A typical puppy biting scenario: A young child decides to share some of her food with the family’s new puppy and, with the yummy smell of food in the air, the puppy takes the food biting the child in the process.

Now my guess is that this senario plays out all too frequently in homes with new puppies. Some trainers would have you “pop the puppy on the nose!”

Compared to positive training methods used today by many mainstream trainers, this is a crude, ancient technique from days gone by. Fortunately, current behavioral science allows us to leave these antiquated methods behind forever while giving us positive methods to train, correct and redirect our
new puppies.

You should also be aware that if physical pain like popping on the nose happens during a puppy’s critical fear imprint period, such trauma can cause problems that could have long term negative effects on the puppy.

As the above example illustrates, children also need “behavioral counseling” as well. Kids should be taught for example, “no table scraps are to be hand fed to the dog.”

So using the example above, what could have worked in this example instead of setting the puppy up to bite?

The puppy could have been crated during mealtime avoiding the incident altogether. You could also ask yourself, “what would you prefer your puppy to do during mealtime?”

Would you prefer perhaps for the puppy to go to his dog bed and lie down while you eat dinner? While this may be a lofty goal for a young puppy, it is a reasonable goal and one that should be worked on early.

Remember, while puppies can learn fast, reliability only comes with maturity and experience. So you will have to do your homework and practice. Always set your puppy up to succeed.

Another school of thought on puppy biting is that if puppies are never allowed to bite at all, they never have any idea of their bite strength.

It is normal for puppies to bite as they interact with their littermates thus giving them the opportutnity to work on bite inhibition and begin to read body language and communicate with their littermates.

As new puppy owners, you can, during their very very early age (7-12 weeks), work on and fine tune your puppy’s bite inhibition by allowing them to bite us ADULTS in supervised exercises to work specifically on no biting.

This critical information based on how you react during the exercise,  gives them a point of reference from which to work to soften their bite to where they only lick human skin.

There is a process for this that allows you to keep the exercise positive for both two and four legged pack members. Most trainers with positive reinforcement training experience can take you through this process.

But one thing is certain: You will have a more harmonious outcome supervising your puppy in the house around children if you teach “no bite”. And, it’s not a bad idea even if you don’t have kids.

Be as comfortable with the trainer of your puppy as you are with the teacher of your children. And remember, “Opportunity Barks!”

Jim Burwell


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