Aside from chewing, a common way in which dogs utilize their mouths is in play. It’s very natural and (to a certain extent) acceptable for dogs to use their mouths when playing with one another. It’s up to us humans to teach them that doing so is not acceptable when engaging with people. Here’s how:
- Redirect: As with chewing, you want to teach your dog what IS allowed. So always have toys nearby. When it comes to mild mouthing, simply engage them with a toy and continue playtime. You will probably have to repeat this several times even within the same stretch of playtime to help your dog understand.
- Remove all attention: If your pup isn’t responding after several attempts to redirect, and/or the mouthing/play bites become more intense, say “no” or “eh eh” and then immediately walk away. Don’t talk to them further, don’t interact with them in any way. Simply remove yourself from them. To your pup, suddenly the game has stopped. With enough repetitions, they’ll come to understand that being mouthy is what causes the fun to go away. Following this, if you catch your pup go to a toy or politely (not jumping or mouthing) approach you, you can give them lots of praise and re-engage them in playtime. (Note: Ignoring is also a great tactic for attention-seeking barking.)