Nipping or mouthing is normal puppy behavior, but it can develop into a serious problem if allowed to continue into adulthood. An adult dog’s mouth can be very strong, so even when its nipping is just part of normal play, it can still cause significant damage to human skin. If a puppy is not taught from an early age that mouthing or nipping on skin or clothes is inappropriate, then she is likely to continue into adulthood. Some dogs are more orally fixated than others but every dog should be given boundaries, especially when it comes to using their mouths around humans.
Most mouthing and nipping is playful in nature, but if a dog gets overly excited the nipping can become harder and more difficult to stop. If a dog becomes angry when told to stop, the nipping is more likely to be less play behavior and more behavior designed to control.
Some herding breeds such as Border Collies, Australian Shepherds and Shelties will sometimes nip at a person’s feet or heels, mimicking the livestock herding behavior they were originally bred for. Children are most likely to be on the receiving end of such nipping, especially when they are running around or playing vigorously.
How Can I Teach My Dog To Stop Nipping?
- Teach your dog bite inhibition from an early age.
- If your dog nips or mouths you during play or at any other time, withdraw attention immediately and walk out of the room. Wait outside for a minute or two, come back in the room and resume play. If the nip happens again repeat the exercise until your dog realizes that nipping stops all interaction.
- If your dog plays without nipping, let play continue.
- Give your dog plenty of chew toys to redirect her nipping onto something more appropriate.
- Encourage non contact games such as fetch or go find. You can play tug of war but make sure you do it with boundaries so that even when your dog is overly aroused, she listens and responds to you when you give her a cue or tell her to stop.
- Avoid wrestling or rough housing with your dog as this can exacerbate mouthing behavior.
- Teach your dog the ‘Leave It’ cue, which is good for impulse control.
- If your dog is getting too excited give her a time out somewhere where there is no human interaction and she can settle before continuing interaction.
- If your dog is a relentless nipper try spraying some taste deterrent on you or your clothes. While this might not make you smell so nice for a while it will deter your dog’s desire to keep mouthing you.
- Do not smack your dog on the nose for nipping or mouthing as this could make the behavior worse.
- If your dog is tense when she nips at you or bares her teeth, this might be a sign that the behavior is less than friendly. Enlist the help of a certified positive trainer to help you the behavior can easily get out of control.
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