Nearly a million people annually in the United States are bitten badly enough by a dog to require treatment. There many reasons why dogs bite humans, particularly children. Sometimes a dog may feel territorial about its toys and object violently to perceived removal of them by children. Sudden loud noise and movement, likely to come from children, can cause tension in a dog, which can lead to biting [source: Schultz]. Sometimes dogs bite when playing, and they have to be taught not to do that. Young dogs often use their mouth to explore you, and puppies will bite each other in play.
Here are some tips to get your dog to use its mouth less when playing.
- Let your dog mouth you, but when it gives you a nip, make a howling sound so that it knows something is wrong. If it doesn't get the message straight away, make loud disapproving noises. If it bites your hand, hold the hand so that it looks hurt. Praise your dog when it stops biting you.
- Repeat this sequence about three times over a quarter of an hour.
- Increase the sensitivity of your reactions. Next time you're playing with the dog and it nips you just a tiny bit, go through the same ritual of hurt noises and disapproval followed by reward.
- Discourage your dog from making any kind of contact with its mouth on a person. One way to do this is by offering your dog a toy every time it tries to mouth you.
Follow these suggestions to prevent situations from arising where your dog might bite:
- Don't poke your fingers in your dog's face.
- Don't touch the side of your dog's face.
- Don't withdraw your hands rapidly or sharply if your dog mouths you.
- Don't reprimand your dog physically if it mouths, as that could cause an aggressive reaction [source: ASPCA].