Whether you have just adopted a new puppy or have owned a dog for quite some time, the most important part of dog ownership is ensuring that your four-legged friend doesn’t bite you or anyone else. Playful nibbles can easily turn into nasty, aggressive behavior.
So, what can you do if your dog bites?
There are numerous factors to take into consideration when it comes to dog biting; is it playful but just annoying? Or is it dangerous?
Below we will explore how to train puppies not to bite and what to do if your older dog is still biting.
Teach Your Dog To Play Nicely
The best way to ensure that your dog won’t bite, is to teach them from a young age that biting isn’t acceptable behavior. For new dog owners it can be tempting to pay ‘rough’ with puppies and allow them to nip you when their teeth are small. Unfortunately all this does is reinforce that biting is ok, so when your dog’s teeth grow and become super sharp they will not think twice about using them! The key to teaching a young dog how to play nicely is to play non-aggressive games with your dog such as ‘fetch’. When puppy nips your hand, say “no” in a firm voice and then give them a toy to play with as an alternative.
Give Your Dog Good Quality Toys
Good chew toys are essential for puppies and older dogs. Puppies go through teething the same way that human babies do and therefore need to chew…often! The trick is to teach them how not to chew your furniture and everything else. If your dog is teething there are a number of dog teething toys that you can buy that have been specially made for puppy teeth. These are made from slightly softer material and some can even be frozen so they can also alleviate gum discomfort. Look for high-quality rubber which will satisfy your dog’s urge to bite and keep them interested. You can also buy dog toys that can be filled with treats. This will give them a distraction from chewing your toes!
Make A Loud Noise
Now this isn’t going to work on a giant dog that is running towards you at a very high speed! But this technique is a way of teaching a young dog that biting isn’t ok. There are several reasons why young dogs like to bite; not only are they likely to be teething but they also explore the world with their mouths. It might seem ok for them to have a nibble of your feet when they are young, but this could be dangerous when they get older and they use this behavior against you.
One of the best ways to train a puppy not to bite, is to allow them to nip you through play and then make a loud squeal or yelp and then turn away from them. The point of this is to startle your dog and stop them playing. You can then resume play when they learn to play nicely. They will associate the loud yelp with “no play” and eventually learn how to behave properly.
Socialize Your Dog
Another way of ensuring that your dog won’t bite as it gets older is to ensure that they are properly socialized when they are young. It’s fairly obvious that a dog that is scared of other people and animals is likely to lash out and bite. Ideally you will be able to socialize your dog from a very young age (3-12 weeks) and get them used to being around other dogs and people. It’s also a good idea to accustom your dog to eating around other people too, so that they don’t become anxious or protective with their food.
Never Use Physical Punishment On Your Dog
For some dog owners it can be a natural reaction to give your dog a hard tap on the nose or worse, if they have bitten someone. Hitting dogs is never the right answer and can actually lead to more aggression. If you physically punish your dog then they can bite harder and respond dangerously. It’s also worth noting that you can make your dog afraid of you when you hit them and this not only will create a negative dog/owner relationship but will likely make your dog very aggressive as they will respond out of fear. Never hit your dog or use methods such as scruff shaking.
Take Your Dog To A Vet
It’s important to remember that animals do not communicate the same way that we do and therefore certain behaviors can mean different things. If your dog doesn’t normally bite and has suddenly started to display signs of aggression then it’s definitely worth taking a trip to the vet to see if there is an underlying health issue. It’s a little known fact but dogs who have serious health issues can become aggressive and even dangerous if they are in pain. Get your local vet to check give your dog a health MOT and also check to see if they have been vaccinated for diseases.
Muzzle Your Dog
Using a muzzle can be quite a controversial issue and you will find that most dog owners have a strong opinion on this matter. The one thing that is important to recognize is that a muzzle is not a replacement for training. If you have personally exhausted all the other training methods in order to prevent your dog from biting and yet they still have issues around other dogs or people then a muzzle is a good option. A well fitted muzzle will prevent your dog from biting dogs and people if they become nervous on walks. You should still get advice from a professional however – as the underlying behavioral issues will still exist. Muzzles are also handy for dogs who become nervous or aggressive when they visit the veterinary clinic. It’s important to ensure that your dog isn’t wearing a muzzle for longer than 20 minutes maximum and that the muzzle fits comfortably.
Spray Your Dog
If your dog has had an operation or is constantly biting a wound and you want to train them not to then you can use a special spray such as this Bitter Apple Spray. Just spray the non-toxic spray on the specific area to deter your dog from licking, chewing or biting. It’s safe to use and works by creating an unpleasant taste on your dog’s fur or on your furniture. This can be used pretty much anywhere your dog chooses to chew!
Recognize Your Dog’s Bite Triggers & Warning Signs
As with any behavioral issue, there is no point just trying to deal with the problem without looking into the underlying cause. If your dog has an issue with biting or aggression that you fear may turn into biting then you will need to look at what it is that is making your dog behave this way. There will always be a reason. The most common cause of dog aggression is fear. If a dog hasn’t been socialized properly from a young age then they’re likely to display signs of fear and aggression around people later on. This behavior can be changed though if you have patience with your four legged friend, through slow exposure therapy and treats. You will need to contact a dog behavioral expert if your dog is displaying a high level of aggression. Learn to recognize when your dog is feeling uncomfortable and likely to bite. They are likely to have a stiff tail, tense body with ears flat to their head. They may also be licking their lips, yawning or staring. Other more obvious signs include barking, growling and baring teeth. If your dog shows any of these signs then remove them from the situation immediately.
Use A Leash If Your Dog Is Nervous
A nervous dog may not need a muzzle but a nervous dog will probably need to be on a leash when you take them out on their daily walks. As we mentioned, a nervous dog is likely to respond with aggression and the last thing you want to happen is for your dog to attack another animal or a person. Unless their behavior has been rectified, keep your dog on a leash at all times. It’s much better to be safe than sorry.
As with all canine advice, if you are unsure how to train your dog or they have displayed signs of aggression that is a concern then it’s definitely best to seek professional help. There are vets and dog behavioral specialists that can help with this specific problem and will be able to tell you exactly what to do if in doubt.