Mouthing and nipping are both normal parts of puppy behavior. However, they have two different meanings to the puppy or dog. Nipping, sometimes done by puppies is more for interaction and play. Mouthing is more a matter of the dog trying to tell you something. He uses less pressure than nipping but it’s still annoying.
Mouthing is an attention getting behavior. He is trying to tell you something. Maybe he is telling you that he has to go out by mouthing on your hand. If that is his signal, you better respond. If he is mouthing you to get you to pet him, you need to ignore him. He is telling you what to do. If he will not stop with a verbal command, see below for tips on stopping the behavior.
Nipping is normal for puppies to do in puppy play. While he was with his littermates, they would nip each other all day long. They teach each other how hard they can bite before hurting each other. He nipped during play; he nipped at meals to determine who would eat first, etc. Young puppies under 14 weeks of age mouth a lot. They nip to play as well as communicate. If your puppy starts nipping, ask yourself if he may be hungry, thirsty or does he have to go out?
Follow these ideas to control puppy nipping:
Whenever you are holding your puppy and he licks you, say “kisses” and praise him gently. If he does nip your hand, don’t pull away. It’s inviting the puppy to nip more because of quick hand movements. Keep your hand still. If he bites down too hard, make a loud, sharp, high-pitched “yelp” or “ouch” while staring him straight in the eyes. If your puppy won’t stop nipping, it might be time for a “time out”. Have him go to his crate or separate area with a bone to chew on. Sometimes they just need a “time out” to get back into control. Remember; never use the crate as punishment.
If your puppy is over 14 weeks old she should no longer be nipping. Stop playing games like tug of war, wrestling, chase, etc. It is sending the wrong message to your puppy. Purchase a plant mister or spray bottle and fill it with water. If your puppy nips at your hand, pants, etc, give a squirt towards his mouth while saying the command “NO BITE” firmly. Aim for the mouth; DO NOT grab him by the collar and squirt him. You don’t want your hands to touch him at all. If your puppy is still persistent, put him on the leash and give a quick tug with the command “NO BITE”. Your puppy will grow out of this provided you teach him it is not an acceptable behavior under any circumstances.
Kids running around the yard, house or apartment are a big temptation. If you were a dog you’d be jumping and nipping too. You need to learn to control your dog’s impulses. If your dog is a herding breed (Collie, Shepherd, Border collie, etc.) it is a natural instinct and is virtually impossible to stop the behavior. It is what they are bred to do. However, if it is a non-herding breed, you can direct their mouthing into playing with a ball or stuffed toy. Not the children.