How to Stop Your Labrador Puppy Biting

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yellow labrador outside for potty training

Are you struggling to stop your Labrador puppy biting?

You’ve read all the articles. You’ve followed all the advice.

And nothing is working! Your Labrador puppy is still biting you.

If that sounds familiar, this is the article for you.

We are going to look at what you can do to stop your puppy biting once and for all.

Conflicting advice on how to stop your pup biting

Many articles will tell you to ignore a puppy when he bites and to offer him a toy instead.

Yet others will tell you to squeal loudly and put your puppy in ‘time-out’.

Some people will tell you to punish your biting puppy. Others will tell you that you must not stop your puppy biting too suddenly, or punish him for biting, for fear of drastic consequences later.

So who is right, and who is wrong?

Does ignoring stop your puppy biting?

Many new puppy owners try to ignore the biting puppy initially.  And soon find that this doesn’t work.

This failure tends to be for one or more of the following reasons.

  • They don’t persist for long enough
  • They inadvertently ‘incite’ the puppy to start biting again (through play)
  • They don’t sufficiently supervise the puppy with their children

We’ll have a look at these in more detail in a moment.   But what about the ’squeal’ method?

Does noise stop puppy biting?

There is no doubt that a sufficiently loud squeal, followed by immediate withdrawal of attention, will cause many Labrador puppies to break off from biting.

how to stop labrador puppy bitingSometimes long enough for a skilled owner to then redirect the puppy into a more appropriate activity.

There is also no doubt that for some puppies, this has the reverse effect, and causes them to bite harder and more fiercely.

A puppy that has spent sufficient time with his Mum, may be more likely to take heed of this verbal warning, as he will expect it to be followed by a sharp click of her teeth and a fiercer rebuke if he ignores her.

But there are no guarantees here.

And the fact is, squealing simply does not work as an effective anti-biting strategy, for some puppies.

Punishing the puppy to stop biting

I have heard, even quite experienced, breeders tell new puppy owners to punish their puppy if he bites.  Either by intimidating the puppy with an angry growling voice, or even with physical punishment such as a scruff shake or slap.

This can ‘work’.  But there are problems with this approach.

Many experts believe that puppies should learn to mouth or hold on to human’s gently,  before they are taught not to bite altogether.

This process is called bite inhibition.  And the use of punishment may curtail all biting rather than just the hardest, most painful, bites

Nowadays many people like to train dogs without punishment.  And there are strong reasons for joining them  – check out this article –  the downside of punishing dogs.

Teaching puppy to stop biting

Why would we want to teach dogs to bite humans gently?  Why is it not best to teach them not to bite at all, right from the start?

The idea of reducing biting gradually was popularised by  Ian Dunbar.   The theory is that a dog which learns to inhibit his bite (i.e. to bite without force), will be less likely to harm a person if he bites later in life (in play or when frightened or injured for example).

You can read more about bite inhibition here:  Labrador Puppies Biting.    The concept is a sound one, and most canine behaviourists agree that teaching gradual bite inhibition is a good thing.

The problem for many new puppy owners, is stopping those painful bites in the first place!

If ignoring the dog doesn’t work, and squealing doesn’t work, what are you supposed to do?

The first step is not a technique at all, but an adjustment in the expectations that we have of a small puppy

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How much do Lab puppies bite?

New puppy owners tend to have false expectations of puppies.  This includes anticipating that biting will be minimal, that it will not hurt much, and that it won’t be accompanied by snarling.

They also anticipate that stopping a puppy from biting will be a fairly quick and simple matter.

None of these expectations is true.

Most puppies bite hard, frequently and growl fiercely whilst they are doing it.  This noise is not a sign of aggression (see Help my puppy is aggressive)  Stopping a puppy from biting is a process, a journey.  And it can be temporarily an uncomfortable one!

It is important to accept that there is no guaranteed way of stopping biting immediately.  Indeed, as we have seen, bite prevention (rather than inhibition) may be a bad thing in any case.

Supervise your puppy around children

Once you have got your head around the fact that this process will take some time, that it will be a gradual thing, you need to think about how you are going to protect any children that might come into contact with the puppy.

This is important because small children can, both hurt and, be hurt by small biting puppies.

Barriers like baby gates and a cosy dog crate help to keep puppies and little children apart when you can’t supervise closely.

Calm your puppy to stop him biting

The next priority is to keep your puppy calm.   Overexcited puppies bite harder and more frequently than less excited puppies.

If your puppy is a really enthusiastic biter, don’t engage him in rough and tumble play.  This will merely start the biting up all over again.

There are lots of ways to interact with puppies without physically playing with them.  Check out our article on playing safely with your dog.

What to do when a puppy bites

When your puppy bites you really hard,  take immediate action.  Don’t wait to see if he does it again.

Stand up, move away from him and completely withdraw your attention.

You can try the squeal thing if you want to.  This works well with some puppies.

Expect that he’ll try again.  Be ready for it, and repeat your actions.

If the puppy chases after you, biting at your legs and feet, step over a baby gate, or pop him in his crate for a few minutes.

You can read up on this process in more detail in this article: How to cope with biting.  It is simply a case of ‘rinse and repeat’ until the puppy learns that hard bites are unacceptable.

Remember, puppies enjoy chewing, and teething puppies need to chew on something.  Whilst you and your clothing are not suitable chew toys, you need to provide your puppy with alternatives, like Kong toys.

How to stop your puppy biting

  • Biting is normal
  • Biting should be inhibited in stages
  • Training takes time

The key points to take away from this are that biting is normal, and that training a puppy not to bite takes time. Stop the painful bites first, then work on putting a stop to mouthing.

If what you are doing is not working, you probably just need to be more patient and persistent.  If your children are suffering, you need to separate and supervise.

Work hard on keeping your puppy calm – it makes the biggest difference.  And don’t forget to join our community for help and support as you work through this challenging puppy stage.

Further reading on puppies biting

You may find the following articles helpful:

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

More information on puppies

Happy-Puppy-jacket-image1-195x300Check out our Labrador Puppies section for more help and advice on managing a biting puppy.

For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.

The Happy Puppy Handbook covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.

The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.

The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.

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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.

21 COMMENTS

  1. Hy i have a 2 Months old Lab puppy but he starts biting me or my faimly from 1 day how would i stop him biting ?

  2. Hi Pippa,
    I just got a yellow lab, 8 weeks old. She has a very hard, sharp bite. She definitely bites more when she’s excited, such as when I came home from work today to her and my husband. It was nearly impossible to pet her due to her biting. When I tried to walk away because of the biting, it was just as bad, only at my pant leg. I heard from a breeder to pinch their lip while they are biting you, if it is a painful bite, as this is what her mother would have done if the puppy bit her too hard. Is this ok to do? I don’t want to hurt her or her to be afraid of me, but she is nearly drawing blood. Often walking away or replacing my hand with a toy would work, but there are more and more times now, where this is not working and she bites harder because she likely thinks we’re playing. Another method we tried was putting a bitter “no-bite” spray on our hands. Not sure if that was a good idea though, because she still bites our legs/feet. Thanks!

  3. Hi i am amit i have 70 days old black lab puppy she’s behaviour is good but always she bytes if i show her my hand or something then she always try to byte not hard bt byte
    and we take her outdoor for potty bt sometime she do in home and she always pee in home what should i do please reply.

  4. hello, i have a 83 days old labrador puppy,whenever I go near him he always bites me… What should I do to prevent this…, please help.

  5. Hi Poppa, we have a 15 month old yellow lab. She gets very excited for no reason especially when we take her out. It is now winter where we wear coats boots etc. I just took her out and she was in “attack” mode. Jumping and biting. Bruised my ankle biting through my thick boots. Jumping to bite my arms. I could not get away from her and jumping to the point of knocking me down. What is going on??? So is usually so loving and loves to cuddle. She always bee very good around our grandchildren with supervision. Did I mention she is a big girl 88lbs, hard to handle. Love her to pieces.

  6. hello, i have a 52 days old labrador puppy,and i’ve been feeding him “pedigree for puppy”ever since i got him,now he is not eating it properly,it has been 2 days since he ate normally and stool is black in colour and a little hard,i fed him a little cooked chicken 2 days earlier,and he was vaccinated to prevent diseases like hepatitis and all 2 days earlier,is this all ruining his appetite? i’am worried,please help me with a solution….

  7. Hey Pipa!
    I have a 3 month old golden Labrador pup and the care taker sometimes goes out and so she chains him… he barks and makes noises.. so is it okay to chain him up?

  8. Hi Pippa. I have a 13 month old golden lab. She is lovely in most ways but she keeps nipping the children. I have read the article above & I’ve tried all the things suggested. I have a crate for her but I’m worried that if I use it for a time out that she’ll see it as a place of punishment rather than a safe place when we are not in the house. She can get quite boisterous with my son in particular. Will getting her spayed calm her down?

  9. Hi Pippa’
    Another question as you know I have a black lab named midnight and he bites a whole lot. I don’t know how to stop him I,he tried saying “oww” but he just keeps going
    Help!

  10. Hi Pippa,
    Our labrador bitch is now 12 weeks old, we didn’t get her until she was 8 weeks but we had frequent contact before. Her biting is causing real problems, I must admit we have tried a few different approaches as our previous labby boy was a puppy 14 years ago, I think we had forgotten how much the biting hurts but I’m sure he was never THIS agressive. Daisy bites for fun when playing & i expected this but if she tries to bit the table or the sofa for instance & I or my wife say no, she will snap at us, if you try to move her away from the area, she will bite your hand/arm/anything that comes to hand. I have tried yelping but this only encourages her, I have tried showing her who is boss but pinning her down and she will be submissive for a few seconds but as soon as you let her up she is at you again OR she runs around the room/house like a thing possesed. If she gets excited when playing with her & bites for a toy, if you stand up and walk away she will bit your legs or backside. She is a little angel when she gets her own way. I don’t like cages but we had a play penn which she chewed to pieces. We are weening her off Bakers dry food, the breeder was feeding her this but I was concerned about the additives so we are switching to ProPlan. My wife who is home with her all day, is at the end of her teether, we waited 3 months before getting her a new companion after our choccy of 14 years passed away & the new addition to the family is anything but a companion. Help please.
    Neil

    • Hi Neil, please don’t pin your puppy, it won’t help and will confuse her. Her behaviour is normal, and is not aggression. Please read the links in the article above and carry out the steps recommend. I suggest you also join the forum for support from other puppy owners as you work through this stage.

    • Hi Neil, I am exactly where you are. My previous black lab was named Daisey and was the best dog ever. She died at the ripe ole age of 14. Best dog ever. I too did not recall any of this biting. But my new puppy sounds exactly like yours. I got an animal behaviorist to come and help me because I was really at my wits end. After one week, she is better. Still bites alot but it is better. The trainer assures me that it will get better with time. Good luck!

    • Hi! Your Daisy sounds just like my 5 mo old lab. He hates no and will start biting you if you do. Also, he thinks biting is playing and not. It hurts. Then he does that possessed running berserk thing too. Lol. Can I ask if your Daisy improved and if so what did it? Any advice would be very welcome.

  11. Hi Pipa,

    I have a black lab puppy named ‘ COCO’ he is 36 days old. I want to know about diet, quantity of diet and timings. presently i gave him 4 times in a day. In the meals i gave bread, wheat, cerelac, curd , soya and lil bit milk with 80 percent of water. kindly suggest me good please.

  12. hi pipa.
    i have a golden lab pup named ‘honey’, he use to bite everytime when he is next to me ..sometimes i hit him gently .. but aftr sometime he again started biting …is hitting him a good tactics or should i do somethingelse to stop his biting habit..

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