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How to Stop a Labrador Puppy From Jumping and Biting

Adrienne is a certified professional dog trainer, dog behavior consultant and former veterinarian assistant for an AAHA animal hospital.

Is your Labrador jumping and biting?

Is your Labrador jumping and biting?

To stop a Labrador puppy from jumping and biting, you'll need to understand what triggers this behavior in the first place.

Trying to suppress the behavior through punishment-based techniques such as squeezing your pup's paws or muzzle or pushing your pup away will only backfire and may negatively impact your developing relationship.

Fortunately, there are better ways to tackle the issue of pups jumping and biting. Discover several strategies to stop your Labrador puppy from jumping and biting by taking a multi-pronged approach.

Firstly though, before tackling the issue of a Labrador puppy who is jumping up and biting, it's important to understand what is behind the behavior. Understanding what triggers this behavior in the first place can help us properly address it.

Your Labrador's teething stage can make him particularly nippy.

Your Labrador's teething stage can make him particularly nippy.

Why is My Labrador Puppy Biting and Jumping?

The following are several reasons why Labradors puppies will jump up and bite. You will need to pay close attention to when this behavior is likely to occur and the accompanying body language so that you're better armed to tackle it.

A Matter of Play

Labrador puppies have lots of energy and they can be significantly mouthy when they play. This shouldn't surprise us though: just prior to taking our cute puppy home, he spent most of his time engaging with his littermates in rough and tumble play.

Play is very important in puppies. It's how they learn about the world around them. Play allows them to practice life skills that will help them when they become adults. Play also helps puppies refine their fine and gross motor skills, increases their body awareness and can help relieve stress.

With no more littermate puppies to play with, it, therefore, comes totally natural for Labrador puppies to want to engage with us in play. We should feel honored that our puppies feel safe enough around us to want us to be their playmates!

It goes without saying that expecting a puppy to not play would be totally unreasonable. We cannot suppress the desire to play, but we can redirect it in such a way that it doesn't involve jumping up on us and treating us like a pincushion with their needle-sharp teeth!

The Prey Drive Phenomenon

Watch carefully when your Labrador puppy jumps up and bites, is your puppy trying to reach something in particular? What exactly is your puppy nipping?

Puppies with high prey drive are strongly attracted to anything that moves and captures their attention. Watch carefully what your puppy does when he jumps up and nips.

In many cases, puppies are after your loose sleeves or your pant legs or that scarf or necklace that is dangling. Some pups may also be after your shoelaces, long skirt or even your hair as it moves around as you walk or from the wind.

To puppies, reaching these things are irresistible, because they are moving and stimulate their desire to chase and grab.

A Quest for Attention

Labrador puppies can be fun to watch when their play doesn't involve us, but young Labrador puppies tend to follow us everywhere and look up at us for everything, so it can be difficult to detach from them.

Puppies are quick to discover that when they jump on us and nip us, they get our attention. Being that pups love attention, they can care less whether the attention they get from you is of the positive or negative type.

So whether you happily say "Hi Puppy!" and pet him on the head when he jumps up on you or you say "Ouch! Get off me! in a frustrated tone, to your puppy both qualify as attention.

A puppy may, therefore, appreciate attention even if it's attention of the negative type. Yup, just like a toddler who acts out when mommy is on the phone and he feels ignored!

Attention can therefore be very reinforcing to pups so they can quickly learn that jumping on you and biting your arm gets you to interact with them, so expect the behavior to strengthen and repeat. That's the power of positive reinforcement!

The Teething Process

Many puppies can get particularly nippy when they are teething. They'll therefore want to put their teeth on anything that provides a soothing sensation. Many times, fabric and shoes offer the right texture that feels good.

Things may get particularly challenging once the puppy is in full teething mode between the ages of 12 and 16 weeks (that is between the age of 3 and 4 months).

The Issue of Tiredness

Labrador puppies (puppies of any breed really!) can get particularly nippy when they are overstimulated and in dire need of a nap. We often underestimate how much sleep puppies need. The average puppy should sleep 16 to 20 hours a day.

If your puppy gets particularly nippy after being awake and overstimulated for some time, suspect he's acting out because he's getting cranky and needs to wind down.

Some pups struggle in relaxing enough to fall asleep. They try to, but they easily get aroused by things in their environment and the temptation to interact and play.

Puppy classes help your pup socialize and refine his bite inhibition skills.

Puppy classes help your pup socialize and refine his bite inhibition skills.

Tips to Stop a Labrador Puppy From Jumping and Biting

As seen, Labrador puppies tend to jump and bite for various reasons! Tackling the underlying cause can help oodles, but at the same time, you also want to apply general guidelines so as to tackle the issue from multiple angles.

Following are therefore several tips to stop your Labrador puppy from jumping and biting.

Provide a Variety of Interactive Toys

You want your puppy to gain more reinforcement from interactive toys so that he chooses them more and more over playing roughly with you.

Look for toys that offer some form of engagement. Some of the best toys are the ones that offer reinforcement under the release of kibble and treats.

Examples of such toys are Kong Wobblers, puppy Kongs, Buster Cubes, Liki mats and Snuffle Mats.

Encourage Alternate Forms of Play

Encourage your Labrador puppy to play games that do not involve physically jumping up on you and nipping.

Ideally, you should catch your puppy *before* he has had the opportunity to jump on you and latch on.

Once your puppy has jumped up and latched, it will be more difficult to interrupt the behavior, you allow rehearsal of unwanted behavior and you also risk creating an unwanted behavior chain if right afterward, you distract your pup with a toy.

These forms of alternate play may require you to carry some items with you or keep them extra handy, but it's totally worth it!

Here are several options for alternate play (make sure to offer these as soon as you notice your puppy approaching you with a possible intent to jump/bite).

  • Carry kibble in your pocket and treat bag. The moment your puppy approaches, toss kibble the opposite way. Rinse and repeat. Your pup will love the game. If your puppy knows how to sit, you can ask that before tossing the kibble.
  • Use a long tug toy and encourage your puppy to play tug with it the moment he approaches. If your puppy knows how to leave it and drop, you can add these cues to the game.
  • Keep a flirt pole handy. I like to carry one on my shoulder or keep it around my waist when dealing with nippy puppies. The moment the pup approaches, I will quickly divert the puppy to that and let him play with it before he even thinks about nipping on my shoes. If we're in the yard and I want the pup to come back inside, I will wiggle my flirt pole around and let him try to catch it all the way back home, and once inside I'll reward him by letting him finally tug on it.
  • Keep several balls in your cargo pant pockets. The moment your puppy approaches, toss a ball the opposite way.
  • Train your puppy to hand target. The moment he targets your hand with his nose or paw, toss a treat at a distance.

Teach Bite Inhibition

You want your puppy to learn to bite less strongly before his permanent teeth set in and he develops stronger jaws. This can be done by providing feedback, such as training your puppy on how to take treats gently.

Ensure Your Puppy Gets Enough Sleep!

Puppies are generally very active pooches, but their batteries tend to discharge quickly. One minute they're up and running, the next they are exhausted as they used up all their energy and need to re-charge.

Pups have a lot of growing to and they need to get all the rest they can get. After all, it is known that growth hormone production increases while the puppy is resting or sleeping.

You may need to enforce naps if your puppy is reluctant to sleep. Here are several tips to help your pup fall asleep: are puppies cranky when tired?

Go to Puppy Classes

Puppies benefit from puppy classes for socialization, foundational training and the opportunity to play with other puppies and further refine their social skills.

These sessions give your puppy the opportunity to engage in the type of play he craves so badly and this further helps drain some excess energy while allowing him to socialize with other puppies and people in a safe place.

Look for puppy classes run by positive reinforcement dog trainers who put an emphasis on ensuring safe and happy interactions.

Ignoring a previously reinforced behavior may lead to an "extinction burst" with more intense biting and jumping in hopes of getting a reaction from you.

Ignoring a previously reinforced behavior may lead to an "extinction burst" with more intense biting and jumping in hopes of getting a reaction from you.

Does Ignoring the Biting and Jumping Work?

Technically it can if the behavior is driven by attention and you are able to endure the bites and scratches from all the nipping and jumping, but the process is not without side effects.

It can cause a great deal of frustration in your puppy and it can be painful to endure too. In addition, you may notice a few new behaviors along the way.

Here's the thing: if your puppy has been reinforced for jumping and nipping in the past, whether with positive or negative attention, your puppy at one point or another will get frustrated when he no longer gets a response from you.

This may therefore lead to more forceful jumping and harder nipping (technically known as an extinction burst). Not to mention, your pup may throw a few extra new behaviors into the mix such as barking or pawing at you in hopes of a response.

If you give in at this time, even if just to say "ow!" that would be perceived as a reaction and you would have now reinforced persistence, making the behavior even stronger than before.

Therefore, this is another reason why it is better to try preventing the behavior from occurring in the first place by strategically engaging your pup in alternative behaviors and setting his environment for success.

Does Yelping in Pain Work?

For many years, yelping has been suggested as a method to stop puppies from biting hard, but this not always works.

It is best if yelping is accompanied by a consequence such as turning our backs and leaving, so the puppy gets the message that we have delicate skin and that his pushy behaviors cause us to withdraw and leave.

However, with some pups, this method doesn't work, and some pups may actually get even more aroused and overstimulated upon hearing the yelp because it makes us sound like a hurt animal, sort of like the human personification of a squeaky toy! How fun!

Not to mention, I have had clients try this method only to end up with a crocodile pup attached to their leg as they yelp, stop playing and try to leave the room! Not a great way to end an interaction!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2022 Adrienne Farricelli