If your dog has has a habit of biting people and other animals (even if softly), this is something you should put a stop to immediately. Even seemingly innocuous play-biting can grow into something worse if left unchecked, so show him who's boss and don't let a bad habit develop into a dangerous one.
Remove the Stimuli
Separate your dog from the stimuli causing him to bite, like a toy or another dog. If your dog play-bites -- for example, during a heated tug-of-war match -- give him a stern "no" command immediately and take the toy away. If your dog is nipping at another dog, separate them, but not by inserting yourself into the situation physically. Instead, you may choose to distract your dog with a quick spray from a water bottle or with a sudden, loud noise, like a horn or loudly rattling coins in an empty coffee tin.
Leave the Room
Dogs are pack animals, so they naturally dislike being alone, so an effective form of discipline for a dog is brief isolation. When your dog bites, isolate him immediately by leaving the room and remaining out of sight. Physical discipline is never the answer with a dog, but isolating him sends a clear message: Bite again, and you won't get any more attention. When practiced consistently, your dog will learn that biting -- even play-biting -- means a swift loss of privileges and social company, and he'll start to think twice.
Warning: When isolating a dog, do not lock him in his crate. The dog's crate should never be associated with punishment -- instead, leave him isolated in a room.
Don't Be A Softie!
Be consistent and don't give in. Isolating your dog isn't always easy, even after a bite, and he may cry and whine from behind closed doors. Wavering, however, undoes everything you have taught him, and completely disrupts the system of reward and punishment you're attempting to teach. Dogs learn from consistency, so don't be a softie. Leave him alone until he calms down, and repeat as often as necessary.
Finally, remember that when playtime gets out of control and you sustain a bite, your dog isn't necessarily trying to hurt you. Dogs are simply used to being aggressive players with each other. Just practice the above steps to keep the biting behavior in check.
by Tom Ryan
About the Author
Tom Ryan is a freelance writer, editor and English tutor. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in English writing, and has also worked as an arts and entertainment reporter with "The Pitt News" and a public relations and advertising copywriter with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.