What is bite inhibition?
Bite inhibition basically means training your dog to have a soft mouth.
When they are puppies, dogs automatically learn this lesson from their mother and their litter-mates. When a puppy bites down too hard on a litter-mate, he will get a yelp and play stops while the hurt party licks his wounds.
Through this process, puppies learn to control the force of their bites because they know that biting too hard will cause play to stop.
It is important to continue this lesson throughout a dog’s life. The mouthier a dog is, the more important to teach him bite inhibition.
My Shiba Inu is an extremely mouthy dog, and I am extremely thankful that I taught him bite inhibition from a young age.
Later on, he really started acting out and doing leash biting, humping my leg, and biting on my hands and arms. Throughout all this, he never broke skin.
Bite inhibition, made it possible for us to re-train him and re-train ourselves with very little wear and tear on both dog and humans.
Bite inhibition is important even for normally even-tempered, social dogs.
Dogs use their mouth to interact, not just to attack.
When excited, dogs may mouth on people, not to hurt them, but to interact with them. This may cause accidental bites if the dog does not have good bite inhibition training.
Dogs may also bite as a reflex when they are startled, for example, when you accidentally step on their tail or wake them up from a deep sleep. A dog with bite inhibition may scratch your arm, but an untrained dog will cause deep puncture wounds.
The best time to teach dogs bite inhibition is when they are young. Puppies may have sharp teeth, but they have not developed the jaw strength of an adult dog yet, so they cannot inflict the same type of damage that an adult dog can.
I have found that hand-feeding is a fun and good way for teaching bite inhibition to my dogs.
Hand-feed your dog at least some of his kibble every day. If he bites too hard when getting his food, do a sharp ouch or yelp and ignore him for a few seconds then start hand-feeding him again. When your dog takes food from you gently, praise him and keep feeding him.
First, make it easy for your dog to get at the food without biting you, then slowly make it more difficult by covering the food partially with your fingers. You can also combine hand-feeding with training and handling sessions.
Hand-feeding also helps to prevent food aggression and resource guarding issues, so it is good to continue this practice throughout your dog’s life.
I first learned about bite inhibition from Ian Dunbar’s book After You Get Your Puppy. He has more in his book on bite inhibition and puppy socialization.
Although it is easier and safer to teach dogs bite inhibition when they are young, it is never too late to teach them to have a soft mouth.
Bite inhibition will significantly enhance your relationship with your dog because a dog with a soft mouth is easier to trust, easier to handle, and a joy to spend time with.
Note – If your dog is already food aggressive or resource aggressive, it is best to consult a professional trainer. Do not perform bite inhibition exercises on such dogs as they may bite anybody or anything that comes near their food.
Great site Thank you.
I have a gorgeous brilliant intelligent fantastic one year old Shiba called KIKU. Absolutely love him as he lays upsidedown next to me and he’s so Shiba. I love the quirky opportunistic diligent persistent character and thrill to see how his mind works. My vet has been and is saying it’s time to neuter him – my son hate the idea (well he’s male too)and I’m on the fence not wanting to loose any of his character and have left it to now as I wanted him to develop good bones etc. He’s really well socialized at a good dog park – avoid Sundays – manic owners lol.
I also may want to get him a friend a female Shiba so….
Looking for advice on best answer and cone story and then biting not good.
Thanks for your answer
Hello Kiku, Nice to meet ya!
In terms of neutering, it is clearly a very personal decision. Shiba Sephy is neutered and I did not notice any changes in his Shiba-ness before and after neutering.
Since Shibas are already stubborn and dominant, I decided that neutering was a really good thing for Sephy. It can only help to make things better. 😀
Dealing with Sephy after neutering was not fun since he absolutely hates the cone, but it was a very short term thing. We let Sephy wear the cone for 2 weeks, which is the maximum amount and did not remove the cone until the stitches were removed.
Some Shiba owners report a much shorter cone time and some did not require a cone – so it is greatly dependent on temperament.
In general, I decided that 2 weeks of general unpleasantness was better than having to deal with any undesirable behavioral changes it *may* contribute to in the future, especially as Sephy matures.
The Humage Society has a page on common concerns of neutering or spaying –
Wrt. the food aggression, it is just as important to not reward him for showing any kind of aggression. If he bites, then non-mark and stop feeding. If he continues, then stop feeding altogether and try later.
It sounds like Shiba has learned that showing aggression means he gets the food all to himself, so you want to show him that aggression = no food whereas calm = food. In general, it is best to not put him in a situation where he is likely to practice aggression. The more he practices it, the more it will become a habit.
Another thing that may help is to put a lead on him and stand a certain distance from the food bowl. Then walk a step towards the food bowl, do some obedience commands with him, and reward him for doing the commands. If he is calm and able to handle that, then move a bit closer and so on. If he starts acting out in any way, then you have moved forward too quickly, so move back and repeat.
The key to the exercise is to always set him up for success – i.e. only move to a distance that you are sure he can handle so that he does not keep practicing aggression around the food bowl. You want to reduce the number of aggression episodes and increase the number of calm successes. I would only try one thing at a time, so that there is less chance of confusion, and greater consistency.
Is he only aggressive with the food bowl? Is he aggressive with food toys?
With aggression, it is usually very helpful to get a professional trainer to come over and observe Shiba. A lot of training is very situational and based on timing things exactly right. A good professional trainer will be able to read Shiba’s body language and come up with a good step-by-step program to help Shiba achieve success.
Good luck. Shania sends her licks, love, and positive energy. 🙂
Hello once again! My puppy is now 6 months old and has shown major progress in almost ALL his behaviors. He never did the leash-biting thing, he loves his walks so much that stopping for ANYTHING just doesnt interest him, haha. His bite inhibition is wonderful, he almost NEVER puts his teeth on me and if he accidentally does, he licks where he bit. I have fully accepted that he loves to steal things he is not supposed to, so I just laugh, give him a stern “no” and swap the item out with one of his favorite toys. Now, when I said almost all his behaviors and almost never bites .. I still have made ZERO progress with his food aggression. I hand fed him every day and night for 2 weeks straight, stroking his chest, cheeks, or chin while he ate from my hand .. my puppy doesnt care, he will bite any hand that feeds him. There have been days where one meal would take 3 hours to eat bc he just wants to tear apart whichever hand doesnt have food in it. I’ve tried taking him on a walk before each meal, forget it. I have tried approaching him without touching him and instead put pieces of his favorite treat into his bowl, usually repeated that about 4-5 times throughout the duration of his meal. Well that was okay. But once he knows food is present, he just gets angry at anything that tries to touch him in any manner. He is not aggressive when someone is near, its when he’s being touched or sees he’s about to be touched. And outside of mealtime, I have never taken something away from him without redirecting or replacing whatever he wasnt supposed to have with something he is allowed to have. I do not think I have ever approached him in any negative manner .. so for the life of me, I can not explain why he absolutely HATES being touched in the presence of his food. His food has never been taken away from him, never had another dog to compete with, nothing I can think of that would make him WANT to guard his food so heavily. But he has broken skin now more than 10x during his mealtime while he try to figure out what works and what doesnt. But I just dont know what DOES work!
Anything else I could try? Or is being touched just something that my dog will never accept during mealtime??
Hahaha – that is so typical Shiba. They will always do the opposite of what you expect them to do.
Whenever I catch myself thinking – “Sephy is a very good boy nowadays” – the next day he will do something really naughty 🙂
What you describe is the famous Shiba 500! My Shiba just did that this morning. Lots of Shibas do it and there are some fun videos on YouTube.
Love your description – lol
The Shiba 500 is usually entertaining and seems to be great fun for Shibas. I just get out of the way or stand close to walls 🙂
Above, I was referring to escalation of bad energy. When I got nervous or stressed, my Shiba would get that way too but with a 100 times greater gusto. This happened a lot when we saw other dogs on walks, and he would redirect his craziness into leash biting which was not fun at all.
Thanks for all the great advice !
I took him out earlier for a quick pee and he met a couple of the local kids, of course he was the perfect angel and laid down in their laps for a belly rub without even a slight nip at them….. I quote “oh he’s so calm and sweet, he’s the perfect puppy, mooooommmmm can we get a puppy like Ridley ?” – little bugger. Guaranteed when he starts getting vocal, the local rescue will be coming round with tips from the neighbors that I’m beating him ! Anyway, after seeing that behaviour, I knew he was capable of it all the time and probably just needed a new direction. It took about 3 timeouts and after a long talk in the spare bathroom ( the most boring room in the apartment ) he was lying on his back getting tickles, mouth closed, eyes shut and not a fang in sight. Looks to be learning that biting his adoptive father, isn’t the way to go, so, we’re making some progress today ( saying that he’s in time-out right now for a humping offense ).
You mentioned the escalation of energy – is this by chance the moment they completely lose it and start sprinting around the apartment at full speed, performing extremely close fly-bys with little regard for the safety of you, objects or themselves ?
Congratulations on your new furball. Sounds like he is being very true to his Shiba roots 🙂
Re biting –
Generally the “ouch” technique works best if you follow it up with something else – either redirection onto a toy, issuing an alternate command, or stop interaction. There are three ways to stop interaction –
Having a drag lead (only with a flat collar) help a lot with controlling my Shiba at home.
Re walking –
Another thing that helped me with my Shiba is to turn around and walk in the opposite direction when he pulled. Sometimes I would be walking back and forth in the same area and not make much progress – but eventually Shiba will get over his stubbornness and learn that the quickest way to get somewhere is not to pull.
The turning around helped because we were still moving and Shiba still had an outlet for all his excited energy.
As for leash-biting I am very strict about that with my Shiba because initially he escalated his leash-biting behavior to scary levels. He would grab onto my jacket and do kill moves and such.
I tried lots and lots of techniques to stop this – and finally what worked for me is to hold the leash close to his collar (gives me good control) and walk him briskly home. By giving him no lead – the leash won’t get tangled up, and the brisk walk gives him an outlet to channel his energy and gives him no chance to start the leash biting again.
Here are all the other things I tried to stop the leash biting.
Re humping –
Humping is an automatic time-out offense for my Shiba. The drag-lead is very helpful here because then I can very easily stop him and take him to time-out right away.
This way he learns that if he wants to hump people he doesn’t get to be with people.
I also do not let him hump other dogs.
What helped me the most with humping is in controlling my energy. Initially I got stressed and nervous with my Shiba whenever he would start acting crazy and this would only make him escalate his behavior even more and go into humping. Once I was able to control my energy and stay more calm things improved significantly.
You also want to follow the NILIF program (Nothing in Life is Free). Only give your Shiba something (even something like letting him into the backyard) after he does something for you first.
I have a 14 week old Shiba called Ridley – seemed a good mischievous name !
I’ve had him for almost a week and generally he is improving with his house training and behaviour, but his biting continues to be a problem since he has chosen to ignore the “ouch” technique, so i’m looking to start the time-out plan. He has no problems with guarding food, although he does take a move towards his toys as an excuse to get a little rough an embark on some tug of war which i have avoided since day 3. He loves to get his belly scratched and tickled so he certainly seems to trust me, However, I have walked him as much as possible since I brought him home and nothing I try stops his jumping, wriggling or pulling. On the rare occasion he walks with a loose leash and doesn’t get distracted by every area of grass or passing leaf, i treat him, but the typical routine for him is to run to the distraction, pull really hard ( I will stop, not jerk, but also not give him anymore leash either ) and he will tend to lie flat and continue his joy of ripping up grass and weeds and tossing them in the air until i lift him and extract the foliage from his mouth. Its all very cute, but I can’t make it 30ft without a stop. I’ve tried the stop/start method, but he really goes nuts on the leash, biting it, even flipping almost 360 the other night… what do you suggest ?
Also, he goes for the hump now and then – whats the best thing to deal with that ? Walk into them so that they fall back, or time-out them ?
Sorry to hear about the episodes with Jack. Reminds me of the crazy leash biting episodes I had with my Shiba. I think my neighbors thought he was about to kill me. They would often come out and watch and shake their heads 🙂
Still even today, my Shiba reverts to instinct when he is hurt. I usually can’t get near him for a while, until he calms down, and then maybe he will let me look at what is hurting him. Shibas are a primitive lot.
Congratulations on your new child! I think you are doing the right thing and it is good that you were there to help Jack along the way when he needed it.
I am so happy to hear that Sarah! Your Shiba is really lucky to have you 🙂 Shibas need a lot more work than many other dog breeds especially in the beginning but they do get easier and easier as time goes by.
They will still always try to get away with things though – just to see if they can 😀 Gotta love that Shiba spirit!
All was going extremely well. Then Jack got another stuffed toy on the way out of the garage. This toy triggered his aggressive posessive behavior again. I walked 1.5 miles with him, and he kept the toy in his mouth.
We reached the park, while on leash, he began to shake toy, looked at me and lunged to bite. I had him on leash pulled him away. We walked and left toy behind.
After a 3 hour walk we returned home. Feed him. I sat out on the porch while he slept under my chair. At one point he bagan playing with his food bowl, returned near me and fell a sleep. He woke up looked at me, and jumped up on me to bite.
At first he was using was just grabbing. I said no, he stopped. He started again,I used the ‘ack-ack’ and he stopped. But all along he was using his body to push me. He actually went back to sleep under my chair, and I did not give up ground.
He woke a second time, and again jumped to bite me. This was all very strange.
I then realized the soft toy had triggered this, and now he saw his bowl as his new toy and had to protect it. He was grabbing my arm and not biting, but he was relentless. I said no, he stopped and then started again. I again used the ‘ack-ack’ he stopped and pushed his body against me. I knew that he was defending his bowl, so i reached to grab it, that is when it changed.
he want from grabbibng to actual biting. Now he is a 30 lb dog, has a bite that can scratch and do a little harm. So I cam out with a few marks and scratches.
I came in side, and he actually lunged snarling at the glass door.
I gave him an hour to cool down, and I had to clam my mind.
Went back out with leash, took him for a 1 hour rollerblading excursion.
He was ok last nigt and all day today.
I have decided that it is best if he moves on. My wife and I are adopting a child in a few months, and I cannot have a dog with this issue around. As attached as we have become this is the one issue that decided it.
Tomorrow other members of the rescue group are coming to assist. Fortunately through all of this a women has contacted the group that is interested in Jack.
I have done a lot with Jack and I am happy to have made some big progress, but now the job is going to be handed over to someone else.
I would like to thank you very much for your advice and running this website.