Many new pup parents ask, “Why is my dog mouthing and how do I stop it?”
That’s a great question.
Puppies are undeniably adorable. They also love to nibble with razor-sharp teeth that can cut skin.
This behavior, also know as dog mouthing, is common in puppies and even in some older dogs, so there’s no need to worry. But you should do what you can to curb the problem for a number of reasons.
We’ll walk you through everything you need to know.
What is Dog Mouthing?
Before we talk about how to fix it, let’s address why dog mouthing occurs.
The act of mouthing is when a dog puts their teeth and mouth on human skin but doesn’t apply the force of their jaws (which would be biting).
According to Petfinder, dog mouthing is a natural behavior. It’s how a young pup explores the world around them.
Dogs can mouth humans, other animals or even objects. They do this as a way to engage, play, explore, get attention, or all of the above.
Mouthing can really get out of hand, however, when a dog increases the pressure and it turns into biting. This of course should be corrected right away.
Dog mouthing isn’t bad in it of itself, but we certainly understand the desire to stop this behavior. It can be annoying, scary and even painful if the puppy pierces the skin.
Is Dog Mouthing a Sign of Affection?
A lot of new dog owners have asked us, “Is dog mouthing a sign of affection?”
After all, many refer to the gentle nibbling of dog mouthing as “love bites,” so this question makes a lot of sense.
According to experts, dog mouthing mostly occurs when a dog is calm and relaxed. They usually only do this with someone they trust and feel comfortable with.
If you’ve had a dog nibble you and asked yourself is dog mouthing a sign of affection, the answer is: Yes, it often is.
Even though the behavior is done for mostly positive reasons, it can still be frustrating, annoying and even slightly painful. And the Animal Humane Society says that while mouthing is appropriate for puppies under five months, dogs past this age are considered adolescents and should no longer do this.
So how do you stop a mouthing dog? Follow the tips and tricks below!
How to Stop a Mouthing Dog
As mentioned above, mouthing is natural when a dog is young. They use their mouth to explore the new world around them.
For many pup parents, however, this behavior is painful, scary or just plain icky. And after a certain age, it should be stopped entirely.
If you’re wondering how to stop dog mouthing ASAP, do this:
1. Give them chew toys
When a dog starts nibbling on things they shouldn’t, one of the best solutions is to redirect their attention and energy to a chew toy instead.
In a calm manner, place the toy in front of them and encourage them to nibble on it as an alternative.
As soon as the dog latches on, shower them with praise so they have a positive connotation with biting a chew toy and know that this is allowed.
Set of 11 nearly indestructible dog toys-bonus giraffe rope toys-benefits nonprofit dog rescue.
2. Tire them out
There’s a saying that a tired dog is a well-behaved dog. With this in mind, providing plenty of exercise for your pup is another way to curb mouthing behavior.
Exercise doesn’t directly teach your dog to stop mouthing, but if your dog is tuckered out, they’ll have less energy to nibble everything in sight.
Ideas for exercise include going for a walk, running around in the yard or playing games like tug of war or fetch. Just make sure you don’t overdue it at this age!
3. Teach your dog to be gentle
To a puppy, mouthing is totally normal behavior. But since they’re so new to the world around them, they haven’t realized yet that this can hurt humans.
That’s because according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), puppies haven’t learned bite inhibition yet.
Bite inhibition, or the dog’s ability to control the force of his mouthing, is something that is learned through playing with people and other dogs.
If you watch puppies play, you’ll see that if one feels the other is too rough, they’ll yelp in pain and recoil. This signals to the offending furball that they’ve gone too far.
As strange as it sounds, humans can do this, too. If your pup mouths you with too much pressure, pull your hand away and let out a high-pitch yelp.
This signals to your dog that they went too far and hurt you. If they pull back and look apologetic, say “yes” to reassure them that it’s OK and they were right to stop mouthing.
By doing this over time, they’ll be able to gradually gauge what amount of pressure is appropriate.
4. Play with other pups
Socialization is incredibly important for canines. It teaches them how to interact with other dogs in a positive and productive way.
Another benefit: Your dog will expel energy and better understand their bite inhibition, as mentioned above.
If a dog gets a chance to play with other pups, they won’t have as much urge to play as roughly with the humans in the house.
Of course, you always want to make sure the other dogs they’re playing with are well behaved and vaccinated.
Dog parks are a great place for socialization.
5. Give them a timeout
Timeouts work great for kids – and dogs!
If your dog just won’t stop mouthing despite your best attempts to change or redirect their behavior, a timeout might be in order.
For a timeout, gently put your pup in their crate or another calm, contained area. This gives them a chance to cool off and reset.
This will help them chill out and understand that this level of mouthing won’t be tolerated.
Other Tips for Dog Mouthing
Training a puppy can be a lesson in patience. And when you have a mouthing dog who just won’t cut it out, it can seem like your limits are constantly being pushed.
As you research how to stop a mouthing dog, we have a few more pointers that will help make the process smoother and more effective for both you and your pup.
1. Don’t get aggressive
First things first, whatever you do, don’t respond with aggression.
They could react with the same level of energy and hostility toward you, and you certainly don’t want them to act that way. They could even bite harder in response to your anger.
Or it could frighten them and cause behavioral issues. Not to mention the fact that they’ll likely become scared of you.
What is aggressive behavior as a dog owner? This can include yelling, pulling the dog by the cuff, swatting them on the nose, hitting them anywhere on the body, alpha rolling them or any other punishment that might hurt or scar them.
We totally get that dog mouthing can test your limits, and when super sharp teeth are piercing your skin, it’s hard not to react emotionally and impulsively. But it’ll make things worse in the long run.
Another note: You can and should be firm with your dog. We’re not saying you should be a pushover. Just don’t let it turn into aggressive behavior.
2. Always supervise play
Even though dog mouthing is normal behavior when they’re young, it’s still something you should monitor. So when your pup is playing with humans or other animals, always make sure to supervise them!
Keeping an eye out ensures that you can catch if their mouthing is too much and put an end to the behavior before it gets out of hand.
And speaking of that…
3. Don’t let them get too mouthy
If your dog is mouthing way too much, shut things down. This will give your pup a chance to calm down and cool it with the nipping.
To get them to stop, you can gently put them in their crate, give them a timeout in another area of the house or secure them on a leash.
This ensures they’re not allowed to practice the problem behavior and gives them time and space to relax and reset.
Or if it’s just you and the dog, you could leave and let your dog be. This signals you won’t put up with them when they act this way.
4. Be patient and persistent
And finally, have patience and don’t give up. Training a dog isn’t easy, but it will pay dividends in the long run and make life a whole lot easier down the road.
And when you’re persistent, this sends a clear message to your dog about what’s expected from them and how they need to act.
We get that there are days when your patience is wearing thin. In this case, take a deep breath and count to 10 before responding to your dog. Believe me, it works!
Many new pup parents discover that their dog likes to mouth furniture or other objects in the home.
Puppies like to explore and learn about the new world around them through their mouth, so it makes sense that they’d turn to household items – but it’s incredibly frustrating and costly!
If you find your dog nibbling on items you don’t want them to, buy a bottle of bitter spray.
As the name implies, the spray tastes bitter and is unpleasant to dogs. You can spray this solution on things you don’t want your dog to chew, and they’ll likely stay far away after they taste the funky flavor.
Our dog Toby loved to nibble on the wood railings on our steps when he was a puppy, which was especially problematic since we were renting a house at the time.
To get him to stop, we sprayed apple bitters on the wood, and it worked like a charm. Toby would recoil every time he tried to take a bite.
Conclusion: How to Stop Dog Mouthing
Dog mouthing is a totally normal behavior, especially in puppies. But as you’re likely well aware, it can still be annoying and even painful, and you’ll definitely want to nip it in the bud (pun intended) sooner than later.
As you search for how to stop dog mouthing, these tips and tricks will go a long way to curb the behavior.
Just remember: Patience and persistence are key!
Dog Training Resources
Figuring out how to stop a mouthing dog is just one small part of the dog training experience.
Training a new dog is incredibly important because it sets the foundation for the rest of their life.
If you feel like you need more guidance when it comes to dog training, we highly recommend the books below. They’re among the top-rated training books out there and boast hundreds of happy customers.
1. Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution
Our top pick is Dog Training Revolution by Zak George.
The dog trainer and YouTube star has published a complete guide to raising your pet and brings an inventive approach to the subject matter that will keep you engaged.
This complete guide to raising your dog brings an inventive approach to the subject matter that will keep you engaged.
The classic book The Art of Raising a Puppy includes invaluable information and advice every dog owner should know. Reading this book will help your dog live up to their maximum potential.
The revised edition of the book How to Housebreak Your Dog in 7 Days by Shirlee Kalstone teaches you infallible methods of transforming your dog into a potty trained pet.
If you’re struggling to house train your new dog, this is a great resource.
Looking to teach your dog new tricks? If so, 101 Dog Tricks by Kyra Sundance is the book you need.
Like its name implies, the book offers 101 tricks that you can teach your pup and includes everything you need to know as the trainer.
We got this book for our dog Toby and use it as a way to bond with him and keep him mentally stimulated.
To this day, we still pull out this book every so often and find a new trick to share with Toby. It's fun and so good for his physical and mental health.
Puppy Training for Kids serves as a great introduction to dog care and training for young boys and girls. With this book, they’ll better understand all the responsibilities required when owning pets.
Most kids don't fully understand all that goes into pet ownership. This book will help them gain a better understanding of all that's involved and teach them how to train their new furry friend.