How to Train Your Dog to Not Play Bite

Hard
1-8 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

You understand that when your dog nips during play, he doesn't mean any harm by it. However, recently you became aware of how non-dog lovers may perceive a 'love bite' and how it could get the dog into trouble with the authorities. The latter is too awful to think about, so perhaps it is time to stop being brave and let the dog know he shouldn't nip. 

Things came to a head when a friend came round with her teenage daughter. They laughed as you rough-housed the dog, and the friend's daughter then wanted a go. You were secretly delighted, as the girl is wary of dogs and you thought it would do her self-confidence good. However, this backfired badly. 

In a predictable way, the dog quickly became over excited and nipped at her arm. Unfortunately, the girl screamed and claimed the dog tried to bite. Her mother became irate and it took a deal of convincing on your part, that the dog meant no harm and was only playing. 

Still, another time and another place, and things might have ended differently with a phone call to the police, so perhaps it is time to teach the dog to be gentle and not nip. 

Defining Tasks

Training a dog not to play bite is about replicating what happens naturally within a litter as the pups learn what's acceptable behavior and what isn't. What should happen when a young pup is playing with his litter mates and bites too hard, the others will squeal and stop the game. This shows the pup in a way he understands that his bite was too hard. Next time, in order to avoid ending a fun game, the pup will nip more lightly. 

Re-educating an adult dog means you must be prepared to play act a bit, and yelp when the dog's teeth make contact with your skin, no matter how minor the incident. In addition, it helps to learn strategies for calm play and how to distract the dog out of trouble. All of this takes time, so if you have small children in the home or are worried about the dog's behavior then always seek the help of a certified dog behaviorist. 

Getting Started

Teaching a dog not to bite means communicating with the dog in a way he understands. This means reacting in an appropriate way (such as yelping and letting your hand go limp) , and by rewarding good behaviors. 

To aid the process you will need:

  • Tugger toys or toys for the dog to hold without direct contact with your skin
  • Treats 
  • A willingness to yelp and squeal

The Do's and Don'ts Method

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Step
1
Don't: Be brave
When a dog nips, even lightly, don't be brave and pretend it doesn't hurt. Your dog needs to know that a nip, no matter how gentle, is not appropriate. Therefore you must squeak or squeal in such a way that he thinks "Goodness, these humans are easily hurt," and takes care to be more gentle next time.
Step
2
Do: Seek professional help
Mouthing, nipping, and biting are all complex behaviors which can have different motivation behind them. While the majority of dogs bite during play because they didn't learn not to as a puppy, a small percentage of dogs may bite due to aggression or fear. If you suspect the problem to be anything other than straightforward, always seek the advice of your vet, who can refer you to a certified animal behaviorist.
Step
3
Do: Give chew toys
Give your dog's natural need to chew a sufficient outlet. Remember, he needs the satisfaction of mauling things in his mouth, so when he has plenty of chews he's a lot less likely to chose your hand instead.
Step
4
Do: Start young
Ideally, start teaching your new puppy bite inhibition. A young puppy has a plastic mind that is geared towards learning. Now is the ideal time to react as his litter mates would, so that he knows biting hurts.
Step
5
Don't: Jerk your hand away
If the dog nips in play, resist the desire to jerk your hand away. A rapidly moving object engages the dog's instinct to chase, and he's more likely to think you are playing than hurt.
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The Bite Inhibition Method

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Step
1
Understand the idea
Adult dogs that nip during play usually do so out of excitement and because they haven't learned that nipping is painful for people. When a dog recognizes human skin is delicate and avoids biting as a result, this is called bite inhibition. This behavior is often learned as a pup when litter mates squeal when a boisterous pup bites too hard. However, it can still be taught to adult dogs who missed out on the lesson, it just takes longer for them to learn.
Step
2
Speak 'Dog'
When you dog gives you a playful bite, you need to let him to understand that it hurts, in other words you need to 'speak dog'. This is done by making a loud squeak or squeal when the dog's teeth make contact with your skin. This is equivalent to a litter mate crying when the game gets too rough, and is how dog's learn. However, some dogs can become overexcited when they hear squealing, in which case a good firm "No!" is acceptable.
Step
3
React to nips
When the dog nips, no matter how lightly, react and let your hand go limp. While it is tempting to either smack the dog or wag a finger at him, both of these can arouse further excitement and runs the risk of turning things into a game. The absence of participation, in your hand going limp, is a much clearer message to the dog that nipping ends play.
Step
4
Stop the game
Again, an overexcited dog who loses control in the heat of the moment, may keep jumping at you after your hand has gone limp. You need the dog to understand that nipping instantly ends the fun, so that he has the motivation of keeping on with the game to encourage him not to nip. Take advantage of this by downing toys, once he nips, folding your arms and, if necessary, turning your back until he has calmed down. In extreme cases you may even need to leave the room, and only come back once he is calm.
Step
5
Reward gentleness
If you yelp after a bite and the dog sits and looks bashful or attempts to lick your hand, then praise him for being good. Remember, praise for a job well done is a powerful motivator for future good behavior.
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The Reducing the Risk Method

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Step
1
Understand the idea
By their very nature, dogs are prone to investigate things with their mouth. Therefore, for a dog mouthing and nipping are normal exploratory behavior, but it just so happens if they aren't gentle then there's a real risk of injury to the person. However, you can reduce the risk of play biting by how your interact with the dog and redirect his natural urge to mouth onto more appropriate objects such as a toy.
Step
2
Regular time-outs
If your dog play bites because he gets over-excited, then anticipate this. Instead of playing until he reaches fever pitch, take a break every 30 seconds or so, and make him sit and wait, before resuming the game. The idea is to allow him to calm sufficiently to safely re-engage with the game.
Step
3
Use non-contact toys
Instead of rough-housing the dog with your hands and arms, whereby the dog may confuse your limbs with toys, be sure to use a tug-toy or another toy that the dog latches onto rather than your hand. Praise him when he picks up this toy, so that he understands that rough play and biting with the toy is acceptable.
Step
4
Use distraction techniques
If the dog is about to latch onto your arm, distract him with a squeaky toy. Then toss the toy and redirect his play behavior onto that. Again, be sure to praise his interest in the toy, so that he focuses on it next time.
Step
5
Teach self-control
Learning bite inhibition requires the dog to acquire a degree of self-control. You can help him learn this with basic obedience training, such as 'sit' and 'stay' whereby you require the dog to wait before getting his meal or his collar put on for a walk.
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Written by Pippa Elliott

Published: 01/25/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Rudy
Chow Chow
1 Year
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Question
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Rudy
Chow Chow
1 Year

I recently started seeing someone. My partner has dog sat Rudy several weekends, and they get along great. When I am home, however, Rudy will nip my partner's thigh when I go in to hug or kiss him. He is wagging his tail, and does the dog bow after he nips. He also does the same thing to my roommate's girlfriend.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Becky, It sounds like pup may be acting possessive of you, which is a form of resource guarding people from others, like not wanting another person to go near a favorite toy - but instead it's people they are keeping others away from. Pup also probably also doesn't recognize hugging as a normal human interaction and might think you two are doing something playful and funny and they are trying to join in - sort of like a dog running up and barking at two other dogs who are wrestling. If the behavior seems at all aggressive, I highly recommend working with a trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression and resource guarding in person for this issue. Look for a trainer who comes well recommended by their previous clients for working with aggression cases. I would also desensitize pup to wearing a basket muzzle, especially if aggression is present, but also if this is play based, simply to keep you from being bitten while you practice training with pup and are hugging during practice. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s If there is possessiveness present, this process typically involves things like gently building pup's overall respect, trust, and listening with you both so that pup doesn't think they own you and so that their behavior is easier to manage and so that they feel more secure and can defer to your leadership when in situations that make them uncomfortable. Check out the article linked below for some ways to do build those things, but I recommend only starting those things under the guidance of your trainer if aggression is present, because they will need to be done carefully and sometimes modified or certain safety measures added, to avoid a potential bite. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you With safety measures like the muzzle or a back tie leash so pup can't reach you to nip, you and your partner will practice touching each other and rewarding pup with treats when they are tolerant and calm about the touches. Start with less touch, like a standing close to the other person, a hand shake, a pat on the arm, a partial side hug, a full side hug, a frontal hug, a frontal hug where you linger for longer, a kiss, ect...After each touch if pup stays calm, reward with a treat. Use the Quiet and Leave It command if pup becomes reactive or attempts to lunge or bite (remember the back tie or basket muzzle so no bite has to occur). Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark The training can sometimes also involve interrupting pup's aroused state. Sometimes that's done using unscented air pet convincer, blown briefly at pup's side while saying "Ah Ah" calmly, followed by a repeat of the instruction, such as Quiet, and a reward for then obeying. Sometimes its done using low level stimulation or vibration from a remote training collar, also in combination with safety measures, commands like Leave It, and rewards for obedience. When interruptions are needed in the training, I generally recommend hiring a professional trainer experienced with that type of training, for at least one training session to determine and demonstrate how to do it properly with correct timing and the correct method - which is based a lot on pup's temperament and response to training. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Skye
Siberian Husky
2 Months
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Question
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Skye
Siberian Husky
2 Months

To get her to stop play bitting and house train her better

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Yelp" method. BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when he attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if she makes a good choice. If she disobeys your leave it command, use the Pressure method to gently discipline pup for biting when you told her not to. The order or all of this is very important - the yelp method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The pressure method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just roughhousing. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. See if there is a puppy class in your area that comes well recommended and has time for moderated off-leash puppy play. If you can't join a class, look for a free puppy play group, or recruit some friends with puppies to come over if you can and create your own group. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play, let everyone calm down, then let the most timid pup go first to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppies go too when they are waiting for permission. Finding a good puppy class - no class will be ideal but here's what to shoot for: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ When pup gets especially wound up, she probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help her calm down and rest. Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep working at it. For the potty training, check out the Crate Training method from the article linked below. You can also combine the Crate Training method with the Tethering method if you want pup to be with you more, once pup is doing well with crate training and potty training. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-poop-outside Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Artist
pitbull
8 Months
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Question
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Artist
pitbull
8 Months

Hi this is my dog artist and he knoe the basic sit and stuff but he always biting things and don’t listen all the time what do I do

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Emanual, By biting things do you mean he is chewing your stuff, or biting people? If he is chewing objects, check out the article I have linked below on chewing. If he isn't already crate trained, I highly recommend doing that, since this will be hard to overcome without doing so. The goal is for pup not to have to be crated while you are away forever, just until pup has gotten past the destructive chewing phase and has learned things like Leave It so can be left unsupervised. When pup chews when not confined and not supervised, pup's chewing habit is getting worse instead of better. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/train-dog-not-to-chew/ , know that what you described is normal for basic obedience, especially at this age - the initial goal is just to teach pup what a word means and motivate them to learn. What comes next is intermediate obedience. For intermediate obedience, you will gradually work up to distractions and pup developing the skills to obey in those situations too - at first the distraction might be someone walking through the room, a squirrel in the yard, a leaf blowing by, ect...Start with less distracting environments, then gradually move onto harder environments and spend intentional time practicing in each of those new environments until pup can focus there too. For example, in your home without others around is easiest, your backyard is a bit harder, your front yard is even harder, your neighborhood is even hard, your home with guests present is even harder, a pet store is even harder, ect...Go out of your way to practice at the current level pup needs to learn at and to create the distractions pup is ready to learn to overcome during training sessions when you can control things - so that pup can also respond when things are more out of your control in every day life, but keep the distraction level what pup is ready for at that point in the training so pup can still succeed with your help - the goal is to guide pup and provide consistent, calm boundaries at this point. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-german-shepherd-puppy-to-sit Some other methods to help enforce commands when pup is ready: Reel In method for Come: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall Turns method for Heel: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel If pup doesn't know these commands really well already, start by using the treat luring methods with each command before using the slightly firmer methods to proof that command once pup has learned the command and just needs to be reminded. Right now you can also keep a drag leash without a handle (for safety reasons to get caught less around the house) on pup while you are home. That way when you give a command like Come and pup ignores you, you can calmly walk over to them and lead them back to where you were - gently teaching them that they need to listen in every day life too. If there is aggressive biting present and pup isn't just chewing objects, I would need more information to address that. You may need to take additional safety measures like a basket muzzle during training and interactions right now and/or a trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression, and comes well recommended by their previous clients, to work with you in person and supervise training in person. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Chata
Border Collie Bulldog
1 Month
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Chata
Border Collie Bulldog
1 Month

We've had her for a week and we given her chew toys and a puppy theething ring but she is still going after toes and shoes. She's a mix with a border collie bulldog

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lupita, Check out the Bite Inhibition method from the article I have linked below. I also recommend wearing house shoes around for a while, since pup is very young to be going home with you already, pup's level of self-control will take time to develop, and its developmentally normal for pup to explore and bite a lot at this age, since that's how pup would be interacting with littermates to learn about their own body, control, social skills, and the world around them. Bite Inhibition method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Once pup is old enough, I would highly recommend joining a puppy class that has time for off-leash puppy play to help pup learn some of those social skills and control of their bite through play with other puppies. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Kricket
German Shepard mix but small
1 Year
0 found helpful
Question
0 found helpful
Kricket
German Shepard mix but small
1 Year

I’ve had my dog for two weeks now. She is good with strangers and some of my roommates. But she hates one of my roommates. Every time he walks or stands she tries to bite at the back of his knees and she looks scared. She has her tail down and is cowering forward. Why could she be doing this and how do I stop her?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1123 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jenna, Is there anything that could appear different to your dog than the other roommates or yourself? Such as a disability, more aggressive personality, more fearful personality, or race? Dogs often trust those they become more familiar with as puppies and were socialized around. If a dog was never around someone who walked with a limp, was of Asian descent, or is louder or more aggressive in temperament that dog can lack view the unfamiliar as suspicious. Unfortunately, many dogs also find those with a fear of dogs more suspicious too, because those people tend to have different body language and smells around them than those who are confident around dogs. I recommend hiring a professional trainer to help you with this in person. Look for someone who specializes in fear and aggression. The training will likely involve determining what it is about your roommate that pup finds suspicious and desensitizing pup to people who have those traits in common, while also working on commands and routines that help manage the behavior right now. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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