This article looks at what the methods used to prevent or redirect puppy mouthing in adulthood that can lead to serious biting.
First we reiterate that dogs use their mouth exclusively for learning about the world. Their nose is the primary sense for understanding things, but the mouth is a close second as far as touch and getting a sense of the world up close. Its their major communication device, and as puppies they learn to regulate how hard they bite other dogs in play, what they can get away with. Though of course sometimes they go too hard and paly becomes real – it becomes domination and to do with pack hierarchy and their will be a winner and a loser.
Dogs can puppy mouth from:
2 anxiety and fear
3 outright aggression
Ideally you are turning point 2 and 3 into point one (play) and only when you or another dog give permission.
If you have never seen two puppies or adult dogs puppy mouthing with each other having the time of their lives you have missed out on one of the most precious special things ever. That kind of thing is to be encouraged and savored by everyone.
As simple as it sounds you need to proactively teach your dog to be gentle when mouthing you.
Make sure you play with and engage your dog regularly as a pup and when it bites too hard, yell ouch. Let it get a surprise, let it learn that the boss isn’t happy. You don’t hit or yell to the point your dog is scared, just enough that they understand that you don’t like it – just as another puppy would yelp.
Its all about the dog interpreting your feelings, about it getting a quick fright to self correct.
Do not play tug of war to the point your dog is in a frenzy or hanging from the rope off the ground. Only let it win 1 out of 10 times if you must play tug of war. Do not play aggressive games with powerful breed dogs or hunting dogs that are likely to have difficulty regulating their ‘passion’.
REDIRECT your dogs chewing to a robust toy that it likes. Let it know that it isnt being stopped or punished but there are things that you prefer it to chew.
PRAISE your dog when it regulates its mouthing to softer or switches to a toy you have given it. Praise or reward with healthy dog treats – not grain badness.
Note if your dog changes from mouthing to licking, that submissive thing is to be praised. It is accepting you as the leader and you need to be CONSISTENT with your correction, redirection and praise.
With young pups sometimes a TIME OUT is required when their excitement is too high for them to listen. Only keep them in time out for 10 – 15 minutes maximum. You don’t want to stress them too much but it has to be long enough that they want to change behaviour.
Time out is usually putting them in a quiet room without toys. Just the separation from you should have them want to change and regulate.
GIVE CLEAR direction from EVERY MEMBER of your family to your dog.