Step by Step Guide to Overcoming Puppy Biting
Understanding Bite Inhibition
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.
Further down the page is a video of my daughter’s dogs play fighting. It is a good example of bite inhibition and explains this behaviour far better than I can!
Bite inhibition 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 to reduce puppy biting should be started immediately. Don’t delay this training until 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. However, a fully grown jaw and a full set of adult molars are a different matter!
Step by Step Guide to Overcoming Puppy Biting
1. When the puppy puts too much pressure on your hand with his teeth, make a high pitched yelping sound. This distracts the pup so he immediately stops, additionally it simulates the sound his mother would make to discipline her offspring.
Continue to do this whenever the puppy inflicts pain.
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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4 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 these elements make for a well behaved fully grown dog.
5 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 so important to overcome puppy biting?
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. This training gives the owner full control of his dog if the situation arises.
( A dog owner should always know the warning signs that a dog will give off before biting and take steps to prevent escalation.)
A dog is a naturally friendly and sociable soul but, like humans, all dogs have a tolerance level.
The friendliest dog can give a nasty bite if proper training is not given to overcome puppy biting.
Playfighting with a ‘Soft-Mouth’
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.
This video is a great example of two dogs displaying excellent bite inhibition. One dog is much larger than the other, but the small one is not intimidated and her tail is wagging. Notice that although the noise level appears to be aggressive the play biting is gentle and respectful. The larger dog is still a puppy but the video shows that he understands the art of a ‘soft mouth’ when play fighting. It is a good idea to monitor this type of play and intervene if the play fighting escalates or one of the dogs appear uncomfortable.
Personally, I love to watch dogs playing together. It is possible to tell how submissive a dog is by his body language and the placement of the tail gives an indication of stress levels.
As the dog reaches maturity the urge to chew or mouth should completely cease. It should be discouraged because a stranger or child can feel intimidated by a fully grown dog exhibiting this behaviour. The ‘off’ or ‘leave’ command can be used if the behaviour continues after puppyhood.
Here are some recommended dog chew toys designed to help bite inhibition.
These chewing toys also stop boredom, frustration, and anxiety caused by the urge to chew.
Here are some more great puppy training tips.