If you’re ever spent any time playing with a litter of puppies then you know that it can be like playing with a school of piranhas! You can be attacked on all sides by sharp little teeth and they really hurt! Yes, puppies bite when they play. Why do they do that?
If you’ve ever spent any time watching children play then you know that they exhibit many behaviors that are a) natural to humans (they cry, they hit each other, they run, they get angry, they laugh); and b) they engage in play that prepares them for things later in life. All of these same things are true with puppies, too.
When you watch young puppies playing you’ll see them attacking each other head-on. You’ll see them ambushing each other. You’ll see them engaging in stalking behavior. All of these behaviors are natural to dogs. They are hunting behaviors. Young puppies practice being hunters, which is one reason why they practice biting things -- including you when you try to pet them and play with them. You’re just one more thing they’ve caught.
Of course, puppies also bite when they play because, like babies, they put everything in the world into their mouths. They like to taste things. They like to chew things. They like to use their new teeth as soon as they start getting them.
But, mostly, when they engage in play, they are practicing being grown-up dogs. Whether they are alone or with their littermates, they like to use their razor-sharp little teeth to play.
When you bring your puppy home with you, you will have to teach him that this is not appropriate behavior. His mother and siblings will have begun to teach him some of these lessons. When your puppy played too roughly or bit someone too hard, it’s likely that his littermates stopped playing with him. If your puppy bit his mother then she probably bit him back harder. She may have made him cry out. He would learn from these lessons that it was better to play nice and behave. But, he has to learn the same thing with people.
When you bring your puppy home you should teach him that when he bites you when you’re playing together that you will stop playing with him for a minute. If he bites again, stop playing with him for a longer time. Yelp when he bites you to let him know that he hurt you. If he bites again, stop playing altogether.
If you do this consistently then your puppy will get the message that you won’t play with him if he bites.
Remember that puppies don’t know any better but they do learn quickly. You can teach your puppy not to bite you very easily. You should also be sure to teach your puppy this same lesson if you have children in your household. You will need to supervise to make sure that your puppy doesn’t bite them when playing since puppies don’t always respect children. But if you insist that your puppy not bite, he will get the message.