue. You'll want to make sure he doesn't have an abundance of energy to use to be destructive, you want to let him know that it's not okay to jump on or bite you. If he's persistent, you need to tell him 'no' and back him down. He can't just keep staring at you. He needs to give up on wanting to jump on you. Lastly, offer him an alternative to with a chew toy or puzzle toy to keep him occupied. Good luck and I hope this helped.

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