By Jamie Sharma
Let's start with that adorable puppy you got recently. When you first brought her home, she was as calm as could be. She gave lots of kisses, didn't chew up anything and maybe had one or two accidents. Then all of a sudden, your house, every toy ever purchased and now YOU have become a chew toy! Managing this behavior has been beyond painful, expensive and frustrating. You tell her "No!" and try to punish her but it isn't working as well as you'd hoped.
If this sounds even a little familiar, I want to personally welcome you to raising a puppy!
Let's start with the human chew toy you and your family have become. Do you know why humans make such great chew toys? It's simple, it's because we squeak! We are a ball of interactive fun! First, let's understand why puppies and even adult dogs mouth us in the first place. Dogs in general use their mouth for almost everything. They eat with it, greet with it, vocalize with it, use it for play, communicate with it, hunt with it and the list goes on. Now think of how we use our hands. We eat with them, greet with them, use them for play, communicate with them, use them for work, for protection and so many other things!
Seeing a pattern here?
You're seated on the couch watching tv when suddenly your puppy tears around the house and starts mouthing at your hands, feet, anything they can get to. You naturally use your hands to hold the puppy back and you firmly say "No!" But that isn't working, is it? The reason that doesn't work, dogs don't speak English ...or Spanish, French, Hindi or anything humans speak.
Dogs understand body language and strive to get our attention regardless if it is happy and joyful or firm and angry. It is
all about timing. You could literally excite your dog by just mumbling high pitch or excited sounds (not a language) while dropping to one knee with open arms and your dog will show some level of excitement or in the very least a tail wag.
Go ahead, try it. I'll wait.
Going back to what I was saying about dogs using their mouth for communication. When your puppy starts to mouth you, she isn't trying to hurt you, think of it as her way of asking for something. She aims for your hands the most because you interact with her the most using your hands. It is during this time you have to figure out what she is needing and quickly, especially if you enjoy having uninjured hands.
In most situations, your puppy is wanting to interact with you. So instead of trying to stop her or punish her, play with her! Grab a toy and gently place it in her mouth showing her that you will give her attention if she uses a toy to initiate play instead of her mouth. Soon after, you may notice her bringing you toys "asking" you to play with her. If she isn't showing much interest in the toy, she may be trying to say something else. She may be asking to go potty, go for a walk or just want your attention! Try taking her out to potty, for a walk or try some positive training!
If you have questions or need help please contact me! I'm always here to help!