Beast Teeth! – Puppy Mouthing & Biting
Ouch, my puppy is a beast!
Addressing the Beast!
What is mouthing & what is biting?
Common Reasons for Mouthing & Biting
Although puppies use their mouths to learn and explore, they also mouth and even bite for other reasons.
Some Common Reasons Are:
Teething: Young puppies are typically mouthy because they are in the teething process. Their mouths may be hurting because their puppy teeth will eventually fall out, making way for their adult teeth! Once those adult teeth start coming in, you may find your puppy is a bit more mouthy. This can be because it is uncomfortable.
Stress &/or Excitement: Even a calm puppy with gentle mouth may increase the pressure of his bite when he is stressed and/or excited. Yup, you heard me right! Stress and excitement are two reasons that can cause a dog to increase the pressure of his mouth. Puppies can become excited and over stimulated by a variety of random things. Some puppies might get overly excited and stimulated by someone’s dress or even jeans swaying in the wind, causing the puppy to get mouthy. Puppies mouths gravitate towards movement! The same is true in households with young children. Children constantly running around can cause a puppy to get over stimulated and excited causing them to chase and mouth. Knowing how and why puppy is mouthing is important. If your puppy chases and grabs and let’s go quickly verses grabs with his whole mouth and holds on; this can help determine what the puppy is doing and if it should be cause for concern.
Displacement Signals: Some puppies and adult dogs may mouth or bite when they are feeling conflicted. Displacement Signals are body language and communication signals that are displayed during specific situations when a dog is feeling some internal conflict and is not sure what to do or how to act. These types of dogs might start out as excited and then become anxious or even frustrated. When they have these feelings, they might not know what to do or how to react, so they start displaying their displacement behavior.
Excessive Touching & Holding: Sometimes we just can’t help how cute our puppies are! They are cute, soft and adorable. OMG, don’t you just want to squeeze them all day, right? Well, that being said, sometimes we touch and hold puppy’s to much which might cause the puppy to mouth or bite. We have to remember to listen to our puppy’s body language. The puppy is the one who decides what is excessive. It is also important to note that not all puppies like being touched or held a lot. Puppies that don’t want to be held or touched may communicate their displeasure by trying to squirm out of your hands and arms. They may also growl, snap, or even bite to tell you “Stop, leave me alone, and put me down.” Again, this is important information that can help you learn more about your puppy. If you have any issues or concerns make sure to reach out to a positive reinforcement training and behavior professional.
Early Experience: In the first few weeks of life, a puppy learns how and why to control the pressure of his teeth. If he bites too hard while nursing, mom might just get up and walk away. If he bites too hard while playing, his siblings are likely to quit playing with him or let him know he is hurting them. Learning bite inhibition from the mother and litter is crucial early on, as it starts to lay the foundation. Puppies who are pulled from their mom and litter to early may not learn how to control the pressure of their mouths which can sometimes cause some behavior issues, especially as the puppy grows up. These puppies may also not know how to appropriately socialize with other puppies and adult dogs. I also find that puppies who are not socialized and exposed to other puppies and/or adult dogs once they are brought home also run the risk of having a lack in control of the pressure of their mouth and bite.
Genetics: Genetic components can also play a role in why a puppy has a gentle mouth or hard bite.
At the end of the day, if you have any issues or concerns make sure to reach out to a positive reinforcement training and behavior professional.
So how do we deal with mouthing?
The Answer is Management
Manage by Puppy Proofing:
Exercise Your Puppies Mouth:
Physical & Mental Exercise:
Touching, Handling & Lifting:
Kids & Play:
Learn About Canine Body Language:
Redirect Your Puppy:
Some trainers will recommend trying to redirect a puppy onto something else like a fun squeaky toy, tug toy or bone. This can work and can become very useful, but pay close attention to this as you could be rewarding your puppy for the mouthing behavior instead. Redirecting can work as long as the puppy is not learning that his behavior is being rewarded. One easy way to start redirecting a puppy can be by teaching them a hand target. Hand targeting is easy to teach and can be a fun and interactive exercise to have in your tool box for man reasons. You can click here to read my blog on hand targeting (video included). You can also click the link below on how to teach a hand target.
What NOT To Do
- Do Not punish, reprimand, hold puppy’s mouth closed, blow in her face, alpha role, use a shock collar, spray bottle, a hose to spray or shake a can of coins! These things can cause your puppy to become afraid of you which can slowly destroy the relationship you and your puppy can build together. This can negatively affect the training and teaching process.
- Yelp, scream “NO” or scream “ouch!” These are typically things I would also avoid. Sometimes puppies become mouthy as a way of seeking attention because they have learned it works. Over time they can learn that you screaming or making sound effects gets them the attention they wanted. Some puppies even become excited and playful because of owners becoming vocal. This can cause mouthing to escalate in the situation.
With some time and patience things usually get better. You will hit some bumps in the road where your puppy may regress. This is where consistency and the training you have done will come in very handy!
About Anthony De Marinis, CDBC, CBATI, VSPDT, TTWC, VSA-DT
Anthony De Marinis is the owner of De Marinis Dog Training & Behavior on Long Island, NY. He provides private in-home training and behavior modification solutions using positive reinforcement-based methods. He also provides video consultations remotely as he has many clients across the United States. Anthony has 6 professional certifications which include: Certified Dog Behavior Consultant from the International Association for Animal Behavior Consultants, Certified Graduate of distinction from the Victoria Stilwell Academy for Dog Training & Behavior, Certified Behavior Adjustment Trainer, Certified Victoria Stilwell Licensed Positively Dog Trainer, The Third Way Certified Trainer and is a Fear Free Certified Animal Trainer. Currently, Anthony has a young Australian Kelpie named Journey. They are learning about agility and nose work together. You can visit Anthony’s website and learn more about him and his services at: www.demarinisdogtraining.com