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.