Puppy Nipping

by Sarah
(Liverpool England)

I've taken the liberty to add some previous puppies to this post.  This is Winnie, Bebe's puppy

I've taken the liberty to add some previous puppies to this post. This is Winnie, Bebe's puppy

When do puppies stop nipping hands and feet?

When you first bring home a tiny puppy, you might think that nipping is cute and in your excitement to play with the puppy, overlook the little nips here and there.

However, even tiny puppies' nips can hurt. Their baby teeth are sharp, and they seem to bite down on the tender human skin when you least expect it.


    1. Just like human babies, a dog goes through a period of teething, first when their deciduous teeth erupt and then again when those baby teeth fall out to make room for the adult set of teeth.

    During both periods of time, puppies will bite and try to chew on anything to relieve the pain of sore gums. Puppies will chew on everything from your furniture and woodwork to a stick found outside.

    Some Shih Tzu decide that our soft skin is an excellent chewing toy.

    2. Puppies also nip because that is how they play. This behavior seems to be instinctual because the first type of play that puppies engage in at a very young age (4 weeks) is interactions with their litter mates. Puppy play always involves the use of their mouths.

    At this age, they do not have teeth that hurt but by the time the puppy is six weeks old with a fair number of teeth, interactions with their litter mates take on a whole new level.

    Just listen and watch a litter of six-week-olds and you would think they are genuinely trying to kill each other. Not so. They are playing, but the play does get a little rough at times. A good mother dog will break up these little fights simply by her presence or by placing her body between the two dueling pups.

    After awhile, the mother dog will join in the play. She is teaching the puppies how to play fairly without hurting each other. They do not like getting bit any more than we do. Puppies like human children need plenty of repetitions of these lessons before they "get it."


Unfortunately, some puppies never quit nipping, even after they are passed the teething stage. These puppies haven't been taught NOT to NIP.

If a puppy is continually rewarded for nipping (that is allowed to nip), they will nip. There will be a gradual reduction of nipping until it stops altogether if the nipping is discouraged.


The best way to teach a puppy not to nip is to discourage the habit. This must be done in a very positive way. Positive means that you can't hit or even tap the puppies nose. Pulling hair or anything that might physically hurt the puppy is strongly discouraged. The reason I say this is because you don't want your puppy to make the connection in his mind that human hands hurt and should be avoided.

Most nipping occurs when you are playing with the puppy. When the puppy nips at your fingers or hands, remove your hands and wait about 10 to 15 seconds before going back to playing.

If the nipping continues, repeat, but wait a little longer before continuing your interactions with your baby.

For persistent puppies, you may need to turn your back on the puppy for a short period before you go back to playing.

This method works well for both very young and older puppies, but the timing is different. We give younger puppies a little more time to react before we resume playing. When older puppies don't seem to get it, even when we turn our backs and wait awhile, we may need to terminate the play session altogether.

Consistency is the key. Everyone who interacts with the puppy will need to respond to the nipping in the same way, every time the puppy nips. Children often need to be taught how to teach the puppy not to nip. Children should be empowered to deal with the problem on their own. Not only will the puppy learn that they cannot nip children, but also that they must respect the children the same way as the adults.

Most puppies catch on quickly because they crave human interventions. Puppies learn that if they play nice, they get to play more and that is a good thing.

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