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Dr. Rosie DVM

Managing Mouthy Behaviors

Mouthiness in puppies, while natural, is an undesirable behavior. Puppies primarily use their mouths to explore their environment, as the sense of taste and touch in and around the mouth is among the first to develop. A mother dog typically teaches her puppies about biting - what is considered "too hard" and what is excessive. However, when we acquire puppies, we often do not have the benefit of this maternal guidance, so it becomes our responsibility to teach them appropriate behavior. While some level of mouthing for exploration is acceptable in puppies under 4 months old, repetitive or painful biting should be discouraged. Here are some tips for discouraging mouthy behavior.

Dealing with Mouthiness in Puppies

  1. Understanding Normal Behavior: Mouthiness is a natural behavior in puppies, but it's important to teach them appropriate ways to use their mouths.
  2. Avoid Rough Play: Rough or aggressive play that involves your puppy's mouth and your hands or feet should be avoided, as it can encourage unwanted behavior.
  3. Provide Chew Toys: Offer appropriate chew toys to redirect your puppy's urge to chew away from your hands or feet. Toys like rawhide chews, Nyla-bones, and food-stuffed Kong toys can be helpful.
  4. Remove Attention: If your puppy mouths your hand, remove all attention, including eye contact and touching. Offer a toy instead to redirect the behavior.
  5. Use a High-Pitched "Ouch": In some cases, a high-pitched "ouch" can be used to interrupt mouthy behaviors. However, be cautious and avoid using it if your puppy becomes scared or if the behavior increases.
  6. Watch for Signs of Fear or Stress: Excessive mouthing behavior could be a sign of fear or stress. Watch for other signs like body stiffening, growling, or trembling, and contact your veterinarian if you're concerned.
  7. Seek Professional Help: If you suspect that your puppy's mouthy behavior is due to fear or aggression, seek help from a behavior specialist.

Important Note: Fearful behavior in puppies is not normal and should be addressed promptly to prevent it from progressing to aggression.

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