Friday, April 15, 2011

Mouthing and Nipping

Dogs use their mouths to communicate with each other from the time they are puppies to adults.

A puppy will mouth things to explore and investigate the world around him, when he’s teething and playing.  This is a perfect time to teach him manners where his mouth and human skin are concerned. Since mouthing is a normal behavior, make sure he always has suitable chew toys available and praise him when he uses them.

If your puppy nips or mouths you during play, you can say "OUCH" really loud and stop the play immediately. DO NOT hit his nose, you are trying to teach him respect not fear and aggression. Ignore him for a few minutes and then resume your play time. Every time he nips do the same thing. His siblings and mother would react much the same way. You want to teach your puppy not to use pressure with his mouth at an early age so that when he grows up he will continue to have that same respect even though his jaw will be much stronger.

If an adolescent or adult dog nips at you, he may be doing it for a different reason. He may be trying to control you with mouth if he disagrees with what you are doing (maybe you are grooming him or moving him off a bed or couch). In this case you must brush up on your leadership skills because your dog is either challenging you or already thinks he's in control.

This is also the case when a dog herds you by nipping at your heels when you walk or run. He is controlling your movement and/or telling you he wants to play. This should not be tolerated as it can pose potential problems if your dog is loose at a playground or somewhere with a lot of kids running around.  You can interrupt his behavior with the word “HEY” in a calm but stern voice every time he nips at you. Be consistent and he will eventually learn. Once he learns the word, you can use it to interrupt him if he’s nipping at someone else.

If you take the time to educate your dog and provide him with the proper leadership, he will respond to you.

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