Soft Mouth (Bite Inhibition)

All dogs bite. Learning to inhibit the force of his bite is an extremely important lesson for a puppy. Puppies learn to inhibit the force of their bite during litter interaction, playing with other puppies, and interacting with us. Do let your puppy ‘mouth’ you so that you have some sense of how much pressure they are using. This way you can give them the appropriate feedback if need be… Read on…

When puppies are playing and one bites down too hard, the other puppy will screech, letting the biting pup know, “Ouch, that is too hard!” This is very important feedback. Dogs have very strong jaws and without knowing or meaning to, they can inflict a lot of damage. They must be taught about the pressure of their bite and learn to inhibit it during dog play and human interaction.


Saying ‘ouch!’ in a sincere, hurt tone, may or may not work. Try it, but be aware it can be counter productive with certain dogs (i.e. puppy keeps biting, harder and more frequently!). Be sure not to say ‘ouch’ in a high squeaky voice: keep your voice low.

A very effective action you can take when a puppy bites too hard is to remove yourself. Stop the game. Fold your arms, stand up, or walk away. (Check Time Outs).

Breeder Responsibility

A responsible breeder will keep the litter together until they are at least 8 weeks old so they are able to learn such lessons. Puppies will also hone their hunting skills during play with their litter mates, practicing the chase and the catch. Dog play actually simulates the wild predator’s hunting style. Watch the hunters on a nature show closely: watch the way the predator searches for his prey, stalks it, chases it, and tears it apart. Now watch your puppy play. The social skills that the puppy learns from his litter mates and his mother are critical lessons. They teach him how to play and interact with other dogs, they teach him life skills.

Although your puppy will be separated from his litter and becomes part of your family, he needs to be able to continue to interact with his own kind.

Dogs Need To Be Able To Play With Their Own Kind

Although your puppy will be separated from his litter and becomes part of your family, he needs to be able to continue to interact with his own kind. This is an important goal for anyone raising a young pup.

It is vital that you continue to expose your puppy to other dogs once you take over responsibility. Puppy socialization classes are an absolute must. It is best to take your pup to a to a well-run puppy socialization class. A good vet clinic either runs their own sessions or will recommend a place you can take your pup. (Please check the Resources section for more information on recognizing a good puppy socialization class.) In addition to socialization classes, another good choice is allowing your puppy to spend time with a well-socialized, fully vaccinated, healthy adult dog that is friendly and patient with puppies.

What Healthy Dog Play Looks Like

To the uneducated eye, even healthy dog play can look rough or aggressive. Body posture is what counts; it is how dogs communicate. This is what you will observe when watching healthy dog play: dogs take turns being on top and on the bottom, dogs take turns chasing and being chased, dogs that respond to and respect the signals of another dog. (If you wish to learn more on this topic, a great book to get is The Other End of the Leash by Patricia McConnell).

A Poorly Socialized Dog

There are signs that suggest that a dog is not behaving in a well-socialized manner. A dog who pounces on other dogs and continues to try and solicit play from a dog that is not interested in playing. Or excessive body slamming and dominant body posturing such as mounting and standing on the back of the other dog with two front paws or standing over another dog’s withers (the back of the neck area). These are things that can cause a fight to break out amongst dogs.

It is important that dogs learn to get along. A dog that has been isolated from other dogs during the early months of his life is not going to cope well after the quarantine is over. It is better to take calculated risks and ensure that our dogs can get along when they meet.