Teaching a Puppy Not to Bite

Understandably, the number one concern of puppy owners is what to do about puppy mouthy-ness since canine aggression is every owner’s number one fear. However, DO NOT TEACH YOUR PUPPY NOT TO BITE. RUN, don’t walk from such advice. Do not fall into this trap and have this fear become a self-fulfilling prophecy.


First of all, nine out of ten dogs, no matter how they are raised and trained (outside of outright abuse), will grow up and not be biters. And then on the other hand, one out of ten will grow up to bite because their nature has not been honored, and so they therefore do not trust human beings. They become aggressive either because of how they were raised and/or trained, or even more likely, because they have been overly stimulated during their formative months.

I have raised a number of German shepherds imported from Germany that over many generations were selectively bred to be police and sheep herding dogs by the most accomplished breeders in the world. They were prized for being biting machines because this fundamental impulse in the right hands can be channeled into any number of working expressions. Yet, despite raising puppies of such prodigious emotional horsepower, I’ve never had to teach a single one of my puppies not to bite, not to jump, not to counter surf and so on – because I’ve raised them “naturally”. I have raised them gently, lovingly, calmly, but more importantly, slowly. For the first year of their life I did not over-stimulate them by putting them in unnatural settings and then demanding they behave a certain way. Just like I didn’t put my children in a candy store and demand they honor the food pyramid.

For example, I did not come home and greet my dog upon my return. Dogs don’t have a sense of time, therefore they do not need to acknowledge the comings and goings of other beings. One moment you’re here, and then another moment you’re here again. No big deal – unless we have a need to make it one. When I came home I immediately let my puppy outside as indeed my arrival had excited him, and then only after he’s taken in his surroundings and calmed himself naturally by virtue of being in the emotionally conductive setting of the outdoors, do I pet and coo to him in a soothing tone. He doesn’t get excited and so he doesn’t jump on me or bite my fingers or pant legs because he was given a chance to get it out of his system naturally and without causing me any annoyance or pain. He looked around the yard and found a stick or leaf to make prey on. I allowed him the time and space to learn how to calm himself. I didn’t allow my arrival to knock him out of his nature.

In the same vein, when my children came home from school and of course were all excited to see our new puppy (that is still in its crate and beginning to whine in frustration), I asked them to change their clothes, get something to eat if they’re hungry, use the bathroom and only when we’re all ready to go outside, do I open the crate so that the puppy immediately shoots out the back door. Then we all catch up and proceed to the wide open space of the backyard. There, we stand around quietly as the pup again naturally calms himself. The puppy doesn’t jump up or grab at their clothes because when he feels like moving, he has plenty of space to do so and if he feels like biting something, there are plenty of sticks and leaves to choose from. I taught my children to move slowly and not make any kind of fuss until the puppy was settled down, at which point he can be touched, petted and lavished with love and in such a setting he won’t get himself twisted into an emotional knot of frustration.

Because he has calmed himself naturally he can actually feel the children’s touch as something pleasurable, and he innately disciplines himself to be still so that he can induce them to keep on petting and maximizing his pleasure. As he matures over the coming months, it becomes easy for him to run alongside the kids as they play and he has no temptation to do any of the things my clients are constantly hiring me to help them solve. It is because even under this level of excitement, the puppy can still feel the kids. If the puppy gets too rowdy, since that doesn’t feel good to my kids, it doesn’t feel good for him either as well.

Why would I allow my children or their friends to run around screaming in the presence of a puppy? I wouldn’t allow them to tease a cat, to run around in a paddock or through a stable of horses or around cows in a field. Why can’t children learn to honor the nature of a puppy just as we insist they learn to honor the nature of all other animals?

With these practical points in mind, let’s talk about biting from a wider perspective. Puppies use their teeth and jaws to explore and apprehend the world around them, just as children use their fingers and hands to explore their surroundings. Furthermore, dogs are the most social animal on earth. They do not have to be taught to be social any more than children have to be taught how to imagine. The entire scope of a dog’s social development is a function of learning how, when, where, why and what to bite and dogs don’t learn any of these lessons by learning not to bite. Dogs don’t learn to be social as a function of learning what not to bite. I never taught my children not to rob banks or not to hit people over the head and take their money when they are broke. They learned naturally that money is something to be earned or politely asked for, and that’s the only way they expect to get the money they want.

In the dog’s mind, the use of its mouth is synonymous with wanting something. Even when they don’t actually grab something in their jaws, they nonetheless feel the energetic essence of whatever they’re attracted to just as if it’s in their jaws. (As in: “I want it so bad I can taste it.”) Therefore, whenever a puppy gets excited for whatever reason, like kids coming home from school or the owner coming through the door, it’s instinctual computer commands “BITE something”. This is how every behavioral system and neurological circuit is constructed in their body and brain. Whatever else may happen to the dog after the fact (such as an owner’s correction) doesn’t register on the deepest plane of canine consciousness. What matters most to a puppy is that it “heard” an internally generated command to bite whatever it was that got it all excited. This command is millions of years old and there is no human reason that can neutralize it, such as “I am your pack leader”—“You are a bad dog” and so on. However, what allows a dog to resist an instinctual impulse to bite, and fortunately is an even stronger energy that arises from an even deeper aspect of its nature, is a feeling. So if a dog is raised and trained in regards to what and how it feels, then it will be able to go by feel in a critical moment rather than by instinct. The number one mistake puppy owners are making is overly stimulating their puppy, usually by showering it with attention as a measure of their love, and then when they don’t like the instincts this triggers, they then set out to teach it how to be social by correcting these instincts. This short circuit then becomes the basis of how the personality of the puppy then develops. Nine out of ten times it won’t become an aggressive behavior, but you can clearly see it via “that look in its eye”.

Remember, a dog is not a person. Dogs are creatures of the immediate moment. They have no idea that you’ve been away all day and are now coming home from a long time at work. They have no idea that you are a person that needs to be acknowledged. We as people project this need onto them. Dogs don’t need to be acknowledged. Dogs just are. Now you are here and now here you are again, as always. That’s it. The calmer they feel as you come and go, the more they feel connected to you.

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Published June 1, 2009 by Kevin Behan

55 responses to “Teaching a Puppy Not to Bite”

  1. Cliff Abrams says:

    As usual, great advice. We’re teaching our dog (Lenny– 18 months old) to “go to your place” when either Anne or i come home. He is afraid of strangers (he’s a rescue pup with very bad previous owners). He’s gets excited, but goes to his place (a mat in the living room) and waits till we have greeted each other and he’s released “okay!” We’re doing this in an effort to get him calm when a guest comes through the door. Is this wrong? He’s very hesitant and growly when a stranger comes into the house, but IF THEY IGNORE HIM, he warms up to anyone in about 5 minutes of hesitant sniffing– women have a much shorter warm-up time. As you can imagine, it’s difficult to ask guests– let alone clients(!)– to ignore your barking, hair-on-end, dog. And talk about a transfer of energy/emotion. I admit that it’s almost impossible for us to remain completely calm in that situation– and it goes right to him. It probably sounds worse than it is– he’s otherwise a very good boy. Plays well with other dogs off leash, loves us, likes people he meets on our walks. We just want to train him to be calm and polite always– especially in the house. Thanks.

  2. Kevin Behan says:

    Yes Cliff, teaching a dog its place is a good way to help him feel safe. And helping him feel safe for the first ten minutes as “the charge” subsides is very good as well. However the question remains about “grounding” out that electric energy when a stranger first arrives. This is the energy that has never been calmed (no matter how calm you try to be) and so it would prove therapeutic to encourage Lenny to jump up on you during that first tentative moment (before he’s sent to his place) and then engage him with pushing in for his food after he’s made contact. After he’s fully committed himself to you, then you can send him to his mat. In fact, I would have a friend come to the house and do this over and over (You can also role play with Anne and yourself knocking on door and practicing the routine) so that you can concentrate on the training and not have to worry about your guests. Remember, a football team learns a new play against their teammates when nothing is at stake, not against the opposing team on game day. It’s likewise difficult for animals to learn new things when charged by strangers. Teaching Lenny a new play could be how he can be fed for the next week or two so that he’ll have it down cold on game day. Good luck.

  3. Cliff Abrams says:

    Wow. We will start doing this immediately, and Anne and i role-play this scenario every day. Helping him find his “off switch” to discharge his energy is *very* important for this guy. Actually, i’ve always been suspicious of the whole “no jumping up no matter what” viewpoint. I rather like it when our (normally quite reserved) dog shows his affection sometimes. For instance, he just had an overnight play session with our son/daughter-in-law’s dog. Then today, he *insisted* that we have some close-contact time together, and when Anne came home for our noon walk, he was all paws-on-shoulders and face licks. Not that you want him to do this to guests, but i think it’s good for “the family”. Thanks again very much for your advice.

  4. Mark says:

    Hi Kevin – just came across this in relation to puppies. What do you think about Scott & fullers studies from the 60’s about “critical socialisation periods?”

    I believe behaviourists are now using the term “sensitive periods” and that there has been some criticisim of the original study in terms of numbers and breeds of dogs used.

    This is of interest to me as many puppy development programmes are based on these critical periods with advice given to basically expose the pups as much as possible within the first sixteen weeks of life. My observations are that this does not necessarily produce a secure confident dog. I still see pups with insecurities about shiny floors and new places etc, even though initially they seemed fine. One day, what seems out of the blue, the pup will be afraid of a place it has been to many times before, even though it was previously confident and did not have a negative experience at that same location. I am starting to question the necessity and value of all this exposure.

    Your comments above made me wonder whether we are in fact over stimulating these pups and inadvertently creating some of the problems we were trying to avoid by exposing them to as much of our modern environment as possible.

    Why do you think puppies develop these fears of places?

    How would you develop a puppy to be able to cope with the changing environment a Police or guide dog would face in a big city?

    I would be interested in more of your thoughts on raising puppies.


  5. Mark says:

    Kevin i just realised you partially answered some of the above previously , but are hoping you may still comment further?

    Regards Mark

  6. kbehan says:

    Basically it takes two to three years for the emotional battery to fully format, and I believe there are cycles that run even longer than that, and since these cycles are the true organizing principle I don’t believe the critical periods are the absolutes that the “mechanists” like to say there are. My children were born during the eighties and the rage then was that there was a magical moment of bonding that occurred between mother and child in the first instant after birth, and so many mothers who had c-sections were distraught because they missed this moment. Well I was there and I didn’t see any blinding link, my poor wife was exhausted and in pain, the children were terrified, and I feel the bonding thing worked its way out over the next days and indeed, was going on within the womb well before.
    What happens in development is that when dogs hit two to three years old, energy that they could have previously been comfortable internalizing, they then shift and must externalize and then they need an instinctual license and so the higher processes of their nervous system invents a danger such as shiny floor as predator, so that they can vent this pent up energy. This also seems to happen at age 6 or 7 with noise phobias. I think a lot of this has to do with over stimulation but also how much more dogs are personified by their owners (which creates pressure) as well as the dog’s picking up their owners’ stuff that they then need to externalize. I guess we can sum up the dog raising protocol best by saying just be sure to let your dog be a dog.

  7. Briana says:

    Hello, my family and I are owners of a 3 month old female German shepherd mix
    I have been trying to figure out he best approach to have her learn to be a good family dog, good around little kids etc…
    As all puppies seem to be, she is “mouthy” and I am confused about what to do, I have read techniques that tell me “cry” when pup “bites”
    And say “no bite” and walk away, if that doesn’t work to grab them on the back of the neck and gently shake or even knock them over etc…
    I have tried a little of everything, which seemed to work at first, but now a couple weeks in she is seeming to make the connection and stop some times and sometimes she just wants to bite even more… I guess what i am after is how do I handle this practically? I have 3 kids 5 year old, a 3 year old and a 1 yr Old, I definately don’t want her biting (is always been what seems like “play”) my kids. What do I do? What do I have them(my kids) do?


  8. kbehan says:

    Basically don’t put your pup in situations where she will feel compelled to bite. No greetings, attention or playing indoors, take long quiet walks in woods, have toy for her to put in mouth, NDT book has lots to say on puppy raising. Learn how to gently massage without getting the dog stimulated. It’s better to do nothing than do the wrong thing. If you’re correcting her for biting you’re teaching her that your hand is what she needs to bite. Teach your children to respect the pup just as you would teach them to respect a horse. Good luck!

  9. john says:

    whats the best way to introduce a pup to other animals , animals in particular who can appear prey like to the pup, sheep , cats, without leaving some sort of charge at first encounter, or should some ground work through NDT have been done first and what in particular,thanks

  10. kbehan says:

    You’re right, presupposing your dog can bark/bite/carry/supple down no-matter-what, then it’s most important that the prey trains the dog, rather than the owner. I have a video of a west with my chickens somewhere, but in regards to cat, put cat in small crate so that it can’t run. Have dog on/lead so it can’t get too aggressive with the crate and let it try to sniff. Ideally we want the cat to express its predatory behavior and reflect the dog’s intensity right back at it so that the dog’s physical memories of flow are triggered at which point the handler can amplify the feeling with push/bite/carry/supple-down to more fully exercise that function. In due course the cat will control the dog because that is the natural order of things.

  11. Cliff says:

    @John, I’ve read where pups that are to be working herding/guard dogs are put right in with the sheep at the earliest possible time. They then grow up to be not only trustworthy around the sheep, but, aside from the shepherd, very protective. I had occasion to see a border collie work with a herd of sheep in California. I eventually got to say hello to the dog with the Basque shepherd who mentioned this. Later reading seems to confirm this technique. A plus: he told me about a great Basque restaurant in Fresno.

  12. john says:

    Thanks Cliff, that makes a lot of sense, i do get any pup out walking by livestock when we’re out in the countryside, sheep tend to spook easy and arouse the chase, cattle stand and face you down, two different attitudes from very different animals , should the introduction be the same
    i dont wait for a reaction from the pup around sheep i normally let a pup glance at them and move on because they will stand and stare but they cant sustain this and emotionally collapse and turn and run and it the turning and running i try to avoid because it makes them very prey like then,,thanks
    p,s some of the biggest offenders of sheep worrying over here are border collies who were never broken to sheep but who still have that drive to make contact,

  13. Karin says:

    This is a fabulous discussion. I am one of those instinctive owners and have struggled with some of the fads regarding puppy rearing. I am a calm person and much of what you suggest about reducing stimulation is my natural instinct of puppies and kids.

    I have a question, and maybe it is not yet too late to correct the situation. I have a young cocker spaniel who thinks to play with another dog is to wrestle and growl and bite (play bite). That’s his personality. I recently got an english mastiff puppy when my older mastiff passed away. Almost since day one, the cocker has dominated over the puppy. Fine, pack order and all that. But as for overstimulation, YES. The cocker always plays that way with the mastiff pup. I separated them some of the time, let them some of the time and moved it outdoors, and finally put my foot down and interrupted the constant growling and biting from the cocker. Now we have more peaceful times in the house. But my mastiff is still quite the mouthy girl at 6 months. And the day before yesterday, she very very aggressively attacked the cocker (re: rawhide bone). I was pretty freaked out. Hence looking online for ideas. Yesterday I kept it calm. We sat in the yard together and I played fetch with both dogs. By evening I risked the rawhide again, placing each chew in a separate location and all remained peaceful. I am just worried that my soon to be humungous mastiff has been trained by the cocker to be a biter.

  14. kbehan says:

    It’s critical to never let an older dog “discipline” a young puppy. This infects them with “the charge” which compresses the dog’s emotional process so that it’s (1) attracted to the path of highest resistance, (the charge can only get out by fighting back against something of equal intensity/resistance of that which put it in) and (2) simultaneously limited so that this force will then run the path of least resistance within said domain, in other words, i.e. a weak, vulnerable dangerous prey animal. Thus the so called “pack order” limits the capacity to cooperate. So I never let puppy and adult interact indoors until the puppy has matured enough to acquire the social perspective to see that the adult wants to be left alone. What’s working in your favor is the big dog/little dog polarities so that at some point little dog will be back “in charge” and big dog won’t be hyper-intense about the compression. In the meantime they should not be together indoors, (AND ABSOLUTELY NO CHEW ITEMS OR TOYS OF ANY KIND, NO GETTING UP ON LAPS, indoors crate the pup so he is safe from unsupervised interactions.) Be very careful of compressed spaces, and take them for lots of long walks together outdoors. Then as mastiff pup matures, the charge will have to be given a constructive outlet in training so that he can align with owner under path of highest resistance/intensity. Then the little dog won’t be able to rock his world.

  15. Lisa says:

    Hi, just to clarify, should a young puppy never be given a chew toy indoors? I have a 3 month old shepherd and have been giving him chew toys inside so that he does not chew on things he isn’t supposed to. I have him either on a leash or in his crate and we have a garden where he can play and fetch the ball. I also take him on walks but read that they should only be short (5 mins for each month of age) to prevent joint and bone problems? He has a lot of energy so I take him out twice daily. Am I doing things incorrectly with the chew toys? Many thanks, I am reading ndt at the moment. Walks are also just as you describe with his nose to the floor and trotting ahead but I get the impression from your book that I cannot properly correct this until he is 10 months old?

  16. kbehan says:

    Yes, if giving the pup a chew toy keeps him busy for awhile, that helps acclimate him to being indoors and not getting into trouble. The main thing is that if you find cause to correct him, then the pup was in a situation that he shouldn’t have been in in the first place, and so you have to restrict indoor freedom. It is critical to never correct a puppy. Finally, in order to slow him down on the walks, you can use food to interrupt his surging forward. But in general, the more you can walk off/lead in quiet woods where you’re not likely to run into anyone, the better for emotional bonding without having to do any formal training. Best wishes and good luck with your pup.

  17. Lisa says:

    Thanks for your response. I think I need to treat my puppy in a similar way to my 14 month old…. I obviously cannot correct my baby as he doesn’t have the maturity yet to deal with it. I always use distraction with my boy or gently remove unwanted items from his grasp. I guess my puppy is the same. It’s very much like parenting then. I had been using the word no before, is this bad? (I do use no with my toddler though….) I also corrected the puppy once about a week ago but it didn’t feel right and that was when I searched and found your book. Do you think I have done damage already? The puppy seems to have forgiven me but I haven’t forgiven myself….

  18. kbehan says:

    You haven’t done any damage, it’s just if you do it on a chronic basis, so rest easy. Your pup is the luckiest dog on earth since you care so much. Just put him on the emotional back burner and devote yourself to your child and all will be well. The main thing is to not put pup into situations it doesn’t have the emotional capacity to handle and then spend as much time together in nature as you have time for. Good luck.

  19. Weston says:


    How should one handle a 6-7 wk old lab/boxer mix that loves to be rowdy and bite? He is an outside dog so far, and my 1 yr old and a 3 yr old are terrified of him when they go out to play. I’m not certain where to start with him. Thanks!

  20. kbehan says:

    Don’t have the pup around the kids when they play. And then play a game where the kids run around in some organized way, i.e. invent a game to accomplish this training objective, and every so often the kids run up before the dog while you hold on lead and they ask the dog to sit for a cookie. Eventually when dog is reliable he can run around off/lead in middle of kids playing waiting for the sit request. There are infinite variations of this game but that’s the basic idea. In the meantime the rule is to not put pup in situations where the bite will be elicited in an inappropriate direction.

  21. Martin says:

    I have been working on my dog’s bite and invariably cats and children come out of nowhere when we are doing this. Because the rope has a predatory aspect to it Sheri, my dog, is forced to drive this bite into the rope and I encourage this. With the goal of increasing her emotional capacity. Thanks to Kevin it has at the least given me a better strategy than just having to drag her inside without a resolution. The children today were the most difficult they also had a ball which made it really tough. I was not able to draw out all of her energy and reach the stop button, she was still drawn to them like a laser beam even though she could only catch glimpses of them and hear them and unlike the cats the kids do not move along on their way. Is this still beneficial even though I had to eventually pull her inside? She did have to give her attention to the rope to bite it. It was just getting from the biting into the house that was the problem. I am hoping that all of the bite work that we have been doing continues to drain the battery over time and it doesn’t have to drain on each occasion. I also hope in increases her capacity with children. By the looks of today we are pretty far away.

  22. marcie says:

    I have a five month year old pit bull and I understand the not getting her excited by showing her too much attention but I’m training her to sit, laydown, and shake. She has learned all three of those but now if I try to teach anything else she is already attacking my hand for the treat. Also, if I try to brush up on the previously three learned she is already attacking my hand. Should I wait a couple of weeks to teach her anything else? I’m just afraid she will lose her process she has made. Also, she bites (play bites) when other people are petting her, I’m guessing because she gets so excited and thinks it’s playtime?

  23. kbehan says:

    Yes, she’s been put into over stimulating situations too much and probably corrected. Don’t teach her tricks, she needs long quiet times in outdoors with you and a complete regime of work so you both get off the road you’re heading down.

  24. Rachelle says:

    Hi my dog orange likes to nip a lot. I got him at 5 weeks old and someone told me he never learned that biting hurts. And so Itried the squelling ouch when he bites and it works like a few seconds but he gets so hyper he doesn’t know how to calm down and not bite. He’s 12 weeks old now and if u leave the room to fast he’s biting your ankles. Its rather frustrating especially because he nips at my face sometimes too. He’s a gorgeous aussie but has extremely strong herding instincs and Iwant to train him right. And its true sometimes Imay tap him on the nose when he bites or say no and he jst growles at me. This isn’t bad now but if it continues I’m afraid he’ll be agressive. Please give me advice.

  25. kbehan says:

    Take your pup for long walks in the woods and reconnect this way. Otherwise in the house you cannot over use the crate. The crate protects the pup from the owner.

  26. cliff says:

    Re: “It is critical to never correct a puppy”. Yes, i’m probably not going to get this right, but i recently read somewhere where you shouldn’t correct the pup until she disassociates the correction from *you* and learns that you’re just trying to get her attention and refocus. Again, wish i could remember the source, but they indicated that this should definitely take place outdoors as a happy game/training exercise. Maybe you can fill in the blanks.

    Also, must emphasize to the anthropomorphizers out there that dog is very happy and secure in the crate. When we play/push outside, he bites like a trooper. Weaning myself away particularly from paying too much attention to L and praising him for…existing. Hard to do as he’s becoming a lot more affectionate and (wrong term, i know) mellow as time goes on. Counterintuitive that *less* praise and attention and more time spent by himself should have this effect, but there you are.

  27. kbehan says:

    I’ll have to get that book!

  28. Bhalley says:

    Please help,
    I just rescued a German Shepherd mix. They said they think he is 9 weeks old. He plays Telly ruff with me and my children. We do not play this way. I take him for walks and give him toys to chew on. I am very gentle with him and so are my children (children’s ages 12,10,7,6) my children also walk him. I do not have a fenced in yard yet but I am working on it. We got him because my bull mastiff past. We miss her so much. Lars our new addition is the cutest and we saved his life. We wish we could save them all. How do I correct his playing so ruff? My mastiff never played this way so it’s new to me. My youngest is sacred of him. I’m confused the most by the different posts on line. I do not like mor will I pop,blow in his face,flick his nose,etc. I do however like your approach. I am just confused by a few things. I do not have a crate. I have always put my mastiff in her room which was the laundry room. It is not a big room but had enough space to separate her from the washer and dryer which is blocked so Lars cannot get to it. So that is his space now where he sleeps and eats. He goes to bed at the same time everyday and is let out in the morning at the same time. Should I put him in the durning the day? Because normally I leave the door open so if he needs water etc he can go in. But when he does want to play and his play seems really aggressive should we take him for a walk instead of play? Right now I put him in there when he gets to aggressive because I do not want to play that way. I also refuse to shout at him. I talked to a trainer at a local pet store who said to use a stern loud voice and say NO! I do tot yell at my kids so I am not going to yell at him I said. She said it is a dog who needs to be corrected. Since then I have seen searching for some answers. Searching for something that works and I have just been removing him from the situation. Please help?

  29. […] really like this blog post by Kevin Behan on puppies– and I also read his puppy section in his book on Natural Dog […]

  30. David Wooten says:

    I agree and disagree with some of your methods, First of which I have had many dogs over the years, never have I kept them in a cage or a pen, they have lived among my family as one of us, I have a large back yard, fenced, and while he is alone he has full access to the yard, the garage, and the house, I have taught them to focus there aggressive energy on me, and not my wife or kids. This took constant attention but I found it gave them an outlet and in time was able to teach them to calm down very easily, granted it came with a few minor puncture marks but I’ve found it to work well, combined with a lot of love they’ve grown to be very calm protective loving dogs

  31. Kevin Behan says:

    It’s been my experience that the younger the dog when corrected, the more the dog generalizes from that event and this can lead to unintended consequences. In my work I deal with the most overt expressions of these generalized lessons. Therefore I never put the pup in a situation where he’ll generalize and learn something other than what I intend a correction to mean when the day finally arrives when in my mind, it is appropriate. In my model a correction should add more energy to the force of desire that a dog is experiencing when it does something correctly. I want it to be the dog’s desire that is augmented, rather than making it sensitive to another.

  32. Hi my 6mo puppy bites when we come home
    Should i put him in his crate when i leave? Then when i get home bring him out to calm him.i have said no to him but will stop.i do try to take him out twice a day but i am not sure if i over stimulate him indoors.i am 60 and caretaker for an elderly parent and just want to do the right thing.

  33. Kevin Behan says:

    Yes have your dog crated and then let him out directly in yard with a soft tug toy available to channel that exuberance into a calm grip and carry. The pup’s focus should be channeled into the toy, not on you. Do not say a word, put your attention and energy into the toy. This teaches the dog WHAT you want, the first step in communication.

  34. jenn stetz says:

    hi, i just recently adopted an 11 week old puppy from a shelter, he is very sweet and loving. but he bites, so much, and so hard, ive tried giving him toys to chew on instead, and ive even told him no in a stern voice severaly times. i read online that i should make a high pitched sound like how one of his liter mates would have if he would have bit one of them to hard and then ignore him for 30 seconds? im unsure what to do, but the biting needs to be stopped, please help.

  35. Kevin Behan says:

    Whenever a pup gets stimulated, his on/board “computer” commands him to bite something. Best approach is to limit all contact indoors because it is simply too stimulating, and just spend time with dog outdoors so that he can distract himself. Worst thing to do is say no and to directly set out to inhibit biting. This will produce either fearfulness or aggression later on. He will outgrow the biting naturally and without side effects if your contacts are calm and you can handle him gently. If he’s not ready for prime time, you’re not doing him any favors by having him around inside the house. Holding on lead for short periods inside, and then box training over the long term is a way to slowly integrate him into the domestic routine. Just always remember he’s not ready until he’s ready.

  36. Ivan Hairston says:

    Hi Kevin, this was very helpful so far, I have further questions……my Amstaff is about 9 weeks old, a good puppy I would say. We are in the process of teaching him the basics (sit, come, houseing breaking him etc), We have a 6 yr old son who started off with a fear of dogs due to lack of exposure I believe, he has warmed up to the pup tremendously but still somewhat anxious due to biting/nipping from the pup, im sure the pup is playing but I wanna make sure the aggressive play (which seems to be mostly towards my son) isnt because we are locking him up a few hrs a day while we are gone,any advice?
    Thanks Ivan

  37. Kayleigh Massman says:

    I am a new puppy owner and I have tried to read several tips on how to properly train your dog-it’s surprising how different they all are! I do like your method as I’m not a very “firm” person. My lab/dachshund mix is only 6 1/2 weeks old and hasn’t been able to get all the vaccinations she needs to stay healthy-the vet recommended she only go outside for bathroom purposes until the end of this month when she can receive those vaccinations. I have been trying to crate train-she HATES her crate. Any tips on healthy crate training and ways for us to bond and for her to let out some of that natural energy out inside until we can go for walks? Thanks!!

  38. Kevin Behan says:

    6 1/2 weeks is very young and it is critical to use the crate so that owner addiction doesn’t set up. There’s nothing to do to make it positive, just pitch some food in when you put her in, put crate in quietest spot possible, cover if necessary, a chew toy of some sort, and let her get the sleep per day she needs (18-20 hours). Indoors you can make a puppy proof zone (gates/doors) with some toys that might amuse her until vaccinated and then can get outdoors for most of her quality time. You are in a holding pattern until Spring and her immunological maturity and in this phase you cannot overdo the crate and can easily under-do the crate. Good luck.

  39. Kevin Behan says:

    You must take care that the pup isn’t playing aggressively with your son, only contact if necessary should be outside where pup’s energy can find an outlet other than solely concentrating on your son. Walks with dog physically aligned, common line of travel, is emotionally salving, any head-to-head stuff is emotionally charging. It’s a principle of physics. The crate issue you’re wrestling with is a function of human guilt, not that the pup is reacting to the crate time it’s experiencing. With a pup you cannot overdo the crate indoors, whenever feel guilty, take pup for walk in a quiet area. That’s when true bonding will occur.

  40. Kayleigh Massman says:

    Thank you for your response and advice!

  41. Donna says:

    Hi, my niece has recently gotten a lab/mix puppy. She is 6 months old and my neice has used two trainers unsuccessfully Both trainers have told her to continue training at home and to teach her 18month old son how to be around the puppy. The dog jumps and bites at the child and others. She believes that the trainer should stop all bad behavior, since she is paying them to do so. Also she believes that her 18month old should be able to do whatever he wants to the dog and not be taught otherwise. She is now hiring a 3rd trainer to take the dog for 10 days and expects them to train her not to jump or bite. I have had dogs all my life and strongly believe they pick up on excitement children bring. She is pregnant now and due in a few months. Is she being realistic in thinking this dog will come back trained and well behaved without her taking any part of the training or responsibility of her small kids actions. Her 18month old is never corrected or told no. She says he is too young. How can the dog be expected to behave? It’s my opinion that a puppy should not be in a house with a newborn and 18month old. They are too young to know how to react with each other and the owners do not want to spend anytime training the dog or the kids. She had two dogs previously before the 18month was born, with her other son who was 6 and then 8. She got rid of both dogs after a couple of months. This one will be gone if this training does not produce a perfect pet.

  42. Sophie craig says:

    My puppy isn’t playful biting anymore he’s biting bad I’ve tried everything to stop him time out in his cage a spray bottle tapping his nose leaving the room I don’t know what else to do it’s getting ridiculous now thank you for your time

  43. Kevin Behan says:

    You have to redo the whole program. Put you pup in a crate indoors, no attention indoors. Nice long walks in quiet places in order to reconnect with him when he’s not charged. He can only be out of the crate indoors when he is in training. Outside he gets to bite a toy and carry, bark on command and do the other core exercises. Outside is where he connects, the core exercises are how he connects. No corrections for biting! Just don’t put him in situations when he is too stimulated and feels compelled to bite.

  44. Stephanie says:

    What an insightful article, and I’ll apply some of these ideas straight away. My problem is this: I have two boys, ages 5 and 7, and our 12 week old Golden Retriever puppy jumps on them and bites them/their clothing constantly. The boys don’t even have to be excited; they just walk into the room and she charges them and bites. I don’t know how to stop it short of letting her drag a leash around and watching her like a hawk, ready to pry her teeth out of their clothing. The only other thing I’ve been doing is putting her in her quiet space (the kitchen–we don’t crate but she treats the kitchen like a crate and settles pretty immediately in there). The problem is that I don’t want her to feel isolated every time the boys are home. The only time she doesn’t bite them is when we are on walks (as per your suggestion) in the forest or when she is exhausted and nearly asleep. If you have any advice whatsoever, I would be most grateful.

  45. Kevin Behan says:

    Believe me, until your pup gets old enough to self-regulate, don’t worry about isolating her when your boys are inside. Kitchen sounds great. Corrections at this age, or even just rushing over and prying her off, will be very deep seated and at best the side effects will be hyper friendliness, jumping, whining when denied attention etc.. Inside should feel calm and quiet, outside is where the fun happens. In no time she’ll be laying on the floor by their feet, just wait till she’s old enough. Good luck,

  46. Tammy says:

    I have a 7 month old rescue dog who is Mastiff/Boxer cross…definitely Mastiff. She is lovely and mostly trained. She sits on command most times.Shakes a paw and lies down on command and is house trained completely. We are working on “stay” and “come” and leash training. I’ve had dogs all my life. She, however, is the biggest dog I’ve had in awhile so the biting issue I have makes me unsure if it is purely just because she is a bigger dog and consequently a bigger concern and it’s simply playing/mouthing or if there could be aggression issues. We have 3 small kids under 10 that we see every other weekend so I would like it to be nipped in the bud, pardon the pun. It’s hard to maintain consistency with the kids and training LouLou but we try. There are 3 things or moments where she seemingly bites. She is just a puppy but still I wonder. 1. When she is being affectionate and licking (which I’m ok with), the licking turns to biting and it’s not angry, she just nips and bites. If the kids are there, she pins them first if they’re lying down and licks but then it turns to bites. 2. When she is lying down quiet and we pet her if we pet her too long she turns around and will open her jaws to bite not necessarily hard but biting. There’s rarely pressure but I find it odd. 3. This issue concerns me the most. If we are running in the backyard kicking a ball she will chase and then lunge and bite whatever she can get a hold of…almost to say stop!. The minute she makes contact she lets go but she doesn’t realize she’s bit something she’s not supposed to. She doesn’t look angry but rather frustrated. She did the same at the doggy play we took her too with the dogs that outran her. Everything was good and playing nice until the other dog ran back and forth and was faster and you could see my dog getting more and more frustrated. Regardless, I’m unsure how to stop this. We have tried yelping and yelling ouch and ignoring her and putting her outside but she continues to do so. Any ideas? Thanks!

  47. Kevin Behan says:

    Whenever your dog gets to a certain level of intensity, she bites.This is because her emotion was blocked at that specific threshold before you obtained her. What has to happen is that her capacity to feel soft under more and more intense situations be increased. There are specific exercises for this but given her young age, it’s most important to take the foot off the gas pedal. The worst thing that one can do is expose the dog to those situations that are too intense for her capacity; and also when she’s laying down quietly she should be left alone so that this softness becomes more general. Don’t stimulate by petting when she’s relaxed. More crate indoors, more quiet walks outdoors is the best formula so that her emotional capacity can increase without being overstimulated.

  48. dog biting says:

    great info thanks

  49. Jenny says:

    Hi Kevin,

    Wow this article and Q&A has been so insightful and encouraging to my very emotionally exhausted self. I have a 9 mo old half mastiff, half redbone coonhound puppy and my situation is very similar to Tammy’s (one question up) except I don’t have kids. My puppy (Trusty) is also having bad separation anxiety so he loathes the crate (he panicked- heavy breathing, cried for hours, and threw up in it). I’ve put up a baby gate in the kitchen and likes it, although he’ll still cry a little if he’s alone and I’m in the next room. Any help on what to do about the separation anxiety? Most of your theory is based on lots of time on his own but he hates that. It sounds like getting the biting problem solved depends on him being able to have lots of “me time” in his space (my kitchen) so I feel like I’m in a vicious cycle. Do I just need to let him cry it out? I also don’t want to create abandonment and distrust in him.

    You also mentioned to Tammy that her dogs capacity to feel soft under more and more intense situations needs to be increased and that there are exercises for that. It sounds like my puppy is too young to that just yet but for future reference are those available in your book, online, or through one on one training only?

    Thank you!

  50. Kevin Behan says:

    This is a difficult problem. Now the pup is an imploder but he will eventually become an exploder. I would put him in a crate in the back of a car and take him for rides, let him spend time in the crate with periodic rides so he becomes acclimated to being alone. Then he can be helped to channel his energy into a coherent pattern of release through the core exercises. You don’t have to worry about abandonment and trust issues, until he can be alone he does not have the capacity to trust. There is fear in his emotional dynamic and everything he learns will be predicated on this fear so this is what has to be resolved. Softness follows, otherwise he will be ever vigilant and easily knocked off balance. He should enjoy the company of people mainly outdoors, hide and seek and quiet walks in the woods being the easiest way to channel his energy and cultivate the capacity to trust.

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Books about Natural Dog Training by Kevin Behan

In Your Dog Is Your Mirror, dog trainer Kevin Behan proposes a radical new model for understanding canine behavior: a dog’s behavior and emotion, indeed its very cognition, are driven by our emotion. The dog doesn’t respond to what the owner thinks, says, or does; it responds to what the owner feels. And in this way, dogs can actually put people back in touch with their own emotions. Behan demonstrates that dogs and humans are connected more profoundly than has ever been imagined — by heart — and that this approach to dog cognition can help us understand many of dogs’ most inscrutable behaviors. This groundbreaking, provocative book opens the door to a whole new understanding between species, and perhaps a whole new understanding of ourselves.
  Natural Dog Training is about how dogs see the world and what this means in regards to training. The first part of this book presents a new theory for the social behavior of canines, featuring the drive to hunt, not the pack instincts, as seminal to canine behavior. The second part reinterprets how dogs actually learn. The third section presents exercises and handling techniques to put this theory into practice with a puppy. The final section sets forth a training program with a special emphasis on coming when called.
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