Ideally, all dogs should be taught never to respond aggressively to any kind of provocation, but this is impossible in practice, especially in instances of extreme and unexpected provocation.
Without a doubt, teaching bite inhibition is the single most important item on the puppy educational agenda. Puppies must be taught to inhibit the force of their biting behavior so that they develop a soft mouth. They must also be taught to inhibit the frequency so that the adolescent dog learns to keep its jaws to itself and never mouth any person or their clothing.
It is as unrealistic to expect dogs never to be frightened or annoyed by people as it is to expect people never to frighten or annoy each other. However, just as it is reasonable to expect people to resolve their disagreements without physical violence, it is both realistic and perfectly feasible to teach dogs never to physically harm a person when scared or provoked.
Dogs suffer incessant provocation from people, especially from children and men, and a large portion of dogs are involved in some kind of aggressive altercation with humans at some time in their lives.
Although total curtailment of puppy biting (if possible) offers immediate relief to most owners, it is often only a short-term gain. If the puppy is forbidden to bite, it may not learn that its jaws may inflict pain. So, if it is ever provoked to bite as an adult, the bite is likely to be a hard one, causing severe damage.
It is not necessary to hurt, frighten, punish or even reprimand the pup to let him know that biting hurts: a simple “Ouch!” is sufficient. If the pup acknowledges the “Ouch” and stops, praise and resume playing, but in a calmer manner. If the puppy ignores the reprimand, emphasize “OOOUUUCHH!” and stop all playing, immediately. As when playing with their litter-mates, puppies quickly learn that hard bites lose playmates. Return after one or two minutes time out and make up by having the puppy come, sit and calm down before resuming play.
Once the pup’s mouthing no longer hurts, pretend it does. Greet harder munches with a yelp of pseudo-pain. The puppy will begin to get the idea, thinking, “Whooahh! These humans are super-sensitive. I’ll have to be much more gentle.” The force of the puppy’s biting will progressively decrease until biting becomes mouthing and eventually, mouthing succumbs to gumming or slobbering.
Never allow the puppy to mouth human hair or clothing. Hair and clothing can't feel pressure nor pain, so allowing a pup to mouth hair, scarves, shoelaces or gloved hands inadvertently trains it to bite harder, extremely close to human flesh!
Once the puppy’s mouthing no longer exerts any pressure whatsoever, only then can you teach the pup to reduce the frequency. Teach the meaning of “Off!” by hand-feeding kibble, so the pup may learn very gentle mouthing is okay, but it must stop the instant you say, “Off!”
Some dogs learn quickly and naturally, whereas for other dogs bite inhibition must be actively taught as a specific exercise. After just a few weeks of instruction, even the “mouthy” dogs can curtail hard biting fairly quickly, with the owner taking appropriate action.
The most important survival lesson for a puppy to learn is that, when it bites, it causes pain. Of course, the pup can only learn this lesson if it bites and if the bitee gives appropriate feedback.