Positive Reinforcement Training Might Prevent Dog Bites
No pet parent wants to think his or her dog could bite someone, but it can happen even to the “best” of dogs. Dogs, like humans, can be unpredictable. If you understand your dog and his body language, though you will be alerted when he is uncomfortable and when he might bite whether out of fear, anxiety or out of a need to protect you.
There may not be a foolproof method to prevent your dog from biting someone, but you can work with a trainer who can provide positive reinforcement tips and ways to help prevent a dog bite. With positive reinforcement, you can improve your dog’s behavior and this could make them less prone toward aggressive behavior toward others.
Positive Reinforcement Training Might Prevent Dog Bites
What is positive reinforcement training? According to dog trainers who use this method it is a training that rewards good behaviors or actions and ignores behaviors you don’t like. If you’re using positive reinforcement training you will reward your dog with praise or treats. The harder the trick or behavior you’re training, the higher the reward should be. For example, if you’re teaching your dog to “sit” he may be happy getting a treat of a piece of fruit or vegetable. If you’re teaching your dog to “come” also known as the “recall” you may want to use a higher reward treat like freeze dried chicken or other treat he truly loves.
Positive reinforcement trainer Michele Lennon of How To Train The Best Dog Ever explains, “Positive reinforcement comes in many forms; treats, petting, verbal praise, play and access to something your dog loves or wants — all can be used to let your dog know he did a great job.” She added, “We use positive reinforcement when we want our dogs to make good associations with specific situations, behaviors, cues or commands.”
What are the benefits of positive reinforcement training? Many pet experts believe that punishing a dog for a behavior can lead to your dog developing a fear or distrust of you and could lead to aggression in the dog. If you use a “choke collar” on your dog and you yank him if he tugs the leash, it will equate taking a walk with pain, it will not be a pleasurable experience for him — or you. If your dog tugs on his leash, it is up to you to reward his behavior on those times when he walks to “heel.” He will come to equate walking at your side with positive reinforcement in the form of treats or praise and the walk will be enjoyable for both of you.
“The more positive reinforcement for the desired behavior your dog gets the more likely she is to repeat what you her to do,” Lennon said. “This means if you want her to approach people politely and sit instead of jump up and bite you’ll first need to teach her some manners with limited distractions and people. Slowly over multiple practice sessions increase the distractions going on around her and the number of people your dog encounters. Each time she meets someone they should be asked to sit/stay and be rewarded for great manners.”
Strengthen your bond with your dog. Your dog wants to bond with you. When you bring your dog home you become her “pack.” She relies on you to take care of her, give her treats, love and to care for her. If you positively reward your dog for the good things she does — not barking, walking at heel, sitting or laying down when you tell her — she focuses on the reward and this will help you ge more of the behaviors you want and fewer of those you don’t.
Why do dogs bite? “All dogs have the potential to bite,” Lennon shared. “Bites happen when a dog has initially given a warning of some kind and the warning wasn’t taken seriously. Warnings come in all varieties including curled lips, lowered body posture, tongue flicks or lip licking just to name a few.”
Your dog could bite when he is put into unfamiliar and uncomfortable situation that puts added stress on him either physically or mentally. This situation could be:
- A new place they are visiting
- New people approaching them
- Hearing sounds that frighten them
Lennon said, “The more we socialize our dogs, work on obedience training and make each new experience they encounter upbeat and positive the less likely our dogs are to bite.”
When should positive reinforcement training begin? These skills should start the minute you bring the puppy or dog home. Waiting too long to expose your dog to new sites, sounds, smells, people, and places can be detrimental to their mental health. This means your dog could get stressed easily in these situations and stress leads to biting.
Note: Puppies discover the world around them by using their nose, ears paws and mouth; this means that biting from a puppy is inevitable. “Puppies start teething between three and six months old, so expect a lot of puppy nibbles and bites. You can teach a puppy to bite appropriate toys instead of your skin by using positive reinforcement when they pick a chew toy over chewing on you. Each time your puppy attempts to bite you, offer him an appropriate chew toy. By repeating this several times you’ll positively reinforce the right behaviors while helping to extinguish the bad biting,” Lennon said.
Remember, you dog doesn’t inherently want to bite another human or another dog. Pay attention to his body language and the clues he is giving you and remove him from the stressful situation, if possible, to help alleviate the potential of a bite.
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.
These skills should be started the minute you bring home your puppy. Waiting too long to expose your dog to new sites, sounds, smells, people, and places can be detrimental to their mental health. This means your dog could get stressed easily in these situations and stress leads to biting.
Puppies discover the world around them by using their nose, ears paws and mouth so biting from a puppy is inevitable. Puppies start teething between 3-6 months so expect a lot of puppy nibbles and bites. You can teach a puppy to bite appropriate toys instead of yourself by using positive reinforcement when they pick a chew toy over you. Each time your puppy attempts to bite you, offer them an appropriate chew toy. By repeating this several times you’ll positively reinforce the right behaviors while helping to extinguish the bad biting.
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