Why Do Puppies Bite? - Bite Inhibition Training
Over the past few weeks, I have shared the importance of socialization, how to avoid fear issues with your pups, and how to read some basic body language.
Today I want to talk about bite inhibition, this is a fancy way of saying your puppy's ability to know right or wrong when it comes to putting their teeth on you.
It is super important that your puppy learns reliable bite inhibition and develops a soft mouth PRIOR to 18 weeks of age. Yes, I just said 18 weeks….which is just shy of 5 months old.
So let me back up just a bit, when your puppy was with mom and littermates, this is where their education on bite inhibition starts. When two puppies are playing and wrestling around, they of course use their mouths. When one puppy is playing too hard and hurts the other, the receiving pup will yip giving immediate feedback to the puppy who is hurting him. This is where it all starts.
What I have found, when puppies are removed from their littermates early (before 8 weeks) we see an increase in lack of bite inhibition. This is because the puppies have not had the opportunity to practice and learn. I prefer puppies to be with mom and littermates at least to 9 weeks of age for this reason, and for some breeds that are slow to mature, pushing to 10-12 weeks is a great option too.
This skill can actually have such a huge impact on your puppies' future, that it is not something that should be overlooked or taken lightly. When a dog bites a person or fights with another dog, the seriousness of the problem depends on the severity of the injury inflicted. Reliable bite inhibition determines whether you have a minor problem that could be easily corrected with a few safe basic training exercises, or a major problem with can pose to be potentially dangerous and extremely difficult to resolve.
Let’s talk about the two different scenarios that your dog could get into:
Dog – Human
This could be an innocent accident (they do happen), such as tripping over a sleeping dog, a child runs and trips and falls on the dog, rushing to grab the phone and you step on your dog’s paw. At this point, the dog's natural, self-preservation response is to snap, lunge, or even bite. A dog with good bite inhibition skills is unlikely to even put his teeth on skin. Or if there is skin contact, it is unlikely that the teeth with break the skin. The dog has caused no damage and the potentially serious problem has been easily and safely prevented.
On the other hand, if the dog lacks bite inhibition and his teeth puncture the skin, you then have a serious situation which may be difficult and time consuming to resolve.
This is also the same with Dog – Dog interactions.
A dog with a well-established bite inhibition never causes damage when in a squabble with another dog, they are just having “words” in a socially acceptable manner. It may sound bad, but it is just a lot of noise. On the other hand, if your dog ever hurts another dog or animal, you have a major problem on your hands, which you are liable for.
This is why it is critical that your puppy learns PRIOR to 18 weeks of age, it is difficult to instill bite inhibition in an adolescent or adult dog. This is why I always recommend a controlled group class over private lessons when it comes to puppies. Your puppy needs to play with other puppies and appropriate adult dogs, teaching them proper body language (which we talked about last week..see the link below for more info) and bite inhibition.
Something to mention, I chat with a LOT of people, and more times than not, people are confused as to why their puppy does great with their personal dogs, but not with strange dogs. The simple answer is this…. they grew up in a bubble. Within their bubble (their home) they know how to interact. They were not given the opportunity to practice those skills with other appropriate puppies or adults in a controlled environment.
So keep in mind, I am not recommending dragging your puppy down to the dog park to play. I am actually not a fan of dog parks…I find that more people take their unruly, poorly socialized dogs there in the hopes of “fixing” their problems. This is not how you fix a problem, and sadly they end up creating more issues with those dogs around them.
I am sure I will get some pushback from those that frequent the dog park, but you can’t tell me, that you have not witnessed poor dog behavior, or when “that” dog shows up, everyone packs up and gets out.
My point being, most puppy owners don’t know who “that” dog is, and it is those puppies that end up paying the price. If you have your core group of friends that meet up at the dog park for your weekly doggy play date and you know the behavior of those dogs, then go for it. That situation is not what I am referring too.
So it is time to get your puppies out and start playing! If you are not local to me and need help locating a positive trainer in your area that provides appropriate classes, check out the Association of Pet Dog Trainers website.
For my doTERRA Essential Oil loving friends, my oil of choice to support your puppies in this situation would be Brave – the Courage Blend. After acclimation, applied to the palm of your hands, rub your hands together, then apply to the rear pads. Remember to do this at least 20 minutes prior to any activities.
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