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Puppies can be bundles of joy and holy terrors, often within the same minute. They like to bite, chase,
In the latest “Ask a Behavior Consultant” question, we’re exploring what to do when your puppy bites kids.
Our reader writes,
We just got a puppy about a week ago. She is 9 weeks
old,and is a German Shepherd Great Pyrenees mix. We are having an issue with her consistently going after our 5 year oldson when he is walking around. She will bite at his clothes and legs. It has seemed like she is wanting to play, but today it got pretty intense. She would not let off biting at his clothing and jumping. We got her away and my son got on the bed and she just kept barking at him. I’m not sure what to do. She doesn’t always just lunge after him, but if he is walking somewhat close by she will try to go athim. We have gotten her a play penthat we will keep her in mostly. We are wondering why she does this, and how we can foster a better relationship between the two of them and train her to leave him alone.
It’s hard to relax and enjoy your new family member when your puppy bites kids. I can help. Journey Dog Training has an in depth, self-study course called Keeping Kids Safe and Dogs Happy. Sign up now!
First off, I want to congratulate Alicia on her successful implementation of management. By putting the puppy in the baby gate, she’s helping stop the biting. She’s triaging the situation like a pro!
You’ll want to check out our podcast episode on puppy nipping, too.
Why Do Puppies Bite Kids and Chase People?
Puppies are hard-wired to play. And puppies play using their mouths. At just 9 weeks old, this little German Shepherd/Pyrenees puppy is still very young. That doesn’t mean his teeth don’t hurt!
Meanwhile, five-year-olds tend to move quickly, clumsily, and loudly. They’re basically walking chew toys for puppies, and it’s extremely tempting for puppies to chase them and bite them.
All of that said, you don’t have to deal with a your puppy biting kids.
Just because something is normal doesn’t mean it’s OK.
It sounds like this puppy is particularly intense about chasing and biting. The barking and continuing to “go after” the five-year-old also sounds like a bit of a frustration behavior (though I can’t ask the puppy how he feels).
The bottom line is that your puppy finds something about biting and chasing reinforcing – that’s why he keeps doing it.
The attention, squealing from the child, or just biting itself might be so fun that your dog will keep doing it.
Teaching Your Puppy Not to Bite and Chase
As I said, it’s normal for puppies to want to bite and chase. We’ve got five main steps to stop the puppy from nipping and chasing.
0. Usually, Bitey Puppies are Tired Puppies.
In the vast majority of cases, a puppy who’s starting to bite a lot needs a break. Put them in their puppy palace area with a chew toy to relax. It may look like your puppy is full of energy and needs to play, but there’s a good chance they actually really need a nap!
1. Teach the Puppy to Play Gently.
Here, we can use some redirection. If the puppy starts to get too rowdy in play, we’ll calmly pick the puppy up and put the puppy away.
Then – and this is important – we’ll give the puppy something better to do. We don’t want to build frustration, as this can actually make the biting more intense later.
Give the puppy a puzzle toy or other tasty chewy during his time-out. Here are a few of my favorites:
2. Give the Puppy Somewhere to Direct Toothy Energy
Puppies really need to play and chew. While chew toys (above) are an excellent substitute, it’s also important to give this puppy something that he’s encouraged to chase, pounce on, and bite.
Encourage your puppy to play with shreddable and chaseable toys.
Whenever your puppy starts getting too rowdy with the five-year-old (or ideally, before that even happens), give him a good play session with a toy that he’s allowed to sink his teeth into.
Giving your puppy the energy outlets that he needs is the only way to keep everyone happy!
To encourage your five-year-old to participate and keep fingers safe, use a flirt pole!
3. Teach the Five-Year-Old How to Calm the Puppy Down
Ideally, you should supervise your child and your dog at all times. But it’s also important to empower kids so that they can diffuse situations on their own.
My favorite way to diffuse situations is to throw food. While this doesn’t go over well in elementary school lunchrooms, it’s perfect for dog training.
Teach the child to throw dog treats on the ground, then walk calmly away if the puppy starts biting and chasing.
An adult can then come and put the puppy away with a Kong or other chewie (see step 1).
If you see the puppy chasing the child (or biting the child), intervene by asking the child to stand still, tossing treats, and putting ht epuppy away.
Remind the child not to yell, run, squeal, or scream.
4. Practice Puppy Impulse Control Skills.
Obedience alone won’t fix everything.
But these training games (especially red-light-green-light, SMART x 50, and Ready-Set-Down) are perfect for teaching your puppy how to listen to cues when he’s excited!
The training games (linked above) come with video demos and are made to be fun and easy.
I also wrote an e-book on dealing with dogs that get overly excited. The book comes with email prompts to help keep you on track. Purchase Polite Greetings 101 here.
5. Teach the Puppy to Relax.
Karen Overall’s Relaxation Protocol is one of my all-time favorite tools for dogs with behavior issues.
It’s an incredibly valuable protocol that helps teach the dog to relax and ignore increasingly distracting situations.
Challenge yourself to complete the 15-step protocol before the end of the month. Click the link to get started!
Kayla founded Journey Dog Training in 2013 to provide high-quality and affordable dog behavior advice. She is a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant who’s worked with hundreds of private clients, thousands of shelter dogs, and dozens of working detection dogs. Kayla’s dog and cat behavior advice has been featured in NPR, the Chicago Tribune, and Pet MD. She’s an avid adventurer who is currently doing #vanlife on the Pan-American Highway with her two border collies and a cat. Aside from running Journey Dog Training, Kayla also runs the nonprofit K9 Conservationists, where she and the dogs work as conservation detection dog teams. You can get 1:1 advice with a Journey Dog Training team member here.
Thank you, i will try these things. My puppy has even pinned my two year old to the ground!
I hope that this blog helps! That’s quite scary.
I am going to try this with my 12 week old German Shepherd puppy. He keeps biting at my 3 year old and using her clothes to drag her around. He is also doing the same to my 1 year old cat. My daughter injured her toe and the dog caught it with his teeth a few weeks ago and it’s still not healed completely. Today he also ripped a hole in her coat. I’m past the point of patience at this point so now I will try the put him in the kitchen with his chew toys method.
We have a 14 week old German shepherd pup that loves to chase my 8 and 5 year old around and nibble their ankles. My 5 year old loves to play with her when she is calm but my 8 year old is still not a fan (and we have had our pup for almost 4 weeks now). I feel like she gets so excited when they are in reach of her because they don’t really want to play with her when she isn’t in her pen. Even out in the yard they won’t run around if she is outside because she just wants to chase them and play. I keep telling my children to walk around with a toy, which helps when they remember but they still run to the couch or a chair after so they aren’t playing with her. We will try the treats method and hope it works and she will be calmer with them. I have taught her to lay down and stay but this doesn’t always work when she’s super excited. I don’t want my children to be afraid of her because overall she is a really good pup and they are missing out on the “good times” aka when she’s not overly playful and I want them to bond with her and not have this fear always.
My 9 week old German Shepard will purposely go out of his way to nip at my 1 year old nephew. He’ll be playing with a chew toy see my nephew and run over to him and nip him whether that’s be on his ear, jump to his face or any part of his clothing and hands. What can I do? Why is he doing this ?
Would you like to schedule a consult to see if I can help you problem-solve? Just hover over the 1-on-1 training tab on the menu of the site to see your options. I’ve got so many questions and suggestions for you! And be sure you’re using the tips already laid out in this article.
My puppy is nearly 5 months old, she too keeps on. Upping the kids mainly when they are outside playing
I’ve tried to teach the kids to turn their back on her and I never leave them unattended with her but in all the kafuffle it takes a couple of seconds to get her back under control.
Tonight she sank her teeth into my daughters leg and although it didn’t break the skin she has teeth mark bruises .
The puppy is wonderful we love her to death, but how do I stop this behaviour. The treat thing doesn’t work she’s too involved in what she’s doing to even listen to my command
Hi Rachel, if your puppy is too excited to listen to commands or take treats, try gently removing her from the situation. She sounds over-excited and probably can barely think! Getting her appropriate exercise and rest, away from the kids, will also be key to success.
Hey I need help oh I am a kid.MY DAD WILL NOT LET ME USE A DOG TREATS.
Hi Gabby, I’d be happy to chat briefly with your father about treats for training if you’d like. Otherwise, you can simply use your dog’s meals to train behavior! No treats needed.
My 5 year old sister is trying to toss a treat to Elsa the mine her pincher.
Aren’t using treats and being calm inducing this behavior. Is appreciate more clarity regarding the buying situation.
I don’t think violence is necessary, but a thump on the snout not effective?
A thump on the snout teaches your dog that kids are potentially dangerous or scary, which can truly backfire! The treats help calm your dog down. Once they’re calmer, they’re better at thinking through their actions and performing how you like. It’s a process!
We are having such a big issue with our 10 wk old female black lab puppy. I have never seen a lab puppy before this mouthy. We are trying our best with our 6 yr old daughter and she’s trying her best to not escalate the situation but she’s too the point that she’s terrified of the puppy if she gets up. Mazie(puppy) has made our daughter bleed and us bleed. She gets way too out of hand. We go on walks and everything. I don’t know what to do… we are desperate. We’ve tried everything! My husband is now to the point where he’s pinching her cheeks in so she bites her own cheeks to feel it hurts but then she lunges bearing teeth. I’m too the point I want to get rid of her. I’m tired of having my hands legs and everything bleed and our clothes being ruined from her latching on and not letting go at all. Please help!
Hi Patricia, it sounds like this is serious enough to warrant getting help from a professional trainer. Would you like my help in finding one nearby, or working remotely over video chat? In the meantime, do you have a puppy pen you can put your puppy in when she’s getting bitey? My 12-week-old puppy usually gets bitey when he needs a nap, so he spends a lot of time in the puppy pen to keep my hands and clothes safe from his sharp little teeth! Giving him more exercise usually makes it worse because he’s basically a cranky toddler that needs a nap! You can see an example of my setup here: https://www.facebook.com/journeydogtraining/posts/964880940717290
Thank you for this article, we have brought home a 9 week kelpie and he is very insistent on “herding” my 5 year old son, nipping and pulling at his clothes whenever he walks, and my son is getting quite scared of him. We have been suggested to use a spray bottle to spray the puppy once when he goes after my child to halt the process before removing him, would you recommend that?
I would not – your kelpie is doing what he’s bred to do (try and control the motion of flock animals out of order). A squirt bottle is just trying to punish genetics. Instead, I’d work on teaching your kelpie to come run to you for a treat when your son moves around, using lots of treats. You will also save yourself a lot of stress by putting your kelpie in a big, comfy puppy pen when your son is most active. I have a lot of border collie experience and am happy to chat more if you’d like to book a consultation!
Our 9 month old fox red lab sadie is very good, and has come out of her early teething phase already (it was bad early on). Our concern is exactly like the others here, nipping our 6 and 8 year olds feet, and even more aggressively outside in her large penned area, to the point where she almost drags them if they happen to fall down. Would love to set up a virtual meeting to discuss some training options!
Hi! Excellent, you can schedule that at this link: https://journeydogtraining.com/product/dog-behavior-modification/
I’m definitely going to try this. We have a 3 month old pit and she seems to really have an interest in my 11 year old son. She is always trying to bite him and bark at him. It’s frustrating and scary for our family
My 13 week border collie pup seems to be biting feet and going for my 8year old any advice please.
Hi Laura, you can also check out this article on dogs that herd people – it’s likely a bit of puppy biting plus herding behavior. We’d be happy to help in a 15 minute call as well, of course.
My 12 week old border collie puppy bit my 5 year olds face and tore his lip requiring stitches.
She has been showing very aggressive traits the last 2 weeks only had her 3 weeks
My sons dad wants me to get rid of her
Hi Gemma – that sounds like it may be serious. It’s hard to say without a consultation, would you be interested in speaking to one of our behavior consultants?
I have a 2 month old pup and she is constantly nipping hands/feet she is not listening, also when my 4 year old is running or playing outside she will attack him and lock on to him..
What Would you advise to calm her down
Hi Dem, were you able to try the suggestions outlined in the article yet?
Hello. My name is Cate and we got a Bernese Mt. Puppy and he is about 3 months old now. He is adorable and sweet when he’s calm, but we can hardly pet him without our hands being bit/chewed on. He also runs towards my 2 year old and we worry he could hurt her. One more thing. When we want him to move or go to his crate when he is being too tough or wild when he meets someone new, he snarls/nips/bites at us which results in us man handling him and forcing him into his crate while trying not to get bit (which has happened before) . He will go into his crate for us at night, because we have trained him that when he goes into his crate he gets a treat. But there is still issues We have signed him up for training that is starting in about 2 weeks but I would like to have some advice in the mean time. Can you help me??
Hi Cate, we’d be thrilled to help. Many of our Pandemic Puppy episodes are going to be super helpful if you don’t want to schedule a 1:1 call. https://journeydogtraining.com/pandemic-puppy/
Hi I live in the UK I have a border collie x poodle pup he is 13 weeks old now and we are having terrible trouble with him biting. He is worse with me and my 4 year old son, our trainer suggested tiredness so I’m making sure I crate him regularly and we’ve been working on calming but he still just wants to bite and chew everything, sometimes he will bark and growl too. I’ve spent the last 3 weeks crying not knowing what to do, I’m scared he will hurt one of the children. Please help.
Hi Rochelle, if the suggestions in the article don’t go into enough detail for you or you have specific questions, the next step is to book a call with one of our trainers here: https://journeydogtraining.com/product/1-15-minute-behavior-help-call/
Thank you for the advice! We have a 15 week old hound mix who has snapped/growled/nipped our kids a few times. Kids are 7, 5, and 1.5.
I didn’t know treats would not reinforce the bad behavior, I always thought a firm “no” while holding their nose would work?
Any advice on encouraging a positive relationship between the puppy and the toddler? Toddler loves puppy but is often too rough. I constantly have to get him away from the dog and it’s challenging.
Hi Jamie – I’m glad you’re learning. Our Keeping Kids Safe and Dogs Happy course covers lots of bonding ideas that I think you’ll enjoy!
Help my 13 week old puppy seems to like to bite my youngest daughter aged 6 yrs old.
She got nipped the other week as she was pulling the puppy in the car and she growled and nipped her.
Tonight I was distracted out of the room and my daughter has been bitten on the arm and leg.
She had moved the dogs blanket and was growled at and bitten.
It’s not looking too hopeful if the puppy keeps going for her.
Hi Dawn, have you been able to implement the safety and training suggestions in this article yet?
Do you have a suggestion for removing an overly excited puppy when they have a fear of being picked up? I’m not sure if it’s vision issues with our mini Aussie, shyness, or trauma before we got her, she’ll love spending time with me, sleep next to me, cuddle on my lap, sit next to me, but the second I lean down to pick her up, she get nervous and runs. Treats are slowly helping.
These tips are all so good. I am saving the links and ready to start implementing. She gets along well with the kids overall, but if they are running or high energy she’ll chase, jump up and bark and bite. It makes sense that it’s when overly tired. I have been unsure how much is herding instinct. Her bites are not leaving marks, or worse case a scratch. They are so frequent when she’s in a tizzy. I was worried about the bark/growl with it, and worried it may be aggression. It makes sense that sometimes she may be overstimulated and hyper(tired) and other times may be anxious, or feel like they are invading her space. This gives me some good direction to head in.
Hi Becky – I would treat the picking up issue separately before trying to use it as a tool to deal with other concerns.Summit Dog Training has a few great resources on teaching dogs to get picked up, check that out! http://www.summitdogtraining.com/blog/teach-your-small-dog-how-to-love-getting-picked-up
I’m glad the article was helpful and I’m so glad you’re feeling optimistic and directed. That’s exactly our goal here!