Home Dog behavior Dog behavior: bite inhibition is important

Dog behavior: bite inhibition is important



All dogs are equipped with powerful jaws and teeth capable of inflicting injury, but they vary in their willingness to use them as weapons. Most save them for marrowbones, chewing, or Kongs, a quality that makes them good pets and friends. The degree to which dogs learn not to use the full force of their mouths on humans and other dogs is called “bite inhibition,” and this is the most important part of dog training.

Unfortunately, all dogs are susceptible to unpleasant or stressful incidents, but those with good bite inhibition won’t cause much (if any) damage in response. This is why bite inhibition is so valuable. If an injured or terrified dog gets air or inhibits its bite so effectively that contact with another dog or person does not cause pain or injury, it is a manageable problem by most people’s standards. If a dog with poor bite inhibition is in the same situation and inflicts severe damage, it is a potentially disastrous problem from a physical, emotional, and even legal perspective.

Consider the following incidents from my own records.

A visiting child loses his temper when the family dog ​​distracts him during a game of ping-pong by yawning and whimpering. The child hits the dog in the face with the ping-pong racket and the dog runs away yelping. A teenage girl tries to dress her dog to match her own outfit, and the dog resists. As she continues to force the clothes on him, he moans and struggles. After several minutes, the dog growls and slams his face but makes no contact. An elderly man trips and falls on his dog while the dog is eating. The dog bites the man on the leg, leaving no trace. A toddler tries to climb on his sleeping dog to ride him like a horse. The dog gets up and starts to walk away, but when she tries to get onto her back again, he bites her on the shoulder, causing a bruise. When a man reaches out to stroke his friend’s dog, his watch gets caught on the dog’s collar. He gently tries to untangle himself and the dog bites him on the leg, leaving two puncture marks and a few bruises. A woman walks into her dining room, sees a dog toy under the table, and bends down to pick it up. Her dog comes out of the living room and bites her arm multiple times, resulting in multiple punctures as well as wrist and arm fractures that require multiple surgeries to repair.


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In each case, it’s easy to see why the dog was in distress. Yet the severity of the responses was not directly related to the injustice or pain experienced by the dog, but rather the dog’s ability to exert good bite inhibition. It is no exaggeration to say that bite inhibition can be the difference between success and failure in treating behavior problems, and even between life and death for the dog.

When assessing the risks, it is reasonable to ask what is the worst that could happen if, for example, a gate is left open, a leash breaks, or someone breaks in unexpectedly. If the answer is, “Someone might be really scared and mad at us because our dog might bark, split or crack,” many people would be willing to take this chance. If, on the contrary, the answer is “someone could be seriously and even permanently injured, require medical attention such as surgery or be deeply traumatized”, many fewer would be able to live with that risk. The answer is really important because it will generally determine how willing people are to live with the risk, which in turn influences their commitment to their dog and their work to improve his behavior.

Some dogs develop the bite inhibition so essential in dealing with difficult and unexpected life events, while others do not. Genetics and learning influence the process. Although there are genetic variations between individual dogs, certain types of dogs are known for their soft mouths. It is not surprising, for example, that dogs bred to retrieve game use their mouths gently to avoid damaging that game. Retrievers are also well known for their “mouths” which means they often use their mouths, including their teeth. While there are cases of dogs who are gentle with their mouths on recovery but do not have good bite inhibition in social situations, it is more common for dogs able to exercise control in a social setting. situation are able to behave in the same way in others. That’s not to say that dogs with good bite inhibition won’t kill squirrels or tear up their chew toys. Bite inhibition is all about exercising control in social situations, but this doesn’t necessarily apply to predatory behaviors or playing with objects.

Experience with the bite and butcher game often leads to better bite inhibition, and like anything else, those who practice become the more adept. Litter mates are a puppy’s first teacher, one of the many reasons puppies benefit from staying with their litter for about two months. While young dogs are playing, they use their mouths to pull or chew on the ears, tails, paws, and loose skin of their siblings. If one puppy yells at another too loud, the injured puppy barks, stops playing and walks away. This teaches puppies that harsh bites, even if not meant to cause pain, lead to interruption of play. Single puppies and those taken from their litter before five or six weeks of age often lack strength. good bite inhibition. Puppies seem to need feedback from their littermates to learn how to control the pressure they put with their mouths.

Once the puppies move to new homes, their education should continue, which includes socializing with other puppies and dogs. That doesn’t mean throwing a puppy into the dog park fray and hoping all will be well. In this setting, puppies are far too likely to be overwhelmed and experience it as we might encounter a gladiatorial pit. Rather, it means supervised play dates with carefully selected and well-behaved dogs.

Lessons from people are also helpful in teaching bite inhibition. While using their mouths on our hands, arms, legs, hair, and clothing is a natural behavior for them, dogs must learn to interact appropriately in our world. One effective technique, based on the puppies’ previous experiences with their littermates, is to surprise and then reorient the young offender. If a puppy yells too loud, bark with a puppy-like sound (Aaarp! is the closest description of this sound that can be spelled), which often interrupts the puppy’s bites. Take advantage of this break in behavior by immediately giving the puppy something suitable to chew on. Good options include bones, chew toys, Kongs, squeaky toys, and stuffed animals.

A common mistake when using this method is to give a bark and not redirect the puppy. In most cases, although the sound will startle the puppy into a pause in the mouth, he or she will come back to it unless he or she gives them another more appropriate object to focus on. A lot of people start by doing both steps (surprise and redirect), but over time they get surprised without bothering to redirect. They then signal that the technique does not work.

While over 90 percent of puppies will respond to this method if used correctly and consistently, there are indeed some dogs that seem to get worse in response to high-pitched calls, becoming even louder and more enthusiastic. For these dogs, it is generally effective to startle the dog with a “Hey! or “Ouch! Otherwise, the technique of interrupting the behavior and then redirecting the dog to an appropriate object is the same. If the puppy doesn’t respond to any of the sounds, move away so that the puppy learns that biting ends the fun.

It is important to start by surprising and redirecting the puppy only in response to the strongest bites. Using this approach every time you put your mouth to mouth can be overwhelming for the puppy, who, after all, does what comes naturally and explores the world through mouth. So the first objective is to teach the puppy not to butcher so hard rather than not to butcher at all. When the harder bites have been inhibited, the next step is to startle and redirect after the medium force bites. Finally, once the puppy has learned to butcher people with the slightest pressure, teach him not to do it at all using the same technique in response to any occasion when his teeth touch the skin, hair, or teeth. delicate human clothing.

There are many recommendations for stopping puppy mouthing and I advise against most of them as they are inhumane and generally ineffective. For example, don’t hold the dog’s muzzle closed, yell at the dog, stick your fingers in the dog’s mouth, or hit the dog. Basically it comes down to a general advice: don’t do anything that involves any physical punishment that causes pain or scares the dog.

Good bite inhibition is extremely important, and developing it requires lessons early in life. The normal process of learning bite inhibition is related to the development of the puppy and it usually cannot be learned later in life with the same degree of success. Dogs that lack this essential skill can cause serious damage: bites, painful bruises, and even occasional fractures. Learning bite inhibition is one of the first and most essential lessons for puppies because it is about safety as well as being a well-behaved and polite member of society.



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