Learning how to stop a dog from biting is the most important thing you can teach your dog.
Not only is important for the safety of your family and others, it’s critical to the safety of your dog.
Many people are seriously hurt by dogs every year and many dogs are euthanized each year for aggression toward people.
In fact, in many states and cities, it is the law that your dog be euthanized if it bites someone.
Not be a Debbie downer, but it’s true. So you owe it to humankind AND dogkind to Train your dog properly so that we can all get along nice and safe. Sound good? Let’s learn how…
Why Do Dogs Bite?
Biting is something that comes naturally with a dog. Its purpose can range from simple exploration to something more intentionally aggressive. While biting is not all bad, some people are not comfortable with their dogs biting them for fun or worse, they don’t want their dogs to become a threat to others when the biting becomes more serious. So if you want to learn how to stop a dog from biting, you’ve come to the right place!
Biting is part of a more general process called “mouthing”. Mouthing can range from licking, to nipping, and to biting in all its forms. We’re going to talk about biting and how you can get your dog to stop doing it, whatever their intentions are.
This behavior stems from the stage when a puppy begins to teeth, and it is commonly thought that the discomfort brought on by growing pains is what triggers the puppies to begin chewing on things in an attempt to relieve the uncomfortable feeling. It’s natural and can even be cute for puppies who do it when playing with you, but it’s not so fun anymore when the teeth begin to grow sharper or the bites begin to become harder.
In most ways, getting your dog to stop biting is a step to safer dog parenting. Not only are you protecting yourself and other people from getting hurt, you’re also protecting your dog from being blamed for someone’s injury.
Teach Your Dog Bite Inhibition
Bite inhibition refers to the practice where you teach your dog to control the severity of their bites. As we mentioned above, biting can happen when your dog is in a playful mood. With bite inhibition training, you are teaching your dog to be gentle even when they get excited.
This training will also condition your dog to bite more gently even in situations that are not play. Behaviorists believe that teaching your dog to control the force of their bites in playful situations will also help reduce the chances of painful bites they make when it’s in a more threatening scenario.
Teaching your dog bite inhibition is pretty simple. You can achieve it in two simple steps:
- Give a high-pitched yelp or say a phrase (ex. “Ow!” or “Too bad!”) when your puppy begins to bite you during play, then let your hand go slack. The purpose of this is to startle your dog into stopping.
- Once your dog stops, praise and reward.
If you find that that doesn’t work by itself, you can reinforce it with the use of a time-out approach. Here’s how it works:
- After yelping, remove your hand when your dog stops or startles.
- You can ignore your dog for up to 20 seconds after this, or if the biting resumes or persists, walk away for 20 seconds to give your dog a time-out.
- Return afterwards and encourage your dog to start playing with you again. If the biting happens again, repeat all the previous steps.
At the earlier stages of training, you can respond in this manner for only the more painful or forceful bites. Once your dog gets the gist, you can proceed by gradually lowering the severity of the bites that you react to, until you reach the point where your dog knows to bite your hand only very gently and without much force.
How to Stop a Dog from Biting People
Sometimes, teaching your dog to be gentle may not be enough, especially if you or someone in the family the family does not like the feeling of dog teeth on their skin. In this situation, what needs to be done is to teach your dog that there are better substitutes to biting human skin.
First, you can encourage your dog to chew on a toy or bone instead of your fingers or toes. Stock up on items that will interest your dog so that you can be sure that they will be distracted enough with the toy.
Next, biting often comes as a response to being touched, so if petting triggers your dog to bite, then you can start offering him treats from your other hand while you’re petting or scratching him. The treats serve as both a distraction from and an alternative to being bitten, and it also teaches your dog that they shouldn’t mouth you when you’re stroking them.
Another alternative is encouraging other forms of play with your dog. For example, instead of a bonding session filled with contact, you can engage in a game of fetch or tug-of-war with your dog. When your dog starts to bite you, initiate another kind of play that still allows you to enjoy each other’s presence.
Socialize your dog. Encouraging them to be in social situations with strangers and other dogs alike will help your dog adjust better and decrease the chances of aggressive biting. It also helps them to spend more energy on something more productive so that they don’t always resort to biting.
Lastly, you can begin DIY dog training to redirect your dog’s drive. You can start off with simple dog training commands and then later progress to more as you begin to get a better feel of how to train your dog. You can also take this opportunity to address some problem behaviors (apart from biting!)
Responses to Avoid
It’s best to avoid any of these knee-jerk responses to biting as they can be counterintuitive and instead encourage more biting: hitting your dog when they bite you as the aggressiveness can only trigger more of theirs, jerking away your hands or feet because it will only encourage them to attack you more.
Stopping your dog from playing with you completely may seem like a tempting way to avoid getting bitten in the first place, but we highly discourage you from doing this. Playing with your dog is a wonderful opportunity to better bond with them and depriving them of this chance can alienate them from you.
Don’t trigger any biting episodes by enticing your dog with waving or hitting fingers or toes by their face. Doing this can make them excited and respond with an enthusiastic bite to your flailing appendages.
How to Stop a Dog from Biting Aggressively
When biting becomes aggressive, it doesn’t usually happen out of nowhere. It’s good to recognize the reasons why a dog ends up biting out of aggression, so that you can avoid such instances and keep everyone safe and calm.
- Territoriality and possessiveness are both causes of aggression in dogs. You may notice that they tend to be more “bitey” when protecting a piece of food, toy, or even a specific area in the house. You can utilize the “Drop it” command for food and toys, or encourage your dog to sit or stay and relax instead of being on guard. At the same time, prevent anyone from bothering your dogs while they are eating.
- Fear is another cause for dog aggression. When your dog encounters a stranger, they can be fearful and wary and can often lash out when approached or startled by the stranger. Again, socialization is a good way to avoid this from happening.
- If your dog is feeling any kind of pain, they may not take too kindly to being handled and will bite you to keep your hands away from them. Any physical pain can be made worse when touched, so try to keep your hands to yourself as much as possible until it’s time for you to reach your vet for a consultation.
- You’ve probably been told or experienced first-hand that dogs that have just given birth and are nursing are more aggressive than usual, and that’s true. No hard feelings if your otherwise sweet and mild-mannered dog becomes more aggressive after they became a mom, it’s just maternal instincts at work. Respect that and reduce any distractions to the mommy dog and her babies.
- Another instinctual response that dogs may have is to prey. If anything encourages them to chase it, then that is in danger of getting bitten. For example, walking or running past your dog. When an unfamiliar dog approaches you, it’s best to stop moving, stand tall and face them. Don’t look them in the eyes as they may interpret that to be a challenge. Once they sniff at you and deem you uninteresting, you can both proceed on your merry ways.
Signs That Your Dog Is About to Bite
The following are observable appearances or scenarios which can almost always tell you that a bite is about to follow. When you see any of these, it’s best to back off and give your dog some space instead:
- Rigid posture
- Raised fur
- Bared teeth
- Intense eye contact or avoiding eye contact
- Tail wagging
Knowing these signs may help you from getting aggressively bitten by a dog, or keep anyone else from getting bitten by yours. Keep them in mind and always be alert.
A general rule is that you shouldn’t startle or disturb dogs while they’re sleeping or eating (as I have personally learned the hard way… animal bite shots are pricey, guys!) as they are more likely to be on edge during these moments.
Now that you know how to stop a dog from biting, exercise these methods to become a more responsible dog parent. Not only does it keep everyone safe, it also ensures that your dog knows the limits to engaging with humans and other pets.
It’s going to be a pricey affair when you or someone else gets bitten by your dog, so do everything you can to keep this from happening. Either way, it’s best for you to keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date just in case they do end up biting someone.
If your dog starts becoming uncharacteristically aggressive, consult with a vet or dog behaviorist to get to the bottom of the problem. Make sure that everyone in your home knows how not to trigger a dog’s aggression, particularly kids. Dogs may be sweet and gentle to people they love and respect, but you never know when they get startled or hurt enough to respond with a bite.
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