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Teaching a Deaf Dog Bite Inhibition

Updated on October 24, 2013
Deaf puppy bite inhibition training
Deaf puppy bite inhibition training | Source

Why is it Important to Teach Bite Inhibition to Deaf Dogs?

Why should you focus on teaching bite inhibition to a deaf dog? The fact is, bite inhibition is very important as it can make a difference between a nip and a serious bite requiring sutures. This is something that ALL dogs should learn, regardless of their hearing abilities. In a normal litter of puppies, bite inhibition is taught through the interactions of the puppies with one another and mother dog. This starts quite early, even before the puppies are sent home with their new owners at 8 weeks.

When the puppies play, it occasionally happens that one puppy may nip harder than expected. When this happens, the victim of the bite will likely yelp in pain and withdraw from the game. The message in this case is pretty clear: " Ouch! that hurt! You wanna play rough with me? And I won't play with you any longer." Time-out after time-out the biting puppy starts learning a very valuable lesson: if he wants to play with his litter mates, he must be gentle with his jaws. This lesson is further emphasized by mother dog, who will likely growl and move away from the annoying pup who plays too rough. Additionally, a sharp nip to the mother's teats often means mom will get up and leave, which gives start to the weaning process.

Problem is, deaf puppies won't hear their litter mates when they yelp in pain. While their litter mates may move away, the deaf puppy may not fully understand why. The yelp is what clearly tells the puppy he is being too rough. This may lead to a puppy who hasn't learned how to gauge the pressure of his bite. However, it's important to note that there are reports of many deaf puppies learning these lessons perfectly perhaps because they have learned to pay attention to the litter mate's body language and have learned from the timeout.

However, not all is lost when you end up with a puppy who hasn't learned good bite inhibition. After all, there are many pups who are singletons and orphans who also may lack bite inhibition because they didn't have litter mates or a mom to teach them these valuable lessons. In this case, it's up to you, the owner to roll up your sleeves and teach proper bite inhibition. This requires further refinement, as peoples' skin is much more delicate than dogs'. In the next paragraphs we will see how.

Teaching Bite Inhibition to Deaf Dogs

It's a common myth that deaf dogs tend to be more dangerous because they tend to 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, most likely a deaf dog will move suddenly or simply turn their head as an orienting response. If they were sleeping, they may appear disoriented. The truth is only very few deaf dogs become aggressive and bite. For a good part the chances for biting can be significantly lowered by working early in desensitizing and counterconditioning the deaf puppy to being touched unexpectedly. This means walking up behind the puppy and touching him and immediately popping a treat in the dog's mouth the moment he turns around. Treat after treat, the dog starts looking forward to being "startled."

The Deaf Dog Education Action Fund further adds that the precautions deaf dog owners take to not startle their dogs too much, is more and act of compassion rather than a fear of being bitten or attacked. A survey further conducted by The Deaf Dog Education Action Fund found that "owners of deaf dogs were having problems with our 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 him that good things happen when "startled", but as with any dog, it's important to teach good bite inhibition, so should he bite one day, the level of damage will be minimal.

So how do you train bite inhibition to a deaf puppy? First and foremost, you use, gentle methods. Countless dog owners at times give up easily because they claim 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 him. Fortunately, there are better, more effective ways that won't create a defensive pup that fears you.

  • Give your pup a time-out. 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. Pretend you are performing in a pantomime and express your displeasure through your body language and facial expressions. 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. Make sure you praise your puppy when he stops biting you, and redirect him to a toy.
  • Teach your deaf puppy how to take treats gently. Your puppy will learn that they get treats only when they're paying attention and mouthing gently.
  • More tips can be found on the hub "training your dog how to bite softly"
  • Socialize, socialize, socialize.
  • 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.

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    • alexadry profile image

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 4 years ago from USA

      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 profile image

      FlourishAnyway 4 years ago from USA

      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.