How to Train a Dog Not to Bite – An Essential Guide
by Jessi Larson
Dogs have many wonderful qualities but there’s a potential downside, and it’s a big one: Biting. This harmful behavior can be dangerous and even deadly, which is why it’s all the more important to learn how to train a dog not to bite.
Unfortunately, almost all dogs can be prone to this behavior at one time or another.
Even if your your dog is a model canine, it’s still important to know how to train a dog not to bite. Animal instincts can kick in when you least expect it.
If you follow this advice, you can cut down on this unwanted behavior.
Behavior Guide: How to Train a Dog Not to Bite
Biting can be a common but problematic behavior that can occur in all dogs.
Each individual dog’s temperament varies, so it’s important to exercise caution and reach out to a training specialist if you suspect your dog is at risk of biting you or someone else out of aggression.
However, in most cases, there are many ways to control and eliminate biting behavior before it develops into an issue.
If you’re wondering how to train your dog not to bite, here are some important pointers.
The most important thing when training a dog is to establish yourself as the pack leader, or the alpha of the pack – even if that pack consists of just you and your dog.
To establish yourself as an authority, practice by walking your dog around by a leash (ideally at home) and teach your dog to “heel,” or follow you and defer to your commands.
Offer positive reinforcement when your pup follows your rules.
Start with Early Socialization
Biting, as a form of aggressive or fearful behavior, can be considerably limited with consistent and early socialization.
This means exposing your pup to as many new situations and people as possible at an early developmental stage so that it is less likely to react fearfully with a bite.
If you are working with an adult dog, socialization is still possible, but should be done with the help of a professional trainer, especially if your dog is exhibiting fearful or aggressive behavior.
Prevent Biting During Play
Puppies are notorious for chewing up everything in sight – sometimes that can include your fingers and toes.
For dogs, biting is a natural behavior that isn’t just a product of aggression, but can often used during play as well. However, you should teach your pup early on that this behavior doesn’t extend onto people. This is done by setting early behavioral limits during playtime.
If your puppy nips at your hand or tries to bite you during play, stop what you’re doing immediately and give your dog some time to calm down. You can go even further to tuck your hands under your armpits, which signals your withdrawal from playing.
Only approach them again when the biting has stopped and reward positive behavior. Never punish or use aggression with your dog when training.
You should also avoid rough play with your dog that might encourage biting behavior.
Spay/Neuter on Time
While there’s technically no guarantee that spaying or neutering your dog will prevent them from biting, there is evidence that fixed dogs are less likely to become aggressive.
Plenty of other reasons to get your dog spayed or neutered obviously exist, but preventing potentially aggressive behavior should be at the top of the list.
Don’t Assume a Dog Won’t Bite
As we said, biting is a natural instinct and behavior in dogs, so any dog can potentially bite someone if the “right” circumstances arise.
All this is to say, that even if you know a dog to be docile and otherwise unaggressive, you should never discount their potential to bite.
Instead, you should stay aware and focus on proactive obedience training.
Focus on Obedience Training
An obedient, well-trained dog is less likely to be nervous and get out of control.
So even if a tense situation does arise, you’ll be able to better contain your dog’s aggression and re-direct their attention before they strike.
Training will also boost your dog’s confidence and promote a more calm and happy demeanor.
Read Your Dog’s Body Language
Your dog speaks through its body language, so if you really want to know how they are feeling, just study the posture.
If you sense your dog is in distress or unhappy in a situation, this could potentially lead to aggressive behavior, so give your dog space, and try to change their environment to where they can be comfortable and free from distress.
Pay Attention to Growling
Just like body language, you should also pay attention to your dog’s growls. Many dog owners confuse this communication for unwanted aggression, so they try to stop it.
The fact is, your dog’s growl is a warning that they don’t like something around them and feel threatened. Growling alone isn’t an aggressive behavior but it can signal that aggressive behavior may be coming.
That is why it’s important to listen to what your dog is communicating to you so you can remove them from whatever danger they perceive.
If you stop the growling, on the other hand, this may result in your dog going straight in for the bite without any prior vocal warning.
Use Positive Reinforcement
When training your dog, it’s very important not to resort to using any negative reinforcement or punishment. While some dog owners think this type of stern approach will get them better results, that isn’t actually the case.
In fact, a study published in the Journal of Applied Animal Behavior in 2009 found that dogs that were trained with negative reinforcement were actually 25% more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior toward humans.
Instead, you should focus on giving plenty of positive reinforcement to your dog that encourages and celebrates their good behavior.
Positive encouragement is anything that gives pleasure to your dog, such as petting, verbal praise, extra play, a toy or a treat.
So often owners focus on correcting bad behavior, but it’s equally important to reward to your dog for being good so you can instill what type of behavior it is you want from them.
So the next time you catch your pup just being a good dog, give some treats and praise.
Final Thoughts on How to Train a Dog Not to Bite
We hope these tips help show you how to train a dog not to bite. Ultimately, you should always be aware that no two dog’s personalities are the same, and it’s important to take precautions and proactive steps to discourage any aggressive behavior.
However, if your dog has already bitten you or anyone else, or shows signs of aggressive behavior, you should seek out the help of a professional trainer to address these issues.
Watch a Training Video
As you learn how to train a dog not to bite, it can often help to get reinforcement through videos. After all, most people are more visual learners.
At My Dog’s Name, we love dog trainer Zak George. His positive, fun and informational style makes it easy to learn.
He has a wide variety of training videos to check out, including a number on the topic of how to train a dog not to bite.
If you have a puppy who won’t stop nibbling, this video is a good resource.
And if you find your dog continues to snap at people and other animals – a dangerous habit you need to stop ASAP – this video can help provide relief.
Bonus Training Tip
As you work on how to train a dog not to bite, you may get frustrated or impatient at times. But remember, dogs respond negatively to aggression and it negates your training.
Intelligent and intuitive creatures, dogs can sense if you’re hyper or angry, so taking a few moments to regroup will make the training process more successful.
If you feel like you’re at your wit’s end, just take a time out, breathe deep and count to 10. This will help you feel refreshed and ready to start again.
However, it’s important to note that you should do this after the bad behavior has stopped. Always make sure your dog is not a threat before pausing to regroup.
Top Dog Training Books
To ensure your dog is obedient and well-behaved, we recommend you learn as much about dog training as possible. As mentioned before, this will help as you figure out how to train a dog not to bite.
When you train a dog, it provides a solid foundation on how they should behave for the rest of their life. If you put in the work training your dog now, the following years will be so much easier!
When we first got Toby, we spent months working on training. Believe me, it was exhausting at times.
The result, however, is that he became a well-behaved dog who listened and followed our commands, and that made our lives much easier in the long run.
The following training books are excellent resources that all pup parents should check out.
You saw not one but two awesome Zak George videos on how to train a dog not to bite. If you liked his style, you’ll enjoy his book Dog Training Revolution.
A complete guide to raising a dog, the book covers all the bases when it comes to training and will provide you with a solid foundation for how your dog should behave.
We read it when we first got Toby and highly recommend it. Today it’s considered a classic dog training book, and we can see why. The methods are fool-proof and easy to implement.
Ask any pup parent, and they’ll tell you how messy, frustrating and exhausting it can be to housebreak a dog.
The book How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days teaches you infallible methods that will help housebreak your pup and make life so much easier for you.
If you’re struggling with this part of dog ownership, the book is definitely worth a read.
We purchased 101 Dog Tricks for Toby a number of years ago. He had learned basic commands and we were looking for other ways to keep him mentally stimulated.
This book was a great way to find new tricks, provide mental and physical stimulation for Toby and bond with him in the process.
After all, dogs are super smart creatures, and teaching them new tricks is great for their mental and physical health.
Do you have kids in your home? If so, Puppy Training for Kids serves as a great introduction to caring for a dog.
Dogs are a big responsibility, and this book helps kids understand all the work involved with training and raising a puppy.
This guide to how to train a dog not to bite is designed to eliminate this scary, dangerous behavior.
If you find that your dog is still biting despite your best efforts to stop it, please seek the help of a trained animal behaviorist. Dog biting can cause serious damage, and it’s critical to stop this behavior right away.
Also, don’t forget to check out our training resource center for additional tips and tricks on how you can raise the best dog possible.