Nipping, Play Biting and Mouthing in Adult Dogs


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Most pack leaders have a problem with dogs that bite, mouth and chew their clothing, limbs and hands during play. An adult dog's jaws are more powerful than that of a puppy, and can cause more pain. It is also difficult to control older dogs as they are not as sensitive to our reactions as puppies.

Is it aggressive or playful behavior?

Mouthing is normal behavior, but a lot of dogs bite out of aggression or fear. Often, it is difficult to tell the difference between play and mouthing that is an indicator of aggressive behavior. As a rule of thumb, playful dogs have a relaxed face and body. The muzzle looks wrinkled and there is a noticeable absence of tension in the facial muscles. It is also less painful than aggressive biting. If a dog is aggressive, his body gets stiff. He will wrinkle the muzzle and pull back the lips to bare his teeth. Serious bites are also more painful and quicker than play.

How to Minimize Nipping and Mouthing

The most important objective is to train your dog to the fact that people have sensitive skin. He must learn to be gentle when he uses his mouth for play. A dog or puppy who has not learned bite inhibition does not understand how sensitive the human skin is and ends up biting hard. Some trainers and behaviorists believe that dogs that have learned to use their mouth gently while interacting with humans are less likely to bite hard and break the skin.When you are playing with your dog, let him mouth till he bites hard. If he does, let out a high-pitched scream. This will startle the dog and cause him to stop mouthing. If that does not work, take a time-out. Ignore your dog for a few seconds before you encourage him to play with you again. Once you have taught your dog to be gentle, you can start teaching him to avoid people completely.

  • Substitute a chew bone or a toy when your dog tries to chew on toes or fingers.
  • Dogs tend to mouth on hands when they are patted, scratched or stroked. If your dog gets riled up when petted, distract his attention by feeding him treats from your other hand. This will acclimatize your dog to getting touched without mouthing.
  • Teach impulse control to your dog with specific exercises like wait, sit and leave it.
  • Provide your dog with opportunities to play with other vaccinated dogs. This will allow your dog to expend his energy and he will have less need to play rough with you.
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