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Play Biting and Chewing in Puppies and Dogs

Dogs explore the world with their mouths. Chewing is a natural behavior that can be exacerbated due to teething or boredom. Dogs can also learn that it is fun to grab people with their mouths in excitement or play. This is especially common in young, energetic dogs that may not have had much training. This behavior can be very frustrating and even sometimes painful to live with. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to help your new family member direct their urge to use their mouth to appropriate items.

What To Do

  • Prevent the behavior.

    • Pick up items that your dog is likely to chew and have a safe area to confine him when he cannot be supervised.

    • Use baby gates or a leash to contain your dog in situations where you know he is likely to mouth.

  • Provide appropriate items to chew. Try a variety of chews with different textures to see what your dog likes best.

  • Reward the behavior that you want and make it easy for your dog to succeed. Be prepared with treats and ask him to sit before he mouths. Have a toy ready to offer him to redirect chewing on inappropriate items. Give him lots of calm attention and praise when his mouth isn’t on you.

  • When he does mouth, do not respond. Turn, or walk away for 10 seconds and then immediately find a different behavior to ask him to do instead.

  • When necessary, settle your dog in his own area or crate with a kong or another item he likes to keep him occupied while you accomplish other tasks

  • Consistency is the key to success. All “chewable” items must be picked up. Make sure everyone in the household is on board with the training plan and is prepared to reward polite behavior. Be patient and persistent; often the dog has been successful in getting attention by mouthing for quite some time, and it may take him a while to learn that this method no longer works.

What To Avoid

  • Do not use punishment. Scolding, grabbing the muzzle, pushing the dog to the ground, etc. will only encourage the mouthing or chewing. Remember that your dog is using this behavior to meet a need. Provide your dog with appropriate things to chew and encourage appropriate ways to interact with people.

  • Do not allow roughhousing. You want to encourage your dog to respect other people’s space. Instead redirect their energy to playing with toys, puzzles, or going for a run.

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