It’s common for young puppies to mouth their owner’s hands as a way of expressing affection and exploring the world around them. But what about when your older dog is engaging in mouthing behavior? While puppies and older dogs generally do not mean harm by mouthing their owners, that does not mean everyone likes it. Plus, it can be frustrating and embarrassing when your dog decides to mouth company as soon as they walk in the door!
So why is your dog engaging in this mouthing behavior and what can you do about it? In this article, we look at what dog mouthing affection is and how to stop this frustrating behavior.
While dog mouthing describes your dog putting their mouth on you, dog mouthing affection is far from aggressive. While you will likely feel your dog’s teeth, your dog is not trying to bite or hurt you in any way.
While it’s true that a puppy will likely leave nibble marks on your skin from their razor-sharp puppy teeth, the last thing they aim to do is cause pain. By gently pulling at your shoes or clothes or putting your hand in their mouth, they are simply trying to play with you or get your attention.
Why Does My Dog Mouth Me?
As mentioned, your dog is likely mouthing you to get your attention or engage in play. Dogs also use their mouths to explore the world around them, much like a baby does. Puppies, in particular, will also give their human little nips to show their affection towards them, as this behavior they will have exhibited towards their littermates and mama when they were just weeks old.
Dog mouthing affection is most common in puppies, mainly because they don’t know any better! They see their humans as part of their pack and replicate the affectionate behavior that they would display towards their siblings or their mother.
You may wonder why your puppy bites so hard – after all, those puppy teeth hurt! Young dogs have not yet learned bite inhibition, which is learning how to control the force of their bites. Without knowing how to moderate the strength of their bites, your puppy will have no concept of the fact that they may be hurting you or that this behavior is inappropriate outside of the litter.
While it’s perfectly normal for puppies to engage in dog mouthing behavior, most dogs will have grown out of it by the time they are adults. If you find that your adult dog is still showing this unwanted behavior, then it’s essential to pinpoint why they may be doing so.
There are two scenarios why your adult dog may be putting their teeth on you, the first being that they are playful and excited. Although your older dog will have learned bite inhibition, they may have never known an alternative to mouthing affection for showing their excitement. Mouthing is an instinct for dogs, so if they are not explicitly trained otherwise, they may continue this behavior with their owners and even visitors.
Another possible reason for mouthing behavior is your dog trying to get your attention. If your dog is under-stimulated and lacking attention, they may try to get your attention any way they can – whether it’s positive or negative. If they notice that you react to their mouthing behavior, you can bet that they will use this to their advantage! Sadly, dog mouthing, in this case, is considered manipulative and attention-seeking behavior and is not necessarily just a sign of affection.
Is Dog Mouthing Aggressive Behavior?
Should you be worried that your dog’s nibbling behavior will lead to aggression? In general, dog mouthing is not an aggressive action and is done out of a place of love, excitement, or a dog seeking attention.
If your adult dog’s mouthing involves more pressure than a dog who has learned bite inhibition should give, then you should take precautions. This may be considered a “warning bite” and a sign of aggression to come. If you are concerned that your dog may be beginning to display signs of aggression, it’s crucial to get in touch with a behavior specialist or a certified professional dog trainer to get to the root of the problem and stop it in its early stages.
The best way to end dog mouthing once and for all is to replace your hand, shirt, or your dog’s mouthing object of choice with a toy, bone, or yak chew. You may notice that some dogs immediately pick up a toy when they’re excited rather than mouthing yourself or a visitor. This means that they have learned to channel their excitement into another object that is appropriate for them to chew on.
To succeed with this training method, ensure your dog has toys readily available to them in the same place in the house, and carry one of their toys with you when you know they are most likely to get excited. Place the toy in their mouth when your dog begins to engage in dog mouthing affection. You may find that a dog mouthing to seek attention will start to bring you their toy instead of mouthing you, which should be met with praise and affection.
It’s essential to ensure that you give your furry friend the attention they need, especially if dog mouthing indicates your dog is acting out due to lack of stimulation. Ensure that your dog is getting plenty of exercise and playtime, and give them lots of love when you are home!
While dog mouthing affection is generally harmless, it can be frustrating and embarrassing to deal with regularly. Ensuring you replace their behavior with a toy and lots of praise and encouragement is the best way to stop your dog from engaging in this behavior. It’s important to remember that this is a natural behavior for dogs, so it must be trained out of them in order to put an end to it. With consistent training, your dog will learn to channel their excitement and energy in a more human-friendly way!
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