Does your puppy chew up everything in his sight? Does it mouth you playfully, or make a mess of your newspaper, footwear, favorite pair of jeans, or any other object within its reach?
The behavior is not unique to your puppy, as it is a stage that every puppy goes through while growing up. There are two reasons that can be attributed to this mouthy behavior of puppies.
- Just like babies try to explore the world with their hands, puppies like to explore their surroundings with their mouth. This is why they smell, lick, and bite everything they come into contact
- When they are four to six months old, puppies start to lose their baby teeth, which are replaced with adult teeth. During this stage, their gums tend to be sore, as a result of which they like to chew on something to ease the pain and
While mouthing and playful biting are perfectly normal, the behavior should not be encouraged for several reasons.
Why Playful Mouthing Should Be Nipped in the Bud?
If you do not discipline your puppy when it mouths or nips you, it might never learn that biting people is wrong. While you might find it cute when your little pup tries to nip you, you might not feel the same way when your fully grown dog bites someone.
Dogs are so likable and faithful that we sometimes forget that they are carnivores with hardwired predatory instincts. They have powerful jaws and sharp teeth, using which they can inflict some serious damage if they intend to.
Consider the following scenarios:
- A child is playing in the garden, where your dog is sleeping. The child accidentally slips and falls on the
- Your neighbor visits your place, sees your dog, and tries to pet it. His clothes or watch gets caught in your dog’s collar and he tries to free
- Your elderly father needs to go to the bathroom and he fails to notice your dog, which is sleeping on the floor, and inadvertently steps on
In each of these scenarios, the dog’s reaction depends entirely on its behavior. If it is trained not to bite, or at the very least trained to control its bite pressure, it is likely to react in the following three different ways, depending on its temperament:
- Cry in pain and run
- Growl in pain and snap at the person who caused it, without biting
- Bite the person without applying too much pressure, so that the person does not get injured.
On the other hand, if the dog has never had any bite inhibition training, it is likely to react aggressively and injure a person.
Consequences of a Dog Bite when there is No Bite Inhibition Training
The consequences of getting bitten by a dog which has not undergone any bite inhibition training can be really serious. Depending on the severity of the bite, the injured person might require first aid, sutures, or even surgery. It also depends on the dog’s breed – the bite of a Beagle is not the same as the bite of a Doberman.
Apart from the medical consequences, there might be legal consequences to a severe bite injury from a dog that has not received any bite inhibition training. Under Ohio law, a person who suffers an injury as a result of a dog bite can file a lawsuit against the dog owner and seek compensation for the medical treatment as well as the loss of income and other losses associated with the injury.
If the victim of the bite is able to prove that the dog owner acted in a malicious or negligent manner, they might be eligible to receive both compensatory and punitive damages.
So, any way you look at it, it is in your best interests to make sure your dog is properly trained in bite inhibition and does not bite people by applying too much jaw pressure.
What is Bite Inhibition Training for Dogs?
Bite inhibition refers to the ability of a dog to voluntarily control his bite pressure so that he does not cause any damage to the person or animal on the receiving end. This is something that most puppies learn naturally from their mother and their littermates.
Young puppies tend to chase after one another, wrestle each other, and bite each other playfully. They also tend to nip their mother playfully.
Once in a while, a puppy might bite his littermate a little too hard. When it happens, the victim of the bite usually lets out a loud yelp, stops playing for a while or bites back. As a result, the puppy which originally bit his littermate understands that he has done something wrong.
This is how puppies usually learn to control their bite pressure in a natural setting. The problem, however, is that not all puppies stay with their mother or littermates long enough to learn how to bite without causing any injury.
If you bring home a young puppy – less than six weeks old – it is entirely your responsibility to train him and make sure he learns the importance of bite inhibition at a very young age.
Teaching bite inhibition at a young age becomes necessary because dogs tend to develop strong jaws and canine teeth by the fifth month. If they are not fully trained by the time they are five to six months old, even their playful bites can hurt someone badly, since they might not realize their own strength.
How to Train Your Puppy to Control its Bite Pressure?
There are several ways to train your puppy to control his bite pressure.
Puppy Play Dates
Young puppies tend to learn the importance of bite inhibition faster when they socialize with other puppies and dogs, rather than human beings. So, supervised play dates, where your pup can play with other pups or even fully grown dogs, can be an excellent learning experience for your puppy.
The pups and dogs that are brought to these types of play dates are usually well trained and well behaved. Moreover, the play date takes place in a supervised setup. So, it is the ideal place for your puppy to learn how to control his aggression and bite pressure.
Training the Puppy Yourself
Play dates can help your puppy to learn and understand that he needs to control his bite pressure while playing with his own kind. What is even more important is that he should learn the same thing with respect to human beings.
If your puppy does not know that the human skin is sensitive, he might apply too much pressure albeit unintentionally – while playing with you. So, it is very important to let your puppy know that they should be very gentle while playing with or interacting with human beings in social
Let us now take a look at the various steps involved in bite inhibition training.
Good Dog, Bad Dog Comments
If your puppy bites you, let out a high-pitched ‘ouch’ and stop playing with him. Your puppy is likely to stop biting you immediately, as he realizes that he has done something bad. If he does not, you can say something like ‘you are a bad doggie’ or ‘I won’t play with you’ in a stern manner and turn away.
If your puppy starts licking the area where he bit you and looks at you apologetically, praise him by saying ‘you are a good doggie’ or ‘I like you’ and then continue playing with him.
Leave the Room
If yelping or reprimanding your puppy in a stern voice does not work, you can simply stop playing with him and ignore him for a minute. If he does not relent, just get up and leave the room. You can even shut the door in your puppy’s face for added drama.
Let your puppy be alone for a few minutes. After the time-out, come back into the room again and start playing with him. If he bites you again, repeat the same procedure until your pup understands that you will leave the room every time he bites you.
If your puppy bites you hard, let out a yelp to make him pause. When he does, give your puppy something safe to chew on – it could be a bone, stuffed animal, or chew toy. The method is called redirecting since it requires you to redirect your puppy’s attention from your body to an inanimate object.
This method is known to work with most puppies since it involves two steps. First, you tell the puppy that it is not okay to bite you by letting out a loud yelp.
Second, you tell the puppy what he can bite or play with. As a result, your puppy understands what he is not allowed to do (biting human beings) and what he is allowed to do (biting inanimate objects) at the same time.
Hide the Treat
Sometimes, your puppy might not bite you intentionally, but might be too aggressive while eating a treat out of your hand and end up hurting you.
If it happens, simply close your fist with the treat still inside and wait until the pup softens his bite. Once he does, open your hand again and feed him. Repeat it every time your puppy bites – even unintentionally – while eating a treat.
Lick, Not Bite
Smack a little peanut butter or jam on your hand and allow your puppy to lick it off. If he tries to eat using its teeth, take your hand away and say ‘no bite’. Wait for a few seconds and then lower your hand again. Repeat it until your puppy understands that it is okay to lick you, but it is not okay to bite you.
Command to Stop Biting
Any time you want your puppy to stop biting you, say ‘no bite’, ‘stop’, or ‘off’ in a stern voice. If he stops biting, reward the good behavior by offering a treat. Repeat it again and again so that your puppy understands that he should stop biting immediately on given the command.
The method can be used not just to teach your puppy not to bite, but also to control any sort of aggressive behavior. The idea is to make your puppy understand that he should stop doing whatever he is doing on hearing the command.
Pet with One Hand, Treat with the Other
When you pat, scratch, or stroke your puppy, he might get excited and try to bite your hand playfully. If you encourage the behavior, he might mistakenly think that it is okay to bite people when they try to pet him.
To discourage this behavior, have a box of treats by your side when you pet him. Pet him with one hand and when he tries to mouth you, feed him a treat using your other hand. Do it regularly until he gets used to being touched and petted by people without having the urge to bite them.
Use a Taste Deterrent
It is a prudent idea to apply a taste deterrent on your clothes, footwear, and other objects that you do not want your puppy to sink his or her teeth into. You can also spray it on your arms and legs before you start playing with him. The smell of the deterrent itself might prevent your puppy from biting you. Even if he tries to bite you, he will let go of you immediately due to the bitter taste.
You can try using the deterrent a few times, until your puppy understands that mouthing or biting people will have bitter consequences. It is equally important to praise him or give him a treat every time he stops biting you and lets you go. This way, he or she can associate bitterness with bad behavior (biting people) and sweetness with good behavior (not biting people).
Consider Using a Peppermint Spray
This is not a very pleasant training method and should be employed only if all the aforementioned methods fail to produce any results (which is not likely to happen with 99% of puppies).
Keep a peppermint or spearmint spray by your side while playing with your puppy. When he tries to bite you, yelp loudly, as mentioned in the very first method. When he pauses, squirt a small amount of the spray into his mouth. Your puppy is not likely to enjoy the smell, taste, or the sensation in his mouth.
Every time he tries to bite you, use the spray so that he associates the unpleasant taste and sensation with his mouthy behavior and learns to keep his aggressiveness in check.
There are three reasons why this method is meant to be used as a last resort.
- Some of the dog owners might be uncomfortable with the thought of punishing a little puppy for something he does
- If you do not aim properly and spray it into his eyes, it can be extremely painful for your puppy, as a result of which he might become more
- If you do not spray it quickly, your puppy might spot the can of spray in your hand and reach for it. It might quickly turn into a tug of war or a wrestling match, which is the last thing you want to do while training your
What Not to Do as Part of Bite Inhibition Training?
Now that you know what you should do with your puppy, let us take a look at the list of things you should not do.
- Do not wave your fingers or toes in your pup’s face, as it can encourage him to bite
- Do not pull your hand or foot away from your puppy in a sudden, abrupt manner while he is mouthing you. It might seem like a game to your puppy and encourage him to bite you again. More importantly, if your puppy has dug his teeth deep into your skin, you might injure yourself by jerking your hand or leg away
- Do not stop playing with your dog just because he bites you. The solution to your puppy’s mouthy behavior is bite inhibition training, not isolation and neglect. Pets need human interaction more than anything else. The more they interact with people, the better behaved they tend to
- Do not try to close your puppy’s mouth forcefully with your hands, hit him on the nose, or do an ‘alpha roll’ to show him who controls whom. Physical punishment is often counterproductive, as it can scare your puppy away from you, which defeats the whole purpose of adopting a pet in the first
Secondly, physical punishment might increase aggression and belligerence in animals. So, teach and train your dog patiently rather than trying to scare him or her into changing their behavior.
You only want to use physical force if your dog is doing something terribly wrong and they are not responding to your voice at all.
Seek Professional Help for Your Dog’s Bite Pressure Training
If training your puppy is proving to be too challenging a task for you, you should get in touch with a professional dog trainer or an animal behaviorist. They can train your dog, teach him how to control his bite pressure, and instill a sense of obedience in him.
Though most people don’t have the money for this and this should not be necessary for the most part.
Train Them Early
Whether you decide to train your puppy by yourself or seek professional help, you should do it when it is young enough to learn quickly. Young pups are easier to control and train than adult dogs. Ideally, your dog should be properly trained in bite inhibition by the time it is three months old.
If you are bitten by someone else’s dog, trust a full-service law firm to protect your interests.
Dog bites can have serious consequences. As a responsible dog owner, you may hesitate to file a claim against the owner of a dog that has bitten you. Although it’s rare, even the gentlest dog can react to unanticipated stimuli with tragic results. If you’ve been injured by someone else’s dog, you deserve to be compensated, even if the dog that bit you was usually as well-behaved as your own dog. Once your medical issues are under control, reach out to an experienced law firm with expertise in dog bite cases.
Like so many others who have placed their trust in us, you can count on Slater & Zurz LLP to thoroughly evaluate your rights, answer your questions, and recommend the best path forward for you, based on your circumstances and the expertise we’ve developed over the years handling dog-bite cases. Call or email our team of seasoned professionals for a free consultation. We’re here to serve your legal needs with compassion, dedication, and the drive to win.