Both puppies and full grown dogs naturally use their mouths to play, express affection, and communicate. Games of fetch and tug of war are some of the ways our dogs bond with us, enhancing the moments we enjoy together. Nevertheless, puppies that nip at skin and clothing may become dogs who bite or use their teeth inappropriately- no fun for children or adults. By consistently letting puppies know when it is acceptable, and not acceptable, to use their teeth, we can teach them to play and share their love in safe and appropriate ways.
Encouraging a game of tug of war between dogs allows them to release energy, bond and appropriately use their teeth. In the above photos Janet initiates play between Cooper and Beau.
In an online video, located at https://positively.com/dog-behavior/puppy-knowledge/teething-mouthing/, Victoria Stillwell demonstrates ways to encourage safe and appropriate puppy play while discouraging nipping and inappropriate biting. Play between Stillwell’s hands and her puppy Winston’s mouth clearly inspires fun, excitement, and bonding. Stillwell will allow Winston’s teeth to touch her hands, but as soon as Winston bites down, Stillwell will make a yelping sound, similar to the speech puppies use when one is accidentally bit too hard in the litter. This clearly expresses to Winston that the bite was unpleasant for her. At the same time Stillwell immediately stands up and walks away. By consistently refusing to play or offer attention when her hand, skin, or clothing is clasped by Winston’s teeth, Stillwell teaches Winston over time that it is okay to use his mouth to play, but not to bite, nip or chew on her or her belongings.
In her video, Stillwell also stresses the importance of redirecting puppies to toys when they begin to mouth. Janet and I have found that surrounding puppies with objects that they are allowed to chew on, in their homes and crate, such as toys, old blankets, and peanut butter filled kongs, is comforting, fun, and relaxing for them. Toys provide puppies not only with safe objects to chew on, but also a means to engage in tug-of-war and other games with you, through which you and your puppy can safely connect, bond, and have fun.
To find out more about Victoria Stillwell’s “puppy mouthing” video and accompanying “teething/mouthing” blog, go to https://positively.com/dog-behavior/puppy-knowledge/teething-mouthing/. For other Victoria Stillwell training tips click on http://www.positively.com.