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Biting and Mouthing: How to Correct Your Dog or Puppy
Biting and mouthing is typical puppy behavior. Puppies use their mouths to elicit attention from other puppies in the litter. If they are too rough, there is a consequence. The other puppy will either bite back harder or "shun" the aggressor and refuse to play. Either way, the behavior is corrected.
Remove yourself or the dog from the situation. This sends the message that if his mouth touches you, he is suddenly alone. If you walk away, he will most probably chase your feet. With this in mind, be prepared by having a shake can (twenty pennies in an empty soda can) or a small water pistol hidden in your hand. As soon as he goes for your feet, shake the can or squirt him with the pistol without stopping or looking at him. If you choose to remove the dog, make sure you do not use his confinement area as a punishment. Do not scold the dog in any way (the separation is punishment enough). Simply put him in a confined area – either his crate or behind a gate (never behind a closed door). Wait a few minutes and try having him with you again. If he begins to act up, remove him again.
Cry like a puppy. This will interrupt the dog's train of thought long enough to stop the unwanted behavior and give you the chance to redirect the dog's attention to a more suitable object or activity. It is important to interrupt the dog's train of thought before giving him something else to chew. If you don't, you will be rewarding the behavior.
Socialize him with other dogs. Dogs learn from one another. Another dog will teach the puppy "appropriate bite pressure." Playing with other dogs is a great way to get rid of excess energy as well.
If the dog mouths (chews on you), set up the situation by having one hand which has been covered with nasty tasting mouthwash hidden behind your back. Begin to pet your dog with the other hand, if he begins to mouth your hand, switch hands. The dog will learn that skin tastes nasty. If the dog consistently mouths you when being petted, desensitizing exercises would be helpful. While you are both relaxed, hold a chewable bone or a carrot in one hand and slowly pet the dog with the other. Food and chewing have a natural calming effect. Do not do this exercise if your dog tenses at all when approached while eating, chewing a bone or playing with toys.
Other corrections such as a leash correction away from your body or a remote control citronella collar can also be effective. It is important not to overuse a correction or the dog will simply become used to it, and it will lose its effectiveness. Reserve the most effective correction for the behavior problem you feel is the least tolerable. Consistency is important when addressing a behavior problem. A correction must be implemented each time the behavior is demonstrated in order to be effective.
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