Why Do Nipping And Mouthing Happen

Communication. Puppies will nip and mouth to communicate. Try to figure out what it is they are trying to communicate and meet that need. They may need interaction, a walk, or a nap. Mouthing to communicate only stops when a new communication channel is introduced. This channel is the obedience training language. Until obedience training, try to figure out what they are trying to communicate and resolve it—don't punish it.

Investigation. Puppies will nip and mouth to investigate. They will also use their mouths to explore textures—carpets, clothing, shoes, pillows, furniture, etc. To redirect investigation, encourage other play with safe, approved objects. Use a specific "approved chew toy" to help your puppy quickly identify which material is approved for chewing.

Teething. Puppies will nip and mouth to teeth. Your puppy will begin teething as early as four months and continue through five months (smaller breeds may be delayed as much as one month). If your dog is teething, divert with a chew toy. If your puppy spits the chew toy out and returns to your hand, you either do not have the material she needs to soothe her teething, or she has another need.

Frustrated. Puppies will nip and mouth if they're frustrated. If your puppy feels you don't understand her needs, she can become quite frustrated. This is where mouthing usually jumps into high gear. At this point, it is best to crate your puppy so she can get out of her "tizzy" and calm down. Find out where the communication breakdown is coming from. It could be a forgotten potty break, hunger (mealtime), thirst (empty water bowl), or other unfulfilled need that needs tending. If your puppy ends up snoozing soundly while you're playing detective, then there's your answer—the need was rest all along!

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