Teach Your Puppy Not to Bite

By Liz Palika

Teach Your Puppy Not to Bite
According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and more than 800,000 of those people require medical care. Half of all people bitten are children. Dog bites, however, don't have to happen. Puppies can be taught that biting is not allowed, and this lesson, when learned in puppyhood, will carry on into adulthood.

All puppies should be taught from their first day in their new home that biting people and clothing is not allowed. Although puppies chew on each other in play, people are not other puppies and your puppy needs to learn this.

If your puppy tries to bite or chew on you during play, stop the game as soon as her mouth touches you. You can tell her, "Ouch! No bite!" and immediately move your hands and arms out of her reach, stand up and walk away from her. If she chases you, trying to bite your legs, feet or clothes, put her outside (in a safe place) or in her crate. You will have to repeat this lesson several times, but she'll gradually learn that biting you means the fun and games stop.

The games you play can also affect whether your puppy bites you during play. Tug of war games can encourage your puppy to bite anything and everything, because during tug games she grabs onto something and pulls. If your puppy bites during this game, stop playing it until she's older and has more self-control. You shouldn't wrestle with young puppies, either, because this is too much like the wrestling your puppy did with her littermates when they chewed on each other. Instead, play retrieving games with your puppy.

If children live with or play with your puppy, teach them how to play with her. No wrestling or tug of war, of course, but they should also learn not to run from her. If kids run, the puppy is going to want to chase them. If she chases them, she is going to want to catch them and she catches things by grabbing with her teeth! Kids need to learn to interact with the puppy by throwing toys for her to fetch, or by rubbing her tummy, or by petting her.

If your puppy tries to bite you when you are brushing her, bathing her, trimming her toenails, hooking up her leash, or caring for her in any other way, simply close her mouth as you tell her, "No bite!" Close her mouth by cupping her muzzle with your hand and gently holding her mouth shut. If she tries to bite again when you let go, repeat the correction. Be firm but not rough.

If your puppy likes to chase you, bite your legs, feet, or clothes (as many herding breed puppies like to do!), you can use a squirt bottle to stop the behavior. Fill a squirt bottle (or a child's water pistol) with water and carry it with you in those situations when you know the puppy will be excited and will likely try to bite you. When she does, tell her "No bite!" and squirt her with the water. The water itself is not the correction (your voice is), but the water will startle her enough to stop the behavior. When she stops, praise her, "Good girl!"

Keep in mind that in dog training, aggression begets aggression. When you tell her puppy not to bite, be firm and consistent but don't be rough. If you are aggressive toward your puppy, your puppy will react with fear or will be aggressive in return.

During your efforts to teach your puppy not to bite people, keep in mind, too, that this is a very natural behavior for your puppy. Therefore, teaching her will take some time and you need to be patient. You also need to be consistent (as does everyone else in the family). If you let your puppy bite you during playtime but correct her when you're brushing her, the problem will continue.

Liz Palika

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