Puppies, similar to babies, tend to put everything in their mouths. Unlike babies, puppies have fully developed teeth and jaw strength. This can make it a serious problem when your puppy needs to investigate something by chewing on it. This process is called the mouth, which is how puppies investigate things.
Puppies will use their mouths to investigate objects, play, and chew whatever they find. While it might be adorable initially, this behavior can quickly become problematic if it is not corrected. For instance, it can develop into your puppy biting everything and everyone in sight.
If your puppy has not learned that mouthing is unacceptable, it will see no reason not to bite people to greet them. Thankfully, teaching a puppy not to be so mouthy is relatively easy. First, you will want to teach your puppy what bite inhibition is. Once your puppy has a solid grasp of what this is, you should teach your puppy that it shouldn’t be putting its teeth near the skin in the first place.
You will also need to learn when mouthing and playful chewing becomes aggressive and dangerous, as this is not something you should try to correct on your own unless you have the expertise of a professional.
Knowing the Difference Between Aggression and Mouthing
Puppies who have not yet learned that mouthing is not okay will generally bite people out of curiosity or interest. While this is not okay, it is vastly different from biting someone out of fear or frustration. If your puppy is biting people out of fear or frustration, it can be a red flag that your puppy has the potential to become aggressive, which can endanger the people around that puppy. In a way, this aggression can be equated to a temper tantrum in a child.
Eventually, there will come a time when you have to do something that your puppy doesn’t want you to do, such as pick it up when it would rather you not. Tantrums can also happen when playfulness escalates, which you must be wary of. Puppies who are playful and generally content will be more relaxed in the body and face.
Why Is My Puppy Biting Everything and Everyone
When your puppy throws a tantrum, it will generally become stiff, and its body will be frozen. It will pull its lips back, ready to expose teeth and growl, and potentially bite if it sees the need to. When your puppy bites during a temper tantrum, there will be next to no restraint, which is not good.
What Should You Do If Your Puppy Throws a Tantrum?
If this happens, you should be as emotionless as possible and remain as calm as possible. Of course, you shouldn’t hurt your puppy, but you should be firm. For instance, if holding your puppy set off a tantrum, continue holding your dog firmly, but do not constrict it. If you can, do this until it stops struggling.
Once calm, place the puppy down and contact a professional for assistance. Fixing this problem requires a professional’s knowledge, as it differs vastly from harmless mouthing. You first need to teach your puppy when you notice it has a mouthing problem is bite inhibition.
What Is Bite Inhibition?
Bite inhibition is the idea that your dog can control the force of mouthing. When puppies don’t learn about bite inhibition, they might not understand that human skin tends to be much more sensitive than a dog’s. This means it could bite down too hard during play without meaning or realizing it is wrong.
Many professionals believe that teaching a dog about bite inhibition will minimize the chances that your puppy will bite down hard on another person. However, you should ensure that your dog doesn’t think that biting people is okay.
In the natural world, puppies will learn from other puppies. This is also the case with bite inhibition. If a puppy bites another puppy too hard during play, the other puppy will let out a pained yelp, which will startle the puppy who chewed it. After a few seconds, play will resume as usual, but the puppy will have learned a valuable lesson.
This shows the puppy that such a thing as biting too hard. You will want to create a similar scenario to show your puppy what bite inhibition is. If you can do this, you will be taking the first steps toward curbing the behavior of your puppy biting everything and everyone.
How Do You Teach a Dog Bite Inhibition?
Teaching your puppy about this is going to take a bit of time and patience. While playing with a puppy who tends to mouth things, you will want to keep playing with the puppy, even if it is mouthing you. When the puppy bites down particularly hard, you should yelp (and make it high-pitched, if you can) and act as if you are hurt.
Let your hand go limp to reinforce the idea that you have been “hurt” by your puppy’s mouthing. This reaction will startle the puppy, causing it to stop playing and mouthing you, at least for a little bit. Sometimes, your puppy might lick your hand if it believes it truly hurt you.
Take note of actions.
When your puppy stops mouthing or begins to lick your hand, you should praise your puppy. This reinforces the idea that there is a limit to how hard a puppy can bite and shows the puppy that good things can happen if it is not being mouthy. After this, you can continue playing with your puppy as usual. If yelping doesn’t elicit a response, consider saying “too bad” in a stern voice or something to that effect.
However, some puppies might see through your actions and not believe that you are hurt. When this happens, there is another route you can take to teach your puppy about bite inhibition. This process can take some time, but teaching your dog about mouthing and preventing this behavior is crucial.
What If Your Puppy Doesn’t Respond to Yelps?
Some puppies are stubborn, especially when it comes to the habit of your puppy biting everything and everyone. Sometimes, simply yelping and pretending you were injured won’t be enough to make your puppy realize that this behavior is not okay. If you notice that your puppy is acting this way, the route you should take is providing timeouts when your puppy acts up.
Like the first process, you should wait and play with your puppy as usual until it bites your hand particularly hard. First, you should yelp as you tried before. At the very least, the loud noise will make your dog pause and let go of your hand. Take this moment to remove your hand from the dog and ignore it for about 10 to 20 seconds when your puppy looks back at you.
Some puppies will first take this as play and begin to mouth you. If your puppy does this, get up, move away, and stay out for 10 to 20 seconds. Once those seconds are up, go back to playing with your dog and encourage the puppy to play.
This purpose is to show the puppy that being gentle will keep the play coming, but when the puppy is painful, the space will stop. Because all puppies generally love sport, your puppy will eventually learn that being gentle is the best way to act.
As your puppy gets used to this, you will eventually want to tighten up the rules of this “game.” Doing so will teach your puppy that the expected behavior of having a puppy biting everything and everyone will not be tolerated at your house.
How Does This Teach a Puppy Not to Mouth?
Eventually, your puppy will get used to the first set of rules and stop biting forcefully. You can begin tightening up the game’s laws when your puppy does this consistently. Repeat the same process when your dog begins biting, somewhat challenging but not painfully. Your puppy, having learned from before, will slowly start to adapt to those rules.
Continue repeating this process until your puppy only mouths you with the slightest pressure or none at all. Nobody would consider it biting even if your puppy decides to mug you. This is critical in teaching your puppy about not biting everything in sight. As your puppy controls its jaw strength, you won’t have to worry nearly as much about letting another person pet your dog, as your puppy now knows how to be gentle.
With time and patience, your puppy will only mouth things with the gentlest force, even as an adult dog. Like human children, most puppies will eventually grow out of their mouthing phase, but learning about bite inhibition will be permanent, making it all the more valuable. However, as with many parts of training a puppy, there are a few things that you should be wary of.
What Should You Keep in Mind?
For this process to be successful, you will want to ensure you are not being counterproductive. There will be a few things to keep in mind throughout this process. For instance, when encouraging your puppy to play with you, you shouldn’t use your fingers or slap the sides of your puppy’s face.
This will encourage your puppy to bite you, which is the opposite of what you want for this. What you want for this process is for your puppy to inadvertently mouth you rather than the bite because it thought you were encouraging biting. Similarly, it would help if you didn’t jerk your hands away from your puppy when it does bite harder.
Jerking away will entice the puppy to jump forward and grab. This is why it is suggested to let your hand go limp so that it goes along with pretending to be injured and makes play much less fun for the puppy.
Things to make sure of
You should make sure that you are not discouraging play, either. Playtime with your puppy is essential. This process ensures you can play with your puppy without worrying about a mouthy dog. Therefore, you should ensure that you offer whenever your puppy does anything good, even if it is only for a little bit.
The treats also help reinforce good behavior, which you will always want when teaching your puppy new behavior. Never, ever resort to physical punishments when your puppy messes up. While annoying, mouthing is a natural and widespread phase all puppies go through. Punishing the puppy only reinforces aggression and fear, which can make a habit of mouthing stay until adulthood, when the practice is much harder to break.
Providing Alternatives for Your Puppy
Sometimes, puppies will mouth your feet and ankles because it is boring and they want your attention. It would help if you started carrying small dog toys while walking around the house to discourage this behavior. When your dog begins mouthing you, distract the dog with the toy and praise it with toys and treats when it plays with the toy rather than biting your ankles.
This reinforces the idea that playing with toys is a better alternative than having your puppy biting everything and everyone. Generally, tug toys, and other types of durable toys that your dog can chew and gnaw on are best when your puppy is in the phases where it is mouthing everything it can get its mouth on.
You should also keep in mind that if you are feeling at a loss as to what you can do to fix your puppy’s mouthing habits, you can contact a professional for help and assistance with training. As with teaching a puppy any new behavior, patience, praise, and time will be critical throughout this process.