Emergency Preparedness Training Part Three: by Kristie Allen
Young puppies are avid biters and nippers. It is natural puppy behavior in the dog world. However, those puppy teeth are very sharp and hurt us humans – it’s not so natural in our world! It is your responsibility as a dog owner to teach your pup what trainers call "bite inhibition." If your young puppy is play biting or nipping, it doesn't mean that she is aggressive, it means she is young and needs guidance on how to behave with her new human family. If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to watch a litter of puppies interacting with each other, you will see them constantly biting and play fighting with each other. The other pups will yelp and stop playing if another pup bites them too hard. The pup soon learns that play stops when she bites too hard, so she learns to inhibit her bite so she can keep playing! When pups do this with humans, they just think we are their littermates, or worse, their chew toys. We need to teach them appropriate behavior in our world, the challenge is, we as humans, don’t typically communicate with them in a language they understand.
In order to really enjoy a dog, one doesn't merely train him to be semi-human. The point of it is to open oneself to the possibility of becoming part dog. - Edward Hoagland
Puppies bite because it is entertaining to them and it often gets them attention. In order to make it less entertaining for him – offer a consequence that ends the fun and all interaction with you. If you're playing with your pup and his teeth touch you, "yelp" loudly like a hurt puppy, even if it didn’t actually hurt you. You want him to think the slightest touch of his teeth on your human skin, undoubtedly hurt you. If the yelping makes him more excited, which it will in some dogs, say "Ouch!" in a lower toned voice, but still in a tone like he's definitely hurt you. Next, immediately pull the plug on the play session. Remove yourself from him, and as calmly as you can, leave the pup behind in a safe, puppy-proof place – a play pin is ideal. You only have to leave him for a short period; 3 - 5 minutes will usually do the trick. Keep in mind, you are not looking to physically punish you’re dog, but talk to him in a language he can understand. (Please also remember, there is no need to get angry. You are "acting" this way to teach your dog a valuable lesson. If you do get angry and lose your patience, your training session should end immediately. You can’t teach your dog while you are angry or frustrated. Be calm and assertive, not intense and resentful)
Now, on the other side of the spectrum – when teaching your dog the rules of the human household, the 2 most important things to remember are to offer a consequence for the behaviors you don’t like, but don’t forget to offer a reward for the behaviors you do like! Rewards are things the dog really likes….when rewarding with praise, be sure to give the praise she likes – scratch behind the ear, rub on the chest or belly rub? What’s her favorite? Not all dogs like to be patted on the head. Remember not to get too excited or rowdy when praising though, as to invite her back into play biting. It is crucial that you make sure your pup is getting lots of praise and attention when she is playing gently and being calm. Some pups may learn to nip you to get attention, so if you make sure that they are getting rewarded with attention when they're not biting, they will soon learn they don’t need to nip you to get your attention! They learn very quickly what is rewarding and what is not, if you are consistent. A very important tip to remember in any training scenario is that the opposite of reward is no reward, not punishment.
It is also important to have everyone in the family follow these rules so the pup learns that all human skin is very delicate, not just yours! After he’s got this down pat with the household family, have your friends and extended family help with the exercise! Keep in mind that young children must be supervised at all times with the dog. Most young children don’t have the attention span or mental capability to engage in training strategies, especially this one. They will often scream (not yelp) and run in a very excited manner, waving their hands in the air, which the puppy will take as an invitation for more rambunctious play time. You, as the adult, must be the mediator and help teach both the children and puppy what to do. That being said, children under the age of 10 should ALWAYS be supervised with any dog of any age.
Other tips include redirecting his biting to a chew toy, or to spray your hands with an anti-chewing deterrent. (This is ideal when working with the children and the puppy) Proper and plenty of exercise will also be key in this training plan, but also in your dog’s daily routine on his journey to being a well balanced fulfilled dog. A tired dog is a good dog! Your pup can also learn bite inhibition from playing with other healthy and well balanced dogs and pups, but always oversee play to ensure it is appropriate, no one is being a bully, and dogs don’t get too disorderly. Make sure you know the dogs and their humans that you allow your young puppy to play with.
It is imperative that puppies learn that they can, and are expected to control the strength of their jaws and the way in which they use them. If you don’t teach your dog bite inhibition, she will never learn how to use her mouth softly. Sometime in your dog’s life, she will more than likely find herself in a setting where she feels she needs to bite - this is the only way that dogs know to “say” that they are terrified or in distress. Remember they are dogs, not human – they don’t communicate by talking – they communicate via body language, growls, barks, and sometimes biting. Your goal is to teach your pup that she can use her teeth without breaking skin. Among many other things, teaching bite inhibition can play a huge role in assisting your beloved family dog, or a brave rescue worker, if your dog is in an emergency situation.
#333333; font-size: medium;">Kristie Allen is a graduate of Animal Behavior College where she earned a certification as an ABC Certified Dog Trainer. Animal Behavior College (ABC) is approved by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education and is an internationally recognized school. Her year long commitment to this program has provided her with a formal education in canine obedience training and understanding behavior and its motives. Kristie’s certification, education and experience provide her with the skills required to effectively and humanely train your dog while keeping alive the spark that makes your dog so special to you. To learn more about Kristie Allen and The Learning Canine click to her website HERE.