How to Teach a Deaf Dog Not to Bite (Bite Inhibition)

Why It's Important to Teach Bite Inhibition to Deaf Dogs

Why should you focus on teaching bite inhibition to a deaf dog? Bite inhibition is very important, as it can make the difference between a nip and a serious bite—whether directed at another animal or a human. This is something that all dogs should learn, regardless of their hearing abilities. Not knowing this skill can be very detrimental to a dog.

Puppies Learn Bite Inhibition From Socializing

In a normal litter of puppies, bite inhibition is learned when the puppies interact with each other or with mom. Occasionally when puppies play, one puppy may nip harder than expected. When this occurs, the victim of the bite will likely yelp in pain and withdraw from the game. The message is pretty clear: "Ouch! That hurts! You wanna play rough with me? Well, I won't play with you any longer." This valuable socialization starts quite early, even before puppies are sent home with their new owners at 8 weeks.

Timeout after timeout, the biting puppy starts to learn a very valuable lesson: If they want to play with their littermates, they must be gentle. This lesson is further emphasized by the mom-dog, who will likely growl and move away from the annoying pup if they play too rough. Additionally, a sharp nip to the mother's teats often means that mom will get up and leave, which can mark the start of the weaning process.

Deaf Puppies May Pick Up on Other Cues

Deaf puppies won't hear their littermates when they yelp in pain. While their littermates may move away, the deaf puppy may not fully understand why. The yelp is what clearly communicates to the puppy that they are being too rough. This puppy may not learn how to gauge the pressure of its bite. Rest assured, many deaf puppies learn these lessons perfectly well in other ways—perhaps because they have learned to pay attention to a littermate's body language or have learned from a timeout.

It's Never Too Late to Start

However, not all is lost when you end up with a puppy that hasn't learned bite inhibition. After all, there are many pups who are singletons and orphans who also may lack bite inhibition because they didn't have littermates or a mom to teach them these valuable lessons. In this case, it's up to you to roll up your sleeves and teach proper bite inhibition. This requires further refinement, as human skin is much more delicate than canine fur.

Tips for Teaching Bite Inhibition to Deaf Dogs

It's a common myth that deaf dogs tend to be more dangerous because they constantly startle and bite. According to the Deaf Dog Education Action Fund:

Deaf dogs adapt to their hearing loss and become comfortable with their surroundings. In the same way, a hearing dog can be startled by a loud noise, a deaf dog can be startled by an unexpected touch.

Upon being startled, a deaf dog will, most likely, move suddenly or simply turn their head as an orienting response. If they were sleeping, they may appear disoriented. Very few deaf dogs actually become aggressive and bite.

Counter-Conditioning and Desensitization Can Help

The chances of a bite can be significantly lowered by working early to desensitize and counter-condition the deaf puppy to being touched unexpectedly. This means walking up behind the puppy and touching him or her and then immediately popping a treat in the dog's mouth the moment they turn around. Treat after treat, the dog soon looks forward to being "startled."

The Deaf Dog Education Action Fund further adds that the precautions deaf-dog owners take not to startle their dogs is more an act of compassion rather than from a fear of being bitten or attacked. A survey further conducted by The Deaf Dog Education Action Fund found that:

[O]wners of deaf dogs were having problems with [their] deaf dogs, other than the typical dog problems all dog owners face, like housebreaking, chewing or digging.

This means that if you own a deaf puppy, it's important to condition them to believe that good things will happen when "startled." But, as with any dog, it's important to teach good bite inhibition. So, should your dog bite one day, the level of damage will more likely be minimal.

How to Train Bite Inhibition

So, how do you train bite inhibition to a deaf puppy? First and foremost, use gentle methods. Countless dog owners, at times, give up easily because they claim that saying "ouch" has no effect. So, they feel the need to resort to harsher methods such as grabbing the puppy by the snout or alpha-rolling them. Fortunately, there are better, more effective ways that won't create a defensive or fearful pup:

  • Give your pup a timeout: If your pup bites too hard, get up quickly and turn around. You may need to exaggerate and be a bit more dramatic in your body language. Express your displeasure through your body language and facial expressions. If your pup keeps biting, leave the room. Once your pup calms down, re-approach and repeat as needed.
  • Redirect biting to toys: Puppies have a need to chew and they tend to explore with their mouths. Great toys for redirection are balls, tug toys, and flirt poles.
  • Teach them how to take treats gently: Your puppy will learn that they get treats only when they're paying attention and mouthing gently.
  • Try bite-inhibition games: You can employ various games that teach bite inhibition from an early age.
  • Socialize, socialize, socialize: Socialization is important and necessary for all dogs of any developmental phase or any age.
  • Consult with a professional: In difficult, challenging cases, you'll want to seek the aid of a positive, reward-based trainer to help you out.

© 2013 Adrienne Farricelli

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on October 25, 2013:

And it's unfortunate several deaf dogs are still put to sleep because it's assumed they are more dangerous and unable to live in a household with children;(

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 25, 2013:

This is an important topic. Although I don't have dogs, I do have a deaf cats so I am attuned to the different needs of a deaf animal. They need different, more focused training and attention as well as patience and understanding.

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Please help.! I have an average loving puppy. She’s 5 months old.. A chichuhua
And only when she’s eating/ chewing on something she shouldn’t is when she will angrily growl.. We have tried to distract her w other toys.. But it doesn’t work. We finally end up taking the item away& she will attack..& bite. Hard..& breaks the skin. Also when I try to put any type of clothing in her is an even bigger issue. She will once again angrily attack.
We can do w out the clothing. It’s just she’s small & want to keep her warm on these cold months.
Really need help.. Don’t want to get rid of her.. But my patience is running thin!! Thank u..

This teeny dog STILL needs obedience training and if you get her that training you won’t feel like you want to get rid of her.

This dog is exhibiting clear signs of aggression and dominance and needs to be gently demoted!
A couple of tips that may help. No FREE FEEDING. Make the dog see that YOU are the food giver. Leave food out for 15 minutes and take it away if it’s not finished.
– No toys to be left out. YOU are the toy provider. make the dog SIT before the dog gets the toy.

You will learn all this stuff and more in any group obedience training course….and your life with the dog will be fantastic. Just make sure the trainer is referred by someone you trust (like a vet).
Good luck.

How to Teach a Deaf Dog Not to Bite (Bite Inhibition) - pets

Let’s think about the definition for bite inhibition controlling the pressure of a dog’s bite. In adult dogs, I feel they should be conditioned not to use their mouths on skin, period. Thousands of dogs are surrendered to a shelter because they use their “bite” inappropriately. Some people are ok with their dogs mouthing them during play some need their dogs to bite for work purposes (police, military, etc.). For others this could be a problem, especially for owners that have small children.
The laws surrounding dogs today make it extremely important to teach your adult dog not to use their mouth on human skin. Many states declare any broken skin from a tooth or nail to be classified as a bite.
I have worked with many dogs that had a “soft mouth” at a young age then developed a stronger bite in their adult life. This does not mean your dog did not have bite inhibition at a young age. It means they have learned their bite can solve problems. There are many different reasons for a dog to develop a “hard” bite throughout their lives. The question is how can you avoid this and manage their bite.
As with any of my behavior modification programs, if you are afraid of your dog or your dog has a history of causing serious injury with their bite do not attempt this. You need to find a qualified professional to help. If you are under the impression your dog cannot sense your fear, you are wrong and will get hurt or worse make your dog more dangerous.
All dogs with a “hard mouth” should learn the following commands prior to teaching “no bite”.
· Drop it
· Down
· Stay
· Watch me

1. First determine how long it takes for your dog to reach the level of over stimulation that causes the mouthing. In some dogs, this maybe immediate others it may take two to three minutes. All dogs tend to reach a heightened level of excitement after two minutes of play. They start to get very vocal and possibly nip harder to stop play.
2. Have your dog on leash when practicing “no bite” so you can control them without handling them. Your touch is considered play and affection. It becomes quite confusing to a dog when a human gets angry and in dog language is displaying playful behavior.
3. Engage them in the activity that sparks the mouthing. As an example, one of our pack members came to us with no experience playing with humans. For her it was completely normal to bite hard when a toy was involved, to gain control of the toy. Therefore, any activity involving a toy would spark mouthing.
For play elicited biting
1. I teach all my dogs they cannot put their mouth on anything unless the command “take” is given. Start with your dog in leash in front of you and the toy in your opposite hand, behind your back. Bring the toy into view. The second they put their mouth on the toy verbally correct and give a firm tug down with the leash while returning the toy to behind your back. Repeat this until you can pull the toy out and they do not put their mouth on it. When they are waiting patiently, calmly praise and say, “take” allowing them to bite on the toy.
2. If their teeth touch your skin during play, firmly say, “NO BITE” followed by a drop it, down, and a stay. Use your leash to enforce these commands. Once in a down/stay, stand on the leash and stop looking at them. Ignore them for 30-45 seconds then calmly say, “ok take” to start the play again.
3. Repeat the above as many times as needed. Remember to practice this everyday.

For affection elicited biting
1. Again, have them on leash before working with them so you can control them without touch.
2. Have the leash in one hand and start to gently pet your dog with the other hand.
3. The second they put their mouth on you, firmly and loudly say, “NO BITE”
4. Stand up tell them to down and stay. Use the leash to enforce this. You must stand, as your dog will consider you in a play position if you are sitting.
5. Stand on the leash and ignore them for 30-45 seconds. Calmly sit down and keep your foot on the leash as well as keeping your dog in a stay.
6. Once you are sitting for 15 seconds, release them from their stay and start again.
7. Repeat this at least 3-4 times. Do not expect your dog to have the patience to stay for an hour of this. You will only be agitating them.

For greeting behavior
If your dog is crated while you are not home, this tends to be easier. Although, it can still be solved if they are allowed free range and if you have the assistance of another person. If you do not have help, I would recommend crating them to control the greeting properly.
1. If crated, walk to the crate and ask them to sit before you open the door. If they do not sit, simply walk away. After a couple of approaches, most dogs will sit. Do not become frustrated or raise your voice. This will only raise their excitement.
2. After they sit, ask for a watch me to get them focused. Have a leash in hand and give a stay command as you attach the leash.
3. If they attempt to mouth you while you are putting the leash on, say, “NO BITE” and close the door. Walk away and come back in a couple of minutes. You are teaching them there is no freedom if their mouth is used.
4. Once they are calm, out of the crate, and on leash if they begin to nip at you, say “NO BITE” and immediately enforce a down stay. Ignore them for 30 –45 seconds then calmly ask for a watch me before you release them from the stay. Remain aloof for a few minutes to down play your arrival.
5. If not crated and you do have assistance, have your dog on leash when you come in the door. The other person should be inside already holding the leash to control the behavior.
6. As you walk in, act aloof to your dog. Do not greet them at all in the entranceway.
7. If they get excited and start nipping at you the person holding the leash should give the “no bite” command as well as a down stay command immediately. They should stand on the leash to keep them there.
8. After you walk past the dog, the assistant should release the dog from the down stay. As the dog comes to you, have them sit and give a watch me command. If they jump up to nip at you, they must immediately go into a down/stay again for 30–45 seconds.
If you follow these rules, you will notice your dog will not use their mouth when they become excited. You are teaching them any use of their mouth means no attention or affection. Do not physically challenge your dog if they are mouthy, this will only make matters worse. It is impossible to win a physical fight with a dog without an injury or loss of trust.

How to Train a Deaf Puppy

Last Updated: November 20, 2020 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Toni Woods. Toni Woods is a Professional Dog Trainer and the Owner of Spot on Dog Training in Washington DC. With over 15 years of experience, Toni specializes in improving the relationship between dogs and their families and easing the suffering of dogs experiencing separation anxiety. Toni holds a BS in Biology from Wittenberg University and has taught biology for nine years. She now dedicates her life to helping dogs with separation anxiety.

There are 24 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 100% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status.

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Deaf dogs were once thought to be difficult to train and aggressive, but neither of these are true, especially for puppies who are born deaf or become deaf at a young age. Training commands is extremely similar to training a normal dog, but does take extra patience and effort, partly because you will be teaching yourself the signed commands as well. Before you get started, it's a good idea to review interaction advice and safety tips that are unique to deaf animals.

Toni Woods
Professional Dog Trainer Expert Interview. 11 November 2020. Find a source of healthy treats that you can provide constantly throughout the day, without giving the dog more than 10% of its calories for the day. Asking the vet is the best way to find a store-bought treat formulated for your dog's needs, but here are a few alternate solutions: [5] X Research source

  • Try baby carrots, green beans, or other vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and bok choy can cause gas, and can cause health issues if eaten raw. [6] X Research source Never use onions, garlic, chives, or leeks. [7] X Research source
  • Small pieces of fruit will also work, but remove inedible seeds. Avoid grapes and raisins. [8] X Research source
  • During early training, you can measure out the amount of food your dog would get from meals throughout the day, and use it constantly throughout the day as treats instead of feeding the dog full meals. You may want to stop this method if it causes the dog to whine or beg more than usual.

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