Dog bite inhibition refers to teaching dogs to control the force of their bite. It is important that owners teach their puppies this skill during the first few months of life. In many cases, puppies learn bite inhibition naturally from their mother or other puppies. Mother dogs will push a puppy over or walk away if the puppy bites down while feeding. The puppy learns that he or she must not bite in order to get fed. When playing with other puppies, the puppy that bites too hard finds fewer playmates and more fights, and so learns to control biting.
In the first 2 to 4 months of life, if a puppy is with his mother or spends time with other puppies, bite inhibition will be learned. However, if your puppy is separated from its mother and littermates too soon, it may not learn about bite inhibition. Group obedience class and interaction with other dogs is one way to ensure that your puppy learns bite inhibition.
It is important to teach your puppy bite inhibition because you may be held liable if your dog injures someone. Additionally, a puppy that has not learned bite inhibition can be a serious threat to others. A dog that bites can cause serious personal injury and can even cause head injuries to children. If your dog bites someone, you may not only face legal problems, but you may lose your pet as well.
The problem with dog bites is that dogs can bite in play as well as in fear or anger. Dogs bite in aggression when they growl and act aggressively. However, they may also bite hard in play. This is because dogs use their mouths the way we use our hands – to interact and make contact with others. When they get too excited, they will sometimes bite down too hard, in much the same way that we sometimes get clumsy with our own hands. It is important that you teach your dog to not bite hard in play as well as in aggression. A bite inflicted during play can cause an injury just like a bite inflicted in aggression.
If you have a puppy, you can teach it to bite less by reacting like another puppy. If your puppy clamps down hard during play, let out a yelp and stop playing with the puppy. Walk away and ignore the puppy. Over time – it may take weeks – the puppy will learn to bite less and will bite less aggressively as well. This technique is good because it mimics the way puppies generally learn bite inhibition. Just make sure that everyone is consistent in using this technique with the puppy.
Another good option is to use only dog toys to play with your dog. This teaches your puppy not to see people’s hands as toys that can be bitten. Also, giving your dog toys allows your puppy to satisfy the desire to gnaw and chew in a safe way. If these methods do not work, seek professional help from a trainer.