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Dog Mouthing: How to Control it and Stop Your Dog From Biting

Dogs love to bite, chew or nibble on everything: from the sticks they find in the yard to the basket that they sleep in. Dog mouthing is an integral part of dog perception, as it allows your pets to investigate and discover the world around them.

Can it be a problem?

As dogs get older, owners can become worried about their pet’s behavior if dogs continue to mouth on hands or don’t realize the extent of their bite.

There are ways that owners can stop dog mouthing if it’s becoming too much, and in this article, we explore the best methods for doing so. 

Keep reading, and find out how to teach your dog to stop mouthing. 

Why does my dog mouth me? 

In 9 out of 10 cases - pup mouthing is normal behavior and owners don't need to become overly worked up about it.

However, there are simple fixes and training devices that work well to overcome it at home. 

How it starts

Mouthing occurs when your pet dog begins to chew or nibble on things. This could be their chew toy, it could be the pillows on the sofa, or it could be their owner’s hands. 

Why it happens

Dogs will mouth on things for a wide range of reasons:

  • It can be a sign of affection if they are mouthing your hand.
  • Also, a dog mouthing when excited.
  • Dogs mouth as they play with other dogs.
  • Also, they mouth when they are bored, hungry, or just too energetic. 

Primarily though, it’s a way for your pet to investigate and to understand the world around them.

Most evident in younger puppies, it’s an important part of the teething and growing up process: puppies start to bite and chew as their teeth develop, and for dogs, mouthing becomes a way to understand the objects they discover. 

Should I let my dog mouth me? 

Owners need to learn to judge the extent of their dog's mouthing. If your dog is being affectionate, then it’s up to you, as the owner, if you allow your pet to continue mouthing on your hands.

As dogs develop and understand the world, mouthing doesn’t become as common as it is in puppies.

However, as dogs grow and develop, their teeth begin to sharpen.

While owners might be happy to have their fingers nibbled by a young pup, you might not be too happy if your dog starts to cause pain or break your skin!

Problematic behavior

Dog owners often ask us when this behavior is becoming a problem.

While mouthing at home in a comfortable environment might seem okay, a dog needs to understand what it can and can’t do in different scenarios: while you might not mind your dog nibbling your hand - a stranger in the park might not be thrilled about it. 

It's also important to identify aggressive mouthing behavior. This can result from frustration or anxiety: if your dog intentionally causes pain, or won’t let go of your hand when mouthing, then this is a cause for concern.  

How to stop a dog from mouthing

Even if you let your dog to mouth on your hand, he still needs to understand what it can and can’t bite, chew, and nibble. 

If you are worried it’s aggressive behavior and know it’s not dog mouthing affection, then you can consider consulting a behavioral therapist or your vet for more information. 

Following a set of established methods to control and stop mouthing in dogs: 

Teach your dog bite inhibition 

In younger dogs, one of the biggest causes for concern is a lack of bite inhibition.

Dogs use mouthing to investigate, but until they’ve investigated (with their teeth), they won’t know how hard they can bite or even that their bite can cause pain.

This is what’s called bite inhibition.

Owners can copy a trick from the dog playbook, however, to help dogs learn to control their bites when they are around people: when dogs play amongst themselves, they nip and bite each other. If a dog is bitten too hard, it will let out a loud yelp or whine, and the dogs stop playing (at least, momentarily). This signals that the dog has been hurt. 

Owners can copy this and also let out a cry of pain if their dog bites. Continue this, and eventually, the dog learns that they are causing harm when they bite hands.  

Chew toys and exercise 

One of the simplest ways to control mouthing is to provide your dog with lots of chew toys. These can be toys from the pet store, or they can be sticks from the park (whatever your dog prefers!).

Dogs often bite or chew out of habit or boredom, and providing an outlet gives them a chance to alleviate this. It also sets boundaries, and you can reinforce that your pet is allowed to bite the sticks, but not your hands. 

As part of this, you can also keep your dog well-exercised. Play fetch with them in the garden or have them chase sticks in the park to get rid of all that excess energy. 

Dog-proof your home 

Owners can set boundaries within their home to help curb mouthing and biting of household items (check out our puppy proofing tips for more detailed info).

If your dog is mouthing on furniture or pillows, for instance, then you can cordon off areas of the home: you can use stair gates, keep doors closed, or set up a doggie bed ramp to help them in and out of certain areas where they are allowed to be. 

Cooling off time

If your dog is biting and mouthing too much, you can remove him from the room for some cooling off time - this takes away attention from your pet dog and reinforces the idea that what they are doing isn’t appropriate. 

You can leave your dog in the kitchen, close the door to your living room, or relegate them from the sofa to the floor.

Continually doing this when they mouth will teach them to change their behavior if they want attention in the future. 

Use treats to promote good behavior  

Treats are a great way to train your dog and to reinforce behavioral patterns, and they can be used effectively to teach your pet not to mouth.

  • For example, when playing with your dog, you can keep treats in one hand.
  • Use the treats to discourage them from biting or mouthing on your other hand.
  • If you are teaching verbal commands, such as ‘stop’ or ‘sit,’ then treats can be used to reinforce these commands through association and stop aggressive behavior. 

Dog mouthing: the last word

This is a normal part of your dog’s life. It’s a way for them to show affection, to explore the world around them, and even to make new friends with other dogs in the park. 

But as your dog grows older, owners need to teach their pets how to control their bites, and they need to establish boundaries (no one wants a painful bite on their hand).

With the simple training and behavioral techniques we’ve established in this article, you can curb this behavior from an early age. 

Why not bookmark this guide, so you can teach your dog to stop mouthing? 

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