A mouthy dog may grab at people (or their leash or your clothes) using their mouths without causing injury. Dogs who are mouthy are typically not aggressive – they may be stressed, frustrated, have never learned how to use their mouths appropriately, or may have received unintentional encouragement for this behavior. Often, mouthiness is their outlet for stress and frustration. Remaining calm and teaching the dog calming behaviors and a new way to get attention will help diminish this behavior.

Always remember, what you reinforce will be repeated. If your dog bites their leash and it results in a tug of war, your dog will continue to bite the leash!

How to stop mouthiness before it starts:

  • Reward your dog any time they are calm! The more you reward a behavior, the more the dog will repeat it.
    • Practice this: for one minute, reward your dog for anything and everything that is a calm, good behavior (don’t ask them to do anything). This could be eye contact, a sit, having four paws on the ground, etc. Your dog should be getting at least ten treats a minute during this exercise! If food typically overexcites your dog, use lower-value treats or their kibble.
  • Combine playtime with calming exercises. Start with asking your dog to sit, then play for 15 seconds, then have your dog sit again and give them a 30-second relaxing massage, then play again for 15 seconds. Repeat! This teaches your dog self-control. Alternate options to a massage include gently touching their ears, paws, collar, tail, etc.
  • Some mouthy dogs may benefit from a Gentle Leader headcollar. This can add extra control during training sessions. Our Behavior Team would be happy to talk to you about how to properly fit and use a Gentle Leader! Feel free to email us at training@awla.org.
  • Teaching the dog to ‘give up’ or let go of items. Give the dog a toy and exchange it for a duplicate of the same toy. Practice trading and make it a positive experience. You can also practice trading a toy for a treat!
  • Give your dog a toy to put in their mouth while walking, playing, or when they get excited.
  • Make sure your dog has appropriate outlets for mental and physical exercise. Just like children, a bored dog may resort to unruly behavior. Try substituting their dinner in a bowl with their dinner in a frozen Kong, short daily training sessions, puzzle toys, or daily walks. Mental exercise is just as important, if not more important, as physical exercise.
  • If your dog gets along well with other dogs, set up a play date! Playing with another friendly dog with good social skills can teach your dog about bite inhibition.

What to do if your dog is already mouthy:

  • Stop walking and, if possible, stand on their leash, limiting how far your dog can go. The dog can now not jump up at you. This also makes the leash ‘neutral’ and prevents an unintentional game of tug of war!
    • Always make sure if you are outside, that you are also holding the end of the leash to prevent your dog from running away!
  • If your dog is still escalating, drop the leash (if it is safe to do so) and hold their collar. This prevents an unintentional game of tug of war.
  • Toss a treat on the ground or put a treat near your dog’s nose and lure the dog into a ‘sit’. When your dog sits, walk one step together and ask for another ‘sit’. Repeat this until your dog calms down.

Important: if your dog seems to be escalating into a behavior that you are not comfortable with, please contact a certified dog trainer or email us at training@awla.org for a referral!