There are many reasons dogs bite. A biting dog may be motivated by aggression, fear, or simply not knowing better. This article will help you determine why your dog or puppy may be biting, and what the best course of action is to deal with and correct the problem. If you have a good idea of why your dog is biting, locate specific training tips below by clicking the appropriate shortcut. If you aren't sure why your dog is biting, read on to identify the signs and causes for different types of dog biting problems.
Training for Puppies that Bite
Puppies often bite and chew because their growing teeth hurt and need stimulation. The teething puppy will grow out of the stage in a few weeks or months and will bite less if provided plenty of toys to play with of different textures.
Natural Leather Chew Toys
provide a unique and satisfying feel for young mouths that need to bite.
Puppies who Bite During Play
Most puppies bite during play and if you handle your puppy properly, your puppy will quickly learn not to bite during play.
Puppyhood is an important time to teach appropriate play. In fact, this is the main reason many breeders recommend 7-8 weeks spent with litter mates before weaning. Puppies play with their brothers and sisters constantly, and when a puppy bites another puppy, the bitten puppy yelps! If your puppy did not stay with his litter long enough to learn from his mother and littermates not to bite in play, you should model the same behavior.
If your puppy bites, cry "ouch!" and withdraw your attention. Overreact and pretend as if your puppy has hurt you badly and you no longer want to play.
Modeling behavior is the most natural method and typically the most effective. It takes advantage of the puppy's method of learning and helps train the puppy to interpret human reactions, an important skill that will make training happen more naturally through their life.
If you try the above method and it is not working you can try the below methods:
- After a bite, immediately place the puppy in his or her crate alone for at least 2-3 minutes.
- Touch the dog on the nose and say "no bite!" in a firm tone of voice, then withhold attention briefly.
- Fill a small spray bottle with water and spritz the dog when he bites.
To help prevent accidentally training your puppy that biting during play is OK:
- Make sure you have lots of toys available that are "bite safe"
- Avoid some of the older latex and vinyl dog toys that look like human hands or feet.
- Never play tug-o-war with your dog.
- Never wrestle with your puppy.
How to Raise a Puppy that Won't Bite
To help prevent your puppy from developing aggressive biting habits as an adult
socialize, socialize, socialize. The more time your dog spends outside of your home, and inside your home with strangers present, the happier and less likely she will be to bite as an adult.
Introduce your dog to many other dogs while they are a puppy. Learning to "speak dog" can prevent anxiety based biting as an adult.
Make sure your puppy meets your neighbors and frequently invite them into your yard. Make sure your puppy is used to strangers entering his home or backyard (don't worry, when it comes to protection a mentally healthy dog "knows" a situation is dangerous and will respond appropriately)
When the mail carrier, delivery workers, meter readers, and newspaper delivery people come to your house, put your puppy on a leash and let them sniff and meet these people as much as possible. Statistically, if your dog bites he will be most likely to bit a delivery person or utility worker. Prevent this liability later by helping your dog associate uniformed people with good things- like treats and pets.
Have your puppy interact with children as much as possible! Many dogs raised in all adult homes become dogs with a tendency to nip or bite children. Walking your puppy at parks with playgrounds is a great way to let your puppy play with children. Don't be anxious about your dog meeting children- as you dog may pick this up and think that he should fear children- instead supervise and encourage safe interaction between your dog and kids.
If your young puppy is showing aggressive behavior and intentionally biting, you need to call or visit your veterinarian immediately. Young puppies brains are not developed enough to motivate aggression, so the biting may be related to pain and need to be addressed medically.
If you have an older puppy showing intentional aggression you'll need to consult with your veterinarian and/or a professional dog trainer. A dog can live for 15 years or more, so if your young dog is struggling with aggression and biting as a puppy you'll need strong, professional intervention to retrain your dog to react to situations with behaviors that will keep you safe and your dog safe from the repercussions of biting.
Training Adult Dogs Not to Bite
Dogs that Nip (or "Accidental Biting")
Dogs that nip or bite without showing signs of aggression like growling or posturing are usually dogs who never learned appropriate play as puppies. Read the section on helping puppies learn appropriate play boundaries and treat your adult dog just like you would a puppy- supervising and disciplining consistently to set clear boundaries of what behavior is acceptable and which is not.
It is especially important with dogs who nip to never wrestle or play tug of war. Correcting a nipping dog absolutely requires consistency with all family members- if one family member continues to rough-house with your dog and let them nip while you try to maintain a no nipping rule, your chances of changing the dog's behavior permanently will be very low. Teach children in your home the appropriate ways to play with dogs.
Adult dogs can be resocialized and trained not to bite. If you feel unsafe with your dog, call a professional dog trainer right away.
Dogs that Aggressively Bite
Dogs that bite owners are usually dogs who do not recognize their owner as their leader. In a pack, there is a top dog (alpha) and a "chain of command". If your adult dog bites you, he may be trying to keep YOU submissive to him! Simple ways to assert to your dog that you are the boss and they are not include:
- never allowing the dog on furniture
- never petting the dog when he approaches you and "asks" (demands) it
- waiting to feed the dog until after you have eaten and cleaned up your own meal
- never playing tug of war with your dog.
- Putting toys away in an inaccessible place when you are done playing with your dog
- never letting your dog go through a door before you (instead, make him sit by the door as you go through)
- long down-stays. Command him into a "down" tell him to "stay" and insist he stay down for 5, 10, or even 20 minutes. If he gets up, calmly reposition him and return to your seat.
Dogs that Bite Strangers
Retrain a dog that bites strangers by helping the dog to meet as many people as possible. Even as an adult dog this socialization is important- even more so to a dog who can be aggressive. Dogs who bite strangers are typically motivated to bite due to fear or anxiety. Helping your dog gain confidence in all situations will reduce the chance that your dog will bite for these reasons.
If your dog is likely to bite out of fear, keep him on a leash at all times. Before visitors come to your house, explain the situation and offer them treats or small pieces of dog food to offer your dog as they enter the home. Distract your dog by giving him a "job" other than protecting the house- such as having your dog do a sit-stay (on a leash) or down-stay. Request that friends and neighbors drop by often for a week or two (such as, whenever they go out to grab their mail or newspaper). Keep a basket of toys or treats on your porch out of reach of your dog, and each time one of your visitors rings the door bell, leash your dog, have your dog sit, open the door and introduce your guest to your dog at a distance, and when the dog calms down (you may have to be patient!) have your visitor treat your dog with treat or toy and lots of pets. Your friends and neighbors will probably be happy to help when they understand the goal is making your dog safer for the whole neighborhood!
Older Dogs that Bite
Dogs that begin biting people in their old age are a unique problem. Most older
dogs that bite do so out of confusion, being startled, or because of pain. A dog who is achy and in pain will bite when moved or forced to do something that hurts. Your vet can help control the pain and thus control the biting. Personally, we've had good luck controlling pain in geriatric dogs with a magnetic dog bed. The science behind it isn't totally understood or verified, but it works!
When older dogs begin biting, have your vet check for pain based causes.
Older dogs that bite out of confusion are usually dogs who have gone deaf or blind and react in fear when startled. These dogs are more difficult to deal with- my childhood dog was euthanized when she was 14 because she bit when startled. We controlled her biting for years by telling visitors to our home that the area around her bed (in a quiet part of the house, which older dogs appreciate) was absolutely off limits, and that if they wanted to pet her they first needed to talk to her and watch to make sure she was aware of them before touching her. If you find yourself in this situation, it may also be appropriate to post a sign on your fence gates: "deaf and/or blind dog; will bite if startled".
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More Helpful Resources to Prevent and Stop Biting
Teaching "No Bite"
Bite Inhibition Socialization
Tips on Preventing Biting
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