It might be cute when a small puppy bites or nips your hand while playing. But when she grows up and still bites you, your friends and family, it can become a dangerous situation. Dogs want to please, so you can teach the dog that biting humans is not pleasing. Teaching your puppy to not bite requires love, persistence and patience.
How Puppies Train Each Other
If your puppy spent time with other pups in the litter, chances are she learned some biting etiquette from them. When puppies start to play, they typically wrestle, chase, play growl and bite. If they bite too hard on a playmate, the bit pup usually yelps in pain and runs away. The harmed puppy just gave the biter some negative reinforcement by ending play. Some puppies take a more aggressive position; instead of yelping and running away, they yelp and bite back. Both actions typically succeed in training the biter to play gently.
Human trainers can employ some doggy methods for training. The yelp-and-walk-away method works well. For example, play with your puppy. If she mouths your hand without biting or biting down hard, let her. As soon as she does bite down hard, say, “Ouch.” Follow that by stopping play. Start the play again and repeat what you just did. Continue this exercise for 15 minutes. It is important that you make sure you let the puppy know when she bites too hard.
Instead of biting a puppy back yourself, as some puppies do when training each other, redirecting is a better idea. Choose a durable chew toy and a tug-of-war rope. You want to encourage play and chewing; you just don’t want the chewing to be on your hand, clothes or shoes. Bring the toys to the next play session. Redirect any nipping or mouthing to a toy. Your dog will soon associate biting with her toys instead of peoples’ hands.
Combine Other Training
Play sessions provide the perfect opportunity to teach your pup other commands such as “Sit, “Down” and “Give.” The dog is already interested in you and having fun. When you introduce new concepts, it becomes part of the fun. These commands also help calm a dog that is becoming too excited during play. The click/treat method is an effective way to teach commands. While playing, stop and say, “Sit.” The first time, slightly pull up on the dog’s collar and gently push down her rear. As soon as she sits, click and then give a treat. To teach down, put a treat in your closed fist. Put your hand down on the ground while you are crouching down. The dog will bend down to sniff your hand and try to get the treat. Do not open your hand until the dog gets all the way down. As soon as that happens, click the clicker, which should be in your other hand, and open your treat hand.
The tug toy is good for teaching the dog the command “Give.” Do so by playing with your dog and the toy. When you want the dog to let go, stop playing and say, “Give,” while holding your hand under the toy. Have a clicker in your other hand and a treat in your pocket or a treat bag you can wear. Let the dog smell the treat for encouragement. As soon as she drops the toy, click and give the treat.
Laura Agadoni has been writing professionally since 1983. Her feature stories on area businesses, human interest and health and fitness appear in her local newspaper. She has also written and edited for a grassroots outreach effort and has been published in "Clean Eating" magazine and in "Dimensions" magazine, a CUNA Mutual publication. Agadoni has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from California State University-Fullerton.