Puppies bite. This is not a
form of aggression, but a form of play and communication. It's important to
train a puppy not to bite in play or to communicate, as this behavior can
become unacceptable and even dangerous in an adult dog. This is a very
important lesson for a puppy to learn.
For many puppies, all it
takes is the owner "Yiping" when puppy teeth touch human skin for
them to stop this behavior. Give a "Yipe!" and stop the game for
about 15 minutes after you've had to yipe to get pup to take teeth off you.
That's what another puppy would do, and it helps the puppy understand. This
sound needs to be what a puppy would do when the idea is "Ouch! That
hurts! I don't like it! Stop it right now!"
In the litter, that
offended puppy would then retaliate in some way, or refuse to play with the
rough puppy for awhile. Some puppies have strong predatory instincts that are over
stimulated when a person yipes, and for these puppies this would then not be an
Also, make sure no one is
playing "mouth games" with the puppy, encouraging it to put teeth on
humans for any reason. You need to react with your "yipe" or other
intervention every time teeth touch a human, whether it hurts or not, so the
puppy will understand this vital concept: no teeth on people. Even a gentle
touch could get someone hurt if they jerk their hand away, and people will do
that, especially kids.
My favorite intervention
for a dog putting teeth on people in play is not a quick fix, but it has nice
benefits and is very safe to do with most dogs. I simply hold the mouth closed
for 15 seconds (work up to this time--at first it might frighten the dog to
hold for more than about 5 seconds), while praising the dog. I say "[Dog's
name], Close Your Mouth. GOOD Close Your Mouth!"
This teaches the dog the
words for the behavior I want--and eventually you can remind the dog about the
mouth by just saying those words. But that stage won't last long, because if
you are very consistent about doing this intervention every time the puppy puts
teeth on people, eventually the puppy will never do so at all.
By handling the mouthing
from a positive point of view with praise--although it's still a correction:
done every time the dog mouths a person's skin, it shows the dog the correct
behavior of keeping teeth off people and praises the dog for doing it--you gain
other benefits, such as accustoming your dog to being comfortable having
someone control its mouth.
You do have to be
consistent and stay with this over a period of time to get really solid
results. Dogs not taught about teeth on people do not automatically outgrow it,
so this is time very well spent training your dog. This method works on adult
dogs as well as puppies, and is much safer for both you and the dog than harsh
Teaching a dog never to put
teeth on humans is for family dogs. For some types of work dogs might do, the
trainer may not want to create this strong inhibition against putting teeth on
human skin. In those cases, the trainer may manage the puppy mouthing behavior
by simply putting a toy in the dog's mouth. We can definitely take a cue from
these trainers by redirecting our dogs' mouthing behavior into their toys,
after we have carefully shown the dog not to mouth us.
I also find it useful to
teach the dog the word "Kiss" for licking. When the dog is highly
stimulated in play and seems to need to touch me in some manner, I can remind
the dog "Kiss" and then praise the dog for licking me.
In the early stages of
working on mouthing behavior with a puppy or new dog, keep in mind that you
want to teach any new behavior/command in a quiet situation with minimal
distractions. So start teaching "Close Your Mouth" with the praise at
times when the dog is quiet. Soon you can do it quickly and smoothly whenever
mouthing occurs, even if the dog is excited. But you will in the process be
bringing the dog's excitement level down and helping your dog develop self-control.
The praise is important to
helping the puppy or dog learn to have no fear of a human taking control of its
mouth. You are praising the puppy for accepting the restraint at that instant,
not for the mouthing done 3 seconds ago.
And be sure you don't cause
your dog to bite its lips or tongue when you restrain the mouth--it should be
comfortable for the dog, as it should be any time you require your dog to obey
any command of yours.
Article found on Pet Library (VIN):
Date Published: 6/11/2002 12:36:00 PM
Date Reviewed/Revised: 6/11/2002 12:36:00 PM
Kathy Diamond Davis is the author of the book Therapy Dogs: Training Your Dog to Reach Others. Should
the training articles available here or elsewhere not be effective,
contact your veterinarian. Veterinarians not specializing in behavior
can eliminate medical causes of behavior problems. If no medical cause
is found, your veterinarian can refer you to a colleague who specializes
in behavior or a local behaviorist.
Copyright 2002 - 2014 by Kathy Diamond Davis. Used with permission. All rights reserved.