Perfect Puppy Problem Solving – Chapter 5 – Mouthing
Chapter 5 – Mouthing
Puppies have sharp needle teeth, and it hurts when they chew on you. There will be times when you probably feel that your puppy thinks of you as a two-legged chew toy. Why does she do that? Is your puppy being dominant? Is she trying to show you that she’s boss? Not at all.
What to Do
- When your puppy mouths you, yelp “Ouch!” It’s important to yelp like you’re wounded, not like you’re angry-Act like you’re really in pain.
- Immediately turn away from your puppy and completely ignore her for 10-15 seconds. Don’t lecture her, don’t look at her and don’t even acknowledge her. This will teach your puppy that mouthing makes her lose the attention of her best friend.
- Remember, your puppy is not trying to hurt you-she’s trying to play. Once you yelp she’s likely to stop and look at you to see if you’re okay or even to apologize. Keep ignoring her for the full time so that she learns that her teeth made you quit the game.
- Turn back around. Find the nearest toy that your puppy is allowed to have and immediately offer it to her.
- When she takes the toy, mark “Yes!” and praise her. Repeat these steps every time your puppy mouths you. She will learn that she gets your attention and affection only if her teeth don’t make contact. The second she mouths you, yelp and ignore her. Be consistent with your lessons. If you let her get away with it sometimes but not others, the behavior will worsen. She will not learn that mouthing is inappropriate. If you are consistent, and everyone who comes in contact with your puppy follows the same routine, your puppy will one day start to mouth you and think better of it. This is cause for celebration!
Troubleshooting: What if your puppy gets all riled up when you yelp? Some puppies get a little crazy when they hear an “Ouch!” For these puppies, try a softer whine, like “Owwwwwww.” Make sure that you’re acting hurt and that your yelp doesn’t sound so excited that your puppy interprets it as part of the game.
Troubleshooting: What if your puppy starts biting at your pants leg or jumping up on you while you’re ignoring her? Some puppies may get frustrated when you ignore them, so they try to engage your attention the only way that they know how: by pestering you. Perhaps this has worked for them in the past. Maybe they kept jumping and clawing and nipping until they finally got a reaction. It’s important not to reward this behavior. Remember, any attention can be interpreted as good attention by a puppy! You shouldn’t have to get hurt, however. If your puppy is so frantic that she practically attacks you if you ignore her, leave the room if necessary. Don’t leave her for long, because she shouldn’t be unattended. Return in 10 to 15 seconds and try again. You also can give her a quick timeout in her crate. Be sure that this puppy is getting plenty of exercise for her breed and age. Puppies who aren’t getting their daily exercise requirements can sometimes act this way. If the problem persists, call a professional reward-based dog trainer to observe and assist you.
What Not to Do
You may be tempted to use physical punishment with your puppy if she mouths you. This can backfire. Because your puppy is most likely trying to play with you, she’s liable to think that you’ve figured out the game if you get physical with her. She’ll come back at you harder. You also might teach her to only keep her teeth off the loudest or strongest person in the house. You don’t want her to mouth anyone in your household. If your puppy mouths you:
- Don’t yell at her
- Don’t “pop” her under the chin or grab her by the scruff.
- Don’t grab her tongue or stick your fingers down her throat.
- Don’t spank her.
- Don’t flip her upside down (the old-fashioned “alpha roll”). All these things could make the problem worse.
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