Dog training, stop that biting early

It has been estimated that in the United States alone approximately 5 million people are bitten by dogs every year. About 1000 people per day have dog bites that are so severe that it is necessary to have them treated at a hospital. Here are some other startling facts that point to the magnitude of this problem:

– Approximately half of all the claims on homeowner’s insurance are due to dog bites. – 90% of people bitten by dogs knew the dog. – Almost 70% of dog bites happen to the elderly or to children. – Boys are bitten by aggressive dogs more often than girls. – Male dogs are responsible for 8 out of 10 dog bites. – Un-neutered males dogs account for 6 out 10 bites.

…Enough said?

So Why Do Dogs Bite?

Illness or Injury

If dogs are ill or in pain they can become irritable. They can even be fearful that anyone that interacts with them may cause more pain.

Fear and Anxiety If a dog has not had the opportunity to be properly socialized by being exposed to calm dogs and unfamiliar people, they may experience fear and confusion in these situations. Biting can result when new people and dogs cross their path. Biting can also be the response of a dog that has been physically abused.

Territorial Response

Again, a dog that hasn’t been socialized is more inclined to think that your house and surrounding yard are all his. Any animal or person that dares to enter into his domain is seen a potential threat.

Feeding Time

Hungry dogs are often protective of their food while eating. Do not bother a feeding dog that does not clearly view you as the leader of their pack.

Establishing Dominance

An alpha dog, or leader of a pack of dogs, may feel the need to bite any dog that appears to threaten his dominance.

How To Train Your Dog Not To Bite

Fortunately, almost everything we need to know about bite suppression training can be learned from Mom. Well, a mother dog with puppies anyway.

Typically a mother dog will let a puppy play around her until it takes a playful bite that is too hard. The puppy’s mother will often react with an exaggerated yelp or growl followed by ending her participation in the playtime. If the biting continues, her verbal protests will grow louder. A more extreme reaction by might include biting back or grabbing her pup by the scruff of the neck and removing it physically from her presence.

We can emulate this training by notifying the puppy with a gentle but stern “NO”. This should be loud enough to get the dog’s attention but not so loud that it frightens her. A frightened animal is much less trainable than one that is calm and relaxed.

Next follow this with a light squeeze on the pup’s muzzle. Most dogs naturally dislike having their muzzles squeezed at any age. Be careful not to cause the puppy to bite its tongue, though. Be especially careful not to squeeze hard or too high up on the muzzle. Dogs have sensitive and delicate odor receptors high up inside the nose. You never want to damage a dog’s ability to smell.

The muzzle squeeze isn’t meant to punish, but rather to inform. The goal is to help the young dog associate the verbal command with something it can understand – discomfort.

If this fails to work, repeat the above steps followed by walking away from the dog. This loss of attention will help clarify which behavior is unacceptable. Playful, affectionate interactions too soon after saying “NO” can be confusing and even lead the dog to associate positive reinforcement with biting.

Visit a Veterinarian

Check for any illness or injury that may be at the root of a biting problem.

Don’t Remove Puppies From Their Mother Too Soon

Wait at least 4 weeks before taking a puppy away from mom and siblings. Many breeds need at least this much socialization time to get a significant head start on bite suppression training.

Don’t Hand Feed Your Dog

Feeding a dog from your hands can set up a potentially dangerous situation where she can associate your hands with food. Instead feed from a bowl on the floor.

Give Your Dog Something To Chew

Dogs naturally have a powerful need to exercise their jaw. They often will chew and bite on the closest tempting objects like shoes, toys, furniture and even people. The trick is to give them a more appropriate substitute. Safe chew toys, pigs ears and bones can usually be found at a local pet store.

Begin Bite Suppression Training as Early as Possible.

Puppies are much easier to train than older dogs that have developed bad habits.

Use a Leash When Introducing Your Dog to a New Animal.

Restrain your pet at first when introducing animals from other households. Restrain the other animal as well. Let them approach slowly to sniff or carry out other natural behavior.

Look for body tension, snarling, erect ears and other indicators of oncoming aggression. Make the dog sit, stroke its back and put out your hand to the other animal then convey the smell to your pet. Finally, if they are calm, allow them to interact.

Have Reasonable Expectations

Many dogs will take until their fourth or fifth month in life before they will be able to suppress their natural biting instinct. With any dog training, you need to get the entire family to use the same training method. As always, patience and consistency are key to successful dog training.