Nip the Bad Habit of Mouthing in the Bud – Just in Time for the Holidays!

I think I speak for all dogs when I say that we love nothing more than the attention of our humans! But some young pups might get a little out of hand in their quest for playtime and start mouthing. They just haven’t learned yet that there are better ways to get your attention! That’s when it’s up to you, their human, to teach them. After all, with the holidays just around the corner, you don’t want a house full of family (and delicious food – yum!) only to have your furry friend spoil the celebration with rough play.

I’ve gathered the top tips from the ASPCA to help you nip mouthing in the bud:

Teach Your Dog to be Gentle: When you play with your dog, let him mouth on your hands. Continue play until he bites especially hard. When he does, immediately give a high-pitched yelp, as if you’re hurt, and let your hand go limp. This should startle him and cause him to stop mouthing you, at least momentarily. Praise him for stopping or for licking you. Then resume play. If your dog bites you hard again, repeat these steps no more than three times within a 15-minute period.

Try a Time-Out: Is yelping alone not working? Time-outs can be effective for curbing mouthy behavior in adolescent and adult dogs. When your dog delivers a hard bite, yelp loudly. Then, when he startles and turns to look at you or looks around, remove your hand. Either ignore him for 10 to 20 seconds or, if he starts mouthing on you again, get up and move away for 10 to 20 seconds. After the short time-out, return to your dog and encourage him to play with you again. It’s important to teach him that gentle play continues, but painful play stops.

Let Your Dog Know that Teeth Don’t Belong on Human Skin: After you teach your dog to be gentle with his mouth, you can move on to the next step: teaching him to avoid mouthing people altogether. Try:

  •  Substituting a toy or chew bone when your dog tries to gnaw on fingers or toes.
  •  If your dog gets all riled up when you pet him, distract him by feeding him small treats from your other hand. This will help your dog get used to being touched without mouthing.
  •  Encourage noncontact forms of play, such as fetch and tug-of-war, rather than wrestling and rough play with your hands.

Bonus: Tip of the Month

Everyone loves a great holiday meal, and I guarantee your dog is hoping for scraps. But it’s cause for caution. Human guests don’t always know that giving dogs people food can be dangerous. Be sure to set the rules before you sit down, so everyone knows that feeding Fido is a no-no. But that doesn’t mean he’s out of luck! Provide your pet with an enrichment toy during large meals to keep him busy and keep your guests from being tempted by those big puppy dog eyes.


Hogan, ShednPooper’s go-to mutt advocate, offers a wealth of canine facts, tips and resources that strengthen the bond between people and their mutts.