Normally, puppies of any dog breed develop important social skills when interacting with litter mates during the first few weeks of development. More importantly, they learn how much pressure (bite inhibition) is appropriate to use when play biting.
For example, say a puppy clamps down a bit too hard on another puppy during play. The victim yelps “eee eeee eee” and cowers off; play stops for both pups. The biter didn’t mean to hurt the other pup; it was an accident, and is upset when he loses his play companion. Hence he learns not to bite so hard next time so play can continue.
‘Soft Mouth’ Dog Training
Human skin is softer and more delicate than a dog’s; the same level of play could harm us. Many times, owners teach this without intending to (i.e. snatching away their hands, etc), but it is a skill that sometimes needs to be reinforced. If they are separated too young (prior to 4 weeks), they don’t get the opportunity to develop good social skills, and must be further socialized by the handler. This is one reason it isn’t recommended to separate puppies prior to 5-8 weeks.
Teaching ‘Soft Mouth’
The ‘soft mouth’ principle is an easy way to teach your dog not to bite! If your puppy nips at your hand a little too hard during play, or misses the rope toy and sinks those needle teeth, ‘feign’ injury and immediately stop playing the game. Even if you aren’t really hurt at all, be dramatic and pretend. Walk away and ignore your pup.
This is the exact same method puppies learn from among their litters, the only difference is that you are not a dog. One of the last thing your puppy wants is the game to stop, so he/she will learn from the experience, and not bite so hard next time!
How to Train Your Adult Dog Not to Bite
If it is simply a matter of biting during play, the ‘Soft Mouth’ method usually works well even with adult dogs. When dealing with grown/ adult dog aggressive or defensive biting (not play biting), things become much more complicated. Even if your dog is a Chihuahua, he shouldn’t be aggressively biting anything so much bigger and there is a social problem. If your dog is anything large enough to cause injury, the issue is more immediate.
After the approximate age of two, your dog’s mental development should be all but complete; socializing at this point goes from a simple thing to often all but impossible. Problems could range from medical to poor mental development or social; owners of dangerously aggressive adult dogs should consider contacting an (college) accredited and certified behaviorist (not just someone who says they are).
Unfortunately, few owners socialize Chihuahuas (or similar toy breeds) during puppyhood. They find it ‘cute’ when they bark or bite, and the problem is never taken care of. It is important to socialize any dog, no matter the breed. It is best to start young! Sometimes a dog is especially aggressive due to pain or discomfort. If your pet is behaving unusually, consider visiting your veterinarian for an examination.