Among the most important life lessons you need to teach your puppy, bite inhibition is one that you definitively don’t want to bypass. Bite inhibition goes hand in hand with puppy socialization, as both of them can really have an impact on how your dog will behave in the future. While with socialization we get puppies adjusted to the world and accepting of other animals and people, with bite inhibition we teach puppies how to gauge the pressure of their jaws.
Life Lessons in the Litter
Bite inhibition lessons start early in the litter when the puppy is still with his siblings and mom. As the puppy grows and plays with his siblings, he learns that rough play isn’t tolerated. For instance, when he bites a play mate too roughly, the playmate will typically emit an acute yelp and withdraw from play. As this episode repeats, the rough puppy will soon learn that in order to continue to play, he will need to be gentler in his ways. Soon, he learns that he can gauge the pressure of his bite so play is a more pleasant experience with his litter mates.
The same goes on with mom. At some point, the puppy’s teeth get quite sharp and hurt mother dog’s nipples when the puppy nurses. Mother dog, therefore, becomes more and more reluctant to nurse and will move away when the puppies try to nurse. This is when puppies start the weaning process and start looking for other sources of food. At the same time, the puppies acknowledge the fact that they must work on exerting less pressure.
Life Lessons in the New Home
When your puppy arrives to your new home, generally around 8 to 12 weeks of age, it’s your job to further refine your puppy’s bite inhibition. Sure, the puppy has learned the basics of this with his siblings and mom, but the puppy must now learn that he must gauge the pressure of his jaw even more with humans as they have a much more sensitive skin. Read on to learn some effective methods to help your puppy learn how to be more gentle with his mouth so he can interact better with your family. Also read this articles on the different reasons of puppy biting and chewing.
An Insight into Puppy Psychology
We often accuse puppies for being mouthy, sometimes even rough when they nip and bite. Truth is, puppies primarily use their mouths to play and grasp anything as they lack opposable thumbs. Asking a puppy to completely stop mouthing is like tying up a child’s hands and stopping him from interacting with the world. So when we talk about bite inhibition in puppies, it’s mostly about teaching puppies how to regulate the pressure of their bite so to match the needs of us humans. It may come instinctive for us to want to do as much as we can to stop a puppy from biting because we are afraid the puppy’s sharp teeth may harm children in the home. This is a legitimate concern, but it’s wrong to use methods that are harsh and that aim to completely stop the puppy from biting altogether.
Teaching Your Puppy Bite Inhibition
If we want to train a puppy to inhibit his bite we can employ a similar method his litter mates used. If we are playing with him and he squeezes too tight, we can express our displeasure by saying “Ouch!” and withdrawing from play, perhaps even turning our backs to him. If he stops a nanosecond, and then reverts to biting, we can even leave the room for a few seconds. This method can work with some puppies after several repetitions; however, there are some cases where the “ouch” increases excitement and arousal, causing the puppy to bite even more. What to do in such cases? A helpful method may be to re-direct the excessive biting to a toy or we can take the puppy outside to drain that excess energy. Let’s not forget to always praise and reward gentle mouthing or licking. Behaviors that are rewarded tend to repeat. With continuous feedback, puppies will soon learn that rough biting yields nothing, while gentle behaviors are rewarded with attention and play.
A Word About Punishment
Punishing a puppy for biting will not teach him how to gauge the pressure of his bite. Yes, the puppy may bite less, but if he ever feels compelled to defensively bite one day, he will do so with the full force of his jaw with the end result of causing tremendous damage. On top of that, employing physical methods such as squeezing the puppy’s muzzle or alpha rolling the puppy will only teach him that humans cannot be trusted and human hands are bad, and as such, should not be anywhere near him. Fortunately, there are better ways.