Mouthing – teach your dog to be gentle

Austin dog mouthing teething training

Bite inhibition refers to a dog’s ability to control the force of his mouthing. A puppy or dog can learn to control the intensity of his bite, most often from his mother or litter mates. If the puppy doesn’t learn at a young age, however, his human family can teach him this valuable tool of bite inhibition.


When you play with your dog, let him mouth on your hands. Continue play until he bites especially hard. When he does, immediately give a high-pitched yelp, as if you’re hurt, and let your hand go limp.

This should startle your dog and cause him to stop mouthing you, at least momentarily. (If yelping seems to have no effect, you can say “Ouch!” or “You blew it!” in a stern voice instead.) Praise your dog for stopping or for licking you. Then resume play. If your dog bites you hard again, yelp again. Repeat these steps no more than three times within a 15-minute period.

If he doesn’t respond to this, you can also give him a time-out after you yelp. Ignore him for 10 to 20 seconds–you can even leave the room if necessary–and then return to play with your dog.

Continue to do this and tighten up your rules so that eventually he knows even gentle mouthing is not allowed.

Teaching your dog that teeth don’t belong on human skin

After you teach your dog to be gentle with his mouth, you can move on to the next step: teaching him to avoid mouthing people altogether. Try the following tips:

  • Substitute a toy or chew bone when your dog tries to gnaw on fingers or toes.
  • If your dog gets all riled up when you pet him, distract him by feeding him small treats from your other hand. This will help your dog get used to being touched without mouthing.
  • Encourage noncontact forms of play, such as fetch and tug-of-war, rather than wrestling and rough play with your hands.
  • Teach your dog impulse control with sit, wait and leave it.
  • Provide plenty of opportunities for your dog to play with other friendly, vaccinated dogs. He can expend a lot of his energy playing with them and have less need to play roughly with you.
  • Because mouthing issues can be challenging to work with, don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a professional dog trainer.

For Gusto Dogs clients:

We can work on your dog’s mouthing habit by reinforcing what you’re teaching him at home before, during and after his walk. If we think the issue needs more attention, we can refer you to a trusted dog training professional in Austin before it becomes a bigger problem.



Information kindly provided by ASPCA.

View more training tips from Gusto Dogs.


About Kristen West

Kristen started Gusto Dogs in Austin after running a pet sitting and walking business for two years in Sydney, Australia. After discovering that the dogs benefited much more from incorporating enrichment into their daily walks, Kristen decided to make it a part of every Gusto dog walk with the aim to provide a more fulfilling experience for Austin's dogs and their owners.