Beyond Puppy Biting: When Mouthy Behavior Continues Into Adolescence

dog-play-biting

If you have a puppy under six months of age, play biting is a very normal (albeit annoying and often painful) part of your puppy's development.

For bitey pups under six months of age, read this blog.

But what happens when your dog's biting is lingering beyond that six-month mark, or you acquire an adolescent or adult dog that comes into your home with a chompy mouth?

First of all, don't get too alarmed just yet. Excessive play biting in adolescence is still not an indicator of future aggression.

The vast majority of adolescent dogs we work with that are still showing mouthiness with people have some or all of these three factors contributing to the behavior:

1. Needs are not being met.

Meeting a dog's most basic needs is simple: provide food, water, shelter, love them, play with them.

But depending on your dog's individual temperament, breed/breed mix, and age, those basics may not be meeting your dog's actual physical and mental stimulation requirements.

The first thing you should do to stop your adolescent or adult dog's mouthy behavior is take a look at how you can provide a more physically and mentally enriching day-to-day life for your dog, while still working within what's reasonable for your own schedule.

A few ideas: 

  • Ensure you're feeding your dog three times a day up to a year of age (sometimes longer for giant breed dogs) and that you have appropriately increased food based on their growth. With your vet's approval, you can typically drop to two meals a day by one year of age.
  • Provide short (5-10 minute) training sessions a day to work on basic obedience, tricks – whatever you want.
  • Offer mental enrichment options – see our 14-Day Training Challenge for training and enrichment tutorials and ideas.
  • Increase your dog's physical exercise – playing in the backyard is simply not enough. Options include adding a daily walk, a game of fetch, taking an obedience class or getting involved in a dog sport. Find what works for both you and your dog – if it's not something you both enjoy, one of you will get burned out quickly. The behavior is being reinforced.

2. The behavior is being reinforced.

In order to address this issue, we have to look at why it's lingering. What is the function of the behavior for your dog? As puppies, biting was a way for them to try to instigate play and attention, explore the world, and burn off some teething frustration.

Which of those three still serves a functional purpose in an older dog?

Instigating play and attention. 

Whatever you are currently doing as a reaction to your dog's biting is reinforcing the behavior – in short, your dog thinks it's worth doing it again.

Yelling "no," pushing your dog away, running away, etc. can all be considered fun, especially for an attention-seeking adolescent dog. Or if  you do something too forceful or scary, you run the risk of losing your dog's trust and causing more serious issues.

So instead, find the least dramatic way that you can stop reinforcing the behavior.

  • Do not look at your dog or talk to them when they start biting.
  • Cross your arms and do not engage your dog with your hands.
  • You can block more intense advances from your dog by lifting up the side of your leg like a wall (do not knee your dog in the chest, please!)
  • If you find it too difficult to ignore your dog, you can remove yourself from the room or go behind a gate, but you must do so without it become a fun game of chase.
  • Your dog will come back harder a few times as they try to figure out why their usual method of attention-seeking isn't working, but if you stay consistent, they will ultimately give up and go grab a toy or settle down elsewhere.

3. The behavior is intrinsically reinforcing for your dog.

If you're reading the above thinking "I've tried this, and I'm still not seeing the changes I want to see", then this may be a game-changing answer for you.

Some dogs are selectively bred to enjoy things like chasing, grabbing, biting, or stalking. This is what makes dogs excellent at certain jobs – police dogs, military working dogs, herding dogs, ratting dogs, etc. While we see this in herding breed dogs and terriers most frequently, it can apply to any individual dog.

This doesn't mean that a dog that enjoys to bite is an aggressive dog – it just means that the dog may find the act of chasing, biting, tugging, etc. fun regardless of your reaction.

These dogs don't need these instincts "trained out of them" – that's not fair or realistic – but instead need outlets for that natural drive.

Here are few things to try, in addition to the recommendations from points #1 and #2: 

  • Add a flirt pole to your daily routine, 1-3 times a day. This is my favorite activity for dogs that naturally enjoy chasing, nipping, and biting, as it's an excellent outlet and easy for most dog owners to use.
    • You can make your own, or this is our favorite one to purchase.
    • Simply run the toy on the ground back and forth, eventually allowing your dog to grab it if she wants.
    • We recommend using this drop technique to teach your dog to drop the toy at the end of the game.
  • Play tug with your dog, with some rules.
    • If your dog grabs your hand instead of the toy, game over.
    • Teach your dog to drop the tug when asked.
    • Use a good, sturdy tug toy like this one.

The key is, you're still letting your dog know that biting people isn't appropriate, but you're also giving them an outlet for that natural instinct.

For additional information and tips on puppy biting, we have another blog on the topic here.

Need professional guidance on your play biting issues? We offer private and group online dog training that's accessible from anywhere in the world. More details here, or contact us.

45 thoughts on “Beyond Puppy Biting: When Mouthy Behavior Continues Into Adolescence

  1. I have a 7.5 month old beagle/jack russell mix. He will randomly nip at some people and dogs. I exercise him plenty, we train twice a day, he is well socialized (goes to daycare and is around people constantly) and he has plenty of chew toys/puzzle games etc. I am really worried that this is a part of his temperament. Any advice?

  2. I have a 4 month cocker spaniel puppy and randomly usually when over excited he jumps up and bites my legs knees hands – happens a lot when out walking. What can i do to stop this as ignoring him when out is impossible as he just keeps going.
    Thank you

  3. We have an 8 month rescue lab. (Mom) for sure. Thinking dad or at least one dad was poodle. 6 weeks old Colt had parvo, thank god he made it through. However he missed the mom part of saying this is enough as he was in emergency vet for one week. And He goes to day care 3x week , also went to puppy class and is now signed up for family manners. He constantly loves to bite on me, has once in awhile at daycare. We have had trainer here at our house, which helped at first, I do the hands under arms, but he now is do the let me use my front teeth and biting my legs no matter what direction I turn. Very frustrating. We have our back yard fenced so he can run we also go for walks as well. Redirecting him with toys at best works sometimes but then w3 are right back at me. My husband has not had many issues at all. Any advice

    1. Hi Vicky! Really utilize the steps in this blog, and be sure that you aren't accidentally rewarding him by giving him a toy when he bites 🙂 At this point, the behavior is typically a way to instigate play and attention, so you need to find the most clear, but non-dramatic way to let him know that this behavior won't work in that way.

  4. I have a lab he’s 3 1/2 months & he’s a good puppy, he listens to me when I tell him to go outside or to sit & I have potty trained him but when it comes to biting I struggle a lot, I hand him toys when I see he starts biting, but he’s constantly always biting, I understand that he’s teething but he starts biting on my jeans when I start walking he hangs on & he even jumps at me when I try to get him to stop, or when I try to make him stop he starts growling & being aggressive, I don’t know what to do, pls help

    1. Hi Claire! First, please know that this is a very normal behavior and it WILL get better. You are right in the heart of teething. Be careful that you aren't inadvertently rewarding the biting by giving him a toy when he does it. Here is another article with a few more tips. Stay consistent with the advice given in this blog, and you will continue to see improvements! https://peachonaleash.com/beyond-puppy-biting-when-mouthy-behavior-continues-into-adolescence/

    2. Hi Claire. We’re in the same boat you were back in March. Our pup is the same age and gets very upset and aggressive. My husband and I are all chewed up. Did it get better with your pup and, if so, was there anything special you did and at what age did it get better? Thank you!

  5. If only it were so easy! It's impossible to disengage and turn one's back on a dog that has clamped down on one's hand or arm, however playful the intent, and refuses to let go!

    1. Yes, those bites can HURT, especially in an older/larger dog. That's why we want you to block the dog's advances, whenever possible, and if they do make contact, get them off the bite and calmly get yourself out of there. Most dogs still chomping hard after 6-7 months of age are intrinsically motivated by the "game" of biting, and/or enjoy the reaction they get for doing it.

  6. Well I guess it's me then, something I am doing that makes her like this. She was always stubborn and willful, but the biting she suddenly goes mad, wall of death around the living room bouncing off the furniture. If I leave the room she destroys things or attacks our 13 year old dog. I hope we can fix this, maybe I'll try just standing up so she can't dive on my arm? I'm at a loss, leaving the room is fine if it's just you and them but it's a Hollywood production getting your phone, the tv remote, your cup, and older dog, and the cushions, and everything else she will redirect to if I leave. Not a speedy exit.

    If I sit on my husband lap she jumps on us and forces her way between us, tried it last night cuddling our son and she does the same to get between us, but ignored him sitting on his dad's lap. It's me somehow.

    1. Definitely implement the recommendations in this article, and consider implementing an additional management strategy such as a play pen or a leash. If she is having fun destroying things after you leave the room, it's not going to be effective. Consider having a leash on here so you can prevent her from biting, and can also prevent her from going after things/your other dog. Feel free to reach out to us about virtual training if you need extra help, or we can provide an in-person referral for your area!

  7. I think this genuinely works. My dog wakes up everyday at exactly 7:25 AM (Tiring) excitedly. He wants to play and I do try but he seems to like my arm as a toy the best. I ignored him. For the first time in a while, he went back to sleep. He’s only 3 months old so biting is expected but I want to make sure he understands he doesn’t need to do that to get my attention.

  8. My 10 month old black lab sometimes bites my son enough to rip his skin and make him bleed a little. It usually happens when my son tries to take away something from the dog (a toy, something he shouldn't be chewing or others.)

    Is this still considered normal behavior for his age?

  9. I have a cocker spaniel mix about 4 months old, and we're worried that her biting is becoming aggressive. She usually bites our feet; biting then letting go, then biting again. I see how that can seem like play, but she also growls and snarls when she does it, and her tail is either straight up or wagging. When we stand up and turn away to ignore her, she barks and jumps up at us, snapping her teeth (she jumps like a frog, like a foot off the ground) and usually continues biting our feet. We usually stand/sit still when she bites our feet and look down at her and say "No/let go", and it usually works, but then she starts barking/growling at us. When I kneel down to play with her or pet her, she snaps at my arms/hands and plays tug of war with my hair (growling sometimes, but mostly just thrashing around trying to chomp on everything). She used to gently mouth my hand, but now she spins around and snaps at my arm. Is she becoming aggressive, or is it still just rowdy play?

    1. What you're describing doesn't sound like aggression – definitely more like very rowdy and rude play. (Even growling/snapping in this context can be play). Definitely implement the suggestions in this blog, and if you need extra help, contact us and we can set you up with some virtual training, or refer you to an in-person trainer in your area 🙂

      1. Ok, thank you so much, the article really helped! We have started giving her more exercise and just walking out of the room for a few minutes every time she plays too rough, and she has become so much gentler and less hyped up already! The growling is also going away slowly.

  10. I have a 7 month old Yorkiepoo that constantly jumps on us or our guests when we come in the house. How can we stop that?

    1. Hi Thomas! See this blog for our tips on jumping: https://peachonaleash.com/solving-dog-behavior-problems/. The key is a combination of preventing the dog from practicing the behavior (using a leash, baby gate, etc) and then also making it clear to your dog that jumping will not work to elicit your attention. With that said, we don't want to simply ignore the behavior, as the act of getting to jump on you can still be fun for your dog.

  11. We have a 17 month old golden retriever mix (possibly mixed with husky), she does very well for the most part but im concerned with something. She does play bite with my husband and grown son..things like mouthing their arm, when she gets too worked up they re direct her with a toy and the biting stops.. but there are times ill be in the kitchen and if one of my daughters ages 12 and 15 enter, she will nip at their hand or jump up on them.. almost like shes trying to bully them. Another issue is keeping her off our bed, its almost impossible.. She is a rescue so i realize this will take time as there is no telling what she was allowed to do in her previous home.

    1. Be sure that no one is allowing her to put teeth on skin during play (even gently) as it sounds like she's using this behavior in an attempt to instigate play. Especially at this early adolescent age, pups love to see what will get a rise out of people 🙂

  12. My 3.5 month log Lab cross is a sweet girl but she is super bitey. I understand teething and play, but it seems to be the only way she wants to engage with us. As soon as she wakes up to when she goes to sleep she is biting, pulling at our clothes, nipping the heels and feet as we walk away to ignore it. Saying no, let go doesn’t do anything. She is chewing on everything so I have bought her every kind of toy imaginable to give her some teething relief but chewing on us is all she wants to do. I have a 6 mo old baby and cannot be anywhere near the puppy cause she immediately tried to nip on the baby so we have the puppy in the kitchen more often then I want, the door opens to a big yard that she has access to all day and walks 2-3 times a day plus puppy school.. Help.

  13. I have a 6 month old lab puppy he just started school and he such a good dog but his biggest issue is bitting he has all his adult teeth and when he bites it really hurt. I don’t think he is doing it aggressively, when he bites he shakes his tail and when I try to walk away he tries going after me but I’m worried that he will not grow out of this stage and start biting me in front of others or start biting others so if you have any tips? We have tried Everything but nothing seems to work!!!

  14. Our 6 month Doberman will not stop biting. He knows all his commands including no bite. He takes no notice 95% of the time. We have to leave the room as the bites hurt. We have been leaving the room for months and he’s still not stopping. Over the last two weeks he has got worse. He is leaping up at us and biting arms, backs and our heads if he gets chance. We are covered in wounds and black and blue with the bruising. We have 2 sons who I won’t let go anywhere near him now. He has all his adult teeth. We have had trainers out and have tried everything but when we try to stop him by standing our ground etc we get more injuries. He also bites and lunges at us on walks. We keep being told it is play biting but at an unacceptable level but so far no one can help us stop him. One behaviourist advised an electric collar is are only hope. Another advised he goes to work in security as not going to be a family pet. I would agree but when he isn’t biting he enjoys snuggling up to us and playing training games. He is good with strangers and dogs we meet . Please if you have any advice as we don’t know where else to turn.

    1. Thank you so much for writing, Julie! I'm so sorry you've had this experience. It sounds as though your Dobie is intrinsically motivated by the biting. What does his exercise and mental enrichment look like on an average day? I would strongly suggest adding a flirt pole to your daily routine. 5-10 minutes a few times a day. Please feel free to contact us and we can get you set up with some virtual training; I know you've worked with several other trainers, but we do specialize in issues like this and can help customize a plan for you. Absolutely steer clear of the electric collar – it could really make this worse.

  15. I have a 7 month chihuahua and for
    Some reason he has started to bite a select few people that come to the house (always women) he is still quite biting and mouthing with me and my children at home but doesn’t often hurt us. He is snarling and growling with the people he takes an instant dislike too. He also has done it when neighbours have had people in their garden and I don’t know if it’s a protection thing as he is very fond of the neighbours? I’m starting to get concerned now though

    1. This doesn't sound like play biting based on your description – you are likely getting into "stranger danger" territory. I would strongly suggest getting a qualified trainer in to help; your pup is still at a young age which makes the process of changing these behaviors a bit easier. Feel free to let me know your location and I'll provide a referral for you!

  16. Hello,
    I have a 6 month old border collie puppy and he just loves to chew. It used to just be the furniture but now hes gone back to mouthing a little bit when he is playing. There isn't any aggression there at all but we wondered if you have any advice. He has a parasite so is on medication for that but it seems like he is just bored so easily; even though he has loads of toys, gets training every day, 2 walks a day for whats recommended for his age and he had mental stimulation challenges and is never left for more than a few hours if we need to. Should we just get rid of the coffee table and try that and stop playing with him when he gets a bit mouthy?

    1. It sounds like you are doing an AMAZING job of providing him appropriate outlets for his energy. There is a secondary chewing phase for many dogs during adolescence. Keep in mind that a herding breed, he's going to enjoy nipping and biting a bit more than other dogs. Be sure you're providing adequate rest time, where he has access to a few toys but isn't reliant on your constant attention. We want him to be able to settle at times! Sometimes pups get overtired and can become more bitey as a result. Definitely stop the game if he bites your skin, and try to manage the environment so he doesn't have access to furniture that he might chew. Also check out root chews made for dogs – they can be so great for dogs that need something to chew on!

  17. Hello! I have a 1yo Bull Arab that is super mouthy. She get super mouthy when she is excited, when we just got home after a long day and greet her, when she wants to play. We do not encourage the behavior and always correct her. She understands and stops, or go and get herself a toy for me to play with her. But next day everything is the same. She is super gentle and has never hurt us, so I am not worried about it anymore. I hope she grows out of it slowly. I dont think we have a reason to worry?

    1. This sounds like more of an annoying behavior than one I'd be concerned about. I would suggest finding a way to prevent her from accessing you when you first get home – for example, put a baby gate up that blocks her access to the door, or have her crated. Then wait until she calms down before entering, and have a toy that you can give her right as you enter. The key is preventing her from practicing the mouthing behavior, and teach her something appropriate to do instead!

  18. I have 8 months old malamute who bites and pulls my clothes when he needs attention for play. I take him for walks 2 hours a day and play games with him after the walk. He seems to be wanting to play from 4 pm to 8 pm. I try to tire play with him till 4-6pm, however as soon as i stop he wants more. These days he has been biting me almost every day and i end up with blue marks atleast 3 times a week. Not sure what to do?

    1. It sounds like you may be giving your pup TOO much stimulation! He has to learn to self-entertain. Create a confinement space like a playpen and fill it with a few favorite toys. Give him a 30 minute walk, some playtime, and then require a rest period in the confinement area.

  19. Hello, thanks for this really helpful post. We have a 10 month old cavapoochon. He loves people and other dogs. He has always been really mouthy and none of the puppy training tips , shouting ouch, removing yourself, ignoring have ever worked to stop the behaviour. When he bites us at home we put him in his playpen but it's difficult on walks as he bites our legs and hands. The only way to stop the biting is to pick him up and carry him! The children and I have cuts all over our legs. It's quite depressing really…

    1. It sounds like you guys have been trying all the right things! It might be worth working with a professional to help get this under control. We would be happy to work with you virtually, or I can provide a referral locally to you.

  20. We have an 8 month old poodle sheepdog mix and we have been having trouble with her biting since we got her. There are times she is so lovable and she just always want to be with us but she gets in these modes where she bites us and jumps on us. We can’t even take her on walks anymore because she will randomly jump up on us and bite us. We have tried everything to stop and we are getting worried because she is now 8 months. What should we try or do?

    1. I'm so sorry you're going through this! It's very typical for adolescent dogs to have wild spurts like this – it DOES get better, I promise! I would suggest walking her on a Freedom Harness or similar front-clip harness, and then use the leash to keep her away from you if she starts the biting. Be sure you aren't walking her for too long; sometimes pups start the biting/jumping because they are getting tired.

  21. Hi I have a 6 month old miniature dachshund and he been biting since we got him at 8 weeks old now that his adult teeth have come out his bites are alot harder we have tried everything to stop him from biting but nothing is working. He now has started to lick and bite his own private part and when I try to stop him he growls and bites really hard. Hope you can help.

  22. I have a 6 month old border collie, hes become very defiant and his biting is becoming an issue. Especially when he is being told No! He is a non working collie, however we are aware he is a natural herding dog so these tenancies can be harder to deal with. He gets walked at least twice a day, we have tried positive reward training, we have tried time out behind a stair gate, puzzle boards to stimulate him. Do you have any further advice? We are in the process at looking at 1-1 dog training, but until we find someone can you help?

    1. Try using a flirt pole (there are some details in the blog about which one to get and how to use it.) This can be one of the most game-changing things to add to the routine of a working breed dog, especially a hiding breed. Also be aware that by telling him "no" when he bites, you are likely reinforcing the behavior – at this age, all attention is good attention! If you need a referral for your area, let me know where you're located and I'm happy to get you a qualified referral.

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