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How to stop your dog from biting, chewing or mouthing

Chewing and mouthing are normal dog behaviours, so we need to give our dogs plenty of opportunities to do this in a safe and acceptable way. If we are clear and consistent about what things our puppies are allowed to chew and mouth, they will learn they can enjoy these behaviours without creating any problems.

Why do dogs chew, bite and mouth?

Dogs and puppies use their mouths to explore the world around them and to play. They might especially chew or mouth when they’re teething, which normally lasts until around 7 months of age. It’s all perfectly normal behaviour for dogs, but they run into problems if they start chewing or mouthing us or our belongings. This is behaviour we find unacceptable as it hurts and is dangerous, but of course they don’t understand that! They just know it feels good.

Preventing problems

As with any aspect of puppy training, it’s important to remain calm, be consistent, and always reward good behaviour. If your dog or puppy chews appropriate objects, reward them by giving them treats and your attention, or having a game with them, but withdraw your attention if they chew the wrong things.

Dogs Trust’s Dog Schools across the UK provide the perfect opportunity for puppies to learn vital social skills in their puppy classes. This includes how to deal with some common puppy problems, such as mouthing or chewing.

What to do

  • Puppy-proof your environment
    Make sure you remove prized possessions or put them out of reach. Using child gates or a playpen is a great way to restrict your puppy’s access around the house, but always make sure they have fun and safe things to chew in their zone!  
  • Provide a range of suitable toys and chews for your puppy to play with
    Try soaking these in water and freezing them to help soothe sore teeth and gums. Keep a selection of toys aside so that you can swap them daily to keep your puppy interested. Remember to praise them when they chew on the right thing – joining in and having a game is a great way to reward them!
  • Try to keep a toy handy for when your puppy is feeling playful, so you always have something appropriate to let them have in their mouth
    Recognising signs that your puppy is getting ready to play, such as an increase in energy, bouncing, pouncing and batting things with their paws, means you can give them the toy before they start chewing or mouthing at you. This way you’re showing your puppy how to get it right from the start.

Dog with a toy in their mouth  

  • Avoid rough and tumble wrestling games in which your puppy might learn to enjoy biting you as part of the game
    There’s a risk your puppy will expect to be able to play like this whenever they want and with whoever they want. Puppies need a consistent message that mouthing us is never okay, otherwise they’ll become confused and could become worried or frustrated.
  • Any time your puppy places teeth on you, stop what you are doing and stay still
    If they continue, turn away and cross your arms – a clear signal that your attention has been withdrawn! If this doesn’t work move away, leaving them to calm down for a moment before going back. Once your puppy is calm you can praise them. Over time your puppy will learn that mouthing means the fun ends, so they will gradually stop doing it
  • Don’t punish your puppy for mouthing or chewing as this will make them worried, which could lead to a deterioration in their behaviour.
  • Provide appropriate exercise, socialisation and mental stimulation. Our enrichment ideas has some great ideas to keep your puppy busy in the right way, such as providing suitable toys and chews, making homemade puzzle feeders or engaging them with some fun training. Rest and relaxation is important too as puppies are more likely to mouth when over tired!

A puppy with a chew toy  

There’s no denying that puppy teeth hurt! Help yourself out by wearing thick, long-sleeved tops when teaching your puppy not to mouth, or getting your wellies out if your puppy mouths at your ankles. This will offer some protection while you stand still and ignore any attempt to get your attention. They might initially become frustrated and try harder to get a response, but calmly wait for the moment at which they stop altogether and then reward them by offering them the chance to enjoy an appropriate toy or chew instead. Your puppy should soon realise mouthing is no fun because nothing happens!

If you feel your puppy isn’t acknowledging this and their mouthing behaviour continues for a good while even though you’re wearing wellies, use something alternative to interrupt this behaviour, such as a toy. Your puppy can have this in their mouth while you move away to supervise from a distance. Allow them to calm down without any of your direct attention or interaction.

If your puppy or dog is really struggling to control their mouthing behaviour, continues to bite with intensity, or doesn’t appear to be getting any better, please seek professional support.

Learn more about dog training