Mouthing and Play Biting

This is behaviour which your dog has learnt in the litter from his mother, brothers and sisters. The bitch uses nose tabbing (growling and poking with the end of the nose) as a form of discipline. Puppies spend lots of time mouthing and play fighting with each other, as they establish rank within the litter. Your dog therefore needs to learn that this is not the way to play with humans, he will not automatically know this.

It is sufficient for some dogs just to let them know that you have been hurt, by exclaiming a sharp "Ouch!" and briefly withdrawing from the game or cuddle. Often they will look surprised and immediately try to lick you. If this is the case, ignore the dog for 30 seconds. Then invite another game or call the dog to resume the cuddle. If he/she mouths again, repeat, until the dog makes the connection that mouthing and biting stops the game or cuddle.

It has to be pointed out that some dogs find it amusing to have a large human squeaky toy!  If this is the case, stand up and walk away from the dog, do not look at or speak to him/her, go out of the room and shut the door behind you. It is very important that the dog immediately loses your attention altogether. It is far more effective for you to walk away than to try to remove the dog from the room. Grabbing to put him/her out of the room will give a further opportunity to mouth and bite. It may also involve you chasing, which the dog will enjoy, a game well worth repeating!

Stay out of the room for a couple of minutes and when you go back ignore the dog if he/she approaches you. Repeat until the dog accepts that your attention has been lost and then call him/her to you and resume the game or cuddle. If repeated each time the dog mouths bites or nose tabs the behaviour will soon extinguish.

It is also worth mentioning that mouthing and biting clothing or hair should receive exactly the same response. The dog should learn that biting clothing and hair is as unacceptable as biting skin.


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©  Marie Miller - Tellington TTouch Instructor