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The Husky is a powerful, intelligent breed that has a strong trait towards self-reliance. The Husky likes to think for himself, which can be problematic for an owner, especially if the dog's train of thought is towards roaming or escape. However, self-reliance has other implications for a dog that is prone to biting. He may decide he wants something and be happy to nip in order to get it.
It's therefore essential to teach a Husky pup how to limit his biting habit when he is still young. When by default he draws away from his teeth making contact with human skin, this means if an accident happened, such as a child treading on the dog's paw, his instant reaction is to stop himself from biting rather than act how he might otherwise.
Teaching a Husky not to bite is NOT about punishment. While it might be tempting to slap or hit the puppy, this is liable to backfire. At best, he may be inhibited about biting you, however, he doesn't generalize the lesson to other people. This means he's still likely to bite the child who steps on his paw. However, in a worst-case scenario, a strong-minded dog like a Husky may decide to match violence with violence and he may become aggressive as a consequence.
Instead, by understanding dog behavior and how his littermates would react to a bite, you can communicate with the dog in a way he understands in order to correct bad behavior and teach self-restraint.
Teaching a pup not to bite depends on excellent timing and how you react, rather than needing special tools. It's also important that all family members also know how to react, so the pup is sent a consistent message.
It's also helpful to have:
- Tug toys or a ball to encourage play
- Treats to reward good behavior
- A room to withdraw to when the pup gets too rough
The Bite Inhibition Method
Why do puppies bite?
The first step to stopping biting is to understand the puppy's motivation. A very young pup is unlikely to be being aggressive, instead, he's just doing what puppies do. (Not that this makes it OK!) In a litter of healthy pups there will be rough and tumble, which includes biting. As part of the learning process, when a pup bites too hard, the other pup will screech and possibly end the game. This is valuable insight for the biting pup, as he learns that biting too hard ends the fun.
Bite inhibition in a litter
Let's look at how pups learn to be gentle in a litter. We've already said how they screech and squeal when bitten too hard. This makes the biting pup back off. The game then resumes once the bitten pup has regained confidence in the other one. Since pups want to play, the nipping puppy will be keen to avoid another interruption to the game and be careful to have a softer mouth next time. This process is known as learning bite inhibition and is a valuable tool for stopping a pup from nipping people.
Play act being a puppy
Communicate with your Husky pup in a way he understands, by acting the same way a littermate would. If he gets too rough and nips your hand, then immediately let your hand go limp and at the same time squeal and look hurt. Nurse your hand as if dreadfully injured and perhaps even force out a few fake tears. The pup should then and take stock.
Nipping means no game
Stop the game until the pup has calmed down and looks repentant! Only once he is calm can the game start again.
Walk away if necessary
If the pup doesn't get the message and keeps nipping, say a short sharp "No", get up and walk away. Key here is withdrawing attention so that the puppy realizes that being overly rough stops the fun. Next time he'll try to inhibit himself from biting.
The Do's and Don'ts Method
Don't: Smack or shout
Punishing the puppy for biting serves little purpose. He may stop biting you, but only because he is fearful of you. He won't generalize this lesson to other people, and could continue to pose a risk to them. Instead, pursue other methods that teach the dog self-control.
Do: Act up
It's important the Husky pup learns early on that human skin is fragile and his teeth should never contact it. This means acting up when the pup even lightly nips, so that he receives a message that people are very fragile and must be treated with care.
Don't: Use your hands as toys
Avoid games that involve the pup chasing your hands or a finger. This makes the hand into a toy, which in the pup's mind makes it fair game for nipping. Instead, use toys such as balls or tuggers, which don't involve direct contact with human skin.
Do: Let your hand go limp
When the pup nips your hand, let the hand go limp (rather than pulling it sharply away.) Rapid movement will trigger chasing instincts in the pup, which make him excited. Whereas a limp hand sends a strong signal that it's 'broken' and can't be played with.
Do: Seek professional help
If you in any way feel out of your depth with a pup that bites excessively, then do seek the help of a qualified animal behaviorist or dog trainer that uses reward-based methods. A young puppy is still learning. Act swiftly so that this golden opportunity to get him on the right path doesn't slip through your fingers.
The Withdraw Attention Method
Understand the idea
Pups don't bite out of malice, but because they are overexcited and get carried away. They also thrive on attention and love to play games. When you understand this it helps to prevent biting. Simply withdrawing attention or getting the pup to calm down gives you another two options when it comes to stopping a puppy biting.
Let the pup know he's wrong
If you've squealed and the pup didn't back down, then it's time for a short but sharp "No" or "Uh-oh". This is to mark the bad behavior (biting) so the dog understands why the game stopped.
Ignore the pup
Now end the game and ignore the pup. Try folding your arms and turning your back. Wait for the pup to calm down before resuming play.
Leave the room
If the pup keeps jumping on you and trying to nip, then quietly get up and leave the room. Again, this ends the game, which is the last thing that the pup wants. Only return when he has calmed down.
Restart the game
Return to the game but as soon as the pup shows signs of nipping, say "No" and get ready to fold your arms. The pup will most likely realize what's about to happen and calm himself down in order that the game continues.
By Pippa Elliott
Published: 03/07/2018, edited: 01/08/2021