Eureka! Dog Blog

Dog Training and Behavior weblog

Nipping Dogs

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It seems like everyone has the same viewpoint on this – MY dog nips in play, YOUR dog bites and is vicious.  Well-behaved, well-adjusted dogs don’t nip or bite, period.  If they do, it’s because we have decided to tell them it’s OK to do that.  I do not believe that one breed is more inclined to nip or bite than another, it has far more to do with their conditioning than their breeding.  Of course, the problem is far more obvious and more dangerous if the dog is a large animal with strong muscles and jaws.  However, many small dogs have caused serious injuries.

Some dogs nip or bite because they are afraid.  That’s a serious problem, and you need to see a trainer or behaviorist.  (Unless, of course, the dog is being attacked, when it is a sensible move by the dog to defend himself.)  If your dog has serious fears that make him a danger to the public, eventually he will bite someone, and that may result in him being euthanized.  (And of course, you may be sued.)

Some dogs bite because they are aggressive, and they want to do damage.  We saw a dog like that recently, who would attack seriously and without warning.  If there is an obvious trigger, then it may be possible for a professional to work with the dog and modify his behavior.  If the attack comes with no apparent trigger, the dog continues to be very dangerous.

Some dogs nip or bite because they believe that they are the leader of the pack, and they have the right to discipline other members of the pack.  In your home, it is your responsibility to make sure that the humans are leaders, the dogs are followers.  Otherwise, elderly people and children are at risk of injury.  This is a very common situation – trainers see it every day, and can help you to rectify it.

But most dogs nip because people have encouraged them to do so – or have failed to discourage them.  If a puppy plays hard with his litter mates and causes pain, they will soon let him know about it – and dogs have tougher skin than humans.  People often think it’s cute, and do not consider that it will be less cute when he weighs more than 50 pounds, and the person being nipped is their grandmother or their toddler.  Any time your dog or puppy puts teeth on a person (or their clothing), your response should be immediate and consistent.

  1. Make a sharp noise as it happens – the dog needs to understand exactly what caused your response, and that sharp noise will help him pinpoint it.
  2. Immediately stop playing with or petting the dog, stop speaking to him, turn away from him, and if necessary, put a door between yourself and him.  Your dog wants your attention, even if it means being yelled at.  Do not give him any attention for several minutes, and make sure no one else does either.
  3. After a few minutes, return to the dog.  (If he immediately starts to use his teeth again, just say “No” and walk away again, and wait a few more minutes.)  If he is acting normally, then tell him to Sit (or Down, or Shake, or any similar command) – when he does as he is told, you can praise hm for being a good dog, and you can continue as normal.

This is one of the most important things you can teach your dog.  If you know he will not use his teeth on people, you will feel comfortable taking him places, and letting him meet visitors to your house.  And he stands a better chance of a long and happy life in your home.

Written by eurekapaws

May 5, 2009 at 8:18 pm

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