Saturday, January 24, 2009

47. Hard-mouthed Dogs and Sharky Teeth: Teaching Bite Inhibition

I recently added a new canine member to my family who is 21 mos. While she appears to be a gentle soul, she has never been taught to be gentle with her teeth (called bite inhibition or control), especially when she is highly aroused around toys and desirable food.

It was a fairly quick process to teach her how to handle her mouth, but then she's very responsive and wants to please. I think in the past, she didn't know how to communicate with her people (preteens, teens and adults) but now that she does, she's happy to oblige.

I believe it helped as I was explaining to her many different ways that she needed to learn how to use her mouth and control how much pressure and when it was not appropriate to put teeth on the human flesh. If the item is linked, there is more information or a video available.


If you dog takes food hard while training, it may help to offer food on a flat palm, like you do to feed a horse, while you are in the training process.

Here are some ideas I tried:
1.
Teach her to nose target my hand. (Read Level 1)
2.
Teach her to nose target the end of a stick. (Read Level 2)
3.
Teach her to nose to target several different objects (not dog toys). (Read Level 3)
4. Use a metal spoon for delivering treats (to protect my fingers but it seemed to make her more careful)
5. Taught her how to follow a food lure (she used to just bite at it). (Hide food between your fingers and shape her only getting it when she progressively takes it more and more gently. )
6.
Worked on food zen. (I plan to apply it to toy zen as well). (Read Level 1 & 2)
7. Used a clicker to get her to release toy and either rewarded with low level food (cheerio) or a throw of same toy as reward.
8.
I taught her to do a finger retrieve to show how much pressure she uses.
9.
We will be working on fine-tuning her object delivery as in dropping a coin into a bottle or penny bank. This will help her to learn to use her tongue and front teeth and help her realize she can control her mouth to a very fine degree.
10. Teach her how to take and give objects, including a 'pick' or 'nibble' cue that uses only her front teeth.

11. Keep arousal levels low so she is not grabbing because of excitement. (Short training sessions that stop before she gets aroused help).

Do have other ideas of how to train a softer mouth/greater teeth awareness? Please pass them along and I will add them.