Concluding our short series on inhibiting dog bites, here are some practical ways in which you can teach your dog that doggie teeth do not belong on human skin – EVER.
1. Start teaching your dog as early as possible. It’s much easier to train a young dog whose habits are not yet ingrained.
2. Teach the dog to use his mouth gently (see previous post)
3. If a puppy tries to gnaw on your fingers or toes, give him a chew toy (baby animals teethe just like human babies do; the urge to gnaw is natural).
4. If your dog gets excited when being petted and mouths your hands in response, distract him with a treat delivered from your other hand. This will teach him that pats do not equal mouthing…
5. Play with your dog in a no-contact way; fetch, for example. Only play tug of war safely (we will address this in a future post).
6. Teach your dog to “Sit. Wait. Leave it”. This imparts impulse control lessons to your dog.
7. Carry a tug toy with you. If your dog nips at your feet as you walk, stop and distract him with the toy.
8. Provide new and interesting toys on a regular basis. Go for walks and play regularly.
9. Allow your dog opportunities to play with other friendly and vaccinated dogs.
10. Every time you feel dog teeth contact with human skin at all, give him a time out. Every single time. You must do it immediately so he can grow to understand exactly what behaviour has triggered his time out.
11. If simple yelping and time outs don’t work, try a commercial taste deterrent on your skin. Sprayed on areas of skin and clothing the dog likes to mouth (prior to interacting with him), they taste terrible and he will react to this and let go.
12. Remember to offer lots of praise when he lets go and exhibits behaviours of which you approve.
13. If all else fails, enlist the services of a professional dog trainer!
Finally, NEVER do the following:
• NEVER discourage your dog from general playing with you. Play between dog and human forges a strong bond.
• NEVER slap the sides of a dog’s face or wave fingers in his face to attract his attention.
• NEVER slap or hit or physically strike a dog as a disciplinary tool. It will make the dog afraid of you, damage your bond, and may even encourage aggression in your dog.
• NEVER jerk away from your do when he does mouth. Limp hands or feet are much less fun to play with.
Enjoy and love your dog as much as he loves you – and give him the time and attention he needs to learn how to play nice.