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Teaching Your Adult Dog To Be Gentle

buy cheap accutane Topher is a very energetic dog. He can also play a bit rough sometimes—let’s just say being delicate is not really in his repertoire, much to our cats’ dismay. We continue to work on his rough housing, but one aspect where I think we’ve done very well his in training Topher to have what’s called “bite inhibition” or a gentle mouth.

find more When dogs don’t learn bite inhibition as puppies, they can end up hurting people (or other dogs) even if they are only trying to play. It’s important to teach a puppy to play gently, and they tend to catch on to it quickly—but how to you start teaching your adult dog to be gentle?

The way we introduced Topher to being gentle was through food—it’s possible the most common approach. Simply hand feeding your dog some of his kibble can go a long way in teaching your dog to be gentle. Hold a piece of kibble with your thumb and index finger, and allow your dog to sniff and nibble at his food. Say the word “gentle” as you allow him to take the food from your fingertips.

If your dog is too rough when trying to take the kibble piece, give another cue before taking the food away—putting it in your pocket, closing your hand, etc. Our cue that Topher is not being gentle is simply, “ow!” Even if Topher is not actually hurting me at all, it’s a good cue that easily let’s him know he’s being too rough.

You want your dog to learn that when they are too rough, their rewards disappear. The food goes away, you stop playing, etc. Over time, you can increase the difficulty by increasing the threshold of what too rough looks like for you, and over time this will teach your dog that calm behavior is much more highly rewarded.

Once you have your dog calmly taking his kibble from your hands, you can also start increasing the treat value. Work up until your dog can be gentle taking even their most favorite treat!

You can’t start transitioning the gentle cue outside of feeding and treating time by using toys. A very interesting technique I’ve read calls for having a toy that’s designated as the gentle toy. Your dog is only allowed to sniff or lick the gentle toy, and they can never be rough with it.

We use the gentle cue in a variety of ways: when we feed him treats, when we let him up to snuggle on the couch (he’s still working on that one), when he’s playing with the cats. It’s a great cue that tells your dog that they need to lower their intensity if they want to keep playing or getting treats.

Practicing the gentle cue regularly is very important, because it’s a type of behavior that we always want to be rewarding our dogs for doing. Even if your dog is the gentlest dog you’ve ever known, showing them you appreciate how gentle they are is always a nice thing to do for them. Now, go feed your pup some treats.

Lucy Bennett

Lucy is a writer, artist, and Hufflepuff currently living in Atlanta, Ga. When not making things, she enjoys costuming, tabletop games, and digging in the dirt.

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