Puppy Mouthing and Biting

Most canine behaviour “problems” are naturally occurring dog behaviours that are not a problem for the dog – but they ARE a problem for the dog’s people. Mouthing and biting by puppies certainly fits into this description as puppies naturally use their mouths to explore, they also bite & chew to relieve teething, and use their mouths and their teeth during play and in self-defence. The first thing you need to do is determine the reason your pup is using its teeth. You should ask – When does the dog use its teeth on people? Who does the dog use its teeth on? What have we done about it so far? And lastly, is our behaviour somehow increasing the likelihood of the puppy’s behaviour (in other words – are we accidentally encouraging behaviour we don’t want)? It’s not that we want the puppy to NEVER learn how to use his teeth – what we want is that they only use them appropriately – so rather than teach them not to put their teeth on people, we want to teach them to take them off without having ever done damage.

You should know that mouthing is very rarely related to dominance or aggression in any way and is most often a play behaviour that has gotten out of control. Remember, puppies & dogs will do whatever works best and is easiest. Physically punishing a puppy for this normal and friendly behaviour can be detrimental to your relationship and to your puppy’s trust in you. You may have been told to smack the puppy under the jaw, hold their mouth shut, to shove your hand down their throat, or flick them in the nose with your fingers – while in some cases any of these may work if your timing is bad or you are too harsh (only your puppy knows how you are making them feel) you can injure your puppy or worse, cause your puppy to fear you. The good news is there are lots of good solutions which are more effective and which will teach your puppy that you are safe, even if you are not a chew toy!


Puppies less than 5 months of age frequently explore their environment with their mouths. They like to taste everything and carry things and it feels good to chew, so they do. This can include chewing on you!



Between the age of 4 and 6 months, puppies begin to lose their puppy teeth as their adult teeth begin to erupt through the gums. This can be uncomfortable for puppies, just as it is for human children going through the same stage. Remember that your puppy’s mouth is sore as they are stressed during this time – be gentle and teach them what to do while doing what you can to make this life stage more tolerable.

Your young dog may be mouthing because it is teething if:


Over-Excited Play

When dogs play with each other, they use their mouths to communicate and the play can appear to be quite rough! When dogs are puppies, they learn through mouth play to be careful about how they apply pressure with their mouth and teeth. Their needle-sharp teeth ensure that even slight pressure will cause the other puppy to yelp and “freeze” or leave and effectively end the play session.

Dogs at any age, but especially puppies, may use their mouths when they are playing with their human friends, or at other exciting times. Your dog may be mouthing because it is over excited if:


Taking Treats Roughly

It is not unusual for a dog that is taking a treat or reward to accidentally mouth your hand. The dog or puppy may be so eager that they forget their manners and grab for the treat. This tends to happen more when the dog is feeling stressed (tired, worried, or too excited to think).


Seeking Attention

Any behaviour can become attention-getting behaviour if dogs learn that they receive attention for engaging in it (even punishment can be a form of attention).

Your dog may be mouthing to get attention if:



Contact us at 403-295-6337