Posted : 10/13/2010 5:35:00 AM
I always, always, always, teach bite inhibition before I teach bite prohibition in my puppies.
Puppies learn how to soften their bite - against other dogs - in the litter (although it needs to be reinforced as the pup grows too, from other dogs. A "use it or lose it" thing). But what a dog finds painful and what fragile human skin finds painful are two very different things. Teaching them to bite tugs, bones, and other toys still isn't teaching them how painful their teeth can be on *humans*, and what touch is not painful. You will never know when a dog might bite a human - every dog is capable - and they will use it as communication when forced to - so I think I giving the dogs the benefit of the doubt and letting them learn how sensitive people are from the beginning is better than never letting them realize that we humans are more sensitive than other dogs.
I start out only focusing on the hardest bites, and then upping my own criteria to softer and softer bites until before long the pup is only delivering super-gentle mouthing. I don't promote mouthing, but I don't ban all of it immeidiately - that is how I choose what is too hard, and what is not. It is at that point that I will teach total prohibition (if I choose to) of mouthing if it is necessary. Most of the time at that point, the dog has reached an age where it stops mouthing altogether anyhow, as it is mostly a maturity issue. Rarely have I personally had to teach a dog bite prohibition, I can only think of a couple who didn't *grow out of it* in the last 10 years or so. I am always handling my pup's mouths daily though through that same age period, and they learn what it is to have me placing my hands on, in, and around their mouth and how to allow gentle handling of their mouth as well, so it's a combined effect.
I will use toys to replace and distract from biting at pants, clothing, boots, and jumping at hands while walking, as that to me is a totally different behaviour than puppy mouthing when you are sitting on the floor and playing with the pup, but I do make sure I get in quite a bit of hands-on teaching of the pup about how a pup should use its mouth before it grows out of that stage anyway.