(Last Updated On: July 29, 2018)

Having a dog is probably the biggest responsibility besides having children. If you get your dog as a puppy, expect your new best friend to be a part of your life for the next 10 to 12 years. Having a furry friend by your side can be very fulfilling, but there are things to consider. You have to puppy-proof your yard, potty train, feed your dog, arrange for dog care when you’re away, walk your dog, get vaccine shots, and so on. Training your dog from a young age is also important. Dogs have sharp teeth and won’t understand that even playful biting can hurt. As your puppy develops into an adult dog, that bite can easily become a legal liability. So, how do you teach your dog not to bite?

Bite Inhibition

Puppies love to play with their mouths. This can be fun but it can also be painful, especially if there are kids in the house. Training puppies how to control their mouths is essential.

  • Dogs play with their mouths and can be unaware if they bite too hard. If your puppy chomps on your hand, let your hand go limp and yelp in pain. This will startle your dog and she will usually stop. Continue this behavior so your puppy learns that biting hard equals pain for others. When your puppy stops, praise her. If she continues, yelp again. If yelping doesn’t have any effect, then either move away for half a minute or ignore your puppy. After half a minute, resume playing. If your puppy keeps biting, move away again for half a minute. You are teaching your puppy that you will play if she is gentle but you will stop if you are hurt. Continue this kind of play until your puppy learns how to be gentle with her mouth.
  • Teach your puppy to use dog toys instead of your hands or feet. If your puppy bites your ankles, stop moving your feet and give your puppy a toy. If you don’t have a toy handy, freeze and wait for your puppy to stop. When she stops, praise her.
  • Apply these rules every time your puppy’s teeth graze you. Reward her when she selects her toy instead, and either yelp in pain or move away from her for half a minute when she playfully bites.

Treat the Aggressive Behavior

If your dog shows aggressive behavior towards people, it is usually out of fear. Dogs are sometimes scared of strangers and their first instinct to get this person to leave is to bark or bite. How do you change this behavior?

Dogs learn by association. Pavlov’s theory shows that you can train your dog to associate a person or object with with something good. When training dogs to change their behavior, your objective is to keep dogs happy. Here is a step-by-step approach:

  • First, make sure your dog cannot harm anyone. When you start your training, you don’t want to put any person in danger. Your untrained dog is a legal liability and must be treated that way, for the moment. A muzzle at this point in the training may help.
  • Next, you should identify exactly which situations cause your dog to attack, bite, or lunge. This behavior is frequently impulsive, and your goal will be to control these impulses.
  • Your dog now needs to learn that only good behavior will be rewarded and bad behavior will not be. Here is where consistency is key. You must reward good behavior as soon as it occurs and take away the rewards when bad behavior occurs. If a person is walking by, train your dog to sit rather than lunge forward or attack. If your dog obeys, reward him with a treat. If not, withhold your treat. Practice this every single time a stranger walks by. Your dog will associate a stranger with listening to you and receiving a treat.
  • Training your dog’s impulsive behavior should not only apply to people. You should reinforce this behavior in all aspects of life. If your dog wants a treat, your dog must learn to ask by sitting or by looking to you for permission. If your dog wants to chase squirrels, again, your dog must look to you for permission. Each time your dog asks permission, reward him or her with a treat. Again, consistently reinforce good behavior so this becomes a habit with your dog rather than just a “training session.” Your dog needs to understand that good behavior should occur all the time.

Why does this type of training change dogs’ behavior? Dogs learn that when they ask permission, they will get what they want. When they listen to you, they will get what they want. When they don’t, their behavior is not rewarded. The training will seem intensive at first but as your dog learns, his good behavior will simply become a way of life.


Simply Psychology | Pavlov’s Dogs

Cattledog Publishing | Developing Leadership in Humans and Impulse Control in Dogs

HawkLaw | Dog Bites