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Mouthy Puppies and Inappropriate Play

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Puppies will be puppies and they explore with their mouths, but you want to be sure to curb overzealous puppy mouthing before your little ones grows into a big problem. Puppies usually learn bite inhibition when playing with other puppies, learning by trail and error how hard is too hard to bite when playing. They need to learn the same lesson with humans, it will just take some time and consistency.

My Puppy is Chewing on My Hands, What Do I Do?

If your puppy begins biting at your hands, wait until the bite is especially hard (hard enough to pinch, but not hard enough to break skin). Yelp loudly like a puppy would and let your hand go limp in her mouth until she lets go. When she lets go or licks you, reward her for good behavior. Continue this way with your puppy until she understands that hard pressure is too much for playing. Next, move on to yelping at moderate bites, and finally lighter bites as your puppy learns to control its mouth pressure. The goal is to teach your puppy how hard is too hard, but not inhibit playtime or natural puppy behaviors. 

If yelping doesn’t appear to have any effect, you can try saying “too bad” in a stern voice or putting your puppy in “time out.” Time out requires you to ignore or get up and move away for your puppy for two to twenty seconds anytime your puppy mouths too hard.

Once your puppy is learning to control her pressure with her teeth, begin substituting your hand for an appropriate chew toy. This strategy can also be used if your puppy likes to ambush your feet and legs while you are walking. If your puppy runs at your legs, immediately stop walking. If you can, keep a toy in your pocket for distraction. If not, just simply stop moving until the puppy lets go.

If you’re afraid that your puppy’s behavior is not improving or is getting worse, please consult a licensed dog behaviorist or pet trainer.