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When people are searching for a pet, their first question is often whether the animal bites. The answer, no matter if it is a guinea pig, cat, dog, or anything else with teeth, is yes! After all, animals have to eat somehow. That said, this does not mean they are bloodthirsty creatures that are dangerous. However, accidents happen, and many animals bite for various reasons other than eating. Luckily, there are ways for dog owners to curb this behavior.
Bite inhibition teaches pups to interact with people safely, even if they are using their mouths. Training will require patience and knowledge on the owner’s part, so read on to learn the ins and outs of teaching your dog not to bite.
What Is Bite Inhibition?
Bite inhibition relates to the amount of power the dog utilizes when using his mouth to interact with the world around him, whether with other animals, people, or objects. Dogs use their mouths much like a human uses their hands, so teaching them how to do so without causing harm is a vital aspect of dog training so that accidental injuries do not occur.
Can Dogs Learn Not to Bite Naturally?
During a puppy’s first couple of months exploring the world, they often only interact with their siblings and mother. When their teeth come in when they’re about 3-4 weeks old, they are rather sharp since they are the pup’s only line of defense. If they get too rough while playing or nursing, the littermate or mama will often yelp or whine and stop interacting with them to show displeasure in the situation. Dogs are social creatures, so when they are ignored in this manner, they take notice. Of course, they don’t like their milk source getting up and walking off, either.
Therefore, the puppies’ negative punishment from their parent and siblings go a long way in teaching the animal to refrain from biting hard before they meet their forever family. If the pup was removed from their mother too soon or before the eight-week mark, this learned behavior may not have sunk in, and their new humans may have to teach them how to use their mouths appropriately.
Why Puppy Biting Should be Curbed Early On
Mouthing and biting are perfectly normal behaviors for puppies. However, if the little ball of fluff is not trained correctly, she can quickly turn into an adult dog that can be unpleasant to be around and possibly dangerous when she gets scared or stressed out.
Training your dog to learn the proper way to use their mouths will not negate how she uses it naturally but can prevent bad situations, up to and including serious injury, causing the dog to have to be put down.
Likewise, appropriate jaw pressure will make offering treats, playtime, and visits to the vet much more pleasant experiences.
Teach Your Dog Not to Bite – The Basics
Dogs can learn new skills even when they are older, so if yours is beyond the puppy stage, you should still be able to teach him not to bite.
The first task is to teach them to be gentle on human skin, especially yours. By training him on you, he will learn to regulate his jaw pressure, not harm. The teaching should begin as soon as you bring your new dog home, and playing with him is one of the best and easiest ways to start. By using soft dog toys, alerting him to when he bites too hard, and praising him when he does not, he will begin to learn what is acceptable and will generally be less likely to bite.
Using terms like ‘drop it,’ leave it,’ and ‘take it,’ help, as does rewarding when the pup uses licking instead of biting.
Reducing a Puppy’s Nipping Behavior
Anyone who has interacted with a puppy knows that their teeth are like tiny needles. While adorable, they certainly hurt when they decide our fingers and arms are chewing toys! You can help curb this behavior by:
- Keeping a lot of soft toys on hand. Puppies love the interaction, so they are unlikely to seek out a toy in another room. Therefore, aim to keep a few in every room the pup is allowed in.
- Rotate the toys with ones that you keep out of sight. This action will keep your little bundle of joy interested in them as you switch them out.
- Every time the puppy comes bounding towards you, flashing those pearly white razors, offer a toy. If she spits it out, give her another.
- If your puppy manages to bite you, let her know it is too hard by giving an audible response, such as saying “ouch!” or whining.
- Whichever response you choose, stick with it. If she notices and stops the biting, resume the game.
- Remember that rewarding good behavior  is a powerful training tool, as is consistency.
Now, if the puppy is tired or overly excited, she may not respond in the way you hope. In fact, she may think you are her own personal squeaky toy and ramp up the biting. If this occurs, stop the playtime by averting your gaze and removing all of your attention for 30 seconds. If the nipping continues, remove yourself calmly from the situation by going into a different room while closing the door behind you. In this way, you are teaching that biting equals the end of fun.
Professional Dog Trainer Tips – What NOT To Do
Keep in mind that every dog is unique, and you need to adjust training techniques to the individual. Likewise, behavioral modification does not happen overnight. However, dog trainers have come up with several tips and tricks to help.
First, let’s go over what the pros say about how not to train your dog. While you may have heard that these are tried and true methods, you should not use the following, as they produce adverse experiences:
- Biting your dog back
- Holding the dog’s mouth closed
- Grabbing the dog by the scruff
- Spraying the dog with water or another liquid
- Yelling at the dog
- Performing an alpha roll to show dominance
- Hitting the dog 
- Squeezing the dog’s gums
- Shaking a can of coins or marbles
Why are these not recommended? Any of these can cause pain or make the dog fear you. Breaking down the trust required between you and your dog is the last thing you want to do when training him, and it certainly does not teach him what good choices are.
Also, a frightened dog is not an easily trained one. Creating a fearful situation during teaching exercises may cause the pup to avoid all situations and people they associate with the learned fear. Your puppy just met you, and it is vital to create a trusting bond through loving and positive reinforcement.
Be careful what type of games you play with your dog as well. For instance, games like tug of war can make a dog more likely to bite.
Training Your Dog Not to Bite – What TO Do
Tools can be your best friend when you are training your new pet. For instance, a short dog leash will allow you to move him quickly if he is nipping. You can also use a tether during play sessions so that you can move out of reach of the dog when needed. Of course, playing in a confined space works as well.
If you find that your go-to auditory response is not working, try something new. For example, some animals will get more excited by a high-pitched noise. If you find your dog does, then try something quieter and vice-versa.
Finally, when your dog is doing what you want him to, let him know! By catching the moments of good behavior and offering treats, you teach him what you want of him. Clickers work well for positive motivation in conjunction with treats, as he will soon associate the sound with something good— and yummy!
What if My Dog Bites When I Offer Treats?
Animals love receiving treats, and they are great training tools for puppies and adult dogs alike. However, their enthusiasm can cause them to excitedly nip your hand or fingers when going for their prize.
In this case, the ‘too bad/take it’ approach works well:
- Offer the treat in your open palm. If you feel teeth, close your hand and say, “too bad.”
- If he continues the biting behavior or is mouthing at you or pawing at your hand, wait until he gets bored while looking away.
- Once he settles down, opens his fist and says, “take it.” Keep your palm flat, or drop the treat on the floor for him.
Help! My Dog Is Unbearably Mouthy!
Some puppies are naturally more mouth-focused. Chewing calms them down, so they look for everything they can get their mouths on to get their fix. If this is your dog, frozen toys, teething tools, and age-appropriate chews can work wonders. Try a variety to see what works, and offer the items while the dog is in a safe space or a crate.
Be sure that whatever you choose is safe for solo chewing. For instance, KONG toys are a well-respected brand that is loved by dog owners everywhere. Nonetheless, you should always be around to supervise your pup anytime a new toy is offered, so you can make sure the dog cannot tear it apart easily and ingest it.
Get the Family Involved in Dog Training
Everyone who interacts with the dog regularly should be involved in the training process unless uncomfortable— willing participants only!
Children can help out with kid-friendly interactions, which also have the benefit of teaching the child how to judge an animal’s body language. Always supervise younger children with your dog, especially with dogs that nip or bite. Teach them to have a soft toy with them when they want to play with the dog. Also, have them stay still instead of running and screaming if the puppy runs towards them. Puppies will interpret the latter as playtime and often play with young children as they would their littermates— by pouncing and nipping.
While a young child may think it is cute to have an adorable fluffball chase them, they will not believe it is so much fun when they are knocked down and bit. Standing like a tree will also give an adult time to react to the situation, provided the proper supervision is there.
Consistency is critical, so make sure all family members involved in training the dog know what techniques to use (or not to use!).
When to Employ the Help of a Professional Dog Trainer
Some animals, like people, are naturally hard-headed. So if you find your dog is still nipping or even biting harder, it is best to ask for help.
If your dog is over five months old and is exhibiting any of the following, it may be time to call a pro:
- The dog bites hard around his bed, with toys, around food or treats, or when visitors are around
- Hard stares or growling before biting
- Bites occur when the dog receives healthcare or grooming, such as brushing, nail grinding or trimming, etc.
- The dog is easily excitable and does not calm down quickly
- Training is taking too long for your situation, even after you have tried everything
In any of these cases, a professional trainer can help assess the situation and teach you how to adjust obedience training techniques to your dog. They will check out the living environment and the dog’s unique personality to develop a plan to help you train your dog more effectively. The specific activities they can provide often help you teach your dog faster and better than what you can accomplish on your own.
Seek out a trainer that both you and your dog like. They should be pleasant to work with, and you want one that only utilizes positive reinforcement.
Remember that your dog wants to please you. They love you and do not want to make you mad. Furthermore, a dog will not make mistakes on purpose or just be obstinate. Understanding and patience go a long way when learning new skills that will create a happy and mutually loving relationship for the rest of your lives together.
Bite Inhibition FAQ
How do you train a dog not to bite?
To train a dog not to bite, you should use positive reinforcement and have patience. Offer plenty of soft toys. Remove yourself from playtime if the dog is nipping so that they know that the fun stops if biting begins. Playing in a confined space or having the dog on a short leash will help you quickly remove him if he begins to bite. When giving treats, a game like ‘too bad/take it’ can help him learn how to take the food without biting your hand.
What to do with a dog that bites?
Dogs naturally use their mouths to explore and interact with the world around them. Utilizing the techniques in this article will help you train your dog not to bite.
At what age does a puppy stop biting?
Puppies learn a lot about how they should use their mouths by interacting with their mother and siblings. This is one reason why they should not be removed until eight weeks of age. However, there is no concrete answer, as all dogs are different. The amount of training and consistency is vital when teaching a dog not to bite.