Mouthing and nipping are two different issues. Nipping is a puppy thing; it’s interactive and playful. Mouthing is a lesser infraction; it’s more of communication skill to get you to do a particular thing. Less pressure, less annoying, but still not a charming habit. If you have an older dog who still nips, read the section on aggression. Nipping dogs are bossy and manipulative and need a firmer regime.
Mouthing is an attention-getting behavior. If your dog uses it to communicate a need to go out, respond. If your dog is mouthing you for a pat, please ignore it. Pretend she isn’t there. If she becomes too annoying, get Binaca Mouth Spray® and spritz her discreetly, hiding the Binaca in your hand, avoiding all eye contact, comments, or pushing.
Dogs interpret discipline as confrontational play. Excessive physical corrections will result in aggression. Be wise; stay cool.
Nipping with sharp little needle teeth can hurt! It’s another one of those dog-things that you’ll need to refocus. Consider this: When your puppy still hung out with her littermates, she nipped during play to determine her rank. She also soft-mouthed her mother affectionately. When you bring your puppy home, what happens? This behavior continues. What your puppy wants to know is who’s a puppy and who’s not. This determines the type of mouthing or nipping: soft or playful.
Usually, everyone gets categorized as a puppy. Why? Well, for starters, most people pull their hands away when nipped. To a human, it’s self-defence. To a pup, it’s an invitation to play. Even if you were to correct your young puppy, she wouldn’t get it; it’s like correcting a one-year-old baby for pulling your hair. So what should you do? Good question. Your approach will depend on your puppy’s age.
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Younger Than 14 Weeks:
Young puppies mouth a lot. They mouth when playing; they also mouth to communicate their needs, just like a baby cries. If your puppy starts mouthing, ask yourself: Is she hungry or thirsty? Does she need to eliminate? Is she sleepy? Does she need to play? Next, follow the checklist to control mouthing and nipping!
- Whenever your puppy licks you, say “Kisses” and praise her warmly.
- Hold your attention when your puppy nips softly. Keep your hand still. Don’t forget, hand withdrawal is an invitation to play and nip harder.
- If your puppy starts biting down hard, turn on her quickly, say “Ep, Ep!” and glare into her eyes for two seconds. Go back to your normal routine.
- Remember, puppies nip when they feel needy (just like a baby cries). If your puppy won’t let up, ask yourself if she wants something, like an outing, exercise, or a drink. If all checks out and your puppy won’t quit, crate or isolate her with a favorite bone. Do not scold your puppy as you isolate her. Calmly place your puppy in her area.
Training Your Puppy around Kids:
Kids act a lot like puppies. They’re always on the floor and into everything. If you have children, teach your puppy not to mouth them from the start. Here’s how.
Leave your puppy on a one-foot long nylon leash whenever she’s with your children. If she starts playing too rough, pick up the leash, snapback, and say “Ep, Ep.” If you’re still having trouble, buy a super soaker or plant mister and fill it with water and vinegar. Spray your dog discreetly when she starts getting riled up.
If all else fails, give the puppy a time-out attached to you, stationed, or crated. Help the kids see that their restlessness leads to puppy withdrawal.
Do you have a Peter-Pan pup, one who still nips past her time? Well, the buck stops here. After 14 weeks, there’s no excuse. If your puppy’s still nipping, it’s likely that you’ve taught her, so it’s you who’ll have to mend your ways:
Stop all challenge games. These games include wrestling, tug-of-war, chasing your dog around, and teasing. You’re sending the wrong message.
- Correct all nipping, whether it’s a bite on your arm or a nibble on your finger. Teeth do not belong on human skin, period.
- Put the Teaching Lead® applications in Chapter 8 into action. It’s time for you to step up as the leader!
- Purchase a few weapons to use in defense, such as Binaca Mouth Spray®, Bitter Apple® spray, or a long-distance squirt gun.
- Give yourself something to grab. If your dog’s not wearing the Teaching Lead®, place a short lead onto her buckle collar.
- If your dog begins to mouth, turn to her, use a lead or collar to snap her head from your body, and say “Ep, Ep!” Glare at her for a second and then go back to business as usual.
- If she continues to nip, ask yourself: Do I look convincing? Am I snapping or pulling? (Pulling encourages play.) Is my dog taking me seriously? You may need more training before you earn her respect.
- Carry Binaca Mouth Spray®. Spritz your dog whenever she’s mouthing and say “Ep, Ep!” Spray her nose once or twice. After that, you can spray the air above her head; the blasting sound will warn her off.
Curing the Chase and Flip:
There are two categories to cover here:
- The bathrobe assault. If your dog’s a clothing grabber, dilute some Bitter Apple® spray in a plant mister and carry it with you when you suspect your dog will pull this assault. Do not turn and face your dog when she jumps; this is interpreted as a challenge. Without looking or responding, spray your dog and continue walking. If this problem persists, get help now. It can develop into post-puberty aggression. No joke.
- The child chaser. Kids running around the yard, apartment, or house are a big temptation. If you were a dog, you’d be jumping and nipping too. Because you can’t teach kids to stop being kids, you need to help your dog control her impulses. Put your dog on the Teaching Lead® and ask the kids to race around in front of you. Anytime your dog looks tempted to lunge, snap back and say “Shhh.” Repeat as often as necessary to gain control.
Still Having Difficulty with Your Nipper?
If you’re still having problems keeping your dog from mouthing and nipping, go through this checklist to ensure you’re doing everything by the book. If nothing else works, get professional training help.
- Do not yank your hand away from your dog’s mouth.
- Avoid physical corrections. They often encourage dominant play and lead to more aggressive reactions.
- Permit young puppies to mouth softly. Correct hard bites by emitting a startling vocal sound and either snapping their head from your hand or spritzing their mouth with Binaca Mouth Spray® or diluted Bitter Apple®.
- Do not allow mouthing after 14 weeks.
- Kids aren’t for mouthing. Period. Let your dog drag a leash when they play together and correct all rough play.