When puppies play with each other, they use their mouths. Any feedback they get teaches them to inhibit their bite pressure. (Acquired Bite Inhibition). This puppy play behaviour translates to your hands and often puppies like to mouth hands during play or when being petted. Giving your pup an alternative behaviour is more successful than trying to suppress it as puppies are highly motivated to exhibit this biting behaviour. So, whenever your pup tries to gnaw on your arm or hand redirect the biting to something like an acceptable chew toy.
Sometimes puppies are uncomfortable with being petted and will object by biting your hand. Redirect your puppy’s chewing onto acceptable objects by offering her a chew toy whenever you pet her. This will also desensitize her to being handled and petted. This will not only help your puppy learn that people and petting are wonderful but will also keep her mouth busy while she’s being petted. Try and keep the petting and handling sessions brief as sustained petting and handling might get her too excited and this is when she will try and nip and bite.
If after all this she still prefers chewing at your hands, then you can teach her that this behaviour results in all interaction with her stopping. Interrupt the biting by yelling a word like “Ouch” and then stop interacting with her and even leave the room. You’ll be teaching her that the consequence of nipping and biting is that you leave her. Wait a few seconds and resume playing with her or petting her.
These methods will only work if you are consistent and that every time she bites with unacceptable pressure there is ALWAYS a consequence.
I’ve heard some people say that tapping the pup on the nose or holding her mouth closed will stop the biting, but this type of reaction from you will result in some fallout, which is always the case with punishment. Punishment might result in the following consequences which will not make your bonding and relationship with your pup any easier:
- The pup might stop wanting to interact with you altogether
- The pup might start shying away from hands
- She might even become more aroused and start biting harder
More effective than punishment is always interruption and redirection.