Puppy Biting: Coping with a Land Shark

Are you dealing with puppy biting? One of those relentless nippers that are driving you to the edge of sanity? For those of you who know (and have endured): some puppies are… BITERS.

Duff is, it’s truly difficult to express, a true nipping terror.

Hand laceration. Tears and holes in clothing. Foot and toe attacks.

Duff checked all the boxes by biting, nipping, mouthing – whatever term preferred.

We should have bought shares in Bandaids.

puppy biting crate bars

Extreme Puppy Biting – was he born this way??

We knew Terriers (and other working dogs like Shepherds, hunting dogs, and retrievers) are known to be nippy puppies.

Duff was at the top of the piranha scale.

He also chewed EVERYTHING. Our house was barricaded—chairs on counters. Furniture removed. Puppy gates everywhere.

We used copious amounts of apple cider vinegar to try and discourage him from inhaling carpet, walls, and wood…

After a few weeks, we wondered if this was normal. He grabbed onto our hands or feet a few times, held on, and would growl and pull. OUCH. Those puppy teeth are RAZORS. Is this normal, abnormal, or aggressive??

We asked a trainer for help and did some research. At least it was comforting to read that other puppy parents were experiencing similar meltdowns, facing weeks and weeks of relentless biting.

Nothing seemed to work – the yipping (sometimes that makes terriers go even crazier, as it sounds like vermin…), clapping, never mind spraying in the face with water (he loved that!)

How did we cope?

The plan

STEP 1: Alternatives

We tried so many options (in a later post we will list what worked with Duff) but having a selection of items your pup can chew on is essential. Biting is natural, as teething and chewing too.

So it’s not fair to expect them to not chew on us or furniture if there is no option for this natural outlet.

Chew toys, pizzle sticks (not hard plastic or antlers but softer-puppy appropriate), rubber toys, durable stuff toys etc.

STEP 2: Re-Direction

This was key. Every time he would try to bite, we would offer a toy. Basically, we carried around toys at all times!

If he tried to bite, we would pull our hand away, say “NO BITING” and let him choose to pick a toy or a chewie.

If he did not and continued, we would go to STEP 3: Ignore

STEP 3: Ignoring

If he was in a mood, or persistent – or one of those moments where he grabbed on and held on; He got a stern, but calm “NO BITING” and we would walk away and close the door or leave the room.

Duff HATED being ignored. So we ignored him.

After just a few minutes, we would go back in. Repeat the process.

STEP 4: Remaining Calm

Feeling like your toe is going to get ripped off, being nervous of the little terror enough to only wear shoes, and petting him with caution… it’s hard to stay calm when under attack, right?

But, it was so important. Keeping our voices low, saying “NO BITING” and re-directing to a toy was essential. Duff did NOT respond well to being yelled at (Scotties are particularly sensitive – ironic for diehards, right?)

Easier said than done without weeks of sleep due to potty training.

STEP 5: Crating and Naps

We soon realized there was a connection between insane nipping and exhaustion.

We knew puppies needed naps, but didn’t really appreciate how much they do really need to sleep.

We implemented a schedule, that’s right – a schedule. Nap time, awake time, feeding time, playtime, we stuck to it and it made a difference.

It varies but generally puppies at 8 weeks old need 18-20 hours of sleep per day. That’s a lot of naps!

The bonus is three-fold: the puppy recharghes his batteries, it helps with potty training, and we get sanity breaks.

STEP 6: Exercise

Too little exercise and he had too much energy which translated into biting.

Too much exercise and overstimulation and exhaustion combined to create a psycho.

We would crate him, potty, exercise 20-40 min, let him wander a bit – crate – repeat.

STEP 7: Consistency

Puppies do well with routines and feel safe with consistent commands and schedules. Their frustration over changing rules can translate into misbehavior – not really their fault but ours.

Scotties even more – if you let them get away with something ONCE it takes days or weeks to get them back into line.

And, of course, patience.




Here are our re-direct attempts:

Dealing With Puppy Biting – The Redirect


If you are facing something similar, don’t lose heart, and don’t give up.

It took weeks, and weeks, and … months, but we have seen progress.

We will post an update on his progress (and our survival)

puppy sleeping on his back