Until you have a crystal ball, reliably predicting whether your puppy will turn into a little fur-lined crocodile will largely remain a question mark. Consider, though, that acknowledging several contributing factors can go a long way when it comes to preventing your pup from joining the little land shark league.
Poor Breeding Practices
Whether Rover becomes a biter may depend on his genetic makeup. Some dogs are genetically predisposed to being fearful and easily stressed, which can up the chances for biting behaviors. Bad breeding practices, where dogs are allowed to breed regardless of poor temperament, may lead to litters of problematic puppies. It's best to look for code of ethic breeders whose paramount goal is improving the breed and breeding exclusively healthy specimens with excellent temperaments.
Lack of Littermate Lessons
Even though a puppy may be genetically wired right and have temperamentally sound parents, life experiences can still have great influence on future biting behaviors. In an ideal situation, puppies learn proper bite inhibition in their interactions with their littermates and mom. Orphan or singleton puppies, along with puppies removed from their litters too early, miss out on these important life lessons with the end result of potentially developing a hard bite and a low tolerance for frustration.
No Continuing Education
Bite inhibition lessons aren't limited to young puppies mingling in the litter. Dog owners must be diligent in continuing teaching the puppy how to develop a soft mouth. This way, if the puppy should ever bite in the future as he develops stronger jaws, he'll know how to control the pressure of his mouth. Good bite inhibition can really make a difference between barely feeling the teeth on skin and a daunting trip to the closest emergency room.
The way a puppy is raised can also have an impact on the puppy's future biting behaviors. Socialization is very important so puppies can learn that the world is a safe and happy place where there's less reason to act defensive. Behavioral scientists believe that the most crucial time for socialization to take place is from the age of 4 to 14 weeks. Puppies poorly socialized, such as those rescued from puppy mills and hoarder situations, are more likely to be fearful of anything new, making them strong candidates for fear-related aggression.
Lack of Training
A pup's predisposition to biting is often a combination of genes and learned experiences. While you cannot completely predict future biting, you can often "nip" possible problem behaviors in the bud if you seek help out early. If your puppy starts thinking you are the human impersonation of a tug toy, consult with an experienced trainer or behavior consultant who can show you effective ways to curb the biting. Often, all puppies need is a little bit of gentle guidance and some redirection.
Adrienne Farricelli has been writing for magazines, books and online publications since 2005. She specializes in canine topics, previously working for the American Animal Hospital Association and receiving certification from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers. Her articles have appeared in "USA Today," "The APDT Chronicle of the Dog" and "Every Dog Magazine." She also contributed a chapter in the book " Puppy Socialization - An Insider's Guide to Dog Behavioral Fitness" by Caryl Wolff.