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Mouthing: Train Your Dog Bite Inhibition

The Beach Dog posted an article last week, "Is His Bark Worse than his Bite?" It's worth reading if you have a puppy that just doesn't seem to be outgrowing teething. A short summary of the article; our family currently has a new puppy in the house. His name is Levi and he's a very large silver Lab. The issue is his biting, on everything including people. It got me thinking there was more going on than just a teething puppy. I was right, it's a behaviour in canines that establishes his status in the pack. Turns out Levi is a very alpha type dog. It also turns out that this takes a bit more training than a teething puppy. I have to establish that I am the alpha leader of the pack...not him. So we start with training your dog bite inhibition.

So exactly what is bite inhibition? Bite inhibition is the natural training of puppies by the mother dog, to keep the puppies under her control. Alpha characters will try pushing the boundaries, whereas the beta pups will be more passive. This struggle to establish hierarchy is sometimes termed ‘dominance theory.’ The mother dog will train the heavy biters by making them be submissive to her. Typically she will take them by the skin on the top of the neck and gently force them into a ‘lay down’ position. Teaching the puppy to surrender to her, placing her in the dominant role. Flip the leadership role from the mother dog to the family members who ultimately take over the training process, it's now our job to teach bite inhibition. Training your dog bite inhibition is slightly more invasive than just compensating chew toys for a teething puppy. If you feel that your dogs ‘mouthing’ habits are slightly more aggressive than just a teething puppy you probably have an alpha pooch on your hands. Be the mother dog, take control and put this puppy in his place...literally.

Step one in training your dog bite inhibition, stand your ground. There are more reasons than just mouthing issues to be concerned with if your dog is leading the pack. 15 Steps to Becoming the Pack Leader is full of insights on this topic. Always end interactions with you in the dominant role. Which means always making the puppy take a submissive position. This can be as simple as a verbal command and don't forget to reward the pup for their accomplishments. If you have an alpha type dog on your hands you might have to physically surrender your puppy into a submissive position. An animal control officer once told me to replicate what the mother dog would do. Take the pup by the neck and push him or her into a laydown position on the floor. Reward with a verbal or whichever reward system you use in your everyday training.

Training your dog bite inhibition is as simple as showing him that you're the boss. When your puppy becomes receptive to this practice he is establishing you as the alpha leader of the pack. From this point on when your puppy’s mouthing gets rough, put him into a submissive position. This doesn't always mean in a laydown position. There are many ways your dog can show you they are being submissive, including body language. As long as you command your dog to do something, and he does, he's taking on a submissive role. The end goal being; if his bite is unacceptable than the ’no’ command makes your dog stop. Your dog responding to your ’no’ command shows submissiveness, and acceptance that you are the leader of the pack.

Mouthing is different than teething, your dog is trying to establish his place in the pack, aka, the family hierarchy. If you are questioning his role in the pack read Taming the Dominant Dog. It's your job, as the leader of the pack, to establish your alpha position. Ultimately your dog must fall into his place within the family unit, which means teaching alpha type dogs to take on more beta type roles. Once you've established dominance over your pooch the mouthing should tone down. Not to say your puppy will stop mouthing altogether but training your dog bite inhibition should render a softer bite, nibble, or just a taste. Dogs explore with their mouths, you can't train a dog not to be a dog but you can put them in their place.

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