How to Discipline Biting Dogs

by Tom Ryan
Aggressive games can lead to play-biting.

Aggressive games can lead to play-biting.

DTP/Digital Vision/Getty Images

If your dog has a habit of nibbling things that shouldn't be nibbled, you need to put a quick stop to it. Even seemingly innocuous biting can grow into something worse if left unchecked, so show him who's boss and don't let a bad habit develop into a dangerous one.

Step 1

Separate your dog from the stimuli causing him to bite, like a toy or another dog. If your dog play-bites -- for example, during a heated tug-of-war match -- give him a stern "no" command immediately and take the toy away. If your dog is nipping at another dog, separate them, but not by inserting yourself into the situation physically. Instead, blast your dog with a spray of water or distract him with a sudden, loud noise, like a horn.

Step 2

Isolate yourself from the dog immediately. When playtime gets out of control and you sustain a bite, your dog isn't necessarily to hurt you. Dogs are simply used to being aggressive players with each other. Physical discipline is never the answer with a dog, but isolating him sends a clear message: Bite again, and you won't get any more attention. When practiced consistently, your dog will learn that biting -- even play-biting -- means a swift loss of privileges, and he'll start to think twice.

Step 3

Be consistent and be harsh. Isolating your dog isn't always easy, even after a bite, and he may cry and whine from behind closed doors. Wavering, however, undoes everything you have taught him, and completely disrupts the system of reward and punishment you're attempting to teach. Dogs learn from consistency, so don't be a softie. Put him away and leave him alone until he calms down, and repeat as often as necessary.

Tips

  • Keep your dog well-trained in all aspects of life, not just biting. One of the biggest reasons that a dog bites is because he thinks he can. A dog that labors under the idea that he is the dominant one in your relationship will do whatever he wants, including biting. When your dog is trained to obey commands and listen to you, he knows that you are the dominant creature, and he won't act out as much.
  • If your dog bites out of apparent chronic aggression or fearfulness, consult a professional behaviorist. His behavior may be the result of past abuse or other issues that should be treated only by a professional.

Warning

  • When isolating a dog, do not lock him in his crate. The dog's crate should never be associated with punishment -- instead, leave him isolated in a room.

Photo Credits

  • DTP/Digital Vision/Getty Images

About the Author

Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

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