A dog, even a young puppy, has exquisite control of its bite. It is one of the first lessons that pup learns as a member of the litter. A pup who bites a litter mate harshly has immediate consequences. That pup might be ignored and isolated. Pup quickly learns to control its biting behaviour.
It is evident that even a young puppy has control over its bite. Toss a piece of kibble onto the carpet and pup will show how adroit it is with its mouth. That bite, however, can be dangerous. Mother Nature equipped dogs with powerful jaw muscles and strong, sharp teeth. A dog's mouth can crush bones. Even the smallest dogs have a powerful bite. In the wild, it was a basic necessity for survival. In a domestic situation with humans, it can be a cause for safety concerns.
It is imperative that all pups be taught to inhibit their bite. This can be taught easily and effectively to all pups.
I lie to puppies. I have other people tell a similar lie to my puppies. And the lie is this: Each and every time pup touches my skin with his/her puppy teeth, I tell pup that "that hurts!" I overreact purposefully – "Ouch!!! That really hurt!!!" – I try to overact, as much as possible. I create a scene. I stop play with pup immediately. The timing is important. I am not happy with pup and I scold. Pup has done a bad thing. Pup may be startled the first couple of times this happens, but it quickly learns that teeth on skin causes a severe, unpleasant reaction from this human. And, it seems like it happens with other humans too (if I can find a variety of co-operative people to assist). It is absolute fine if pup thinks all humans are delicate and can’t play roughly like his/her litter mates.
The lesson that I want to impress upon pup, as early as I can, has three points:
1. human skin is fragile.
2. dog teeth on skin is a bad, bad thing.
3. pup has to be very careful with its mouth.
I want to teach this lesson as effectively and as often as I can with pup. It may need much bad acting and overreacting on my part (also from friends, from family and other people). The criterion is teeth on skin. It does not have to hurt for me to begin this act. I have set my parameter for this at a very low level – even incidental teeth-to-skin contact is not acceptable. This simply will prevent a myriad of problems as pup grows up.
This does not mean that a dog who is threatened or is hurt will not bite. For its own safety, a dog will defend itself. However, this method of teaching bite inhibition will prevent accidental mishaps. It should be reassuring to dog owners that their beloved pet regards humans as very delicate creatures.
That perception of humans may save the dog’s life. A dog who bites does not have a very long life span. Furthermore, it may have legal consequences for you, as that dog's owner.