Puppies Bite;Train Them Never to Bite Humans

“Puppies bite and thank goodness they do.” When I first read that in Dr. Ian Dunbar’s book ”After You Get Your Puppy”, I immediately remembered all the occasions when I’ve seen puppies severely reprimanded for doing what comes naturally to them. My curiosity aroused, I read on – and I recommend you do too – the book, I mean.

Go to www.dogstardaily.com where you will be able to download the free e-book.
Janis Bradley’s book, “Dogs Bite But Balloons and Slippers are More Dangerous” is a fascinating read especially if you’d like a more balanced perspective on the dog attack stories that unfold frequently on our news.
Puppies learn dog – dog bite inhibition from their mothers and littermates. Using their mouths (biting) is their normal form of play. If one pup’s teeth hurt another, you’ll hear a yelp. If you’re watching, you’ll see a moment’s break in play and then, back at it again.
Bozo’s needle sharp teeth cause pain, no doubt about that. Fortunately for us, there’s little strength in his young jaws. What we need to teach him is that his teeth do not apply pressure to human skin and we need to get that message across before he’s 18 weeks (4 ½ months) old.
As already mentioned, puppies play bite one another. They will do the same with humans. This is where the “ thank goodness they do” comes in. How would we teach them how to bite if they never bit at all? In fact, puppies that don’t bite become adolescents and adults that are at risk for injury- causing bites.
Bozo’s canine buddies yelp. When his teeth hurt you, say a loud, offended, “Ouch!” As he backs off, lean away from him a little for a short time out. Then invite him to come, sit & lie down. That’s his apology. Now you can resume play.
If Bozo doesn’t back off when you yelp, call him a Meanie or a Bully and leave the area for a few seconds (minutes as he gets older). Bozo will connect the painful bite and your leaving. Over many repetitions, he surely will. When you return, call him to you, have him sit and then once again, “game on”.
The long-term confinement area is a good place to play with Bozo. Then when you need to leave him because he’s not respecting your “ouch”, he’s still in a fail-safe environment.
At this point, up to 3 months, those needle sharp teeth have no force behind them, but as you continue to play, pretend they do. With practice his puppy bites now have less force but to teach them to exert NO pressure, you need to pretend they do. Before he reaches 3 months, Bozo needs to learn not to hurt people. Be sure to instruct all visitors to say “ouch”. In fact, teach them the rules of engagement (see above). Everyone will benefit.

Now is a good time to begin to teach ‘OFF’, which like ‘sit’ is a multi-use concept.  Begin with a food treat held out in your  closed hand. When Bozo sniffs it, say ‘off’. If he leaves it alone for one second, then you say ’take it’. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Then add another second before saying ‘take it’, then another second and gradually increase the number of seconds until you reach, say, a minute.
A variation of this is to put the food treat on a flat surface. Once Bozo sees it, shield it with your fingers, tent-like. Remove your fingers. Say, ‘off ‘. If Bozo waits one second, say ‘take it’ and proceed as above.
If Bozo touches the treat before you’re ready, simply start again from one second. It won’t take many repetitions to learn that he needs to hear ‘take it’ before he touches the treat.
Once he understands the ‘off’ request, you can transfer this skill when Bozo is mouthing. Say ‘off’, waggle the food treat to entice him to let go. When he does, ‘sit’, ‘take it’ and give the treat. Praise, of course.
Mouthing is its own reward for puppies so when playing the game, say ’off’ frequently. Praise when Bozo stops, then resume the mouthing game and only produce the food when the session is over.
Failure to heed your request results in the same action as the “ouch” earlier. Free your hand from Bozo’s mouth, call him a Meanie or a Bully, mutter dire threats and leave the room for a minute or two. If the room has a door, shut it in his face. When you return after a few minutes, ask him to ‘come’ and ‘sit’ before resuming the game.
Puppies learn what we teach them. Often in puppy training, we humans need to learn as much as Bozo does. Do review all the steps in your mind before you begin the session. That way you’ll be clear and will reward the behavior you want.
Unless your puppy’s mouth has regular contact with a human hand, usually and most often, yours, he’ll forget and drift back to a hard bite. Hand feeding and teeth cleaning and checking regularly provide necessary reminders to him.
Play fighting is another excellent way to maintain his soft mouth. You, the owner, need to have good control over your puppy and as long as you both play by the rules, with lots of breaks in each play session, play fighting provides the opportunity for greater control, no matter how excited Bozo gets.
“Ouch”, time-outs, leaving the area, many stops and starts, ‘come’, ’sit’, ‘down’…
These are your keys to a biddable dog with an inhibited bite.
Have fun!

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3 Responses to “Puppies Bite;Train Them Never to Bite Humans”

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  1. Richard Calland says:

    Excellent Jude!! I’m sure you got it all worked out that your efforts and practical hands-on (get it!! :-)), practical advise/instruction is rewarded with good ‘ol hard loot! There is a new dog owner living in this complex I’m in with a 5 mo. Wheaton YIKES!! and I will give her your site…but I doubt you will realize any payola from her and she will have gained. Have you considered only publishing part of your articles and making the rest available to those who “subscribe”…like so many other sites do…Whole Dog Journal for one???? Best 2 yah…R.

    • Thanks,Richard. Your feedback is always appreciated & valued. Like you, I want to get to the place where I am not needed. Therefore,anything I know I choose to share. There’s no substitute for the “in person” one on one. For that, there is a charge… $40./hour here on the Coast and $60./hour in Vancouver.
      I’m happy if my info is helpful

  2. Tim Savinkoff says:

    Brilliant advice!
    Good to be conscious during the play, hmm, those little needle teeth can be sooo cute.

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