Your hands look like they’ve been through a meat grinder.
Your arms look like you’ve spent the day picking blackberries. It’s not feasible that your sweet, adorable pup has done this, right? Yet, every time your hands are near your pup’s mouth or face, he turns into Shark Face. This month’s article will help you turn Shark Face into Lovey Dovey Head.
Why Needle Teeth?
Very young puppies lack jaw strength and therefore need some extra assistance – and that’s where those needle teeth come into play. They’re great (as you might already know!) at piercing into things. Pups use those needle-sharp teeth to break their food into manageable pieces. When your pup is about five months of age, you should start getting some relief as those little teeth are falling out and being replaced by the duller adult teeth. BUT: those adult teeth – paired with adult jaw strength – can now cause real and serious damage, not just a scratch like the puppy teeth.
What is Bite Inhibition?
That’s a fancy word for teaching a dog (or puppy) the strength of their bite. Ideally, you’ll start teaching your puppy how to do this as soon as you bring him into your house. Pups are capable of learning this skill and the earlier you start teaching it, the better. Any dog can bite and cause damage, even if you’ve done a very good job teaching your dog how to use his teeth kindly toward humans. However, dogs who learn bite inhibition early and with gentle methods are much less likely to cause serious damage to other people.
How to Teach “No Bite”
Whether you’re teaching a puppy or an older dog, the procedure to teach your dog to judiciously and gently use his teeth is the same.
Many people think that teaching a pup bite inhibition requires physical force. Using force or even correcting your pup is contradictory to what you want to teach. Aggression begets aggression, particularly when your pup is revved up and ready to play. When you use your hands to stop play biting, your pup thinks you’re inviting him to play. Instead of yelling, grabbing the muzzle, or slapping the pup’s head, you’ll use your actions – not force – to communicate with your pup. Saying “ouch” in a tone much like that of when you stub your toe goes much further to teach your pup that his actions caused you pain than any physical punishment or reprimand could.
Divide the bite levels into four categories:
- the ones that really truly hurt or actually pierce the skin
- the ones that are hard, but don’t pierce the skin
- the ones that have a fair amount of pressure, but hurt less and
- the ones where her teeth are touching you, but there isn’t much pressure at all.
During Week 1, you will react only to those bites that are the hardest, the ones that break the skin or truly cause you pain. You’ll do what you do when you stub your toe and it really smarts — “OW!” and immediately and very pointedly leave the puppy for five or ten seconds. You can then go back to puppy and resume interacting. We want the pup to know that it is his painful biting that is causing you to leave.
By the end of Week 1, if your timing is good and if you are consistent, puppy should realize that those hard bites drive you away.
You’re making progress!
After Week 1, those hardest bites should be almost gone.
You’ll now react to the Level 2 bites as if they hurt just as much as the Level 1 bites you just got rid of. The hardest ones should already be gone, so these less painful bites will now be what you’re focusing one. Repeat the same procedures for the next level of biting, and finally for any teeth that touch your skin at all.
Gradually getting rid of the biting using the four levels teaches your pup bite inhibition more quickly.
This exercise will not end play biting immediately; it is a gradual process by which we allow only softer and softer bites.
Tips to Help Curb Puppy Biting
- No roughhousing. Roughhousing encourages play biting and slows learning.
- Supervise all interactions with your pup, particularly those involving children. Kids and puppies have a tendency to ramp each other up and before you know it, puppy and child are both way out of control. Also, kids don’t have the timing or the self-awareness that adults have and aren’t as effective at getting the message across to the puppy that biting isn’t good.
- Stop play immediately when you feel your dog’s teeth on your skin. Period. Whether you think it was an accident or not. Stop immediately.
- No yelling, no scolding, no physical corrections.
You can do this with an older dog, as well. It may take longer for your older dog to catch on – this biting habit has had much longer to become ingrained. Be patient, follow the rules, and your dog will have a softer mouth in about a month or so.
We have a now 11 week old Golden Doodle who is quite mouthy. I look forward to trying this method. I’ll let you know how it ends up.
Thanks for sharing!
My fiance and I have our hands full we have a total of 3 dogs, one chihuahua who is about 2 years old, 1 blue nose pit bull who is about 1 year old and then we have the newest edition to the family a blue pit who is about 6 months old. They are all very smart dogs and we have them trained well, the only thing that we are having issues with is our new pit is very food aggressive the two pits got into a fight just because I was cooking dinner. I hate it when people judge them and tell us that they were bread for fighting because they aren’t its the owner just like any other dogs problems come from the owner. We want to know what to do, we have already been feeding them completely in separate rooms but we want to know the next step to take because we don’t want something to happen to our little dog because he is food aggressive, the house that he came from there were two older dogs and they had an unlimited supply of food and water all day and i think that is where the problem has come from. We wanted to know what can we do to help control him because other than that they are the best dogs we have ever had and they are great with kids and everything. We just want the food aggression to stop!
Laurie Luck says
Hi Elizabeth, thanks for your comment. Food aggression is a serious issue and a quick internet exchange won’t do your problem (or you, or your dog) justice. Contact a veterinary behaviorist in your area. Be sure they are board certified, as there are a lot of people who call themselves “behaviorists” out there! In the meantime, feed all the dogs separately in their own crates with the doors latched. Only when everyone is done would I let the dogs out. I would also pick up the bowls as I let each dog out of the crate AND then latch the crate door closed. If you think the dogs will begin to aggress when you’re preparing their food, crate them before you begin to even prep the food.
A veterinary behaviorist is your best choice to find help with your serious issue of food aggression.
Awesome! Thanks so much for your help we are going to see what we can do about speaking with a veterinary behaviorist because we want our dogs to be happy and safe! And for now the crate its going to be! By the way we really enjoy your website/blog it really does have very useful information!!
We call shark face “raptor face” I will be trying this. Explaining it ot my husband is going to be pain in the butt though.
Laure Schaerr says
We have a 12 week old labradoodle we have had for 3 weeks, who does not respond to “Ow”, “No,” or yelping like a litter mate might, which is what the vet suggested. She also does not respond to turning away, getting up and leaving. She will try to go behind her “prey” and has nipped at all of us (2 parents, 2 teenage daughters, and almost teen daughter). When one of the kids tries to get up and get away from her, she goes after them and their clothes. Usually when I tell her to stop, sit, etc. she will stop but sometimes she won’t. Sometimes she comes after me. She tries to bite while we are trying to tether her to put her in time out or take her to her crate by her leash, which she has on nearly all the time so we can deal with these outbursts. I have had a nippy puppy before but this seems very aggressive.
Laurie Luck says
Hi Laure, thanks for stopping by. For pups that like to run up behind as you’re trying to turn away, have the pup wear a leash (only when someone is around to supervise the pup). That way, when the pup is getting out of hand, it’s super easy to wrap the leash around the back of a door handle and walk away from the pup.
Search the blog for “puppy nipping” – there are several more articles and even some videos about that very topic.