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Imagine that you have just brought an adorable Shih Tzu puppy home. He is so adorable and you are so excited to raise him and show him off. You invite your neighbors and their four children over for dinner. The kids are so excited about the cute puppy. They go into your den after dinner to play with him with his toys. A couple of minutes later you hear the three-year-old let out a loud cry, and when you and her parents rush over to see what's wrong. Their five-year-old informs you that your pup's teeth hurt too bad for him to play with him, and that the two-year-old got her hand caught in the cross-fire of your puppy's teeth and the rope toy that she was playing with. There is no real damage done, only small red marks from the pup's sharp milk teeth. The real injury is just emotional, but you still feel sad that the kids are afraid of your puppy, and you wonder what you can do to teach her not to bite, especially before her milk teeth turn into adult teeth and her bite becomes strong enough to puncture the skin.
If this scenario sounds all too familiar, then you are not alone. Almost every dog owner with a puppy desires to teach his puppy not to bite. It is completely normal for your puppy to mouth you at first, but it is also very important to help your puppy learn how to control her mouth before her sharp little milk teeth are exchanged for adult teeth, and her young puppy jaws for strong adult jaws that can apply enough pressure to break through the skin.
While it is very important to teach your Shih Tzu to not bite before he gains his adult teeth and jaws, in order to avoid truly harmful bites, it is also important to teach him right now so that he does not frighten children or people who are not used to puppies. For most people, puppy mouthing is also just plain annoying. After all, nobody likes to be poked with tiny needles all the time, and that is exactly what sharp little puppy teeth can feel like.
While teaching this, if you are using 'The Leave It Method' or 'The Pressure Method', then it is very important to act calmly and be firm when you tell your pup to "leave it" or apply pressure. If you become loud, excitable, or angry, then your pup is more likely to get excited or fearful himself, which can increase his biting. Most puppies think biting is fun, so the goal should be to make biting boring and no-nonsense, so that he will decide to do something else instead.
With all of the methods, it is very important to praise and reward your pup for doing the correct behavior when he could be biting instead. If your pup chooses not to bite when you know he wants to, or if he listens to your "Leave It" or "Aha", then praise him and offer him a treat or one of his toys instead. When your puppy gets very excited and wound up, give him one of his own toys to bite on, to help him make the right choice and keep his mouth off of you.
If you are using 'The Bite Inhibition Method', after you say "Ouch!" when your puppy bites you, then act very boring while you ignore him during the five or ten minutes. He will likely try to get your attention by barking at you or biting your pants or shoes. If you can, simply ignore this, stand completely still, and wait until he stops. Wait until he has left you alone for at least five minutes before you call him back over to you. If he will not leave you alone or if you prefer to leave the room, then walk out of the room during the five to ten minutes, so that he cannot try to get your attention at all. If he is barking, then wait until he stops to return to him.
'The Bite Inhibition Method' works best for young puppies. It teaches your puppy to control the pressure of his mouth in addition to teaching him to stop biting completely towards the end of the training. Learning how to control the pressure of his mouth while he is young is extremely important because it is this skill that will usually determine the severity of a bite later on in his life. Most dogs will bite if they are injured, frightened, or pushed too far. How serious that bite is will depend on the level of control that a dog has over his mouth when he does it. Because your pup will gain new adult teeth and adult jaw strength soon, and because this method can take longer to teach before you reach the point where biting is not allowed at all, this method will only work for young puppies. Plan to reach the point where your puppy is no longer biting at all by the time that your puppy reaches five months of age. If your pup is a bit older or you do not want to tolerate any form of biting before that age, then use 'The Leave It Method' or 'The Pressure Method' instead.
If your pup is closer to a year of age then 'The Leave It Method' is probably the safest method to use. If your pup has ever shown any form of aggression, not including normal puppy playful mouthing, then do not use 'The Pressure Method'. Instead, contact a trainer in your area and work on the aggression and biting under your trainer's supervision. Aggression is best treated while a dog is young, so start early.
To get started, if you are using 'The Bite Inhibition Method', then you will need to be able to say "Ouch!" in a loud, high pitched, and slightly dramatic way, to imitate the yelp of a puppy. You will also need a firm resolve, calm attitude, and the ability to be boring while you are ignoring your dog. When you return to him, you will need to be able to forgive him for the bite and go back to enjoying him again.
If you are using 'The Leave It Method', then you will need small treats that smell good to your pup, household items that your pup loves to grab, including several different articles of clothing, such as shoes, socks, gloves, jackets, pants, or backpacks. You will also need a calm and firm attitude.
If you are using 'The Pressure Method', then you will need a firm attitude, perseverance, the ability to withstand your puppy's biting or a thick glove that you can put on if he tries to bite you, that you can keep with you all the time when you are with him. You will also need to be able to be boring and calm when your pup gets overly excited. For all of the methods you will need patience, a good sense of humor, and to remember that puppy biting is normal. Your guy simply needs your help and time to learn what to do instead of bite, such as chew his own toys.
The Leave It Method
To begin, grab lots of treats that your puppy loves, that smell good to him. Go to a calm location and call your Shih Tzu over to you.
Next, place a couple of treats into your hand and close your hand around them, then place the rest of the treats somewhere nearby, where you can reach them but your pup cannot.
Let your puppy sniff your treat filled hand and tell him to "Leave it". Wait until he stops trying to get the treats out of your hand. When he does, praise him and give him a treat from the treat pile with your other, free hand. Never give him the treats from your closed hand though. Practice this until he will immediately leave the treats in your hand alone when you tell him to "leave it".
When your pup will immediately leave the treats in your hand alone when you tell him to 'leave it', then gradually make the command harder and harder as he improves. To increase the difficulty, first place the treats on the floor and cover them with your hand or foot. When your pup masters that, then move away from the treats, but be ready to cover them again quickly if he tries to get them. When he has mastered that, then drop the treats near your foot while telling him to 'leave it'. Be ready to block your puppy or cover the treats with your foot if he tries to get them though.
Add household items
When your puppy has mastered leaving treats alone then practice with other household items that your pup loves, using the same steps that you used before with the treats. Practice with lots of different types of items but make sure that you include clothing articles, such as socks, shoes, gloves, jackets, backpacks, or pant legs.
Put the clothes on
When your pup has mastered leaving household items alone when you tell him to, then put on the clothing articles, such as socks, a jacket, a backpack, gloves, and any other article of clothing that your pup likes to bite. Tell your pup "leave it" whenever he tries to bite you or something that you are wearing. Also tell your pup "leave it" whenever he tries to bite you at this point, even when you are not wearing those specific items. When he stops biting you when you tell him to 'leave it', then praise him and give him a treat. Do this until he no longer tries to bite you anymore.
The Bite Inhibition Method
To begin, play with your puppy. Whenever your pup bites you hard enough to cause pain, say "Ouch!" in a loud, high pitched voice, and stand up, cross your arms, and ignore your puppy for five minutes. When you say "Ouch!" try to sound like another puppy that has been bitten, yelping loudly.
Call your puppy back
After five minutes, if your puppy is leaving you alone, then call him back over to you and tell him to sit. When he sits down then resume playing with him again.
Continue to say "Ouch!" in a high pitched, loud voice every time your puppy bites you hard enough for it to hurt. Do this until he begins to bite more softly.
Decrease the pressure
When your puppy is using his mouth more gently, then say "Ouch!" whenever he applies pressure when he bites, even if it does not hurt. When you say "Ouch!" this time, walk out of the room and stay gone for five minutes.
After the five minutes are up, then return to where your puppy is, call him over to you, tell him to sit, and then resume playing with him or petting him. Repeat your "Ouch!" every time that he applies pressure when he bites, until he is even more gentle with his mouth and does not apply pressure anymore.
When your pup no longer applies pressure when he bites, then whenever he touches you with his mouth at all say "Ouch!", and leave the room for ten minutes. After ten minutes, return to where your puppy is, call him over to you, and tell him to sit. After he sits, then resume playing with him or paying attention to him again. Repeat this until your puppy no longer bites you at all. If there is no one else in the room with your puppy to supervise him, and he cannot be trusted in the room alone for the ten minutes that you are gone, then stay in the room with him but stand up, turn your back to him, look away from him, and ignore him for the entire ten minutes. Stand still and be extremely boring while doing this, even if he barks and pitches a fit.
The Pressure Method
Apply a bit of pressure
Whenever your puppy bites you, tell him "Aha" in a firm but calm voice, and press the side of your flat hand into the back of your puppy's mouth, where his jaws meet each other. Do this until he tries to spit your hand out on his own. The area in the back of your puppy's mouth is sensitive, and applying pressure there makes biting you less fun for him.
If your puppy tries to bite your hand again as soon as your remove it, then repeat pressing it into the back of his mouth while telling him "Aha". Do this every time that he tries to bite it again, until he gives up. Expect your puppy to try to bite your hand again after you do this, at first. He might think that you are playing with him at first, but he should soon get tired of it and decide that it is not fun anymore if you are consistent, firm, and calm. If your puppy is closer to a year or has shown any form of true aggression, other than normal puppy mouthing, then do not do this. If he is older, then use 'The Leave It Method' instead. If he is aggressive, then seek out the help of a professional dog trainer in your area, and work on the biting under his supervision and guidance.
Reward with a toy
As soon as your buddy stops trying to bite you, then praise him and give him one of this own toys to bite instead.
Practice pressing your hand into the back of your puppy's mouth anytime that he bites you. If he tries to bite an area of your body other than your hand, then tell him "Aha" and block that area with your hand. If your pup tries to bite your hand that is blocking him, then apply pressure to the back of his mouth when he bites it. Repeat this until he stops trying to bite you.
If Fido stops trying to bite you as soon as you tell him "Aha", before he places his mouth on you, then also praise him and give him one of his own toys to bite instead.
By Caitlin Crittenden
Published: 04/24/2018, edited: 01/08/2021