How to Train Your Small Dog to Not Bite Your Hands

Medium
2-4 Days
Behavior

Introduction

Small dogs can develop problem biting behaviors because their cute natures often let them get away with bad behavior until it is ingrained. If your small dog tries to bite you as an act of play when you have not invited such behavior, you will need to follow some basic guidelines to stop biting as soon as possible.

The bites from small dogs can, in fact, be quite dangerous, particularly if they choose to bite a child. Bite wounds can easily become infected and cause nasty scars. Children can be traumatized from the bites of even the smallest dogs, ruining their ability to enjoy our canine companions for life.

Luckily, if your dog is a play biter that takes things too far, stopping biting is fairly easy to do! 

Defining Tasks

Dog biting comes in several flavors, some of which are best left solved by expert animal behaviorists. Folks new to training can sometimes make matters much worse when they attempt to solve the following kinds of biting without professional help:

  • Resource Guarding: Biting around food, favorite toys, places or people is called resource guarding. It is a serious and dangerous behavioral problem, common to small dog breeds.
  • Fear Biting: Usually from past trauma, dogs that bite out of fear need professional desensitization training to be safely rehabilitated.
  • Aggression: In some cases, small dogs can be quite aggressive. They may bite children, other dogs and even adults as an act of dominance. Do not attempt to solve aggression problems with the methods discussed in this guide.

Many dogs try to bite as a form of play, and this is where even the novice trainer can stop biting with basic training techniques outlined below and plenty of consistency. Read on to find out how! 

Getting Started

If you have a young puppy between the ages of 1 week to 6 months, it is important to teach them bite inhibition before you train them not to bite at all. The reason for this is that there may come a time when your dog bites another dog or person out of fear later in life.

If they learn bite inhibition as a pup, they will be less likely to use too much force and break the skin. This method will teach your dog to control the power of their bite, making them a safer dog in the long run. Use this before transitioning to one of the other methods listed in this guide to stop biting completely when your puppy loses their puppy teeth, usually around 6 months.

Once a small dog is an adult, teaching bite inhibition won’t be very useful because the window for learning this valuable life skill has closed. Instead, use the 'Ouch!' or “'Time Out' method (or a combination of both) to teach your small dog not to bite your hands. 

The Ouch! Method

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When to use
This method assumes that your dog is not biting hard enough to break skin, resource guarding, or biting out of fear or aggression. In such cases, please consult a professional animal behaviorist rather than trying to address the problem on your own.
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Ouch!
When playing with your small dog, if they bite your hand, or touch your skin with their teeth no matter how softly, immediately scream “Ouch!” in a high pitched voice.
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Hard ignore
As fast as you can, put your small dog on the floor, ending the game, and ignore them. This “hard” ignore should last 1-2 minutes.
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4
Resume play
Engage your dog in play again by tossing a ball or playing with their favorite stuffed toy. If you like, transition to some rough pets or body play. Again, the instant your dog tries to bite your hand, immediately scream “Ouch!” and walk away.
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5
Repeat until biting stops
Continue to repeat this process until your dog stops biting, usually in 3-5 sessions. In the meantime, make sure that play time with your dog when they are not biting stays fun, rewarding and safe.
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The Time Out Method

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When to use
This method assumes that your dog is not biting hard enough to break skin, resource guarding, or biting out of fear or aggression. In such cases, please consult a professional animal behaviorist rather than trying to address the problem on your own.
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2
Play on!
Start by playing with your dog using their favorite toy, a tennis ball or plain-old tickles. As soon as they even graze your skin with a tooth, scream “Ouch!” in a high-pitched voice.
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Time out!
Immediately pick your small dog up and move them to a time-out space such as their kennel or a bathroom. Leave them there while ignoring them for 5 minutes.
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Resume play
After their time out is up, you can let them out of their restricted area and resume playing.
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Repeat until biting stops
Continue to repeat this process until your dog stops biting, usually in 3-5 sessions. Meanwhile, make sure that play time with your dog stays fun, rewarding and safe.
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The Puppy Bite Inhibition Method

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Why bite inhibition
Puppies should learn bite inhibition before they lose their puppy teeth. Ironically, you will need to invite them to bite you in order to teach them to control the strength of their bite. That is, you, not your puppy, gets to decide when it is time for some bite inhibition training. When the time is right for you, lay your puppy on their back and invite some play biting by gently rubbing a finger or knuckle along their gums until they respond with some biting.
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2
Soft mouth
Continue to play with your puppy with your hand in their mouth, keeping the tone fun but not too rambunctious. Chances are your puppy is teething, and they will appreciate being able to gently chew your soft fingers.
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Ouch!
The moment your puppy bites too hard, that is, you feel a slight sharp pain, say “OUCH!” very loudly and abruptly as if you are very shocked. Put the puppy down and proceed to ignore them for a few minutes.
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4
Repeat
Repeat the process outlined above several times a day, always ending the bite inhibition training with a loud and abrupt cry of pain. Your dog should stop using heavier bites within a few days!
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Big leagues
Once your puppy has lost their puppy teeth, usually between 4 and 6 months, they should not be encouraged to bite people at all. Although, play biting with other dogs during socialization is normal and healthy. Use one of the other two methods outlined in this guide to end biting once and for all.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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