Bite Inhibition - How to Teach It
By Melissa Alexander
Rather than "No bite," I strongly, strongly, strongly urge you to teach your puppy bite inhibition instead. Bite inhibition is a "soft mouth." It teaches the pup how to use his mouth gently. Does this mean that the pup will forever be mouthing you? No, not at all. Actually, regardless of the method used, puppies generally grow out of mouthing behavior after a few months.
So why should you teach bite inhibition? Because dogs have one defense: their teeth. Every dog can bite. If frightened enough or in pain or threatened, your dog *will* bite. That doesn't in any way make him a "bad" dog. It makes him a dog. It's your responsibility, therefore, to teach your dog that human skin is incredibly fragile. If you teach your dog bite inhibition that training will carry over even if he is later in a position where he feels forced to bite.
A story... Ian Dunbar tells a story of a bite incident he had to asses.
A Golden Retriever therapy dog was leaving a nursing home and his tail
was accidentally shut in a car door. The owner went to help, and the dog
delivered four Level Four bites before she could react.
Technically, the woman received a Level Five bite from a long-time therapy dog. Dr. Dunbar wasn't the least bit surprised by the bites. I mean, the dog got his tail shut in a car door! Of course he bit! What shocked Dr. Dunbar was that a dog with no bite inhibition was being used as a therapy dog.
"But he's never bitten before." Of course not. And barring an accident like that, he probably never would have. But an accident is just that. An accident. Unpredicted. What if it had happened in the nursing home? So how do you teach bite inhibition?
Again from Dr. Dunbar, there are four stages of bite inhibition. The
first two stages involve decreasing the force in the bites. The second
two stages involve decreasing the frequency of the bites. The training
*must* be done in that order. If you decrease the frequency first, the
dog won't learn to soften his bite. The stages:
If you end the game, you need to be able to get away from the puppy with
as little fuss or attention as possible. Even negative attention is attention.
It's often helpful to have the puppy tethered, so you can simply move
back out of his reach. Or, have him in a confined area and simply stand
up and move past a boundary. Because the getting up and moving is tough
to do at the instant the undesired behavior occurs, consider using a hand
signal that will always mean "You're a jerk. Fun's over." Use
it consistently when poor behavior occurs and you're going to withdraw
2. Eliminate all pressure. You want to gradually shape the dog to "gum you to death." Service dog trainers do this routinely, because service dogs often have to use their mouths to manipulate human limbs. Basically, you do this gradually. Set a limit of how hard the dog can bite. If he bites harder, yelp. Gradually set your limit for softer and softer bites. Remember to do this gradually. A big jump in criteria is confusing and frustrating to the dog.
3. When I say stop, you stop. Teach cues for "Take It," "Leave It," and "Drop It." You need to be able to both start and stop the game on your terms.
4. You may never touch a human with your muzzle unless invited. Basically,
this is just taking stage three to complete stimulus control.
You don't need to physically dominate a dog. Train it. Control the resources.
Anyone in the family can train and control resources. *That* is what being
a leader is.