How to stop your puppy biting your feet

This is a common issue with new puppies that can cause quite a bit of frustration and pain. Here is the scenario: the puppy often starts out being playful, but then gets worked up and starts nipping feet, pants, long skirts or anything within reach of his razor-sharp puppy teeth.

One client dealt with this every morning while she got ready for work.

To teach a puppy to stop biting feet or clothes, you should pay attention to his behavior before he bites feet or clothes. This is called “shaping the absence” of a behavior. The goal is to notice and reward appropriate behaviors. This will motivate your dog to perform those other behaviors because those actions result in really good things for him.

You should work on these strategies while your puppy is calm, not just when he starts the frenzied biting behaviors. The more that he understands what is expected of him, the more likely it is that he will repeat the appropriate behaviors.

During situations where your puppy is likely to bite (such as when you are getting ready in the morning) your puppy should either be in his crate where he can’t continue the bad habits, or you should actively work on the training exercise outlined below.

When you are working on the exercise, ‘click’ and treat or say, “Yes” and treat, before your puppy bites. Move around the room periodically rewarding anything that is appropriate behavior. If he bites your feet or clothes say, “Ouch!” and move away from him. If he follows you and continues biting, put him on a 6 foot leash and gently put the end of the leash over a doorknob or under a chair leg or stable piece of furniture. This will prevent your puppy from following you.

Then, walk back and forth just out of your puppy’s reach and ‘click’ and treat for not biting. Then put your foot or pant leg just a bit closer and ‘click’ and treat again before he bites. If he bites, say, “Ouch!” and walk away.

You can also add biting to the list of inappropriate behaviors and walk away when he jumps as well. He will learn eventually to be calmer and not get so worked up in these situations.

The goal of the exercises is to communicate to your puppy that biting or jumping “ends all the fun” and you will not interact with him if he engages in these types of behavior. Combined with the conscious effort of rewarding him for other behaviors, eventually he will learn what is expected of him.

Be patient, focus on being very consistent, and you will do great!

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