Bite Inhibition – A Must for Puppy Training

To be frank I had never really heard about the practice of Bite Inhibition when it came to puppy training. Luckily my wife is a bit of a stickler for research when she dives into something new and our  Border Collie puppy was a good example. While sitting around one evening a week or so before we got our puppy she came across bite inhibition in a training book and we decided to give it a try. This little discovery turned out to be a saving grace!

Bite inhibition is, simply put, a system of training that will reduce the chances that your puppy will someday bite someone hard enough to hurt. Even the best family dog can be the source of a bad bite at some point. For example, Spot the family dog, who has never bitten anyone in his life, is sleeping by the door. Someone walks by Spot and accidentally steps on him. The animal instinct in Spot is going to cause him to lash out in surprised defense possibly biting the person which could result in a nasty wound (and maybe a lawsuit). Bite inhibition can train the dog to bite much gentler than otherwise, even in this situation.

Bite Inhibition Training is Critical

The training starts at a very young age when puppies tend to be chewing on everything, including their owners. The whole world is a chew toy as far as puppies are concerned! The idea behind the whole thing is two fold. First off to train your puppy not to bite or chew on people in the first place. Secondly the point is to “soften” your puppies bite. Very much like small children puppies do not know their own strength, how could they? You need to teach the dog that their bites “hurt” and in doing this you will effectively lessen the strength, and possible future damage, of those bites. You effectively are making your dog think that his bite is far more powerful than it really is.

When your puppy first starts biting or nipping you, say on the fingers, and it hurts a bit you respond with “Ouch!” in a somewhat high pitched voice and a bit loud. This somewhat mimics what another dog would do if they were hurt. Over time you say “Ouch!” more often even when the puppy only lightly bites or nips you. It gets to the point where whenever the dogs teeth even touch your skin you “yelp” loudly. This does not happen overnight however I have been simply amazed at the results. Now, it will feel a bit weird at first crying “Ouch!” even with the slightest touch of the tooth but it really, really works!

Our Border Collie now has the softest mouth I can imagine. A great example…my wife was at the beach one day with the dog and a family came along. She put Ned into a sit position so they could walk by but they stopped to chat. (Ned is still astoundingly happy to see anyone and, as far as he is concerned, everybody is his long lost best friend. We used to have to put in him sit to redirect his attention to us and off other people close by.) This family had a toddler and while my wife was talking with the parents the kid wanders over and sticks one hand in Ned’s eye and the other in his mouth! It all happened in a split second. The amazing thing was Ned sat there like a stone and basically “froze” his mouth open. The kid, and I’m not joking here, literally grabs Neds’ tongue and was playing with it for a second. No problem. Wild.

Little disclaimer here: I am by no means a professional trainer, just a guy with a dog, and have learned everything I know about bite inhibition through puppy training books. This is simply a little summery and if you are looking to teach this to your puppy (which I highly suggest!) it would be in your best interest to do your homework. I went from never hearing about this practice to thinking it is the best thing out there. Grab a book (check your local library or hit Amazon for dog training books) and get to it. I am super glad that we did! Thanks!

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Comments

  1. Ally says

    Thanks so much for your blog, Bill! I’m the owner of a 12-week old border collie (mix) and your posts are really helping me a lot. We’re currently working on bite inhibition, and you’re absolutely right- it certainly does not happen overnight! Those puppy teeth are like little razorblades. But, I do yelp or yell ouch and look sad whenever she bites me, and it stops her right in her tracks. She looks at me and cocks her head, or puts her ears back and looks embarrassed. It seems to be working so far, as she only really bites when she gets too excited during playtime. A week or so ago, she would go to chew on my hand when she was sitting in my lap half asleep.

    Anyway, thanks again for your blog! I really appreciate it!

    (P.S. “Summary” not “Summery”… I just read your post about spell check :p )

  2. says

    Thank you for your advice. Our 10week old puppy is a handful and we had an angel of a Border Collie before her. (She passed away in August.) best dog we ever had.Never bit, barked and was great with kids, but oh, this new one “Cookie” jumps and nips and is very defiant when scolded. But you did mention to keep the “ouch” up when nipped and she will be more softer on the bite. I hope this works.I have young grandkids who visit often but don’t want to “crate” everytime they visit.
    Thanks
    DJ Smith

  3. says

    Ally,

    Those little teeth are astoundingly sharp…no question! Stick with it…totally worth the effort down the line. Thanks for reading and I’ll go find that typo!

  4. Stacy says

    Bill,

    I have a beautiful 7 month old Border Collie Australian Shepherd Cross named Jagger. He is so smart and my best buddy, he stays with me wherever I am. He loves my two boys and goes with them wherever they go, but he bites other children. He does not like other children including people that have been to the house more than once. Yesterday I had to pin him down with my foot to keep him from biting my seven year old niece who so badly wanted to pet him. He was laying on my feet at the time she tried to pet him, but I have never experienced having a dog trying to bite a child. What information have you come across to help this problem? It makes my husband and I very sad when other children are afraid to come in the house, they ask if we will put the dog out first. We love him, as he is wonderful with our family, but he does not love strangers.

  5. says

    Stacy,

    That is a very troubling issue…especially with kids in the mix. And I hear you…that must be a really bummer to have to worry about your buddy like that! Is this something that just started happening recently? When we were getting ready to have our first child we looked into this quite a bit. Luckily we never had this issue with Ned so I son’t have first hand accounts to relay. A lot of our reading focused really heavily on socializing the dog to all sorts of people. I’d guess this is some sort of territorial/pack/protection thing. He likes his people but not others…protecting the pack type of mentality. My suggestion is to get with a good Trainer ASAP to address. The last thing you want is even a small nip on a child…both for the sake of the child and from a liability standpoint as well. Let us know how it works out!

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