Dog Training - Biting
Nearly 5 million people a year in the United States are bitten by dogs. One out of every six dog bites are serious enough to require medical attention. Emergency rooms treat nearly one thousand people per day for dog bite injuries. Most victims are children and most bite injuries are on the face. Given these alarming statistics, it's clear that of all the behaviors you try to modify with dog training, biting should be a top priority.
What you're really trying to accomplish with dog training for biting is to teach bite inhibition. Dog training for biting should not try to eliminate biting behavior completely. Most puppies learn bite inhibition in their litter and from their mother. But once we remove them from their natural social structure, we have to complete their dog training for biting.
As with any type of dog training, biting can be modified best by understanding how puppies and dogs learn. When puppies get together in groups, there tends to be lots of simulated fighting. As they use their mouths to grab and bite each other, inevitably one of them will bite too hard. This results in a loud yelp of pain from the bite victim and play stops momentarily. Puppies learn that an inappropriate bite leads to a frightening noise and a lapse in playtime. Since they don't like either of those outcomes, they are conditioned to play more gently.
Dog training for biting should work in a similar way. Your first goal is to inhibit the force of the bite. If bitten too hard by your puppy while playing, yell "ouch" loudly and stop playing for a minute. The amount of time you wait before returning to play depends on the strength of the offending bite--more time off for more severe bites. This should begin to teach your dog that painful biting stops playtime.
Gradually lower the pain threshold that triggers your yell until even slight pressure stops playtime. This trains your dog to do away with bite pressure entirely. Ideally, this level of bite inhibition should be taught when your dog is between four to five months old.
Once your dog training for biting has reached this point, your dog should be doing nothing more than "mouthing." You can now progress to teaching your dog to stop even this behavior when requested. Some trainers suggest hand feeding your dog part of his dinner and teaching commands that let him know when he can touch your hand and take the food. Repeat this process until you can eliminate the food and use these commands during your playtime.
The final dog training for biting stage teaches your dog to not begin mouthing in the first place. This means that play fighting can only begin on command. Some trainers advise that play fighting shouldn't be allowed at all--that insures that it will never get out of hand. But if done correctly, play fighting can reinforce the bite inhibition that you've trained your dog to achieve.
Restrict play fighting sessions to the end of training periods. That will help your dog see play fighting as a fun reward. About every 30 seconds or so, take a short break so that it doesn't escalate out of control. Play fighting can only begin on your command, and mouthing is the only biting behavior allowed.
Dog biting is a serious problem and shouldn't be taken lightly. By following these methods of dog training, biting can be controlled without trying to completely eliminate an instinctive behavior.
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