A fine line exists between play biting and the real thing when you are working with dogs. Dogs who do not understand the difference between a play bite and a bite that does damage can quickly earn a reputation for being dangerous dogs. Your dog will benefit greatly over the course of his life if your spend a significant amount of time teaching him bite inhibition and then reinforcing proper behavior.
Bite inhibition is your dog's ability to control how hard he bites down when he bites. A dog with good bite inhibition may put his mouth on his human when he is playing, but he will not cause pain or leave marks on that human's skin. A dog with poor bite inhibition will bite down on a person or playmate, leaving behind bruising, teeth marks and may draw blood. A dog with poor bite inhibition may also bite quickly, hard and without much warning.
Most dogs will begin to learn bite inhibition from their mother and littermates when they are still young puppies. During the course of normal play, your puppy is going to bite the other dogs. When a puppy bites down too hard, the other dog is naturally going to display a negative reaction such as a loud squeal, bearing his teeth or biting the offending puppy back. As your puppy plays with his canine playmates, he will develop an understanding of what type of play is acceptable within his little pack and what behaviors are not. This behavior will continue as your puppy grows and is part of why you need to make sure your puppy is properly socialized with other dogs. The more time your puppy spends playing with canine playmates, the more time those playmates have to show him how to behave and play in an acceptable manner.
When you teach bite inhibition to your puppy, you are essentially teaching him that it is not OK to bite a person and that it is definitely not OK to seriously bite a person. You can try squealing loudly whenever your puppy puts his teeth on you, replacing your hand with a toy that it is acceptable to chew on whenever your puppy tries to bite you, or you can try a method of training that involves taking attention away from your puppy whenever he bites or displays other undesirable behavior. You essentially teach the puppy that you will not acknowledge his existence unless he is behaving correctly. The best way to figure out how to teach your puppy is to take him to obedience school or work with a reputable professional dog trainer to teach him bite inhibition, along with all the rest of his manners.
Bite inhibition is easier to teach to puppies than it is to adult dogs who have already developed their habits and behaviors with humans. If an adult dog lacks bite inhibition, he can be very dangerous. If you have an adult dog who bites, work one-on-one with a professional dog trainer to determine the most effective way to teach your adult dog bite inhibition.
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