A normal way for dogs to play is using their mouth. In fact, if you watch dogs play with one another, it’s often filled with mouthing. This is why it’s so common for dogs to also mouth people when trying to play. If mouthing is bothering you, you’re not alone. Depending on the force, it can lead to bruising or even scratches. And at the very least you may be left with a wet arm.
Here are 3 ways to decrease mouthing:
Find a Playmate
Because it’s a normal behavior, giving an outlet for it can help your dog discriminate when is a good time to do so and when is not a good time. My favorite outlet is dog-dog play. Dogs that get to play a lot with other dogs generally mouth their people less. This is because mouthing their person just isn’t nearly as fun as mouthing another dog. Tug Tug is a fun way for a dog and person to interact which involves appropriate mouthing. The specific tug toy comes out which serves as the green light that it’s “go time.” This is great because when done properly, we can teach our dogs to grab it on cue and also drop it on cue. Talk about impulse control! And once your dog is getting the hang of it you can also ask for other behaviors after the toy is dropped and before the game starts again.
Stay Stationary or Step Out of Reach
Because mouthing is a social behavior, taking away what your dog wants for doing it can lead to less mouthing. If the behavior starts, you can try standing still and seeing what happens. For some dogs, this will work and they’ll stop. For other dogs, staying still and ignoring will not work and they’ll keep on mouthing and possibly even jumping. In this instance, stepping out of their reach can be effective. To do this, mark the unwanted behavior with a word or phrase such as “too bad.” Next, step over a gate and hang out there for 30-60 seconds. This can help interrupt the behavior and for some dogs also help to calm them down.
Regardless of what you do, consistency is key!