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Nipping and biting can be aggressive or non-aggressive, and it can be hard to tell the difference. After housebreaking issues, nipping and mouthing are the behaviors new puppy owners most often complain about. Indeed, nipping and mouthing are natural, usually non-aggressive behaviors that dogs use to communicate during play and normal interaction with other pets and people. Everyone knows what nipping and biting looks like, but it can be difficult to tell the difference between nonaggressive and aggressive nipping and mouthing. However, an aggressive dog often has a stiff body, a wrinkled muzzle, erect ears, tense facial muscles, and possibly exposed teeth. Dogs can also learn bite inhibition from people: First, play with your dog, letting him or her nip and mouth your hands. If your dog nips or mouths while being petted or scratched, feed your dog small treats from your free hand to accustom him to being touched without being able to nip or mouth. Being able to differentiate between play and aggression is essential to keeping your hands safe around a dog's mouth. Once you are sure that your dog's health is good and her behavior is play related, you can begin taking steps to decrease the mouthing.
The best person to teach her this lesson is another, slightly older dog, as most of them won’t tolerate a bite which causes pain. Learning to use bite strength properly in puppyhood is called bite inhibition and is crucial to developing a well-socialized dog. Allowing your puppy to socialize with other vaccinated, well-mannered puppies and tolerant adult dogs will help her use her mouth more carefully. While puppy play is agreed to be a good way to teach your dog how to use her teeth, there is a mixed consensus on how puppies should be allowed to use their teeth with humans. Once your puppy inhibits the more painful bites, you can start to yelp for the moderately painful bites, then the mild bites and so on, until your puppy can place her teeth on your skin without any pressure used at all. Outside of playing the mouthing game, your dog should be taught to replace her mouthing of humans with a chew or toy (watch this helpful video on curbing bad chewing behavior). Some dogs use their mouths out of fear or frustration, which can indicate a problem with aggression. Time-outs are often effective for reducing nipping and mouthing in adolescent and adult dogs. Before you interact with your dog, spray the deterrent on areas of your body and clothing that your dog likes to mouth.


Owners of dogs who might be nipping, mouthing, or biting as an aggressive behavior would do well to consult a qualified professional, such as a veterinarian, a certified applied animal behaviorist (CAAB or ACAAB), or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist (DACVB).
If her body and face look rigid and tense, she's growling or showing her teeth, the hair on her back is standing up or if the biting is fast and intense, her behavior may be motivated by aggression rather than play. Consult with your veterinarian about any possible health-related issues that may be causing the mouthing behavior and deal with those immediately. You are looking for an alternative behavior that your dog can be rewarded for performing in place of the mouthing. Basically your puppy needs to learn that putting teeth on human skin isn’t acceptable and that there’s a consequence. As part of this exploration, the puppy learns how hard she can bite when interacting with people and other dogs. Though practicing with their teeth serves a purpose, puppies need to be taught how to politely use their mouths with humans. Avoid pulling your hand away, which may excite your puppy more and cause them to lunge for your hand. Avoid overly rough play with your puppy, such as knocking her over on her sides or back, which may make your puppy too overly aroused and unable to use her mouth in a controlled manner. Seniors should avoid hand wrestling; otherwise they should use gardening gloves on their hands since elderly skin is thinner and tends to tear more easily.
Whenever your puppy tries to mouth your skin or clothes, freeze in place and stop all movement until your puppy lets go.
Though most nippy, mouthy dogs are engaging in a non-aggressive form of the behavior, some take a decidedly aggressive approach to nipping and mouthing. Playful dogs have a pliant, relaxed body posture, and their tails may be held low and wagging. Some behaviorists and trainers believe that dogs who have learned bite inhibition are less likely to bite hard and break the skin if they bite someone due to fear or pain. Occasionally, a dog nips his or her playmate too hard, causing the victim to yelp and, usually, stop playing. When your dog nips or mouths too hard, yelp loudly and ignore your dog for 10 to 20 seconds; if he starts nipping or mouthing during this period, walk away for 10 to 20 seconds. If your dog mouths you, stop moving and wait for him to react to the bad taste of the deterrent. Many trainers are also equipped to handle these cases, but owners should ideally receive a recommendation from their veterinarians before proceeding.


I know she's just playing, but it can hurt, and the more I try and get her to stop the more she does it because she thinks it's a game. As an added bonus, this training may also decrease the amount of pressure your dog would use should she ever feel threatened enough to bite in a different context.
For instance, if your canine mouths when greeting, find another activity she can engage in, such as playing with a toy like the Chase-It, a stuffed animal on the end of a fishing pole-like handle, which can help direct her energy toward a more appropriate outlet.
As soon as you feel teeth, all fun interacting with the puppy stops, only resuming after a short time out. Without the experience of learning how much force their mouth emits, if a dog ever is in a situation where she bites for real, she may not have proper knowledge about how hard she should bite, posing an increased risk for deeper, more damaging wounds. The more still you are, the less fun you are, and thus the more likely the mouthing will stop. When choosing a game to use as a replacement activity, choose one with less contact to the skin, such as fetch or the Chase-It, rather than wrestling with your hands. Or if she bites too hard while playing with another puppy, the hurt puppy will likely stop playing. The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior recommends that a puppy can start classes as soon as seven to eight weeks of age, as long as she has had her first set of vaccinations seven days prior to the start of class and has been given her first deworming. Although the game serves the purpose of fun and bonding with your puppy, the ultimate goal is to teach your dog to use her teeth gently on your skin. As soon as your puppy lets go, direct her to a dog toy or food toy she can chew on instead. Isolating the time and place your pooch is most likely to mouth will help focus your training energies to times when your pet is most likely to exhibit this behavior and will allow you to find an alternative behavior to substitute for the biting. Puppies sometimes mouth humans because they learn it earns them attention, so be sure to praise your puppy for calm behavior and appropriate play with toys rather than reacting to the mouthing. Essentially you are playing the part of another puppy during a play session, one who also would stop playing anytime the biting becomes painful.
As you continue to play, require your dog to become gentler: Yelp and stop play in response to increasingly softer nipping and mouthing until your dog uses little or no pressure with his or her mouth.



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