Building puppy bite inhibition

If you have a biting puppy ACT NOW! There is a lot of material on the internet on how to do it. I find this to be the best source for the method I have found most effective. And here’s the deal – this is one of those areas where work has to start RIGHT NOW. I mean NOW!

Pick up a pen and paper. Read these suggestions actively. The author calls the 4Rs of this technique. Take notes. At each suggestion stop and ask yourself how you would do this with your dog. Write that down. Once you are done, go over your notes, repeat to yourself a few times. Make it your own ‘4R mantra’.

I am trying not to be prescriptive. However, I do want to emphasize that this needs to be addressed NOW and actively. By the time your puppy is ready for his next play session you need to be ready and armed. When you see him heading your way to play, repeat the ‘4R mantra‘ in your head and do it right. Do it right for every play session this evening. By tomorrow morning you should be doing much better. And the next day should be better. And the day after will be better till it’s all good. You are then done. It might take a few days or a month. But if you do it right and your dog’s health is holding up, you will be there sooner than you expect.

Pluto learning to develop a soft mouth.
It’s work in progress, but we know we’ll get there

So, here are the steps are I recommend. My source is Pat Miller’s article in The Whole Dog Journal. But it’s my own variation on the method.

Installing bite inhibition
In the best of all worlds, puppies initially learn bite inhibition while still with their mom and littermates, through negative punishment: the pup’s behavior makes a good thing go away. If a pup bites too hard while nursing, the milk bar is likely to get up and leave. Pups learn to use their teeth softly, if at all, if they want the good stuff to keep coming. As pups begin to play with each other, negative punishment also plays a role in bite inhibition. If you bite your playmate too hard, he’ll likely quit the game and leave.
For these reasons, orphan and singleton pups (as well as those who are removed from their litters too early) are more likely to have a “hard bite” (lack of bite inhibition) than pups who have appropriate interactions for at least seven to eight weeks with their mother and siblings. These dogs miss out on important opportunities to learn the consequences of biting too hard; they also fail to develop “tolerance for frustration,” since they don’t have to compete with littermates for resources. They may also be quicker to anger -and to bite without bite inhibition -if their desires are thwarted. Note: Being raised with their litter doesn’t guarantee good bite inhibition; some dogs have a genetic propensity to find hard biting (and its consequences) to be reinforcing; others may have had opportunity to practice and be reinforced for biting hard.
Your dog may never bite you in anger, but if he doesn’t have good bite inhibition you’re still likely to feel a hard bite when he takes treats from your fingers -and removes skin as well as the tasty tidbit.
If you find yourself with a puppy who, for whatever reason, tends to bite down harder than he should with those needle-sharp puppy teeth, you need to start convincing him that self-restraint is a desirable quality. You can’t start this lesson too early when it comes to putting canine teeth on human skin and clothes. Ideally, you want to teach your pup not to exert pressure when mouthing by the time he’s five months old, just as his adult canine teeth are coming in, and before he develops adult-dog jaw strength. Here are the four R’s of how to do it:
• Remove: When your puppy bites hard enough to cause you pain, say “Ouch!” in a calm voice, gently remove your body part from his mouth, and take your attention away from him for two to five seconds. You’re using negative punishment, just like the pup’s mom and littermates. If he continues to grab at you when you remove your attention, put yourself on the other side of a baby gate or exercise pen. When he is calm, re-engage with him.
• Repeat: Puppies (and adult dogs, and humans) learn through repetition. It will take time, and many repetitions of Step #1, for your pup to learn to voluntarily control the pressure of his bite. Puppies do have a very strong need to bite and chew, so at first you’ll “ouch and remove” only if he bites down hard enough to hurt you. Softer bites are acceptable -for now. If you try to stop all puppy biting at once, both of you will become frustrated. This is a “shaping” process (see “The Shape of Things to Come,” March 2006).  {Sindhoor: While I agree with this for normal cases, my article here is for extreme cases where intense help is required and it’s not an option to tolerate any bites}

Reinforce: Your pup wants good stuff to stick around. When he discovers that biting hard makes you (good stuff) go away, he’ll decrease the pressure of his bite and eventually stop biting hard. This works especially well if you remember to reinforce him with your attention when he bites gently. {Sindhoor: Removed content here as I feel your attention is sufficient reinforcement here} By the time he’s eight months old he should have learned not to put his mouth on humans at all, unless you decide to teach him to mouth gently on cue.
• Redirect: You probably are well aware that there are times when your pup is calmer and softer, and times when he’s more aroused and more likely to bite hard.
It’s always a good idea to have soft toys handy to occupy your pup’s teeth when he’s in a persistent biting mood. {Sindhoor: In India, due to the quality of stuffing in soft toys, I don’t recommend that. I instead recommend other objects like coconuts, coconut twigs, jute ropes, cotton ropes, coir ropes, old cotton clothes, paper and objects of different textures that are safe for a puppy} If you know even before he makes contact with you that he’s in the mood for high-energy, hard biting, arm yourself with a few soft toys and offer them before he tries to maul your hands. If he’s already made contact, or you’re working on repetitions of Step #1, occasionally reinforce appropriate softer bites with a favorite squeaky toy play moment.
If there are children in the home with a mouthy puppy, it’s imperative that you arm them with soft toys and have toys easily available in every room of the house, so they can protect themselves by redirecting puppy teeth rather than running away and screaming -a game that most bitey pups find highly reinforcing.
It is possible to suppress a puppy’s hard biting by punishing him when he bites too hard. That might even seem like a quicker, easier way to get him to stop sinking his canine needles into your skin. However, by doing so, you haven’t taught him bite inhibition. If and when that moment comes where he really does feel compelled to bite someone, he’s likely to revert to his previous behavior and bite hard, rather than offering the inhibited bite you could have taught him.

 All my variations to the article are explained in notes that will look like {Sindhoor: Note}. For the full article, visit this page . However, please note that while I find it a good source to refer, I do not recommend the entire technique as is. I have a few variations that I recommend based on the cases I deal with, Indian conditions and my personal principles. 


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