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Why Do Puppies Bite So Much?! 9 Explanations + How Long It Lasts | Pupford

March 13th, 2023

Filed under Training

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After about the 73rd puppy bite of the day, I looked down at my bloodied hands and wondered aloud… WHY do puppies bite so much?!

I tried all the puppy biting tips but nothing seemed to be working. 😫 What a challenge!

Like many things in life, understanding the why behind our dog’s behaviors can actually help us more effectively train and raise a well-behaved pup!

So, let’s break down why puppies bite, how they interact with the world around them, and of course, some other FAQs around puppy biting.

In this article, we’ll cover the following:

  • Understanding the Prey Drive Sequence
  • 9 reasons puppies bite so much
    • Overtired
    • Overexcited
    • Frustrated
    • Saying “No”
    • Playing
    • Teething
    • Some breeds bite more
    • Telling you they need to potty
    • It’s how they explore the world
  • Additional puppy biting FAQs

Let’s sink our teeth right into it… ⬇️ (sorry for that dreadful pun 😜)


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understanding the prey drive sequence in dogs

We will cover this more later on, but part of the way our dogs and puppies explore the world is with their mouth.

And even beyond that, there are genetically-ingrained behaviors that lead them to use their mouths even more!

Dogs have what is often referred to as “prey drive”. You’ll also hear it called things like predatory behavior, predatory sequence, prey sequence, prey drive sequence, etc.

This behavior originates from dogs’ ancestors needing to hunt for their food. If they didn’t catch prey, they would die. It was a survival mechanism.

So even for our domesticated dogs, it is still an instinctual behavior chain that occurs often. And some dogs are MUCH more likely than others to have a high prey drive.

The prey drive sequence looks like this 👇

  1. Search
  2. Stalk
  3. Chase
  4. Bite
  5. Dissect
  6. Consume

Note: This is a quite simplistic breakdown and the sequence can have some variability from breed to breed, but for our purposes (answering the question of why puppies bite so much) a basic understanding will be sufficient.

Let’s break down each one.


dog searching for objects or prey

The first step is to find potential prey.

You’ll often see your puppy scanning the room or area, looking for objects.

And of course, your puppy will use their nose to search. This behavior is often constantly happening for dogs with high prey drive!


Once they search out an object/prey, they will stalk said prey.

If you’ve seen your dog “zero in” on something and start to move slowly and methodically toward it, you’ve seen stalking.

They often keep their body low and make smooth movements so as to not alert the prey.


Once they feel they are within range, they’ll chase!

You’ve likely experienced your puppy chasing after a toy you drag along the floor, a ball you’ve thrown, or even a toddler’s heels as they ran through the room.

Many breeds LOVE the chase aspect of the sequence (looking at you Shepherd breeds 😉)!

#4- BITE

dogs bite partially because of their prey drive

Once your dog gets to the object/prey, a bite occurs.

Again, that bite is to secure the prey.

(There can be two pieces to this, the ‘Bite Hold’ and the ‘Bite Kill’. We won’t dive too much into that, but I highly recommend researching more on this topic overall.)

The bite secures, and then is often used to kill said prey.


Once the prey has been caught and killed, the dog will dissect the animal.

Have you ever seen your puppy rip apart a stuffed animal? You’re seeing the ‘dissect’ portion of the prey drive!


And the final step, of course, is to consume. The whole point of the sequence!

Remember, this ingrained behavior was all about survival and finding food. You’ve gotta eat to survive!


a puppy before it starts biting

Okay okay, but we’re talking about puppy biting… so how does this relate?!

While your puppy isn’t trying to consume you to survive, their instincts exist and sections of this sequence occur all the time!

You’ve maybe noticed that your puppy LOVES to bite objects that are moving…

That’s just their instincts going from the “chase” step of the sequence to the next one, “bite”.

We’re about to cover 9 reasons why your puppy bites, but having a basic understanding of the Prey Drive Sequence can help you make smarter decisions as you try to overcome puppy biting!

And an important note, the Prey Drive Sequence is NOT the only reason your puppy bites. Don’t think that every time your puppy nips you they are trying to consume you!

The Prey Drive Sequence is a factor, but not the only reason puppies bite! So, let’s dive into 9 other reasons below! 👇


puppies bite a lot at a young age

Before we cover 9 reasons puppies bite so much, a quick survey!

Now, here are 9 major reasons puppies bite so much ⬇️

  1. Overtired
  2. Overexcited
  3. Frustrated
  4. Saying “No”
  5. Playing
  6. Teething
  7. Some breeds bite more
  8. Telling you they need to potty
  9. It’s how they explore the world

Let’s explore each one below!


Have you ever been around a toddler who is overtired?

They cry more, throw more tantrums, act less rationally, and generally make you question if they possess any self-control at all.

Our puppies are similar to a toddler. An overtired puppy often has less impulse control than a not-tired puppy.

As our puppies get too tired they become nippy, bitey, and often end up having full-on zoomies. 

So if you notice that your puppy seems to be showing an uptick in biting, it may be time for a nap (or bedtime).

The key to avoiding an overtired puppy is following a schedule! 

Don't miss out! Sign up for a 100% free online dog training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup with Zak George. Get access to videos & daily tips covering biting, leash walking, potty training and more! Sign up for free here! 🐶


a puppy biting because he is overexcited

Another reason your puppy might be biting more than usual is that they’re overexcited!

Like two middle-schoolers shrieking and screaming as they see each other for the first time since summer vacation ended, our puppies often just aren’t able to control their emotions.

Someone new comes into the house and your puppy wants to engage! Well, unfortunately, they often choose to engage with their mouth (more on that later).

If you find your puppy getting overexcited, it may be a sign that they need a mini-timeout to try and regroup.

It’s also extremely important to work on impulse control from a young age with your puppy! Impulse control is NOT instinctual and it needs to be practiced frequently.


When humans get frustrated they sometimes yell, when puppies get frustrated they often yell (aka bark) AND bite.

Your puppy might be frustrated by a lack of access to something fun, the inability to play, or even because they’re hungry or bored.

This is often why you’ll see your puppy bite at a baby gate, crate door, or another object blocking them from something they want!

Puppies can become frustrated by things we wouldn’t expect them to, and they’ll often bite as a result.

If your puppy seems to be biting for no reason, try to find anything underlying that may be frustrating them!


While our puppies can’t speak to us (yet), they will try to communicate with us in other ways!

Have you ever picked up a puppy and he just started nipping at your hands like crazy?!

He may be trying to tell you no!

So the next time you do something and your puppy’s instant reaction is to bite, look at what your pup may be trying to communicate to you! They may be saying “no” to whatever you’re doing!

Don't miss out! Sign up for a 100% free online dog training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup with Zak George. Get access to videos & daily tips covering biting, leash walking, potty training and more! Sign up for free here! 🐶


puppies biting and nipping while they play

One of my favorite parts of having a puppy is watching a puppy play date!

They wrestle.

They bite.

They paw at each other.

They nip at each other’s heels.

They chase.

It is SO much fun for them! Unfortunately for your hands and ankles though, puppies often like to try to play with you with their mouth. 😨

So, thinking back to what we learned about the Prey Drive Sequence, try to make yourself less enticing to your dog’s natural instincts.

If you try to run away, move your hands extremely quickly, etc. your pup may just start to chase after you! And guess what comes after the chase… BITE!

Be aware of how you are engaging with your puppy to help minimize the puppy biting.

And when you do wanna play with your puppy, make sure you have a solid tug toy or something else to engage their mouth! Because if you don’t, they’ll likely choose your hands to “play” with 👎

This is also why I absolutely recommend and LOVE using a flirt pole for a nippy puppy! You get to engage the full Prey Drive Sequence while keeping your hands far away from those baby shark teeth!


Often the time when puppies bite the most is when they’re teething!

While it can vary, your dog will likely go through the puppy teething stage at around 12-16 weeks old.

As their adult teeth start to come in, it can be very painful for them. So, they often look for ways to soothe that pain by gnawing on items.

Your goal should be to give them proper items/outlets to chew on!

Here are some things you can give your teething puppy to help reduce pain and reduce the amount they chew/bite on you!

In this difficult biting stage, focus on giving your puppy as many healthy and safe chewing options!


some breeds are predisposed to bite more than others like a labrador retriever

Breeds exist (in a general sense) because we humans wanted specific traits to help us accomplish tasks/jobs.

  • Retrievers (Labrador, Golden, etc.) were bred to be really good at retrieving things like small game, birds, fishing nets, etc..
  • Shepherds (Australian, Border Collies, Sheepdogs, etc.) were bred to be really good at herding other animals.
  • Terriers (Jack Russell, Irish, Bull, etc.) were bred to be really good at hunting and killing vermin.

And guess what, some of those “jobs” required a lot of biting and nipping!

While most Retrievers aren’t pulling in nets from the bays of Canada anymore, the genetic dispositions still exist.

They love to engage with their mouth, and as a puppy, they often don’t yet know what is or isn’t okay to put in their mouth. They’re just following their instincts!

So, if you have a breed that is more prone to nipping and biting, find alternative behaviors and games (like fetch or tug) to engage their mouth!

Don't miss out! Sign up for a 100% free online dog training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup with Zak George. Get access to videos & daily tips covering biting, leash walking, potty training and more! Sign up for free here! 🐶


While this one may not be extremely common, sometimes your puppy is trying to communicate a need to go potty.

If your pup doesn’t know how to use potty bells or whine by the door, they may choose to bite to let you know it’s time for a potty break!

So if your puppy randomly starts biting, consider taking them out for a pee break. Again, keeping up with a potty schedule will work wonders here! 

#9 (but really #1)- IT'S HOW THEY EXPLORE THE WORLD

exploring why a puppy bites at certain times

Above ALL the other reasons, puppies bite a lot because that is how they explore the world!

One more time…

Puppies bite because that is how they explore the world!

They don’t have hands to grab things, so they use their mouths.

They can’t effectively communicate with humans, so they use their mouths.

They want to find out what things taste like, so they use their mouths.

And just like you wouldn't get mad at a baby who puts something in their mouth, you shouldn’t get mad at a puppy who bites as a means of exploration.

Of course, just like a baby, you need to limit what your puppy’s mouth does or doesn’t have access to!

This is why puppy proofing is so important.

And while I know this understanding won’t stop your puppy’s biting, it can help you have some empathy and understanding for their behavior. Empathy is a massive factor in raising a well-behaved puppy!

They are brand new creatures trying to learn the ropes of doghood, and it’s our job as humans to guide them.

So, do your best to practice patience with your puppy, try to set them up for success with proper training, and avoid making yourself an enjoyable target for puppy biting!

Don't miss out! Sign up for a 100% free online dog training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup with Zak George. Get access to videos & daily tips covering biting, leash walking, potty training and more! Sign up for free here! 🐶


a puppy biting on something to explore their surroundings

Now, let’s dive into some other popular puppy biting questions many pup parents have!


Puppies may bite you when you pet them because they are trying to say “no”. Or, they are just trying to engage with you and they do that best with their mouth! They often see you coming in for a pet as something playful, and they bite back to be playful. 🙃

If your puppy starts biting as you pet them, it can be a communication tool that they don’t like what you're doing. And guess what, that’s okay!

While it’s important to socialize your puppy, they don’t have to love being pet at all times!

Be sure to slowly introduce petting and handling in a positive way with proper training, reinforcements, and pace.

proper training being done to help reduce puppy biting


Many people wonder if puppy biting is aggression…

The simple answer is that in most cases it is probably not aggression.

BUT, it can be!

Aggressive biting is often accompanied by stressful body language.

  • Stiff body
  • Exposed teeth before the biting
  • Wrinkled lips
  • Whale eye/side eye
  • Pinned back ears

Aggressive bites are also often quicker and more deep/painful than play biting.

If you believe your puppy is exhibiting aggressive behavior, get in contact with a certified dog trainer immediately. The earlier the issue is addressed, the better!


As we’ve discussed in this article, puppy biting (in the vast majority of cases) is totally normal.

Puppies explore the world with their mouth and love to bite/nibble on just about everything they can find!

Your goal with puppy biting should be to minimize it over time. It will not go away overnight.

Focus on giving proper chewing outlets, redirecting unwanted biting, and giving your puppy plenty of socialization, especially with other well-behaved dogs and puppies!


Sometimes it really seems like your puppy bites you way more than anyone else! While it can be the case, it can also be that you notice it more because you're around your pup more than anyone else.

Additionally, since pups like to bite as a form of play, they may be doing it because they enjoy playing with you! Again, they don't have many other modes of communication, so sometimes a little nibble can be a sign of love. Tough to hear, I know! 🤪


9 reasons puppies bite so much and other nipping guidance and tips

While it is painful to deal with, puppy biting is normal behavior. Our young dogs explore the world with their mouths!

Here is a recap of 9 major reasons puppies might bite you a lot:

  1. Overtired
  2. Overexcited
  3. Frustrated
  4. Saying “No”
  5. Playing
  6. Teething
  7. Some breeds bite more
  8. Telling you they need to potty
  9. It’s how they explore the world

So if you’re dealing with the puppy biting stage, focus on reducing the behavior over time.

Give proper chewing outlets.

Provide plenty of redirection for unwanted biting.

Take your puppy for puppy play dates.

For even more puppy biting tips, be sure to sign up for 30 Day Perfect Pup!

This course taught by Zak George has a full section devoted to the challenges of puppy biting.

Sign up for the 100% free (no cc required) online training course here! 

When have you noticed your puppy bites the most?! Any other theories as to why puppies bite so much? Tell me in the comments below!

Don't miss out! Sign up for a 100% free online dog training course, 30 Day Perfect Pup with Zak George. Get access to videos & daily tips covering biting, leash walking, potty training and more! Sign up for free here! 🐶


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