It seems nothing is safe from your puppy's nipping, including your hands and arms. Puppies explore their world with their mouths, tasting their way to new experiences. Nipping is part of natural puppy play, but even littermates won't play with puppies who bite too hard. There's no set age when puppies stop nipping, but their need to bite subsides about the time they get their permanent teeth.
Before their eyes are open as newborns, puppies nip each other and objects in their surroundings as they are trying to find their way to their mother to nurse. As they get to be a few weeks old, they also nip and bite at each other during play. It's a way for puppies to bond and explore, but the nipping can continue into adulthood if you don't step in with discipline.
When It Stops
Most dogs start losing their baby teeth between 4 and 6 months old, and they tend to become chewing maniacs during that time. Some continue to lose teeth until about 9 months old. After they lose their baby teeth, however, they don't need to chew to relieve mouth pain. Nipping then becomes a habit that you can correct. You can start training a puppy not to nip at around 6 to 8 weeks old, but he might not be able to stop himself during the teething process. Be patient during this stage; it can be uncomfortable for the puppy, but it doesn't last long.
When your puppy is as young as 6 weeks old, you can start some basic behavior correction. When he bites you, pull away and say, "Ouch!" in a high voice. Puppies yip when they are bitten too hard by littermates, then they move away to play elsewhere. Pulling your hand away and making your version of a yip is a language your puppy can understand. He might continue to nip, but he's learning how much pressure he can exert without hurting you.
Distracting your puppy by giving him an appropriate chew toy can help reduce his need to nip at you. Silicone or rope chew toys can help alleviate his chewing needs, and consistently redirecting his nipping to a toy can teach him that it's appropriate to chew on toys but not people. Always end a play session immediately if he starts nipping so he can understand that nipping has consequences. Don't play rough with him, such as tug-of-war or making quick hand movements around his face. This can excite and confuse him, keeping him from understanding when it's appropriate to nip and when it isn't.
By Rob Harris
About the Author
While studying journalism in the Army and at the University of Missouri, Rob Harris developed a lifelong love of physical fitness and nutrition, contributing often to a dairy industry newsletter. He has also worked with and created blogs for several family businesses including a professional dog kennel and a flower shop, where he used his experience as an avid gardener to grow plants for sale.