Bite Inhibition and Appropriate Chewing

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Bite Inhibition and Appropriate Chewing

by Justine Kay



Bite Inhibition

It is important initially to teach your puppy bite inhibition. This is basically training your puppy that it is advantageous for him to play-bite or mouth softly. All puppies have rather weak jaws but very sharp teeth and they use biting and mouthing as a way of playing with each other, with adult dogs and with humans. When a litter of puppies are playing together, there will often be a loud yelp and a halt to the play when one of the puppies bites a litter mate too hard. Once the puppy is living away from the litter, you must continue this instruction so he learns when he has bitten too hard for the games to continue.

The way to do this is to play with him each day for a minimum of four weeks (little and often is always best in puppy training), allowing him to play-bite until he does it too hard. When this happens you must say "ouch" straight away, loudly enough to stop and startle the puppy, then you should turn away and stop the game for a couple of minutes. After this pause, resume play, stopping again as soon as he nips to hard and repeat the procedure. He will soon learn what he must do to keep the game going. When you want to stop playing, make sure it is whilst he is being gentle. Stop the game, praise him and give him a little treat so he knows that he has been good and is not being punished.

As your puppy matures you will need to make the rules of the game more exacting. After four weeks of the above method, switch to saying "ouch" every time his teeth make contact with your skin. Ignore him for several minutes, then start playing again, thus encouraging him to have a "soft mouth" when playing.

Chewing

Chewing is a common problem with dogs that are left alone in the house or car, and a lot of damage can be done in just a few short minutes. Training your puppy or dog to chew on appropriate objects is very often a successful way of avoiding a lot of damage of treasured items around the home. You must also train yourself and your family to put away precious items and not leave things out in accessible places. This will help your dog to learn that there is usually nothing of interest on the table or the kitchen counters and he will learn not to look or search there.

You can only scold your dog for chewing something if you catch him in the act. If you arrive home to find some damage, scolding him will only increase his anxiety next time you are out and he anticipates your angry return. He will not be able to make a link between his previous behavior (which has already forgotten) and your scolding.

If you do catch him chewing something he shouldn't, shout "off" and give him an appropriate toy or chew. Provide him with plenty of these and praise him whenever he chews them. Do not give him old shoes to play with as he cannot distinguish which is old and which is new and precious. A rubber kong is great, especially when stuffed with kibble or some other tasty treats, and raw hide chews from the pet shop are also ideal. Be sure to inspect the chews and toys regularly and make sure there are no small pieces that your dog could choke on.

You may also wish to protect your furniture with a special bitter-tasting spray from the pet shop which discourages chewing. Until he truly understands chewing rules, never leave him alone with access to inappropriate chewables.

If chewing and destructive behavior continue to be a problem, you may find it helpful to read my article on separation anxiety as this often plays a role in these types of issues.

Justine Kay is an experienced dog owner and trainer. She is the webmistress at Dog Training Tips where she writes dog training articles and discusses the intricacies of dog psychology.



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