Mouthing and nipping is a natural canine behavior that develops when a puppy plays with his mom and littermates. Because he has no hands, he learns to use his mouth to wrestle and play. When he nipped too hard, his fellow playmates let him know with a sharp yelp or cry, and puppy would normally back off.
While it may be acceptable within the ranks of a litter, mouthing and biting is NOT an acceptable form of play with people. Puppy teeth are sharp! And all puppies grow up to be dogs capable of inflicting severe damage to human skin, flesh and bone. Biting and mouthing behavior in adult dogs can have deadly consequences. Not every dog is allowed one bite. Some dogs are euthanized immediately after their first biting incident – no exceptions. No second chance.
We often inadvertently encourage mouthing and nipping by playing with and/or praising our puppies excessively with our hands. If you want to play with your puppy, use a toy, not your hands, to simulate wrestling play behavior.
There are a myriad of ideas on how best to stop mouthing and nipping.
We list some of these methods here but stress that there is no single right or wrong way to deal with this behavior.
Talk to your breeder, your veterinarian or a qualified dog trainer for advice on working with your specific breed of dog. If you have an adult dog that has problem with biting and nipping, seek professional help immediately!
Your puppy needs to learn about bite
inhibition. Whenever he takes any part of you in his mouth, startle him by loudly and quickly saying “Ouch! No bite!” In doing so, you have vocally let him know the behavior is unacceptable. (Just like his mom and ittermates used to do.)
You Can Then…
1) Immediately stop playing, turn away, and ignore the puppy. When you face the puppy again and offer your hand, the puppy should ignore it or gently lick it. If he does this then quietly praise him.
2) If puppy wants your hand in his mouth, make it uncomfortable for it to be there! When he take hold of your hand, make a fist and stuff your hand in his mouth for several seconds or stuff your fingers toward the back of his throat. He’ll start to gag and spit and soon realize that a human hand doesn’t taste quite so good. When he lets go of you, immediately provide a suitable toy and praise him for being so clever as to choose the toy, rather than your hand.
3) Immediately grasp his muzzle with your hand, look him in the eye and say, “No Bite!” The second he looks away from you, release his muzzle, and offer a toy instead.
4) A spray bottle filled with 1/8th vinegar and 7/8ths water may be effective for a puppy that is nipping at your heels. When he nips, say “Ouch! No bite!” and spray him in the face with the spray bottle.
Repeat any of the above methods two or three times. If puppy still continues to mouth and nip then he is over stimulated and needs a time out – alone – in his crate. Remember the crate is a den, not a cage. It should be treated as a place of sanctuary, not punishment. Keep his crate clean and dry, with bedding to snuggle up in and one or two indestructible chew toys to entertain him.
Basic Training Guidelines:
• Remember, the above-mentioned methods are for very young puppies.
These methods are NOT suitable for dogs older than about 12 weeks.
• Be consistent. Never allow the puppy to take your hands in his mouth.
Allowing the puppy to hold, mouth, or chew your fingers at any time makes it more difficult to differentiate in appropriate behavior from acceptable actions.
• Don’t play games that encourage hand/mouth contact or teach your dog to pit his strength against yours. (Tug-of-war and wrestling are out!)
• Don’t encourage puppy to chase people. (This is especially challenging to do with herding breeds!) Teach kids not to run around and excite the puppy.
• Don’t hold toys up in the air to encourage puppy to jump and bite at them. (He may accidentally nip your hand.)
• Don’t allow puppy to grab at or chew on his leash. Yes this can be cute behavior but it leads to other problems.
Don’t loose your temper! Aggression begets aggression.
Article submitted by: © Terri Perrin (Biography & Additional Information)