How To Quickly Stop Your Dog or Puppy From Mouthing Or Biting.
One of the top 3 “Help Me” requests I get from owners is…
“My dog keeps biting…”
Depending on the size of the dog this can be mildly annoying to quite worrying.
When dogs are puppies they explore things with their mouths as they do their nose and ears.
Also puppies tend to play with other puppies this way.
It’s just a natural thing for them…
…But of course it isn’t natural for us and even the smallest dog can still end up with quite a nip.
Most dogs actually grow out of this habit as they get older (unless we entice them to carry on).
As you know I am a positive, reward based trainer but even so I understand that sometimes you have a way of telling your dog it has done something wrong.
Unlike some other trainers I don’t feel the need to introduce “shock” or “prong” collars to do it.
Dogs are not stupid. They can be taught quite quickly when they have done something wrong, all you have to do is teach them a command that shows them.
I like to use “Nope” or “No” or something along those line.
But before we get to that you should understand one basic thing about dogs…
That’s simply that they can misunderstand noise for play, especially younger dogs.
But equally they understand that silence is not good.
So the worst thing you can do to a dog is shout and wave your hands, it can easily mistake this for fun.
If a dog ever does something you don’t like the best thing you can do is go quiet, stop any movement and wait.
Then simply in a firm voice say…”No”…Just once.
You have to do this without expression of any kind.
Wait for your dog to back off…
If it shows any sign of backing off even turning it’s head away then reward with a treat. But don’t do it loudly so your dog get excited again.
If he/she does then he/she has shown that they understand.
Once you do this in several situations your pet will understand that “no” means “no play”.
Just use it sparingly and make sure you use it without emotion (if you can).
So lets also teach the leave it command because this will help with any Mouthing or Biting issues.
This is a great command to teach any dog and once taught can be used in a variety of situations.
I always teach our dogs this command early…I don’t want them picking things off the ground that could contain poison or may not be good for them.
Once taught you can use it lots of different situations.
As with any trick this is taught very simply at first.
One thing to remember with leave it…
…Don’t reward with the thing we are preventing them from touching.
So if we ask them to leave a treat in our hand…don’t them give them that treat!
Give them a treat from your other hand.
Leave it means leave that thing and you will be rewarded.
You will only confuse the dog if you give them the same thing you just asked them to leave.
So we start with a treat in our hand and take it towards the dogs nose.
I would start with a treat that is a little less bland than say chicken or liver or cheese.
Just a basic dry treat even the dogs normal daily food.
The dog should naturally go for it…
If they do then close your hand…
Now the action we are looking for is for the dog to turn it’s nose away from our hand.
Some dogs actually do this immediately others will try anything to get that treat and be ready for some fun and games.
If a dog just turns away, then treat and give them the command “leave it”
If not you are looking for the smallest sign that the dog has moved its head from you.
The moment you see any sign the dog has given up or relaxed on it’s pursuit. Then reward.
Dogs have this uncanny ability to remember the last thing they did and you will probably find after you have done this just 3 or 4 times that you dog will realise exactly what it needs to do to get the reward.
Once we are sure the dog is backing off when we show the treat and put in the “Leave it command”
Now just show the treat and say “leave it”.
To test this try tastier treats, you may find it needs a little more work.
Once you have the basic command it’s time to extend the meaning for the dog.
I have probably said this before…
Dogs learn differently to us.
If I taught you the command “leave it” you would realise immediately that whenever you hear it then it means “leave it alone”.
Dogs learn not only from what they hear, but what they see and smell at the same time.
That’s why you can teach your dog to sit in your house but when you get it outside you can be surprised that it doesn’t then sit on command.
It’s a different experience so we need to show the dog that us complex humans still mean the same thing.
Get the dog to go into a sit or down.
Put a treat in front of it far enough away so you can grab it before they do.
As you put it down say the command “Leave it”.
Some dogs may have got the association, other dogs will probably launch towards it.
Those that get it reward…
…Those that don’t say “No” or “Nope” and put them back into the sit or down and try again.
As soon as they hesitate for even the slightest moment reward with another treat.
Great our dog should now be starting to understand that “Leave it” means “Leave anything alone we put in front of them.
Next is to move the treat closer and closer reinforcing the command all the time.
Most people end up being able to put treats on their dogs paws while they are in a down.
The ultimate test is recalling your k9 friend past a number of treats that are on the floor.
Most dogs that understand the “leave it” will give the treats a wide birth, letting you know they understand and are just coming to get their reward.
My labradoodle will go miles out of his way!
Once they understand the command you can use it all sorts of situations so go practice.
You can also use it if your dog is biting.
Using “no” and “leave it” will soon teach your dog that biting is not permissible.
Try it and have fun with it.