Soft Mouth & Sweet Smiles

Melo & Sampson employ the use of a "Soft Mouth" in their play.
Melo & Sampson employ the use of a “Soft Mouth” in their play.

When it comes to puppy priorities, first on the list for every pet owner should be the development of your pup’s “soft mouth.”  The term refers to an animal’s behavioral tendency to pick up, hold, and quarry gently with his mouth. It is a trait directly related to bite inhibition. All animals must learn to inhibit the use of their “weapons” against their own kind, but this is especially essential with domestic animals that must learn the art of the soft mouth when approaching other dogs and people. Bite inhibition is all-important. Puppies must learn to inhibit the force of their biting before they are taught to stop biting altogether. The window for developing a soft mouth is narrow. By four and a half months, your pup should display proper bite inhibition especially if she is a breed that doesn’t typically develop a soft mouth through instinct (such as terriers and ratters). Campus Veterinary Clinic strongly recommends enrolling your new friend into puppy classes before he is eighteen weeks old.

Socialization with People 

In addition to puppy classes every new owner should be concerned with adequately socializing his or her new pup.  Dr. Ian Dunbar suggests introducing your pup to at least one hundred different people during the  first five weeks at home. This may seem like an outlandish number, but the high volume serves to build a calm and submissive relationship with humans through repetition and structure. These first weeks of heavy human interaction combined with Dr. Dunbar’s “Errorless Housetraining” will ensure that your new pup understands her boundaries, both with you, your friends and family, and in your shared living space. Socialization is an ongoing process that must be maintained throughout your dog’s life. Start off in the right direction and share the joy of your new friend with as many people as you can!

Socialization with Other Dogs

Melo & Sampson enjoy “Social Hour” at Ohlone Dog park in Berkeley, Ca. Once your pup reaches the three month mark she is now ready for dog-dog socialization. Well-socialized dogs would rather play than bite or fight, and during play they will bite more gently and maintain a soft mouth. As you can see, the two go hand in hand (or paw in paw): bite inhibition and socialization. One is not achieved without the other. Afternoons that include long walks, new faces, and dog-dog play time should be the norm. Consistent exposure to new stimuli will help solidify the behavior taught in puppy classes and cement the natural balance that exits within dog-dog relationships.

Melo & Sampson enjoy "Social Hour" at Ohlone Dog park in Berkeley, Ca.
Melo & Sampson enjoy “Social Hour” at Ohlone Dog park in Berkeley, Ca.

Once your pup reaches the three month mark she is now ready for dog-dog socialization. Well-socialized dogs would rather play than bite or fight, and during play they will bite more gently and maintain a soft mouth. As you can see, the two go hand in hand (or paw in paw): bite  inhibition and socialization. One is not achieved without the other. Afternoons that include long  walks, new faces, and dog-dog play time should be the norm. Consistent exposure to new stimuli  will help solidify the behavior taught in puppy classes and cement the natural balance that exits  within dog-dog relationships.

Do your part in keeping your pup and your community safe from tragedy. The results of dog training, as with many other things in life, will only and always produce results that reflect the amount of time, effort, and love you are willing to invest.