When a dog puts his open mouth on your arm you might not immediately think he’s doing this to show his love for you or that this is seen as affectionate behavior. If you’re questioning ‘why does my dog mouth me?’, the answer can vary. What your dog mouthing means may differ according to their age, breed, temperament, and energy level so if you intend on getting your dog to stop this habit, read further into the article to find some useful tips and tactics.
What is Dog Mouthing?
Dog mouthing is more often a harmless way that your canine friend will tell you that he loves you and he likes being around you. Mouthing is a lot different from a dog biting you and is known to be a part of affection behavior. It may also be their way of telling you that they want to play or have your undivided attention for a little while.
The action itself is exactly as it sounds. Dog mouthing is where your dog likes to simply put his open mouth gently on your arm, hand, or even leg. You will, of course, feel their teeth however they are not biting you. The worst-case scenario is that owners will get a very moist arm or sleeve.
Why do Dogs Mouth?
A dog mouths people for a number of reasons. Primarily, it is said that this is a sign of affection, such as when a dog licks you or wags their tail when they see you, however, there are other aspects for owners to deliberate. By no means is a dog mouthing a sign of aggressive behavior although it can be a troublesome way they learn to get your attention quickly that can spiral. Read on to find out more.
Tail wagging and licking are two common ways your dog tells you that he loves you but a dog may also tell you this by mouthing affection instead. This is perfectly harmless as your furry friend is merely reminding you of his love, respect, and trust.
If your dog is particularly playful they may mouth you to encourage you to play with them. Many dogs play together using their mouths so this habit is quite common. The only time to be concerned is when your dog becomes overly excited as this can sometimes get out of hand. When this happens a dog can accidentally bite down.
Some adult dogs or poorly behaved young dogs will mouth people as a way to seek attention quickly. If they are bored and lack stimulation they will often approach their humans and use nibbling or mouthing. Regardless of whether you stop what you’re doing and play, or whether you get annoyed and scold them, they will have caught your attention.
Often, some dogs will try and pull you away from a task that you’re doing to get you to focus on them instead. If this is allowed they will use this to communicate other things too such as potty breaks, treats, dinner time, or to go for a walk.
In some cases, if the dog is particularly poorly behaved and is scolded for mouthing or gnawing this can encourage their behavior to become worse. In extreme instances, this can cause a dog to become more aggressive or defiant in the future.
Mouthing Affection In Puppies
Pet parents will know that puppies will often explore the world through their mouths. They will also show affection and express their excitement to see you by mouthing you. At first, there might be a few accidents when they bite too hard but eventually, they will learn to be more gentle when they nip you.
A young dog mouthing affection is adorable when they learn not to clamp down with their teeth although owners should be aware that this behavior can spiral. When you stop what you’re doing because your young puppy is mouthing your leg or arm they are learning that the action always gets your attention no matter what.
If you frequently wonder why your dog mouths you and if this could be a sign of oncoming aggression it’s important to know that puppies will learn mouthing affection when with their littermates. They’ll often start by play biting until they learn not to clamp their teeth down. When with those they trust this mouthing affection can stick and be a primary way of communicating their trust and adoration.
As puppies grow and develop they will learn to control the pressure of their jaws to stop them from biting too hard when playing or mouthing affection. They will usually have learned bite inhibition when engaging in rough play with other dogs. When a dog bites another too hard the receiver will yelp letting them know it’s too much, to which they are likely to have a rest before they resume play.
My Dog Nibbles On Me – Why do Dogs Nibble?
This is another behavior that is considered to be affectionate in nature and is known to be a ‘grooming nibble’. When this happens your dog is significantly more relaxed as opposed to when they’re mouthing affection. Not only will they do this on their favorite humans but they may do this to a treasured toy or other animals in the home they have bonded with.
Dogs give grooming nibbles to those they trust, including other pets, so the action doesn’t hurt as they will only use their front teeth to slightly graze you. Dogs that understand biting inhibition will not nibble hard as they are able to acknowledge that human skin can be vulnerable.
Mouthy Dog Breeds
Although dog mouthing is common in all breeds there are some types of canines that are more likely to develop the habit. Beagles, Golden Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, and some bull terriers are believed to be more likely to show mouthing affection.
It is also said that dogs that are prone to and suffer from separation anxiety are more likely to gently mouth as a comfort tactic as well as to display their love and adoration.
How To Stop Dog Mouthing Affection
Some owners are content with this behavior as their dog only mouths briefly to show affection or for other reasons that are no cause for concern. However, those that wish to prevent mouthing behavior can explore the tips and tricks below to help you stop dog mouthing affection.
Identifying the direct cause and reasons behind why your dog engages in mouthing behavior will be the key to understanding how to stop it. Depending on your dog’s behavior, you can read the following options to find the best method. It’s important not to try them at the same time however if one particular technique doesn’t work you can move on to another. Following this, make sure to read the additional tips to make sure you’re taking all the right approaches.
You know your dog’s habits and body language best so you can often spot or anticipate when they are likely to start mouthing affection. When you notice them about to get excited or even bored, give your dog one of their toys as a way to occupy their mouth with something else. Additionally, you can give your dog a chew toy or bone as long as you are using an appropriate substitute.
Putting a toy in your dog’s mouth when they are about to mouth affection will eventually become a habit for them too. Over time your dog will learn to pick up a toy when they are excited to see you rather than put their mouth on you.
The toy method is also suitable for dogs who mouth to seek attention. Overall, you may want to consider having a toy nearby if you work from home to prevent the possibility of being interrupted.
Tip: When they bring you the toy, encourage them to keep a hold of it by tugging and playing a little. Try not to move your hands and arms too much in the process as they might drop the toy in favor of mouthing you instead.
Don’t Acknowledge Them
This approach can be especially effective if your dog nips or mouths for attention. It can be particularly difficult if your dog is tireless or demanding but the key is to be patient and not encourage troublesome or aggressive behavior.
This method may not be the quickest or easiest however it can teach your dog that you’re not going to drop everything to pay attention to him. The important thing is to keep calm and keep your hands and arms out of reach. If you persistently stop what you’re doing to tell him off or move him away, he’ll likely believe that you are playing a game and will only encourage the bad behavior.
Give Your And Your Dog Space
In rare instances where redirection or ignoring the behavior doesn’t work it’s time to put a little space between you and your dog. This can sometimes be harder when teaching a puppy not to mouth, bite, or nip, as they may think you’re playing another game when you get up to walk away. This is why you should put yourself in another room and close the door.
The purpose of this method is so that your dog or puppy will understand that mouthing won’t get the attention they want. As a result, they will sometimes develop other ways of getting your attention but at least your hands and arms will be dry.
In addition to this, it’s worth considering whether or not your dog is mouthing out of extreme excitement and stimulation as opposed to affection or attention-seeking. If they are mouthing because they have mounds of energy and are over-stimulated it may be worth putting them somewhere to calm down. If they are crate trained it may be helpful to have them unwind in their safe space for a few minutes.
If you find it difficult to reduce your dog’s mouthing affection, you can always seek professional help from a canine expert. A dog trainer will have personal experience with all kinds of breeds of all behaviors, so they will be able to provide additional help and assistance.
Finding a professional is relatively simple with the internet at our fingertips. Owners can either go online to find a local trainer or ask their vet or humane society for recommendations.
Additional Tips And Things To Remember
When teaching your pet not to mouth it’s crucial to apply the tips below to ensure your training runs smoothly. Although they may seem like simple details they can have an enormous impact on how dogs learn.
Reward Good Behavior
When your furry family members are being particularly well-behaved it’s important to reassure them. Most dogs thrive and learn best when they get their human’s approval and praise so it’s important to reward them when they are showing good habits and tendencies.
We’ve mentioned this before but to iterate, being calm is the key to your dog’s learning. When training puppies you must stick to positive reinforcement and maintain the leadership role but remember that they are underdeveloped and can get distracted easily. Also, adult dogs will learn but sometimes at a slower pace as they have already developed habits and behaviors they believe is what their humans appreciate. So make sure to remain consistent and determined.
Take Your Dog Into Consideration
To expand the previous paragraph, it’s crucial to remember that the age of your dog may affect how they respond to certain techniques mentioned here. For example, if your puppy is mouthing to get your attention to play, offer them a chew toy or similar to occupy them instead. Although, if your dog is misbehaving and shows no signs of stopping, that may be time to step away rather than scold them.
Summary – Why does my Dog Gently Mouth my Hand?
Simple, our furry friends only want us to know that they love us and not tell us that something is wrong. A dog Mouthing affection isn’t always a bad habit and can simply be something dogs use to show us their devotion and fondness in conjunction with other signs such as licking and tail wagging.
With dogs and pups that demand attention and are prone to bad behavior, there are plenty of effective methods owners can use to get them to stop mouthing. A mouthing dog, no matter what age, can be trained out of bad habits.
- How to Stop a Teething Puppy From Biting You, AKC
- Why does my dog put their mouth and paw on me?, DogsforGood
- Puppy biting and mouthing, BlueCross