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.
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!