Puppies explore their world with their mouth just as human babies do. Unfortunately, puppies bite and mouth with needle sharp teeth! When bringing home a puppy it is important to realize that they are going to mouth you, that is part of a puppy growing up. If you have kids it is especially important that you teach them how to interact with your puppy. There are many things you can do to manage mouthing and prevent it from turning into a behavior problem when your puppy becomes a dog.
Puppies need to bite, some more than others. Breed plays into how mouthy your puppy might be. Working, herding, and sporting breeds tend to be especially bitey. With my breed, working line Belgian Tervuren, they are born and bred with an innate desire to use their mouths to subdue anything that moves. Other more popular breeds like Labs, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Doodles like to bite and hold things when excited. To live in our human world dogs need to learn what is okay to bite and what is not. They also need to learn that human skin in particular is very delicate and you must not ever bite down on it.
So what are poor puppy parents to do? There are three basic things you can do to greatly reduce your puppy's mouthing and biting and as they age, the puppy biting fades away, how wonderful.
Redirection. Redirection. Redirection. "Not this, that", is your motto with a mouthy puppy. Always carry a toy, children in the home especially should always be armed with a toy. I insistently put toys in front of those puppy teeth any time they come near me. Make your toy more fun to bite than you are, channel your inner squirrel through that toy. I generally say, "get your toy" and I can later use that as a cue to have my dog get their toy when they're excited. A great tool to have when you come home or guests arrive. Since I also want to develop my puppy's play skills I want to pay more attention to them than the toy. I pet the puppy, and then I tug the toy, then I pet the puppy again. This instills confidence that I'm not going to pull the toy from their mouth, they're always winning, and I'm fun to be around.
Manage your puppy. Almost all problem behaviors can be prevented if you manage your puppy's environment. Baby gates, tethers, exercise pens, and crates are all ways to control the environment rather than the puppy. This leads to a puppy that naturally develops self control because bad behavior never becomes habit. You should already be managing for potty training add biting to reasons on the list. If your puppy is a little flesh seeking missile sometimes the best choice is to flee. Not only does this save you from those terrible needle teeth it acts as a punishment. You bite me, I leave, taking away what the puppy wants most, my attention.
Your puppy needs to SLEEP! They are growing and need to sleep 18-20 hours a day! So many people think their dog needs more and more exercise but the opposite is true. I am absolutely not saying not to exercise your puppy. It is very important that they move their bodies with play and movement. But they do not need long walks. In fact, don't take your baby puppy for walks but that is another post. Spend time with them in new places, teach them basic obedience and make it fun, you will be surprised at how tired training can make your puppy! I follow a cycle for puppies using the crate or x-pen (even if I'm home) to encourage them to settle down and sleep. Most puppies and even adult dogs peter out at an hour of activity then it is a stuffed toy and a nap for at least two hours and up to four depending on how active they were.
Check out Wally, he did our puppy board and train in September of 2020. As a lab he was a very mouthy puppy this video is a whole play session I would do with a 13 week old puppy. His family reports that he is doing excellent!