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Mouthy Dog: How to Manage Biting and Chewing

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You’ve just brought home your new puppy, and he’s simply as cute as can be! But there’s one major problem: he won’t stop biting you. 

He always nips at you when you pet him, his needle-sharp teeth sinking into your arm during playtime. And don’t get me started on how he grabs hold of your slippers while you’re just casually strolling down the hall…it’s like he wants to chew on them, whether you’re still wearing them or not! 

There has to be something wrong with him, right?

“When I first started teaching dog training programs as a young trainer, I fully expected that the number one concern of new puppy owners would be housetraining. But time and time again, the behavior issue most asked about? Mouthing.”

Because puppies explore the world with their mouths, these two issues are very common. Keep reading to discover the facts and tips that will help you stay sane with a mouthy dog!

Why Do Puppies Bite So Much?

There are many developmental reasons why puppies mouth and chew:

Developing Bite Inhibition – This means that they are learning at this age how hard they will need to use their mouth in the future. A dog with good bite inhibition will inflict less damage if they bite. 

Exploring Their World – So they will put their mouths on everything to taste it, test the texture, etc. 

Building Jaw Strength – Puppies will chew (which is different from mouthing) to help build strength in their jaws. But chewing also helps relieve teething pain.

Mouthy Dog: Why Do Puppies Bite So Much?

Even though puppies have good reasons to use their teeth, we know the pressing question for new dog owners is: “How do I stop my dog’s destructive biting behaviors?” 

Puppy Mouthing and Bite Inhibition

If you have a new puppy, you have already learned (the hard way) that puppy teeth are needle-sharp!  Because a young puppy’s jaws are weak, these sharp teeth exist to help them eat food – but it also helps them learn bite inhibition!

Here’s how it works: If a puppy bites down on their mother’s teat too hard while nursing, the mom gets up and leaves. In turn, the puppy will learn to keep their mouth soft to keep the milk flowing.

When puppies interact and play with their littermates, they tend to playfully nibble on each other. But if they bite too hard, the other puppy will leave, teaching them the importance of adjusting their mouth for the play to continue.

These lessons are essential. Puppies that are singletons (the only pup in the litter) or those taken away from their litter too young will have a harder time with this and a more persistent mouth.

Mouthy Dog: Training Your Puppy to Have a "Soft Mouth"

Puppies are still developing bite inhibition even after they’ve left their mom and littermates. Here is how you can help them develop a soft mouth:

Promote Gentle Play

 Encourage ongoing playful interactions between your puppy and suitable canine companions. A well-socialized dog can effectively communicate boundaries to a puppy, surpassing what humans can do. Consider supervised puppy play groups that not only soften their mouthing but also channel their energy constructively.

Natural Softening Mechanism

Within their litter, puppies learn to soften their mouthing naturally. When they lose privileges like nursing and play with littermates due to biting, they understand that mouthing doesn’t work. Apply the same principle: if your puppy mouths you during interactions, immediately withdraw your attention. Some use a soft “ouch” to signal this pause but avoid high-pitched tones that might excite or frighten the pup.

Kid-Friendly Solutions

If there are young kids around, equip them with toys your puppy enjoys. Children often can’t implement the attention-withdrawal strategy smoothly (Step 2) without reacting strongly. Offering a toy instead of reacting fearfully can help prevent the pup from initiating nipping play.

Remember, patience and consistency are key when teaching your puppy appropriate behavior.

“Many people believe in redirecting a dog that mouths with a toy. I'm not too fond of this advice simply because what we reinforce will be repeated. When a dog sits, we give them a treat. That increases the chance that your puppy will sit again. If your dog puts his teeth on you and you produce a toy or chew treat, the same principle is at play. The dog performs a behavior and gets a reward.”

But don’t toss away those toys or chew treats yet. They are still a valuable tool to prevent mouthing. For example, if you know your puppy is more prone to go wild at 8 PM each night (when the puppy crazies often take over), then at 7:55 PM, you can initiate play with a toy. Then, give your puppy a favorite chew treat to wind down before bedtime. 

Preventing mouthing will reduce the behavior. Why? Dogs will repeat behaviors that work for them. So prevention allows for two things:

Mouthing does not get reinforced.

At this age, dogs mouth us because that is how they know how to play. So if it works to get our attention in any way, the behavior is reinforced.

You will build proper play.

If you play with a toy, and your puppy is having fun, this more appropriate style of play is reinforced. While playing with toys, watch your puppy to see what toys he likes best to maximize reinforcement.

But what about those puppies (and we know there are a lot of them) that bite at your feet when you are walking? To manage this behavior, follow these three simple steps:

  1. Tie a squeaky toy to a rope about 6″ longer than your legs, or you can purchase a flirt pole with a toy attached to it like this one.
  2. Drag the toy when you walk with your puppy, engaging him in this toy INSTEAD of your feet.
  3. If he doesn’t seem interested, move the toy a little. Think of prey moving on the ground.

Have you read through this and thought, “Prevent mouthing? But my dog never stops!”  

Do not fear! Handling games will help teach your dog what you want them to do. Watch this video by Kikopup to learn more.


Puppies chew while growing to help build the muscles they need to use their jaw. 

But chewing is also great enrichment for both puppies and adult dogs. Chewing releases feel-good hormones to your dog’s brain, so it can help reduce excess energy and anxiety.

It isn’t the action of chewing that dog owners hate. It is WHAT they chew. If your puppy is chewing everything and eating the furniture, you need to figure out how to stop the behavior now.

Mouthy Dog: How to Address Chewing

The concept is simple:

  1. Prevent free access to anything you do not want your dog to chew. 
  2. Provide a wide variety of appropriate chew treats.

Left to their own devices, puppies will chew on everything from table legs to drywall. And if they are chewing on it, they are enjoying it, which builds a habit.

“If I had a dime for each time I heard an owner tell me they can't understand why their dog chews their couch when their floor is littered with chew toys, then I'd be writing this from Hawaii (I am not!). Dogs don't know the difference between their stuff and our stuff. And in fact, many dogs choose to chew things that smell like their favorite people (that's why they like couches, shoes, socks, and remote controls). This is why prevention is critical.”

Prevention can also include using a gate, crate, or doggy playpen to prevent access to their desired targets. Then supply a variety of chew treats – just like people, each dog will have his own preference.  

If your puppy tends to chew on wood, try these coffee wood sticks (my dogs love these, and they last a while) or these wood-alternative bones.

You might try a softer Nylabone or a Kong tire chew if they like chewing on shoes.

If they prefer clothes, try a rope bone. 

Then, there are stuffable chew toys like the Kong

No matter what chew toys you choose, you want to supervise them first to ensure they are safe options for your puppy. It is also helpful to rotate through a variety to keep your puppy from getting bored with the same toy choices every day. 

By preventing inappropriate chewing and supplying a variety of fun options, you will be building appropriate chewing habits while keeping your puppy and house safe.


Puppies will lose their baby teeth from 3-6 months of age. 

Signs of teething:

  • Finding the baby teeth
  • Inflamed gums
  • Bleeding (i.e., blood on toys or even on playmates)
  • A puppy may irritate more readily
  • An increase in the amount and intensity of mouthing and chewing

Just like with human babies, those new teeth hurt coming in. 

Ice will help soothe the gum pain. Soak a rope bone in sodium-free bone broth and freeze it. There are also teething toys made to be frozen to help ease your puppy’s pain.

You will follow the protocol for chewing during this time. But also give your puppy chew toys to help with the gum pain.

In Conclusion

While teething, mouthing, and chewing are often lumped together, the root of these behaviors is very different. So, it is important to deal with each behavior by first understanding why it is happening.

But these behaviors have one thing in common: They create destructive behavior in dogs. The best way to fix unwanted dog behavior is to prevent it. Correcting puppies already over-aroused or even in pain can escalate bad behavior.

Prevent the bad behavior from being unintentionally reinforced through management, and then reinforce preferable chew habits by supplying chew toys your dog loves, and you will both be happy!


  • Devene Godau, CPDT-KA

    Devene obtained a BA in Journalism from Michigan State University and spent several years working in marketing. However, when she adopted her first greyhound (who came with some behavior challenges), she began researching ways to modify her problem behavior and found help with a local dog trainer. She became a volunteer assistant to learn more, and eventually started teaching classes and conducting private lessons. She currently trains puppies full-time to become scent detection dogs. Devene lives in Michigan with her husband and kids, as well as 4 dogs, 2 cats and a tortoise.

  • Morgan Messick

    Morgan Messick is a content creator for Dog Training Newbie, a website that is all about dog training tips, techniques, news, and more. Morgan has two dogs, three cats, and a lovely wife who support her passion for writing. Morgan loves reading murder mystery novels and listening to true crime podcasts in her spare time. She is also passionate about supporting small businesses by creating dynamic content that customers want to see.

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