What is it?
It is a very important part of your puppies training and teaches the dog to use a ‘soft mouth’ (ie. no biting) when interacting. It means that the dog can control how much pressure he/she uses so as not to cause damage to a person or other dog.
This training begins whilst the dog is still part of the litter. Research shows that single puppy litters or puppies which have been removed from their litter too early have a harder bite. A larger litter will teach the puppy to show higher tolerance levels with his siblings, which continues into later life.
Puppy biting is not only the urge to chew due to sore gums but an exploratory behaviour.
The training should be started immediately, not when the pup is old enough to go to training classes, no dog is ever too young.
A puppy’s teeth are sharp, but not capable of doing much damage, a fully grown jaw and a full set of adult molars are a different matter!
How is it taught?
Simulate what the mother would do when too much jaw pressure is applied. Make a yelp sound and remove your hand instantly.
Continue to do this whenever the puppy inflicts pain.
It is important to know that it is natural for pups to chew and mouth so only discourage the behaviour if too much pressure is applied.
When the pup applies little or no pressure, tell him repeatedly what a good dog he is.
Have small toys on hand to redirect the attention away from your hands if the puppy wants to chew too much. Teach children to introduce toys to chew if the child is nervous of the sharp teeth.
If the puppy begins to jump up to the face or even nips the face, stop play immediately, walk away and shut the door. The pup will soon get the message that this is strictly not acceptable.
Play fighting is a good way to train bite inhibition but do not allow the pup to bite on clothes, shoelaces, etc which have no sensitivity. Only hands are acceptable therefore the bite pressure can be monitored. It’s a great way to introduce your puppy to rules, boundaries and good manners, all which make for a well behaved fully grown dog.
Never play tug with a puppy. The jaw has not properly formed and can be easily dislocated and teeth can be misaligned or broken.
Why is it important?
Apart from the obvious reasons, a dog needs to take a treat gently, without snatching or using too much pressure. You will need to examine the mouth of your pet occasionally, and ideally, be allowed to brush his teeth.
Pups pick up all sorts of things they shouldn’t eg stones, fluff, children’s toys etc. It is important that you can reach into the mouth and remove these objects whenever you suspect the puppy has picked up something that could hurt him if swallowed,
It is natural for a dog to want to bite if he feels scared, is provoked or feels that someone could harm his owner. By teaching bite inhibition, if ever the situation arises where the dog feels the need to bite, it should be done with control and not inflict too much damage.
( A dog owner should always know the warning signs that a dog will give off before biting and take steps to prevent escalation.)
All puppies like to play fight and it often continues into adulthood. Anyone who has ever heard two dogs play fighting could be forgiven for thinking the dogs are trying to kill each other. However, when the playfighting stops there is not a cut or graze to be seen. This is because the dogs have finely tuned their bite inhibition, they interact with a soft mouth and do not apply pressure.
As the dog reaches maturity the urge to chew or mouth should completely cease. If it doesn’t, it should be discouraged because a stranger or child will not take too kindly to a fully grown dog exhibiting this behaviour. The ‘off’ or ‘leave’ command can be used if the behaviour continues after puppyhood.
Some recommended chewing products (with affiliate links) which I have used in the past. They are good for interaction when bite inhibition is being trained but can also deter and distract from unwanted chewing ( ie the furniture.) Some are tasty to make them more appealing than your chair legs and they are durable and made from safe products.
Teething products can also be purchased but that is a totally different subject to bite inhibition.
These chewing toys also stop boredom, frustration, and anxiety caused by the urge to chew.