When a dog is growing up, they will likely bite for fun. However, an adult dog that bites might seem more than a bit dangerous. Even if they're just playing, the jaws of adult dogs can cause considerable damage to furniture or even the human body. Even dogs who don't actively bite might display a behavior called mouthing.
Mouthing happens when the dog places their mouth over something but doesn't actively bite down. Mouthing can be just as bad a habit to deal with, especially in adult dogs. Puppies can be taught that certain behaviors are wrong, but modification can be demanding in adult dogs, if not impossible. Mouthing happens in adult dogs because their humans didn't teach them it was wrong as puppies.
Do These Behaviors Constitute Aggressiveness?
Mouthing is a normal dog behavior. However, some dogs display aggressive tendencies that may be due to anxiety. This aggressive behavior may culminate in severe biting and potential injuries for someone nearby. This anxiety can be managed with some dogs by getting them a sleep cuddler bed. However, if their aggressive behavior is due to something else, then retraining may be necessary. But is the dog being aggressive, or is their behavior playful?
When you look at the dog's face and their stance, even their expression, you can tell whether it's aggression or play. Playful dogs have a relaxed face, Their muzzles may look a little wrinkled, but unless there's active tension on the rest of their face, it's safe to assume that they're just playing. Playful mouthing tends to be less severe for dogs, and their body language helps you spot this. If your dog is aggressive or takes a defensive posture, it's a good sign that this isn't a playful encounter. If aggression escalates, they may pull back their muzzle to bare their teeth along with heavy growling to warn the other person that they're uncomfortable. When dogs strike aggressively, they are fast, much more rapid than when they're involved in a playful situation.
If you think your dog is suffering from aggression, you should talk to an animal psychologist or vet. If you opt to go with a trainer to deal with their aggression, be sure that the person you choose is qualified to deal with these conditions. The perfect candidate should be well-trained, as demonstrated by official certification, and have a breadth of experience dealing with aggressive pups.
Minimizing Nipping and Mouthing in Dogs
If your pup's behavior is play, that's a good thing. However, this sort of rough play can get out of hand quickly, and for newcomers, it can be scary to be mouthed by a dog.
Chewing is a natural behavior, and you're likely to encounter dogs using it in every aspect of their lives. They investigate things by chewing on them, and they play with their humans by nipping on their fingers and toes. However, you should set a goal to stop your dog from mouthing or biting altogether. This goal requires a bit of training to ensure that they know that biting isn't the right way to deal with anything, especially humans.
The Art of Bite Inhibition
Dogs typically don't have an idea of how strong their jaws are. For the most part, puppies underestimate the power of their bites, but they don't realize that, as they grow, their jaws become stronger. Bite inhibition teaches a dog to control the force of his mouthing so that he doesn't cause injury to the human that he's playing with. Many dog behaviorists agree that if a dog is trained to use bite inhibition, it can come in handy when the dog bites someone outside of play. Sometimes, dogs bite when they're afraid or are in pain. In these situations, it can be handy to have a dog trained in bite inhibition so as not to injure those helping the pup.
Typically, when dogs are young, they learn bite inhibition while playing with other puppies. If you've ever observed puppies at play, you'd realize that they bite each other all the time. Sometimes, one may bite a little too hard, resulting in whining or cries from the victim. Immediately the victim stops playing and withdraws, teaching the biter that being too rough or aggressive will result in the shutdown of playtime. After a while (sometimes within the next few minutes), they resume playing. This feedback loop is essential in teaching a puppy what constitutes biting too hard. If pups learn to modulate their bite from this stage, they grow up to be less likely to bite and cause severe injuries.
If you have an older dog that hasn't learned this lesson, you may want to start with letting them mouth your hand. Continue playing until they bite especially hard, then withdraw your hand with a high-pitched yelp. This response should cause your dog to pause. if it doesn't, try removing your hand and saying in a firm voice, "No!" or, "Too bad!" Resume playing and if they bite hard again, perform the same actions. Keep these play sessions short, to around ten to fifteen minutes, or until they bite hard up to three times (whichever happens first).
If this training technique doesn't work, you can try a time-out method instead. If your dog delivers the hard bite, withdraw your hand from their reach with a yelp, then leave them alone for ten to twenty seconds. If they start mouthing again, get up and move away, ensuring they know that you're not interested during a ten to twenty-second period. After this short time out, you can return to playing until they bite hard again. Repeat this procedure for short periods to ingrain the idea that hard biting is frowned upon. When your pup stops delivering really hard bites, you can relax the rules a bit. When they bite hard, yelp and stop play, but resume quicker. Every time they bite harder than average, ignore them for a bit and then continue playing.
Training Your Dogs to Interact
Bite suppression and inhibition are essential behaviors for a pup to learn early on. However, the adage about an old dog unable to learn new tricks isn't true. You can teach adolescent and even senior dogs that mouthing and biting hard is wrong. If you're inclined, you can even extend your training to teach them that their teeth on human skin isn't welcome at all. However, doing so limits the amount of interaction you have with your dog, so it might not be the direction you'd want to go. Training your dog helps to build the bond between you and them. This interaction, in turn, makes for a much deeper relationship for each of you.