One of the most common issues we see in working with puppies is overall mouthiness and play biting. And it is one of the most misunderstood behaviors we see, and people are often given some of the worst advice to curb and redirect the behavior. From squeezing the snout, to rewarding this behavior by giving them a toy, or even ignoring the behavior believing they will grow out of it. To further address this very common problem we have to understand why they struggle with this problem. Play biting and generally mouthiness can be a result of numerous different reasons. Some of those reasons can be the fact that puppies explore the world with their mouths, they go through a teething process which can be quite painful and they are looking for some type of relief, they use this mouthiness to instigate play and attention with their siblings, as well, some breeds are even more predisposed to this because of their breed and what they were bred for like herding breeds. Now that we have discussed some of the reasons for the general mouthiness and play biting we can discuss some of the ways to redirect and avoid this behavior all together. First and foremost, physical punishment should never be used to break this behavior as it will only result in creating mistrust between you and your dog. It could also potentially foster more aggressive behaviors in the future. Alpha rolling and dominance theory are outdated and proven to be ineffective. A lot of people will recommend removing yourself from the situation. But, with many dogs this will only further intensify the issue as the dog will perceive it as prey. So first, we make sure we aren’t doing anything that could result in exacerbating the behavior, like screaming, running away, or even making a game of tug out of the behavior. Once we know we aren’t doing anything to enable these behaviors we can start to introduce ways to redirect the behavior and stop it all together. Stagnant stimulation with a puppy will almost always result in this mouthiness and puppy biting.
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