Ask The Trainer
Ask The Trainer: Puppy Mouthing
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Q: We have a 10-week-old Lab/Staffordshire Terrier mix. Can you tell us why she "mouths" everyone? She never breaks the skin or bites down to hurt so it's more annoying than anything. My question is how do we get her to stop, and if we don't is she learning a bad puppy habit? She's got more toys than most children, but she still like to use us as a chew toy.
A: Your puppy mouths because, well, that's what puppies do ... Not only do they explore the world with their mouths, but also if you watch puppies and dogs play you'll see that, for many of them, play biting and play chewing are part of the fun.
However, it's best for dogs to learn to interact with people in different ways — our skin is more fragile than dog skin, for one thing. For another thing, an adolescent or adult dog's play biting can frighten people and be misinterpreted as aggression. That's especially true when it's a big dog doing the play biting. And chances are your Lab/Staffy puppy will grow into a powerful, good-size dog.
Your puppy prefers to use you as a chew toy because you're more fun than an object — playing with you is social, and your puppy wants to be social with you. Whenever you interact with your puppy, have a chew toy ready. As soon as you see your pup is about to start chewing you, put the chew toy in her mouth instead. Use the chew toy to play with her.