Puppies explore their world and initiate interactions with their mouths. This is normal puppy behavior. When puppies play, they bite one another. If a play bite is too hard, one of the puppies will yelp and stop playing. This teaches the rough puppy to inhibit his bite if he wants play to continue. We can do the same thing with our puppies to teach them bite inhibition with people.
Step 1: Teaching bite inhibition
You can ignore the soft mouthing, but as soon as the bite is too hard say, “OW!” and time-out your puppy. A time-out is the removal of your attention and should not last more than a moment or two. A few different types of time-outs include: turning away from your puppy and ignoring him, placing your puppy in a crate or puppy-proofed room, or you can leave the room (be careful to make sure the room is puppy-proofed). Once you’ve given your puppy his time-out, begin interactions with him again. If your puppy is biting you, you can also redirect him to an appropriate toy. Appropriate and consistent use of “OW!”, timeouts and teaching your puppy appropriate games and toys for their mouths will make a big difference in your puppy’s understanding of bite inhibition.
Step 2: No teeth!
After practicing this for a few weeks, the rules should change slightly to become: any puppy teeth on human skin ends all interactions. Note: If you pay attention to your puppy when he bites too hard by grabbing his muzzle, angrily yelling at him, pushing him away, etc the biting may get worse. All of these corrections can reinforce your puppy for biting. Remember, puppies that bite when they play are trying to get your attention. If your puppy is biting/snapping with serious intent, notify your trainer immediately.