Pet Tips

Tip – 44 – Dog biting – bite inhibition

All puppies love to play by being mouthy and biting or chewing anything they can get their sharp little teeth into. These sharp teeth are the reason that it is crucial for puppies to learn bite inhibition (controlling the force of their bite) during the first few months of life. Normally this is learned naturally and effectively through contact with mom and other littermates. If the puppy bites mom during nursing mom can roll the dog over to correct it or just get up and walk away. Hungry puppy learns very quickly to control those teeth if it wants to eat. Likewise when playing with littermates, if a puppy gets bitten too hard it will yelp and stop playing. Once again puppy learns that biting hard means the end of something good. Normally if puppy stays with his littermates for the first 2-4 months of its life it will learn bite inhibition.This is why it is so important for dogs to meet and play with other dogs. A group obedience class is usually the best way to properly socialize dogs, and reduce possible bad behaviours in the future even if the dog stayed with its littermates for a long time.

When it comes to humans, a new puppy or dog may never have learned that hard biting on humans is never allowed. When a puppy bites you during play it’s almost never an aggressive bite, it is just play.(You would know if it’s an aggressive bite because the dog would be acting aggressively i.e. growling.) Dogs play using their mouths because they are like its hands. They touch and grab and lick, it’s one of the ways they interact with us and the world. It’s up to the dog owner to teach the dog bite control if the dog hasn’t learned this on its own. Usually puppies and dogs will bite our hands because that’s the way we interact with them during feeding, grooming, playing etc.

The best approach to teaching a puppy or dog bite control is usually adopting the behaviour of one of the dog’s littermates. If the dog gets too mouthy and bites you too hard during play, exaggerate a loud yelp or cry and immediately stop whatever activity you are doing. Turn away and ignore your dog. Sometimes this takes a bunch of lessons, but most dogs will learn it over time. At first the goal should be getting the dog to reduce the force of the bite. Then the goal is to reduce the frequency of biting. Expect that it will take a few days to a week. Hitting a dog after a bite is the worst thing you can do because the dog’s intent was play not harm. A hit from you therefore, confuses the dog and it may even react defensively, this time biting you with intent.

In general teach the dog that playing with dog toys is better than playing with hands directly because the game lasts so much longer. Play with a frisbee, rope, Kong, ball etc. Don’t use your hands as a dog toy. Most puppies bite you accidentally and that’s how you both learn. If you have already received an accidental play bite so you know how hard it is, and you want to deliberately elicit a bite to teach the dog bite inhibition, only then should you play directly with your hands. You will probably get a bite and it probably won’t hurt that much and the puppy might learn faster. Wear long sleeves and protective ace bandages or gloves if you’re afraid.

Remember: All family members must be consistent, a bite equals a cry from you and the end of play and attention.

If your dog is regularly overly mouthy, aggressive or you feel threatened by your dog, then it’s time to seek immediate professional help. Ask your vet to give you some referrals.

More information on this subject can be found here.

2 Responses to this Article, So Far

  1. Avatar Belinda perez says:

    Please help.! I have an average loving puppy. She’s 5 months old.. A chichuhua
    And only when she’s eating/ chewing on something she shouldn’t is when she will angrily growl.. We have tried to distract her w other toys.. But it doesn’t work. We finally end up taking the item away& she will attack..& bite!!! Hard..& breaks the skin..! Also when I try to put any type of clothing in her is an even bigger issue.!! She will once again angrily attack..!!
    We can do w out the clothing. It’s just she’s small & want to keep her warm on these cold months!!!
    Really need help.. Don’t want to get rid of her.. But my patience is running thin!! Thank u..

    • Avatar Marko says:

      This teeny dog STILL needs obedience training and if you get her that training you won’t feel like you want to get rid of her.

      This dog is exhibiting clear signs of aggression and dominance and needs to be gently demoted!
      A couple of tips that may help. No FREE FEEDING. Make the dog see that YOU are the food giver. Leave food out for 15 minutes and take it away if it’s not finished.
      – No toys to be left out. YOU are the toy provider. make the dog SIT before the dog gets the toy.

      You will learn all this stuff and more in any group obedience training course….and your life with the dog will be fantastic. Just make sure the trainer is referred by someone you trust (like a vet).
      Good luck.

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