How To Train Your Dog Not To Bite: Positive Reinforcement

Pet parents are looking for ways to train their beloved dogs that don’t involve punishment, but instead teach your dog not to bite focus on positive reinforcement. How to train your dog not to bite using positive reinforcement training is a focus for puppy socialization classes and can be a focus of a training session for an older dog you’ve recently welcomed to the family.

Just as giving your child a timeout leads to yelling and kicking, punishing a dog for a behavior he has just done won’t teach him he did something wrong, instead it will teach him to fear you. Positive reinforcement trainers urge pet parents to “ignore bad behavior and reward good behavior.” For example, if your dog barks his head off when someone comes to the door, if you holler at him you’re giving him attention (he doesn’t care if it’s good or bad attention) and he will continue to bark. If, however, you have a word or phrase you use to get him to stop barking, such as, “No bark,” which you say in a calm voice and manner and he stops barking you give him a treat. He will come to associate “no bark” with a tasty treat; you’ve used positive reinforcement (treat for no barking). 

As we are not dog trainers, this is a simplified positive reinforcement training method, but it works. Try this: Tell your dog to “sit” or use a hand motion for sit. As soon as her butt hits the ground, give her a treat. She will quickly come to anticipate that “sit” = reward. Positive reinforment is believed to be more effective because our dogs want to please us and they also love treats: it’s a win-win.

Can Positive Reinforcement Training Prevent a Dog Bite?

There is, however, not a one-size-fits-all training method that will work for every dog and that can 100% prevent a dog bite. The only way to fully protect yourself from a dog bite law suit is to invest in a dog bite liability insurance policy. With a dog bite insurance policy, if your dog bites someone (no matter how well trained a dog is, he just might snap) you will be afforded protection from the costs of the dog bite.

In addition to the insurance policy though, if you use positive reinforcement training you can help your dog learn methods to cope with stressful situations. You can improve your dog’s behavior and they may be less likely to become “resource guarders,” be aggressive or bite out of fear.

What is positive reinforcement training? 

Essentially, as mentioned above, you reward good behavior (sitting, not barking, walking well on a leash) with treats and praise and you ignore the behaviors you don’t approve of. When it comes to rewarding good behavior you can use treats (be careful of using too many treats or you will have a chubby pup), a long walk, a fun game of fetch or praise and belly rubs.

How To Train Your Dog Not To Bite

Positive reinforcement dog trainers believe that if you physically punish your dog, yank on his leash if he’s tugging on a walk, yell at him for peeing on the carpet or other forms of negative punishment what you’re doing is causing your dog to:

  1. Fear you
  2. Distrust you
  3. Bite out of his fear
  4. Be aggressive toward you
  5. Take on even more “bad” behaviors

Dogs can bite out of fear and if you’re punishing him he may lash out and bite you out of what he believes is self-preservation. Say you take your dog for a walk and you tell her to “heel” and she comes next to you and sits rather than standing at heel.

If you punish her for sitting rather than standing, in the future she will be afraid to “sit” because she was punished. If your dog comes to “heel” but “sits” reward the “sit” but say the word or use the hand signal you’ve developed so she equates the “sit” with the word and the treat.

Teach your dog to behave the way you’d like by offering treats, praise and toys when she does what you want. If someone comes to the door and she doesn’t bark, for example, say the phrase and offer a toy. She may not even have known someone was there, but that’s all right. Someone was at the door. She didn’t bark. She should get a reward.

Keep in mind that dogs don’t act out of spite. If they know what you want from them, chances are they will strive to please you. Reward them when they do just that.

Also, there may be a time when your dog bites someone through no fault of his own. Dog bite insurance will protect you, but as a responsible pet parent you need to watch your dog’s body language and remove him from situations in which he is scared, uncomfortable or annoyed. Don’t “force” him to have to “defend” himself because he cannot get away from a situation.

About FIDO ~ There are many reasons a dog may bite, and it’s not always 100% preventable. In addition to financially protecting dog owners from dog bite claims, our Canine Liability Policy also covers other injuries to people, including scratches and fall injuries caused by dogs and injuries to other animals. Please contact us today for more information at (407) 865-7477, ext. 101.

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