Mouthing, nipping and play biting among dogs is a common activity, and you’ve probably witnessed it more than once. This kind of behaviour may seem cute when your pet is only a few weeks old, but not so much when he’s a year or two or older!
The first step in curbing this behaviour is to identify whether it is playful mouthing or aggressive behaviour. A playful dog will have a relaxed body and face. He might have a wrinkled muzzle, but you won’t see a lot of tension in his facial muscles. An aggressive dog, on the other hand, will look tense and, often, bare his teeth.
To minimize your dog’s mouthing and nipping, you have to teach him to be very gentle when using his mouth during play because people have very sensitive skin.
When playing with your dog, let him mouth on your hands. When he bites too hard, immediately give a high-pitched yelp, as if you’re hurt, and let your hand go limp. This should startle your dog and make him stop mouthing you. If yelping doesn’t work, say something in a stern voice instead. Praise your dog for stopping or for licking you. Continue playing, and repeat these steps no more than three times within a 15-minute period.
The next step is teaching him to stop mouthing people altogether. You can achieve this in a number of ways. One common method is you substitute a toy or chew bone when your dog tries to gnaw on your fingers or feet. Whenever he bites at your feet or ankles, instantly stop moving, take out a toy or chew bone, and wave it enticingly. The moment he stops, praise him and give him the toy or chew bone.
Another method is to encourage non-contact forms of play, such as fetch, rather than rough play with your hands. Make sure you provide plenty of interesting and new toys to chew at so that your dog will play with them instead of mouthing you.
You can also find time for your dog to play with other friendly, vaccinated dogs. He’ll use up most of his energy playing with them and have less need to play roughly with you.