OUCH! Does your pup leave teeth marks on your hands from play? A young dog often tries to play with his human family the same way he would play with other dogs.
It is natural for dogs to use their mouths to explore and investigate things. Puppies playing together in a litter use their mouths on each other. If a puppy bites down too hard, the other puppy squeals to protest. Puppy learns that if he wants to keep playing he has to be more gentle with his teeth. If puppies are separated from the litter too early, they don’t learn how to control their biting behavior.
We need to communicate that playtime ends if puppy uses his teeth too roughly.
- If your dog is mouthing or nipping, tell him NO. Do not yell, but use a very firm voice.
- If the dog touches you with his teeth, playtime is over. Even if it doesn’t hurt, act like it does. Use a word like “Ouch!”, stop playing immediately and walk away. Wait a few minutes before starting playtime again.
- If you need more control, use a house-line when you are playing with your dog. If your dog starts to mouth you, simply step on the leash so it has only enough room to stand, sit, or lie down. You can also use the crate for a time-out.
As soon as the dog stops mouthing, praise and offer a suitable mouthing object like a toy. Give a lot of positive attention for non-mouthing behavior, so your dog will not resort to bad behavior for attention. Teach appropriate games, such as fetch. Also make sure your pup gets plenty of exercise.
Teach food etiquette: Hand feed the dog pieces of his dinner. Do not let him have the food if he is rough. Step on the leash so he can’t jump on you. If you feel teeth, take your hand and the food away. Try again, and when the dog becomes gentler with his mouth, let him have the food.
Persistent mouthing in an adolescent dog can be part of an over-all relationship problem. If your dog “runs the show” at home, physical punishment might actually escalate the situation into snapping or biting, or make him hand-shy. Do not hit or slap your dog! Ask your instructor for help.
If you have a mouthy dog, do not play tug-of-war games with him until you get it under control.
Also, if your dog is doing a lot of mouthing, do not allow any unsupervised play with children. By supervision I mean eyeballs on the dog, not just being in the same room. Some dogs are instinctively hard-wired to chase and bite anything that moves rapidly. (Like hands!) Both dogs and young children get over-stimulated by rough play. Teach your children how to play gently with the dog, and until you get this under control, be there to supervise!