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Puppy Socialization: Bite Inhibition

Puppy Socialization: Bite Inhibition

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Image by Katrin B. from Pixabay

Puppies use their mouths to learn about the world around them.  It’s completely normal for them to mouth each other, objects and even humans.  But that “normal” puppy biting behavior needs to be addressed and modified through “acquired bite inhibition.”  Proper puppy socialization teaches your dog bite inhibition.


Image by denilson massahiro tamasiro massa from Pixabay

It can be “cute” when a puppy mouths your hand and even nibbles a bit. But imagine this “cute behavior” unchecked and used by a full-grown adult dog! What was once “acceptable” is now potentially dangerous. Appropriately addressing it early on will set your puppy up for success as he becomes bigger and stronger.

What is K9 Bite Inhibition?

  1. A puppy learns to master or control the power of his mouth/jaws.
  2. A puppy learns to bite with “inhibited” force (not bite too hard).
  3. A puppy modifies the force of his mouthing.
  4. A puppy uses a “soft mouth” when mouthing objects, other pets or humans.

C:\Users\Owner\Desktop\K9BiteInhibitionIsLearnedEarly.jpg Bite inhibition is learned early on with the puppy’s mother and siblings. But it also needs to be reinforced with other pets and humans to avoid a disastrous outcome (a bite that does harm). Bite inhibition is also a critical part of good social skills.

Bite inhibition needs to take place in the early K9 socialization phase. By 12-16 weeks of age, puppies should understand what is expected of them when it comes to bite inhibition. However, puppy training needs to continue with positive reinforcement to make this a lifelong skill.

Image by willy lópez from Pixabay

In a study, Dr. Ian Dunbar found that dogs that are taught bite inhibition

are statistically less likely to be involved in a serious bite.

This is good news for both the dog and its owner.

Teaching Bite Inhibition

C:\Users\Owner\Desktop\PuppiesLearnBiteInhibition.jpg When the puppy is with its mother and siblings, they immediately teach it that hard biting has consequences. Either the mother will intervene or the littermates will yelp if too much pressure has been used during mouthing. This same technique can be used when dog training.

The best way to teach bite inhibition is to play with your puppy. It is normal for them to play-bite when playing. This gives you the opportunity to naturally train bite inhibition. When they use too much force or pressure when mouthing you can:

Image by Chiemsee2016 from Pixabay

  • Yell “ouch” or “ow-ow-ow-ow” in a very high pitched voice (never use physical force); this should make the puppy stop biting and back off;
  • Next, put the puppy in a sit, down or stay position;
  • Give them something else (acceptable) to chew on; and
  • Stop all play – or leave the room – for a few minutes.

This needs to be done every time by every member of the family whenever the puppy mouths or bites too hard. Eventually, the puppy will learn that biting means “game over.” And that’s not something he wants to encourage!

Lessen the Frequency of Puppy Mouthing

After the puppy has learned to mouth gently, he should then learn to stop mouthing upon request. This can be done using the “off” command and using food to lure and reward the acceptable behavior. (Need help teaching your puppy or dog the “off” command? We can help!) The goal of this exercise is to stop the puppy from mouthing completely.

C:\Users\Owner\Desktop\TeachYourPuppyBiteInhibitionEarly.jpg It’s very important to start the bite inhibition exercises early on and continue them until the dog has reliable bite inhibition and has stopped all mouthing. Bite inhibition can be applied to not biting humans, but shoes, shoelaces, ties, pants and hair as well. Always establish these new skills in a structured and controlled setting (like your home or puppy classes) before real-life situations occur. Always set your puppy up for success!

Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay


Added a New Puppy to Your Family

(or know someone who has)?

Let us help with all your puppy needs

especially early puppy socialization

(including bite inhibition)!

Puppy Training & Puppy Classes

Puppy House Training ~ Crate Training

Private In-Home Training ~ Dog Sitting

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

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Click here to contact us

or call us directly at 480-382-0144

(Serving Chandler and the East Valley in AZ)

C:\Users\Owner\Desktop\AreYouKillingYourDogWithFood.jpgAs of 2018, approximately 56%

of all American dogs

were overweight or obese.

(Cats were worse at 60%!)

Do you know if your dog is overweight?

Join us for our next April blog:

STOP Killing Your Dog With Food!

Additional Reading:

  1. Teaching Bite Inhibition

  1. Was it Just a Little Bite or More? Evaluating Bite Levels in Dogs

  1. Two Easy Methods to Teach Bite Inhibition to a Puppy

  1. Why Puppies Bite: Teaching Bite Inhibition



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