Are Pugs Biters? How To Prevent Them From Nipping At You


Pugs have a very affectionate personality and are known to be a sociable breed. Despite this, all dogs are capable of biting, irrespective of breed, temperament, or size. Even the friendliest dogs can nip at you if they feel like it’s necessary. So, are pugs biters?

While pugs aren’t generally known to be biters, there are reasons that can cause one to snap or nip at someone. Some of these include fear and anxiety, possessiveness, teething, injury and illnesses, when threatened, and even while playing.

Understanding the motive behind a bite can help prevent an accident from happening or one from reoccurring. It’s possible to train our pugs out of their biting habits with the right techniques. There are also things to avoid in order to ensure that your dog can safely interact with other people and pets.

Playful Mouthing Versus Aggressive Biting

Mouthing is considered to be normal dog behavior, and most prevalent in puppies. It’s when they gently gnaw on you in a playful and affectionate manner. You may not feel much pressure even if their teeth is clamping down on you. Adult dogs that have been trained will be able to control their bite strength, but puppies will need to be taught this in order to prevent injury.

Aggressive dog behaviors can be displayed in the form of biting and nipping. Their body language will be much different in these situations, and it can be a reactionary warning or a response out of fear. As opposed to being calm and relaxed while mouthing, a pug exhibiting aggressive behaviors will likely look more stiff, growl, bark, and expose their teeth. If the situation calls for it and they feel threatened, it’s possible for a pug to delivery a quick sharp bite that will inflict severe pain.

Reasons & Triggers For Biting

As mentioned, despite how friendly a pug may be, there are reasons that can trigger one to bite. Sometimes, it’s an instinctive reaction to an unfamiliar situation. At other times, it can be something completely avoidable as long as the owner is aware and prepared for it. Some of these include:

  • Fear & Anxiety – a dog can react aggressively in times of high stress and unfamiliarity. Biting is an instinctive response to threats of danger and foreign scenarios.
  • Possessiveness – a pug exhibiting possessive behavior can trigger a snapping reaction. This is especially the case when it comes to their favorite foods, toys, and family members.
  • Territorial – if there is a need to defend their pack or territory, then it won’t be uncommon for a pug to bite. Tresspassers or something they perceive as a threat will be in their firing line.
  • Surprises – dogs don’t like to be startled and when they are, biting can be seen as a defence mechanism. For example, being suddenly woken up or being approached from behind while unaware.
  • Injuries & Illness – when feeling unwell, you might find your pug displaying more aggression than usual. They may be extra sensitive, especially with the affected areas.
  • Curiosity – while exploring the new world around them as puppies, they’ll use their mouth and teeth to grab onto things as a way of probing it since they don’t have hand dexterity like humans. At this stage, they’re unlikely to have control or understand the strength of their bite just yet.
  • Teething – during this process, you’ll find your pug chewing on anything they can get their mouth on to help alleviate the discomfort associated with their gums and teeth.

Training Your Pug To Stop Biting

First and foremost, owners need to establish themselves as the alpha over their pug. This is so to ensure that instructions are obeyed and that aggressive behaviors will not be tolerated. They need to know that you are in charge and that you command their respect. This will trigger their need to please you, thus making your pug more cooperative and the training experience run smoother. Instructions on how to do this can be found in another one of our training articles here.

Now that you’ve established yourself as the alpha, let’s take a look at the two main methods to help your pug kick their nipping habits. These will be especially helpful for puppies, so it’s vital that you work on these techniques as early as possible.

Method 1: Ignore Your Pug

Much like training a pug to stop displaying begging behavior, you can do the same to eradicate biting by ignoring them for 5-10 minutes at a time. By creating a sense of separation whenever they nip, it allows them to gradually associate the action with negative consequences.

This type of training needs to be consistent and extended to the rest of the household to be effective. There is no point in one person ignoring the pug, only for it to move onto and nip at another family member. Everyone needs to be on the same page. Eventually, your pug will realize that biting will result in them being ignored, thus realising that it’s not an appropriate thing to do.

It helps to stand up in an authoritative stance or posture while ignoring the pug to further accentuate the alpha role that you play. Once the 5-10 minutes of separation is up, go back to giving your pug attention. As soon as they bite, repeat and ignore them again for the same amount of time. By following these steps, you will likely be successful in two or so weeks time.

This method has proven to work because it’s something that dogs learn intuitively. As puppies, they will avoid playing with siblings that bite too aggressively. The pup that’s ignored eventually figures out that if they want to continue playing, they’ll have to be much nicer by lowering the strength of their bite or stopping it altogether.

Method 2: Bite Inhibition

This training allows them to get comfortable with having your hands in their mouth and is known as “bite inhibition”. Allow your pup to playfully gnaw on your hand or finger. As soon as they nip or clamp down too hard, respond by loudly yellow “AH!” and then swiftly pull away. After a few moments, give them your hand again and keep repeating this process for 10-20 minute sessions.

When their bite is at an acceptable level or they begin licking, that’s when you praise and reward them with a treat. This helps control and reduce how hard they bite you when playing because it allows them to recognize how sensitive human skin is. Eventually, your pug will have the ability to control the force of their mouthing.

Similarly to method 1, this technique works because it’s something they learn instinctively as newborns. When they hear their sibling squeal as a response to a bite, they learn to back off. Imitating this makes them think that they’ve hurt you.

Bite inhibition works great when you put your pug into a stressful but necessary situation. For example, when you’re trying to cut their nails or checking their teeth, they might sometimes react instinctively with a bite to try and get away. With this training, they’ll know how to control their power and only bite you with enough strength necessary to get away, rather than doing actual damage.

Things To Avoid To Prevent Biting

Regardless of whether your pug is a puppy or an adult, you should look to avoid the following if you want to prevent or stop their biting habits.

Physical punishment should always be avoided. They’re unlikely to associate why they’ve been smacked, and it can trigger further biting if it induces enough stress and fear. This includes the use of shock collars that emphasize pain as a form of punishment. Resorting to these measures out of frustration can weaken their trust in you and really strain the bond you’re trying to build with your pug.

While it may be cute as young pups, don’t entertain them to play bite. Avoid wriggling your fingers and tapping their face to entice them to play. Seeing this response will actually promote biting as they think you’re responding playfully. Their nipping may not hurt when you first bring them home as puppies, but it eventually will. Stopping it early is key to preventing a more severe accident down the line.

During their training to overcome biting, it might be a good idea to avoid tug-of-war games and toys. They promote biting, so while it’s a great form of exercise, perhaps it’s worth giving it a miss during this period. You can always pick it back up in the future. With all things said, don’t discourage or play with your pug any less. You just want to teach them to play gently.

Situations That Induce Stress & Fear

When a puppy experiences new and unfamiliar situations or settings, it can be really stressful for them. It’s the fear of the unknown, and biting can be a reaction that comes as a result of it. There are a few things that all owners can do to minimize the risk of an accident from occurring.

Owners can work on desensitizing their pug from situations that may increase their dog’s stress and anxiety levels. By exposing them to different surroundings and scenarios as a puppy, it will provide less of a shock to them when these specific circumstances arise. For example, it’s not uncommon for puppies to fear busy places with traffic, cars, and loud noises. The more they see it, the more normal these environments will feel to them. Hence, there will be less of a chance that they will bite as a response to fear.

Socialize your pug by slowly introducing them to the world while they’re young. Thankfully, this will be easy because pugs are a very sociable breed. They get along with children, dogs, and other pets just fine. This will deter antisocial behavior, and overtime, they will learn what is acceptable and what isn’t. But at first, you should always supervise your dog when they’re playing, especially with children.

Obviously, you’d want to ensure that your dog isn’t nipping at kids. But kids also tend to play rough which can lead to disastrous outcomes. For example, pulling on a pug’s tail can cause nerve damage if fully stretched out. For the safety of both parties, ensure a keen eye is kept on the situation. You should aim to socialize your pug with dogs, kids, and other people that are of different sizes and ages. This is so they’re fully exposed and any future situations won’t be a shock to them.

Spending time playing with other dogs and kids is also great at burning energy. Daily exercise helps provide dogs with physical and mental stimulation. They’ll likely be exposed to new sounds, sights, and smells to satisfy their curiosity. This lowers the chance of them biting as they’ll most likely be too worn out. Any pent up energy can be released through aggressive behaviors, so you might want to increase the amount of daily exercise given to your pug if necessary.

Ultimately, pay attention to things that may trigger aggression from your dog. Learn to control the situation and if necessary, remove your dog from it before it can get out of hand.

Possessive Behaviors

Pugs are highly motivated by food. They are speed eaters and meal time is likely to be their favorite moment of each day. Consequently, they can also become quite possessive over it. If signs of aggression is shown to you while food is present, you need to address this accordingly.

Again, establishing yourself as the alpha of the pack is essential, so they know that you are in charge of them, their food, and all belongings. As opposed to a protective dog that’s doing their job, a possessive one is trying to dominate and take control. When this happens, they start to see you as a threat and will look to even challenge you.

To train them out of this bad habit, you can try the following steps:

  1. Feed your pug their mix in a dog bowl.
  2. As they’re eating, pick the bowl up and ensure that it’s out of their reach.
  3. If they respond with any aggressive signs like growling or biting, respond with a firm “NO” or “AH” command.
  4. Repeat until they respond appropriately.
  5. This can be extended to their favorite toys, belongings, and treats.

You can also teach them to “sit” and “wait”, before giving them the command to “go” when feeding. This lets them know that you’re in charge, and they can only eat when you give them the green light.

Possessive behaviors that extend beyond food can be linked with jealousy. For example, a neglected pug may not want to share you with anyone else. In response, they may feel threatened by others if there is a risk of losing you to someone else. Before it gets to the point where they’ll bite someone, you need to provide your pug with enough affection and quality time. This will help alleviate any abandonment issues, and make them realize that such aggressive behaviors aren’t needed.

Promoting Safer Interactions With A Dog

Whether it’s reducing the probability of your dog or another dog’s risk of biting, there are some rules that everyone should look to follow. These include:

Your Dog

  • Always keep your dog on a leash while walking in public areas.
  • Ensure your dog is enclosed in a fenced area – your mailman will thank you for this.
  • Keep an eye on your dog whenever they are let off the leash in permitted areas.
  • If your pug has aggressive tendencies, perhaps think about using a muzzle. Otherwise, keep them strictly controlled by not allowing your dog to approach other people or pets. Always warn others.
  • Make sure your pug’s vaccinations are up to date. If there is a bite, there won’t be as much to worry about.
  • Be understanding and have patience with your dog. Playful biting is normal behavior for a puppy.
  • Seek professional help from an animal behaviorist to treat aggressive behaviors.

Other Dogs

  • When interacting with an unknown or another owner’s dog, let it sniff your hand before petting it.
  • Always keep your kids and dog supervized when playing with another dog.
  • Never approach another dog without the owner’s permission.
  • Avoid interacting with another dog while they’re sleeping, eating, or caring for newborn puppies.
  • Avoid touching an injured dog, as they’ll likely be sensitive about it. Contact emergency services if necessary.
  • Never put your face close to an unknown dog.
  • When chased by a dog, don’t run away. Remain still and avoid eye contact until they lose interest.

What To Do When Bitten

Pugs might be small but despite this, a bite from a fully grown adult pug can still do some damage. Unfortunately, in a scenario where this does happen, it’s imperative for you to know what to do. Bacteria from a dog bite can cause infections and a human to be ill. Antibiotics will need to be given in order to prevent this.

As soon as you’re bitten, apply immediate pressure to the wound. Clean the area with soap and water to wash away any saliva or blood. Wipe the area and continue to apply pressure with a towel or bandage. This should slow down the bleeding. Apply an antiseptic if you have it available. If severe enough, see a doctor for a diagnosis and consequent treatment.

If your dog is fully vaccinated and the bite didn’t cause too much injury, then you should be fine after a few days. But if it is another dog, and you’re unsure of their immunization history, then it’s best to visit a doctor as a precaution. You may need to quarantine for 10 days and look for signs of rabies during this time.

Teething

When puppies are teething, they’ll want to continually gnaw on something to help soothe the pain while teeth are growing and their gums are sensitive. It’s not their fault, but they’ll likely chew on anything that can help relieve the discomfort. During this period, you’ll need to be wary of your hands and household items.

Provide your pug with a chew toy to bite on during this time. Ice cubes can also be helpful, especially on hot days. Make sure you remember to praise them while chewing their toys, so they can associate right from wrong. Try and remove all hazardous and toxic objects that’s within reach. Indoor plants, electrical cables, and TV removes won’t last very long. They can even be harmful for your pooch.

There are also sprays from a pet store that you can purchase to promote anti-chewing behaviors. They’re very bitter tasting and dogs find it foul. You can apply this to furniture and other objects around the house that may be at risk of being chewed on while they’re teething. Teething can last until they are 7-8 months of age, which is about when their adult teeth will be completely grown and established.

Are All Chew Toys Acceptable?

While dogs have been chewing on a range of different objects over centuries, and usually without incident, it doesn’t mean everything is risk-free. Bones, rawhides, synthetic toys, and other alternatives can cause gastrointestinal blockages or punctures when swallowed. This can be life-threatening and will often require surgery to correct. There is also the danger of a dog choking, which can lead to asphyxiation.

Speak with your veterinarian for recommendations that will be safest for your pug. Regardless, it’s imperative that you always superverize your dog while playing with chew toys or chomping on long-lasting treats. Veterinary dentists usually recommend against allowing puppies and senior dogs from chewing objects that are too hard, such as bones and anything made out of nylon. The general rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t bend, don’t let your dog chew it.

Do I Need To Brush My Dog’s Teeth?

Dental problems are common amongst dogs that don’t have their teeth regularly brushed. It’s important to train your dog to tolerate brushing as puppies in order to prevent such issues. It will be a lot harder for an adult dog to cooperate, and if problems arise, they can be very costly.

Getting your pug used to having something in their mouth is a good place to start. This means something other than a chew toy or food, so they can control their strength. As mentioned with training your dog’s bite inhibition, it will also help when needing to retrieve objects from their mouth without the risk of getting bitten and causing you injury.

Introduce a toothbrush and canine toothpaste to your dog. Human toothpaste isn’t suitable and will make them sick. Allow your pug to familiarize themselves with it first by letting him freely probe and lick it. Brachycephalic dogs like the pug have a different head structure due to their flat faces, so it would be wise to speak to your veterinarian to demonstrate an appropriate brushing technique. Eventually, your pug will be able to tolerate and even look forward to brushing their teeth on a daily basis.

Behavior Change: No Longer Biting Or Chewing

In the instance where you notice your pug refraining from chewing or biting, it can indicate that there is a problem. Common dental issues like periodontal disease is an infection caused by plaque build up. The bacteria will cause smelly breath, and visible tartar above the gum line and around the infected teeth.

If brushing is neglected, food debris will accumulate into plaque. When the saliva hardens this plaque, it forms into dental calculus (tartar) which attaches to the teeth. Subsequently, this can lead to gingivitis causing inflammation to the gums. Overtime, and if left untreated, the bacteria can result in tooth loss. Your pug will be in a lot of pain, avoid using their teeth, and have trouble eating as well.

Keep an eye on symptoms such as difficulty eating, weight loss, bad breath, drooling, swollen gums, and tooth discoloration. As soon as any of these are noticed, it’s vital that you check your dog in at the vet for a diagnosis. If the issue is severe enough, it may require surgery as some conditions can be life threatening.

Related Questions

Are pugs snappy? Not ordinarily. Pugs are friendly and calm in most cases, but can become aggressive if not properly socialized or when there is a sense of danger. Their aggression can be manifested in nipping, barking, growling, and lunging.

Do pug bites hurt? Yes, if they’re aggressively biting then a pug’s bite can definitely hurt. Despite their size, they have razor-sharp teeth like most dogs. Their jaw strength is powerful enough to snap bones, so human skin can no doubt be punctured if bitten. Thankfully, pugs are lovers rather than fighters, and training can go a long way to prevent such incidents.

How to discipline a pug? Focus on using positive reinforcement to correct any intended behaviors. At most, use firm body language and a stern tone of voice to get your point across. Ignore them for a few minutes at a time if the training calls for it. Never resort to physical punishment as they’re unlikely to associate why they’re getting smacked.

References

ASPCA, n.d. Mouthing, Nipping and Biting in Puppies.

Huff, F. J., n.d. Common Dog Dental Problems.

Williams, K. & Lerner, R., n.d. Teeth, Teething and Chewing in Puppies.

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