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Wish your golden retriever puppy would stop biting so much?
Puppy nipping is one of the most frustrating things about raising a new puppy—their teeth are razor-sharp, it hurts when they bite, and they can ruin your clothes!
But here’s the thing about puppy biting…
It’s actually a very important part of their learning and development, so all puppies do it (a lot!).
The good news is that it will drastically slow down soon, so don’t worry!
In this post we’ll share some tips to help you stop your puppy from biting you so much.
Let’s dive in!
Why Do Golden Retriever Puppies Bite So Much?
There are two main reasons why golden retriever puppies bite so much:
- They’re puppies and all puppies do it
- They’re golden retrievers and they were bred to put things in their mouths (specifically gunned-down birds, but they won’t say no to a finger or two)
It’s pretty self-explanatory why the golden retriever breed bites so much—they were bred to be mouthy!
But why do puppies bite so much?
This is incredibly important if you don’t want your puppy to grow up to be a dangerous adult dog, so let’s unpack this a bit…
Acquired Bite Inhibition (ABI)
Puppy biting is totally normal.
It’s (usually) not that they’re being aggressive or dominant, but instead is helping them learn a valuable lesson.
Puppies bite to learn acquired bite inhibition, or ABI.
What exactly is ABI?
It’s the unconscious ability to control their bite force, or in other words, not bite hard.
Here’s an example…
Let’s say your golden is two years old and you accidentally step on his tail when he’s sleeping.
He might leap up and bite you because you hurt him and scared him.
Understandable, I’d bite someone too if they stepped on me while I was sleeping.
But the important thing is this: how hard will they bite?
This is where ABI comes in.
If they have proper ABI, they’ll likely do nothing more than put their mouth on your hand because they’ve learned to inhibit their bite force.
On the other hand, if they don’t have proper ABI, they won’t know to inhibit their bite force, so the bite could be dangerous and leave a cut or bruise.
So ABI is really important.
Now the question is, how do they learn it?
How Do Puppies Learn ABI?
The only way for puppies to learn ABI is to bite, and bite often.
The best teachers are other dogs.
Here’s a very simplified version of how it works out in the real world:
If a puppy is playing with her littermate and play bites her too hard, the other puppy is going to stop playing with her and walk away.
The puppy is disappointed that playtime is over and they think that maybe they shouldn’t bite so hard.
Next time they bite a little less hard and playtime continues.
This is how they learn ABI.
Obviously, it takes a lot of repetition of this scenario to happen for a puppy to learn not to bite so hard, but this is essentially how it works out.
But what happens when they’re taken away from their littermates at two months old?
That’s where you come in!
Yes, you will need to help teach your puppy ABI.
You can do this two ways:
- Set up puppy playdates and take them to puppy kindergarten so other puppies can teach them ABI.
- Let them know when they’re biting too hard and respond properly.
More on teaching your puppy ABI in a second, but here’s the final thing to know about ABI: it’s time-sensitive.
If a puppy hasn’t learned it by the time they’re 4.5-6 months old, they’ll likely never learn it, which could make them a dangerous adult dog.
Alright now that we know why puppies bite, and how important it is, let’s dive into how to appropriately stop it while also teaching ABI.
5 Tips To Help Stop Your Puppy From Biting So Much
Since puppies bite to learn ABI, you don’t want them to stop biting altogether at first.
You actually want them to bite a little bit and learn to control how hard they bite.
That being said, letting them go on a biting rampage is not helping the situation, so here are five tips to help you stop your puppy from biting so much:
1. Socialize your puppy
Other dogs are the best teachers of ABI so make sure to get your puppy in kindergarten and set up playdates with dogs that you know are vaccinated.
2. Give your puppy something to bite
If they’re incessantly biting your fingers, redirect their attention and give them something they’re allowed to bite, like a plush toy.
3. Let your puppy know that biting hurts
Some people will tell you to pretend like you’re a puppy and cry out when your puppy is biting too much or too hard.
Your puppy knows you’re not one of them, so need to pretend to be a puppy, but you can give a little yelp that sends the message, “Don’t do that, that hurts.”
However, this could backfire…
Which leads us to tip #4.
4. Remove yourself from the situation
Puppies can often be over-stimulated or over-tired.
It’s these times when they’ll have the zoomies or go on a biting spree that makes you think you accidentally adopted a great white shark.
If your puppy is in this mood there’s no controlling them and it’s best to remove yourself from the situation.
This is where utilizing baby gates can really help as they’ll allow you to leave the room so your puppy can’t follow you and continue to nip at you.
One thing we did with our puppy, Oliver, when he got in these moods was to go sit at our high-top table in the kitchen and ignore him until he calmed down or distracted himself with a chew toy.
5. Exercise your puppy
A tired puppy is a good puppy.
And a tired puppy won’t bite as much as one that’s bursting with pent-up energy.
If you physically and mentally wear your puppy out then they’ll have less of a desire to bite and you’ll both be happier for it.
Why Do Puppies Have Such Sharp Teeth?
In order for puppies to learn ABI, they need to get a reaction from their littermates and other dogs that they’re biting too hard.
Young puppies have weak jaws, so if they had dull teeth, a bite from them would be no big deal.
But they don’t have dull teeth.
Their mouths seem to be full of tiny little needles that are so sharp that if they bite another puppy or human they’re guaranteed to get a reaction.
So yes, their teeth are sharp for an important reason, but the good news is that these little daggers fall out at around four months, so you won’t have to deal with them for too long.
Difference Between Puppy Nipping & Adult Biting
Everything covered up to this point was specifically for puppy biting.
All puppies naturally bite, but if your adult dog is biting, you’ll want to speak with a professional, especially if it’s not play biting.
Most adult golden retrievers bite out of fear and a professional can help you properly handle it.
Puppy Biting vs. Chewing
Puppy biting or nipping is when a dog purposefully bites you.
As we already talked about, they need to do this to learn ABI.
Puppy chewing, on the other hand, is when puppies chew on things to relieve the pressure in their mouths from their adult teeth coming in.
It’s great if they’re chewing on things they’re supposed to be chewing on, like their toys, but not so great if they’re chewing on your shoes or furniture.
Since puppies bite and chew for different reasons, you need to handle these problems differently.
The steps above will help you deal with puppy biting, and this article will help you stop your puppy from chewing things they’re not supposed to.
Puppy Biting Mistakes
Here are some common mistakes puppy owners make when it comes to handling puppy biting:
Don’t thump your puppy on the nose, grab their mouth, or spray water or anything in their face if they’re biting.
Instead, distract them with something they’re allowed to bite or remove yourself from the situation if they’re biting too much.
Puppies don’t learn ABI in a day.
It can take several (potentially painful) weeks for them to learn to control their bite force, stop biting you so much, and learn what’s appropriate to bite.
If you’re sick of your puppy biting remember that they’re just a puppy, try to be patient, be consistent with the tips above on how to stop it, and know that it will end soon.
Not Being Prepared
Be prepared to get bit by your puppy a lot—it’s how they learn.
But also prepare by structuring your puppy’s day so that they don’t have a strong desire to bite you.
Physically wear them out by playing fetch or tug, or play with a flirt pole if you don’t want to get your fingers near their mouths.
Mentally wear them by out by training them, going for long walks and letting them sniff around, and giving them puzzle toys or frozen kongs.
Remember that a tired puppy is a good puppy.
Puppy Biting FAQs
Here’s a list of common questions most golden retriever puppy owners have:
Q: When does the puppy biting start to slow down?
A: It can take up to six weeks (or more) for your puppy to learn ABI and what is appropriate to bite or not. If it takes longer than six weeks, just remember to be consistent with the steps to stop it and have faith that it will slow down soon.
Q: Is puppy biting an act of aggression?
A: Most puppy biting is a form of play. It helps them learn ABI. If you think your puppy is biting out of aggression, then you should talk to a professional.
Q: Why are puppy teeth so sharp?
A: Puppies’ teeth are so sharp because their jaw muscles are weak, so if they didn’t have sharp teeth you might not really feel them biting!
Q: What is ABI?
A: ABI is acquired bite inhibition, or the natural ability for a dog to not bite so hard.
Q: Do all puppies bite?
A: Yes! It’s how they learn ABI. However, some puppies bite more than others, so it’s not fair to compare one puppy’s biting habits to another’s.
Golden retriever puppies bite a lot for two reasons:
- They’re golden retrievers and they were bred to be mouthy (and do things like pick up birds in their mouths)
- All puppies bite to learn ABI
You can teach them to bite less by:
- Socializing your puppy
- Giving them something that’s appropriate for them to bite
- Letting them know that their bites hurt
- Removing yourself from the situation
- Physically and mentally wearing them out
However, remember that puppies need to bite to learn ABI, so you don’t want them to just go cold-turkey with biting.
Instead, they need to learn to control their bite force, then learn to bite less.
Have any questions about puppy biting?
Let me know in the comments below!
And if you know someone who’s sick of their golden retriever puppy biting them all the time, please share this with them!
If you want to learn more about puppy biting, read our article, The Truth About Puppy Biting (And 4 Tips To Stop It).