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Shark Attack: How to Manage Mouthing

Author: Alison Spanner | Date: June 14, 2012

I find little more annoying than when puppies put their teeth on me even though I understand mouthing behavior occurs naturally in young puppies during play.  I just always feel slightly offended when a puppy bites my hand just a little too hard during when are roughhousing.  Plus, I know if the mouthing behavior is not curbed during puppyhood it could develop into a serious problem during adulthood.

Is it possible to teach your dog not to use its teeth during play? Yes. How?  Well, let’s get into this.

As discussed in several previous posts dogs learn, among other ways, by:

1) Association.  Here the association the pup needs to learn is that teeth on skin equals a cessation in pay with his people.

2) Repetition.  The pup will learn this association quickly if his people stop interacting with him the moment the mouthing becomes too hard.

3) Reward.  Soon the pup will learn he gets to play with his people for longer if he doesn’t mouth.

There are several methods a pup’s people can follow to quickly teach the pup that mouthing too hard is inappropriate.  Let’s talk about them in turn.

The Scream

When your pup starts to mouth you during play, immediately emit a sharp high-pitched noise.  What you actually say does not matter; rather “the scream” simply needs to be jarring enough to disrupt the behavior.  If the pup stops mouthing, praise him and lure him into a sit.  Then resume play.  The pup quickly learns to associate teeth on skin with an awful noise.

Tough Love

If your pup is unaffected by “the scream” and continues to mouth you, stand up and leave the room shutting the door behind you.  The puppy must remain behind alone.  He has lost his playmate.  After a brief period of time, (no more than 30 seconds) return to the pup and ask him sit or lie down before playing again.  If he again starts mouthing, employ “the scream” then leave the room.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.

With time, you will find that your dog’s mouthing is less painful.  However, continue to employ these two methods even when the pup’s mouthing stops hurting.  Pups must learn that even the smallest amount of jaw pressure on a human body part is unacceptable.  This isn’t to say you cannot roughhouse with your puppy, rather with the appropriate feedback they will develop gentle jaws and the play will be more fun for all involved.




AnimalSense trainers clearly love dogs, never using or encouraging the use of force or intimidation.

Melissa B. | View Client Testimonials


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