Dog Biting Series Part II - How to Train a Puppy Not to Bite
Puppies, like babies, use their mouth to explore their world. “Mouthing” helps them to learn. That’s why a baby will stick everything in its mouth. And that’s why your puppy does the same thing – including his littermate’s ear or paw! Ouch!
Mouthing is a natural part of puppyhood. Puppies investigate things by chewing and licking. They “mouth” their siblings, and then they proceed to mouth us. Biting and mouthing go hand in hand. It’s while your puppy is in its mouthing-stage that we need to teach him what is and what is not acceptable.
Fortunately, your puppy’s littermates began the process of teaching biting restraint. A puppy will bite his sibling in play and cause it to yelp in pain… and then at some point the same thing is bound to happen to the puppy who did the biting. It’s this type of interaction that helps puppies learn the consequences of their biting and how to be gentle.
Then as we begin playing with our puppies, the mouthing continues. This is when we need to take over the job of teaching our puppy not to bite us. If our puppy bites too hard during play we need to “yelp” too – just like their littermate did – so that they recognize it as a negative (hurtful) repercussion. Then stop playing for a few minutes, maybe even turning your head away from your pup to prove your displeasure. What we are trying to do is teach our puppy that gentle play continues happily, but if it hurts, the playing stops. Continue to repeat this process until your puppy consistently mouths gently during play, thus controlling his biting.
How to Train Adult Dogs Not to Bite
Sometimes an adult dog will mouth just like a young puppy. Don’t panic… it doesn’t mean that your dog has aggressive tendencies or intends to bite you, but mouthing as an adult dog is a behavior that should be corrected. More than likely, it just means that your dog was not taught properly as a puppy.
However, if your adult dog shows other signs of aggression, or continues improper biting, professional dog training is highly recommended. It is important to address this type of behavior at the earliest sign of a problem. The younger the dog is, the quicker he will respond to training. Also, be sure to talk to your vet about the problems you are having to rule out any medical causes for your dog’s conduct.
Obedience training is by far the best thing you can do for your dog, whether you have a puppy or an adult dog. A dog who is well trained is safer to have around family and friends than a dog who does not understand or respond to basic commands. Not only that, but training has a positive impact on many of the potential reason as to why a dog might bite, including: fear, frustration and socialization. Dog training refocus’ your dog’s mindset, assists with impulse control, and modifies all types of problem behavior.
In addition to professional training, dog bite prevention starts at home. Here are a few things that you can do to help your dog overcome his inclination to bite:
Most dogs have energy to burn. When that energy is not expended, it can be re-directed to something unhealthy and potentially unsafe. Many of our domesticated pets these days are home alone all day suppressing all kinds of anxiety and frustration. Dogs require regular exercise to burn up all that excess energy and place them in a calm, passive state. A dog in a passive, or submissive state is less likely to bite. Doggie Day Care at Holiday Barn Pet Resorts is an excellent outlet for your dog’s pent-up energies.
Playing with your dog teaches him how to appropriately interact with humans. Avoid games that could encourage dominant behavior, such as tug-of-war, or wrestling. Throw the tennis ball, or teach him how to catch a frisbee.
We want our dogs to be comfortable and confident in any situation. A dog who has been exposed to lots of people, places, and circumstances through-out his life will not be fearful and therefore, unlikely to feel the need to react badly to things that are foreign to him.
• Spaying and Neutering
Many believe that spaying and neutering your dog will help to control his temperament, particularly in a male dog. Neutering stops the production of testosterone, which is a hormone responsible for aggressive behaviors. There are many good reasons for spaying and neutering, but using this method for controlling behavior is somewhat controversial and should be discussed with your Veterinarian.
Punishing your dog by hitting or smacking is worst thing you can do – in all circumstances – but particularly if your dog shows aggressive tendencies. Not only is it barbaric and cruel, but studies show that owners who use aggressive means to correct their dogs – hitting, kicking, shaking, scruffing, etc. – experience a kickback of aggression from their dogs! Additionally, this type of punishment can make your dog scared of you. If you have ruined that human-animal trust, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to build that trust again.
Please do not hesitate to contact our Professional Dog Trainers in Richmond, VA for advice on handling behavior issues with your dog.
Interested in learning more about dog biting?
Explore the other two posts in this series from our dog trainers to learn everything there’s to know why dogs bite, how to train them not to, and how to avoid being bitten.
- Dog Biting Series Part II - How to Train a Puppy Not to Bite