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Are your dog’s teeth constantly all over you?
It’s not like he’s biting you, it’s more like he’s giving you little love bites, right?
Well, that’s actually a really common behavior in dogs and is often referred to as dog mouthing affection. Dogs experience a big part of the world through their mouths, so it’s only natural that this is also the way they want to show you they love you!
While this is cute and all, it’s not always comfortable for us as the receivers. So, in this article we’ll go over the reasons your dog shows mouthing affection and how to stop your dog giving you love bites. Plus, at the end we’ll go over some related questions, so that you can walk away with a complete answer to dog mouthing affection.
In case you struggle more with puppy biting, make sure to check out these 2 articles:
- How to stop your puppy’s biting habit for good
- Overtired puppy biting – change your little shark into a loving puppy
What Does Dog Mouthing Mean?
Since dogs can’t talk the way we humans do, they have to find other ways to communicate. Dogs experience a lot of the world through their mouths, so it makes sense they’d use their mouths to interact with us.
Dog mouthing is essentially exactly what it sounds like. It means your dog is putting his mouth on or around you, usually applying very minimal pressure. Dog mouthing is different from dog biting in that way.
If your dog is mouthing you, you might be wondering why he’s doing it. Here are some answers for a few questions you might have.
Is Dog Mouthing a Sign of Affection?
The answer to this question is… sometimes.
It’s difficult to say for sure why dogs mouth, but researchers and dog trainers do have some ideas. Mouthing affection is a common behavior, especially in puppies, and could be the reason why your dog is mouthing you.
When you dog is still a puppy, he’ll show love to his mama and littermates by giving them little love bites. At first, your puppy might bite pretty hard. But as he grows up and you and his puppy friends teach him bite inhibition, he should stop biting as hard.
So yes, dog mouthing can be a sign of affection! But you should pay attention to your dog when he’s doing it. If he shows any signs of aggression along with the mouthing, then it might not be a loving action.
Why Does My Dog Give Me Love Bites?
A dog might give you love bites for a few reasons. One is that he’s playing! If you’ve ever seen dogs play together, you may have noticed that they like gently going at each other’s mouths. When your dog gives you love bites, he might be trying to encourage you to play!
It’s less common, but it could be that your dog is giving you little “grooming nibbles.” If this is the case, you’ll probably only feel their front teeth grazing you. This is your dog trying to groom you—something he does because he loves and trusts you! Aww!
How to Stop Dog Mouthing Affection
Your dog loving you and trying to show it is super adorable. But if your dog doesn’t have proper bite inhibition, it may not feel that good.
If you’re wondering how to get your dog to stop showing you affection by mouthing, you’ve come to the right place!
Stop Moving and Remain Calm
One of the worst things you can do when you’re trying to get a dog to stop mouthing you is keep moving around or pushing him away!
This is because that will make your dog think that you’re playing a game with him. Think of it like this: your dog is trying to get you to play by moving around and mouthing you. If you start moving around too, he’s going to think it’s all part of the game.
Instead, stop moving completely and don’t react to anything he does. If he’s biting your arms hard, you can fold them or move so that he can’t reach you.
By not moving and staying calm, you’re making sure your dog knows this isn’t part of the game!
Ignore the Behavior
Part of mouthing affection is getting attention from you. So, if your dog mouths you and you give him attention, even if it’s to say “no,” or “stop”, in a way you’re still giving him what he wants!
Part of getting your dog to stop mouthing you is to ignore him when he does it. It might be hard, but it’s an effective way to show him that you don’t like it!
Redirect the Behavior
The reality is that dogs need to chew on things. But they shouldn’t need to chew on you!
If your dog is instinctively mouthing you, try redirecting his attention to a toy, or something else that he is allowed to chew on.
You can also redirect his behavior by asking him to do something he can’t do at the same time as mouthing you. So, for example, if your dog starts mouthing immediately interrupt him with another command. This will help distract him from mouthing!
Walk Away and Get Out of Your Dog’s Reach
Just like ignoring your dog, walking away from him and going somewhere he can’t reach you shows him you don’t like this behavior.
If you’re not moving when he mouths you, and you’re trying to redirect his attention, then it’s time to walk away. Try going to a different room and shutting the door for a few seconds. If you do this consistently, your dog will learn pretty quickly that mouthing only gives him the opposite of what he wants—time with you!
Give Him Attention When He’s Calm
Part of positive reinforcement training means ignoring behavior you don’t like. But the other, equally important part is rewarding what you do like!
A lot of the time, we get so focused on stopping bad behavior we forget to reward good behavior. But it’s really important to remember to do it!
If your dog makes the choice to play calmly, or settle down somewhere to rest, reward that behavior with your attention. By doing this, you’re encouraging him to keep doing it!
For Super Hyper Dogs: Give Him a Time Out
Some dogs just have a hard time settling down on their own. If you’re the lucky owner of one of those dogs, then giving your dog a time out when he’s overstimulated is probably the best call.
It’s also a great reason why you should crate train your dog. Don’t know where to start with that? Here’s how to crate train a dog easily in 13 steps.
Why Does My Dog Nibble at My Clothes?
If your dog is nibbling your clothes, he could be doing it for a few reasons. If your dog is still a puppy, he might be teething. It could also be just because he likes the texture of your clothes, and how they feel in his mouth.
You may also have unintentionally rewarded him for the behavior by giving him attention when he does it. If you want to get your dog to stop, just implement the above tips!
Why Does My Dog Wrap His Mouth Around My Arm?
It probably seems pretty weird when your dog puts your arm in his mouth. Dogs usually do this because they’re trying to get your attention or want to start playing with you. Again, it could also be because they’ve learned that doing this gets them attention.
As long as your dog isn’t biting down hard or showing other signs of aggression, it’s not anything to worry about. You can train this behavior out the same way you do with mouthing affection!
Why Does My Dog Open His Mouth When I Pet Him?
Dogs open their mouths for a lot of reasons. Unfortunately, sometimes those reasons can have completely opposite meanings!
Dogs will open their mouths when they feel stressed or anxious. But they might also open their mouths when they’re happy and enjoy what’s going on. Because a dog opening his mouth can mean so many conflicting things, it can be confusing when he does it!
Luckily, you can usually use context clues to help you figure out what your dog is feeling. When you pet him, is your dog showing other signs of anxiety, like growling, whining, or stiff body language? Or is he relaxed and calm, maybe even pawing at you to keep petting him when you stop?
Pay attention to your dog’s behavior when you’re petting him to determine whether his open mouth is because he’s nervous, or just because he’s happy!
It’s super cute and sweet that your dog wants to show you how much you mean to him! Unfortunately, sometimes the way he tries to show you isn’t the way that feels the best. If your dog is affection mouthing, as long as he’s not biting too hard it’s easy to consider it a loving gesture.
But if your dog has never learned proper bite inhibition, then his mouthing affection could be painful and maybe even dangerous!
Luckily, it’s totally possible to train him out of this behavior. By following the tips in this article, staying patient and consistent, and rewarding your dog when he shows you affection in other ways, you can teach your dog to show you love in a manner you actually like.
Struggling with your puppy's hyper behavior? I offer private 1:1 online coaching to help you with your puppy's behavioral problems (biting, crate training struggles, crying, barking, separation anxiety, daily schedule etc.). Schedule a free 15-minute video Zoom call to get started!
Please note that I'm not a professional dog trainer. Everything I know is from my own experience with my hyper Mini Poodle Baloo and hundreds of hours of research.