Land Shark: The truth about Teaching Bite Inhibition to Puppies.by Michelle St Germain on 10/11/12
SHARK PUPPY: Teaching your puppy BITE INHIBITION.
One of the most common annoyances of puppyhood is their constant biting and nipping. This is ususally the first thing people who have just aquired a puppy want to change about their behaviour. WHY? Well, it really hurts. Secondly, we are frightened with the reality that puppies who are allowed to continued to bite grow into adult dogs who bite. This is not only worrisome to pwners but it is a huge liability. A dog that bites is dangerous.
So should we discuss the bad news about biting first and then move on to the good news? Yes, I did say there is good news. Don't turn away just yet, I'm not crazy! The bad news is obviously the biting hurts, it is very destructive at times, super annoying and of course did I mention it really hurts. Some dogs do indeed bite more often and harder then others. There are no breeds that bite more or harder than others, it is a dog behaviour not a breed behaviour. I do find that more confident dogs, regardless of sex tend to use their mouths more often when excited. The shyer dogs tend to bite less and softer and take human feedback more seriously than their cocky counterparts. Are confident dogs more likely to become aggressive as adults..not necessarily! These dogs in particular need to be kept on top of and made to follow the rules of the house. The rules need to be established sooner rather than later. Nothing in Life is Free is a great program to start all puppies on from Day one.
On to the good news. The good news is that your puppy is in fact using its mouth on you! Why would anyone say that or even agree to that ridiculous statement? I say this because if puppies didn't bite then how on earth could we teach that them to be gentle with their soon to be powerful teeth. How could we teach a dog who never uses its mouth, or discouraged to early to stop using its mouth on humans that biting HURTS! The truth is that we couldn't with any real reliability. A puppy mouth although at times does scratch, pierce and even on occasion does leave a mark is relatively SAFE as the only have baby teeth and an underdeveloped jaw strength. This rule of course applies only to puppies under 6 months of age. Puppies first need to be taught that biting hurts and to inhibit the force of their bite. We do this by teaching a puppy to mouth us before we decrease the incidences of biting and therefore stop the biting all together.
On of the best teachers of BITE INHIBITION are other puppies. We have all seen how puppies play with one another. There is constant biting, attacking, flying through the air and all sorts of out of control behaviours. What happens when one puppy bites too hard? YYEELLPPPPPP! Then what happens is almost always the result of a play session gone terribly wrong. The play will stop, it may not be for longer than a nano second, but it will stop or slow down. The serial biter will be sent an important message , it is if you bite too hard again you will be friendless and the good times will be over for him. Bite softer and you can still play with us! He may not get the message the first time or even the second but the more he gets to practice he soon will learn that hard bites lead to solitary confinement! What's the fun in that? The biter also realizes that it is his biting that is causing the other puppies to avoid him. Play sessions will be more enjoyable for all. It is so important to allow puppies to play with other dogs. They are first and foremost the first teachers your dog will have. Puppies should also be allowed to stay with their litters until minimum of 8 weeks of age. Earlier extraction from the litter and momma can result in lost socialization as well as lost information in biting skills. What does momma dog do when an over zealous pup bites her teat when nursing? Let's just say her discipline usually results in an immediate understanding of the rules as only another dog can teach it.
At 8 weeks of age these biting machines come home to live with a human litter. Humans are so fun to bite as their reactions are funny. Humans yelp, sream, screech, run, play tug of war, play chase, rough house even more. They wear clothing that waves in the breeze, that is so fun to grab and shake. Sometime if we are lucky an unsuspecting human will nuzzle their faces and ears into our faces and CLAMP we get them. These scenarios are funny to the reader but not so much to the family living the horror. How on earth did we domesticate their horrible little saber tooth tigers? Why do we choose to share our homes with these crocodiles? Why? Why? Why? Well, look into their furry little faces, smell the puppy breath (hope all it is is their breath), their wagging little tails...the list goes on. Puppies are AWESOME. Puppies are FUN! Puppies are unconditional love machines! But inside also lurks a bundle of mischief who need a whole lotta training to get the dog you want.
We need to set the rules from day one of puppy joining the family. Please don't think that the biting is just a phase, that she will grow out of the behaviour or give them the she is teething excuse. These myths are simply nothing short of ridiculous and unrealistic. The behaviour if not managed properly now will only get worse or never go away entirely. Day 1 start BITE INHIBITION training, whenver puppy puts his mouth on you regardless if it hurts or not you YELP or firmly say OUCH! to the puppy and stop all interactions with him, walk away if necessary. You need to teach him that all bites hurt until you can feel a marked decrease in the pressure being used. This could take several weeks but the more feedback she gets earlier the faster she will learn to mouth you instead of bite you. Anytime you play with your pup, feed the pup, interact with the pup, if there is mouth contact the human needs to react as if the pup has just commited the worst crime possible. Once the puppy understand to only mouth humans then we can start decreasing the frequency of the bites. You have till 5 months old to teach this vital life skill to your puppy!
- NEVER, EVER, EVER leave young children alone with a puppy who bites. You do not want the puppy in the habit of bullying the children. Puppies are excellent dterminants of the weakest link and torment that child the most. Be the voice of your children. Kids do not have the physical presence or tone of voice for the pup to take them seriously. They are seen more like littermates rather than disciplinarians.
- Never slap, swat with a newspaper or hold the puppy's mouth closed...disciplining is not suppose to hurt or intimidate! It is supposed to teach! The more often you slap or swat the pup the higher the risk of teaching your dog to fear human hands and that is a dangerous fear to have when you are a dog! This is not why you got a puppy! Remember a puppy knows nothing more than how to act like a dog! It is your job to gemtly teach her how to live in a human family!
- Puppies wil bite more frequently and harder when they are excited! When these times occur and they will. Time outs work best of all. Remove puppy from the situation and redirect her to a calm activity like chewing a bone or food stuffed KONG. When your OUCH cries are ignored, crates will keep your pup out of trouble. Take your pup on a long walk or redirect her energy to an unsuspecting chew toy or go enjoy a fun game of fetch.
- Exercise you puppy daily. A tired dog is a good dog! A tired dog is sleeping peacefully by the fireplace (awe) and not ambushing the family.
- Hand feed your puppy at least one meal a day. Each kibble you hand feed offer a training opportunity to teach your puppy GENTLE. 50 kibbles= 50 hand to mouth interactions.
- Give the puppy DOWN TIMES. They can get over stimulated like kids. So give them some alone time several times through out the day. Offer quiet things for them to play with or chew.
- Give the puppy a reasonable amount of time to succeed. If you and your family are consistent then the puppy will be too.
The truth is there are very few puppies who do not go through this developmental stage. It is very important that it is dealt with calmly and consistently in order for the dog to make the association. Biting does hurt but if you spend the time NOW you won't be sorry later!