If you’re no stranger to puppies you’ll be familiar with mouthing. This doggie behavior can also be known as play biting. While it’s cute for your puppy to mouth your hands or arms, it can get annoying when they get older… it will also hurt as their teeth get bigger and sharper.
I get particularly annoyed when a drooling adult Bull Mastiff decides to mouth my hand while I’m trying to hold a conversation with his human owner. All that slobber! When it’s not my dog’s slobber I just don’t like it.
Which is why I’ve put this guide together which explains how to stop a dog from mouthing at your hands and arms… plus when is it playful mouthing and when is it aggressive behavior.
For example, when a dog mouths your hands or arms, you hope he’s being playful and not about to get aggressive. To tell the difference check out the following signs:
- Playful mouthing: The dog is relaxed; his movements are slow and gentle and he’s not causing you any pain. He often takes on a playful posture.
- Aggressive behavior: The dog has an aggressive posture. He’s stiff, looks fearful, moves quickly and aggressively. His mouthing causes pain.
While playful mouthing is not harmful, it can irritate people and should be nipped in the bud (no pun intended). Here are some great tips to help you stop a dog from mouthing your hands or arms.
How to stop your dog mouthing your hands and arms
1. Play the bite intensity game
The best age to teach a dog good manners is from puppyhood. Now that you know your pup is not being a monster but only behaving instinctually, you can do something about his mouthing your hands.
There is something called bite inhibition. This works when you start behaving like one of his siblings. What I mean is, whenever your puppy mouths your hands or arms let out a high-pitched yelp.
This will startle him, and he’ll leap back wondering why you’re yelping.
Praise him when he stops and then continue the game. Do this every time he mouths your hands. Your puppy will soon learn that his mouthing leads to a negative reaction when he bites too hard.
2. Use the distraction technique
The distraction technique requires having some soft, chewy toys or a ball on hand. Every time your pup decides to mouth your hands or arms, distract him with a soft toy.
By learning to mouth on something else besides your hands and body, your puppy will realize you don’t like it. But there are alternatives if he needs to satisfy his instinct to mouth.
The Squeaky Plush Dog Toy Pack on Amazon will give you more than enough toys to distract your pooch when he starts to mouth.
This technique comes in handy when you have visitors to your home. Make sure the toys are on hand. Whenever your puppy looks like he’s eyeing your visitor’s hand for some mouthing fun, head him off with a toy.
3. Avoid temptations
If you’re playing with your dog and think it’s cool to wriggle your fingers at him, don’t be surprised if he thinks he can start mouthing your hands. It’s like showing a red flag to a bull – need I say more?
Something else you may do during play time with your dog is slapping his muzzle. Of course, this is a game (for you and him) and you’re doing it gently. But it encourages your dog to mouth your hand and he may even turn a bit aggressive.
Avoid any actions that will encourage your dog to mouth. This is a particularly useful tip for older dogs if you’re trying to stop their mouthing habit.
4. Stop the tug-of-war game and take time out
It’s tempting to try and pull your hand away every time your dog starts mouthing your hands and arms. This is not a good idea though as he’ll think you’re playing a game.
Before you know it, you’ll be in a tug-of-war competition with your dog.
Instead of pulling away, stop and pause the game. Gently remove his mouth off your hand and pause. You could give him a toy to tug on or walk away for a few minutes.
Time out during play time is often highly effective and also works well when you’re teaching your pup bite intensity. Your dog will learn quickly enough, that tugging at your hand is not appreciated.
5. Teach your dog to enjoy petting without mouthing
Believe it or not but some dogs get anxious when you pet them on their head. This can happen with rescue dogs who’re battling to trust any kind of affection shown to them.
When your dog starts to mouth you as soon as you start petting them on their head or under their chin, remove your hand gently. Have some tasty treats in your other hand, and give him one. This will teach him to start trusting you every time you bring your hand close to him.
By distracting him with treats, you can slowly use your other hand to either pet him or give him gentle scratches on his chest. Your dog will eventually learn to accept your attention without needing to mouth your hands.
Make sure you always have a packet of training treats (read Amazon reviews) nearby. They’re great tasting, low in calories and with over 475 treats in each packet, they’ll last you a long time.
6. Bring out the deterrent spray
Okay, relax, you’re not going to be spraying your dog with any nasty deterrent. You’re going to spray your own hands and arms with a strong-tasting spray such as peppermint.
Every time your dog mouths your hands and arms, he’ll get a mouthful of bitter tasting spray.
This method takes about two weeks of persistent spraying on your body. Your dog will soon get tired of getting a bitter taste every time he mouths you and will stop mouthing.
Make sure you’re not allergic to the deterrent spray and that your dog also doesn’t have adverse reactions to it.
You can buy a spray on Amazon that is safe to use on your skin (keep it away from your mouth and eyes though) and can be found on Amazon.
Why do dogs like to mouth our hands and arms?
Why do dogs like to mouth our hands, arms and other parts of our bodies? It’s often an instinctual behavior and one they should grow out of.
Are you’re dealing with a dog who still likes to mouth even if he isn’t a pup? You may want to do something about it.
Dogs explore the world around them using their sensory organs such as their nose, eyes and yes, their mouths. When they’re puppies they play with their siblings in the litter by mouthing all over the body.
This form of play biting is an instinct that naturally comes out in every dog from puppyhood. It’s not meant as aggression although some humans may think it is.
Mouthing also teaches our fur babies all about bite inhibition. Watch how puppies play with each other. They tumble around and continuously mouth each other.
If one mouths the other too roughly, the playmate will yelp or cry. The “mouther” will let go in surprise – this is that bite inhibition I mentioned earlier.
This kind of interaction indicates the level of bite intensity a puppy can use without hurting his playmate. Instinctually, he’s learned how to hold back on biting too hard.
A puppy that mouths your hands and isn’t trained to stop doing it, will grow into a dog that might nip and hurt people… so you need to stop them mouthing your hands from a young age.
If you have any tips in addition to what I’ve shared today, please do tell us on our social media channels.