Mouthiness – Animal Friends, Inc

mouth is when a dog places an open jaw on parts of a human’s body for different reasons. not to be confused with aggression. the force with which a dog “bites” depends on his bite inhibition. Bite inhibition is first learned in the first seven weeks of life, when puppies can romp and roll around each other in the litter. during play, a pup will make a loud screeching noise if a littermate bites it too hard. this teaches the littermate the proper degrees of mouthing in humans and other dogs. Bite inhibition is also learned when a bitch weans the puppies from her milk. Learning to inhibit biting is critical for puppies so that as adult dogs they know what is appropriate and what is not. Owners can also help their puppy learn bite inhibition within the first sixteen weeks of life.

different types of mouth picking behaviors in dogs

playful mouth • your dog sees the mouth as a form of play

Reading: Mouthiness in dogs

requiring your dog to bite your mouth to get attention

overstimulated mouth • can occur if your dog is frustrated and aroused by stimulating things in the environment; increased arousal = increased mouth

many people think that talking is a form of domination. it is not. it is simply a behavior that has somehow been reinforced in a dog. your job is to withdraw the reinforcement and redirect the dog to positive behavior.

ways to reduce bite

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don’t reinforce the behavior • if your dog is yelling at you to play, don’t reward him by playing! this tells your dog that you are playing too. dogs don’t understand when we yell at them to stop certain behaviors; a high-pitched tone and loud command can seem like an initiation to play with your dog. it’s always best to ignore the behavior by standing still and crossing your arms. when your dog calms down, simply acknowledge him with a “good boy” signal or a treat.

• If your dog is nipping for attention, make sure you don’t give in to his demands! ignore it until it stops. she will only “give in” to his demands if he stops talking.

effective time-outs • for more detailed information, see our sheet on effective time-outs

• You can place your dog in a non-stimulating environment (a crate or small room) when the behavior occurs. release it only when it has calmed down.

make an aversive sound • puppies will make loud, squeaky sounds to signal when a littermate has played too much. this sound is something we want to replicate to teach our dog when he has played or talked too loudly with us. a sharp “eee, ie, ie” should make your dog stop the behavior. When he does, reward him.

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always use positive reward-based training methods • never hit or punish your dog for chewing behaviors; instead, reward him when the behavior stops. see our fact sheet on positive reinforcement for more information.

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trade with your dog • if your dog uses his mouth to play, teach him that your body parts are not toys! when he bites your mouth, he replaces your arm or hand with a toy. reward him for using the toy instead of our arm.

• Never move your arm or hand away from the dog, as this may cause the dog to bite you. you can gently push your arm into his jaw, which will cause slight discomfort that will cause him to disengage. reward him for quitting!

learn the basic training signals • being able to communicate with your dog is at the root of decreasing biting behavior (and other adverse behaviors!) see our sheet on different training signals for learn basic commands like sit, stay, and get down.

• When your dog bites his mouth, you can have him sit down to calm down and then reward him for doing so.

• Basic obedience skills will give your dog structure and help maintain good communication. When you have good communication with your dog, you can help sculpt his behavior in the right direction!

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