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Why do puppies mouth and nip?

Puppies explore the world with their mouths. They need to learn and we need to teach them that our hands are not play-things (it hurts!) and any contact with our skin results in the fun stopping. Puppies are teething and their teeth will be painful so they need appropriate outlets to soothe their gums.

Labrador with his tongue hanging out

How to stop it

If your puppy mouths you, stop the game. Don’t provide eye contact or speech and put your hands behind your back. Do not shout at them – even this may be seen as a reward!

When your puppy is calm offer one hand towards their mouth – if they lick your hand then reward them with a treat or a toy. Any behaviour that is not biting should be rewarded with a treat or toy.

Also you can redirect the behaviour – give an appropriate chew toy for them to have relief on. If you can do this just before they start mouthing then this is even better! Things such as yak chews, whimzee sticks (ensure they’re the right size for your puppies age), kongs stuffed with peanut butter and then popped in  the freezer (dog safe peanut butter) and really cold carrots are all good replacements.

Use enrichment games and activities to keep your dog occupied. Check out this group.

Do not use your hands as a toy – avoid rough and tumble games and high intensity games as these can be too over arousing for the dog and raise cortisol levels. More information can be read about this here.

Capture calmness, when the puppy is calm reward them with gentle strokes. Here is a good guide to the strokes .

Snuffle mats and licky mats are good calming activities as the dog uses their senses of smell (they have 300 million scent detectors in their nose) and this promotes sleep and calm behaviour. Please look at the sprinkles website.

Tools for the job

  • Cold crunchy carrots
  • Whimzee sticks and yak chews – ensure their size and age appropriate for puppy
  • Snuffle mat’s – or get a towel and scrunch it up and hide the treats
  • A puzzle feeder – Nina Ottosson has some great ones
  • Green and wild’s chews
  • An antler chew

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