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Canine Behavior/dog "mouthing"


Hi Dr. Connor,

About 3 months ago my family took in a 1 1/2 year old Weimardoodle from a family who had recently had a new baby and could no longer give him the attention he deserved.  Except for his paper eating (I'm going to ask about that separately) Duncan is a WONDERFUL dog.  He's very submissive and very sweet and snuggly.  He gets along great with our 6 year old lab.

Every now and then Duncan will "mouth" my arm or hand.  He just puts his open mouth around it for a second.  He's not biting down at all.  It only occurs when he's up and around, never when he's laying down.   When we first got him I was wondering if that might be an aggressive behavior but he's so submissive I figured that's not it.  The previous owner said she thought that was a thing Weimaraners do.  

Do you have any idea what this behavior means?  Should it be discouraged?  It's not a problem, unless the reason behind it is something that should be dealt with.

Thanks so much for your time.


No, this is not a problem behavior or any form of aggression.  Paper eating IS a problem since it can compact and cause intestinal obstruction so please let's address this fully in another question.

The Weimeraner and Standard Poodle (of which this dog is a hybrid) are "soft mouth" dogs intended to go after "game" and "retrieve it" without harming it.  When this dog approaches you and does this, he is merely soliciting attention and showing affiliation.  Here's what you can do to change it:

First, using positive reinforcement, teach "sit" as seen here:

EVEN if the dog already *knows* the word (use a NEW word) re-introduce the training.  It takes approximately 30 to 50 repetitions to get a conditioned response.  When you USE THE NEW WORD also use your right index finger to point down to the floor in an exaggerated manner.  He will then acquire both the verbal and non-verbal cues for "sit".

Until then, when he uses his mouth in this way, simply get up calmly and walk away.  Once you see he will follow the verbal and visual cue for the new "sit" (now, this can happen quite quickly or slowly and I can't see anything from here), observe his BODY LANGUAGE when he approaches to "mouth" and observe what's occurring DURING this approach (something is prompting it).  You will now recognize the approach and be able to redirect it to "sit" for large reward, at first high value food such as string cheese bit then staggered, but always with praise (calm praise) and a minute or two of special attention.  BE SURE TO REDIRECT AND REWARD BEFORE THE "MOUTHING" when you recognize his body language so as not to reward the "thought" of "mouthing".

Try this for two weeks and report back using followup feature.

Little story:  when I was quite young (early 20s) I was in a book store in Greenwich Village (where I was raised).  I walked in and there was a Harlequin Great Dane (enormous dog).  He calmly approached me and gently closed his mouth over my forearm.  His owner was alarmed but I knew what he was communicating, "Hi, I know you from somewhere, you're my friend" lol.

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Jill Connor, Ph.D.


I have spent my entire professional life rehabilitating the behavior of the domestic dog and I can answer any question regarding any behavior problem in any breed dog. I have answered more than 5,000 QUESTIONS on this site in the past (almost) eight years. If you are a caring, committed owner and need advice, I'm here for you. I am personally acquainted with my colleagues (Turid Rugaas, Ian Dunbar, etc.) who were members of an elite group in EGroups that I founded: K9Shrinks. THERE ARE NO QUICK FIXES for serious behavioral issues; not only is it unprofessional to offer same, it is also unethical. IF I ASK YOU SUBSEQUENT QUESTIONS, I NEED YOU TO INTERACT WITH ME. More information equals more credible answers and a more successful outcome. If you want ANSWERS THAT WORK, participate in any way I request. I'm quite committed to working on this site for YOUR benefit and the benefit of YOUR DOG. Help me in any way you can.


30 years of solving serious behavior problems in domestic dogs; expert in dog to human aggression; Internet columnist for for 5 years; former radio talk show host, WHPC.FM, Garden City, NY "Bite Back" (1995 through 2000). List owner, international animal behavior experts, Seminar leader: "Operant Conditioning and Learning"; "Aggression in The Domestic Dog"; "Solving Problem Behaviors" -- conducted for various training facilities on Long Island from 1993 through 2000. Former clinical director of "Behavioral Abnormalities" in conjunction with Mark Beckerman, DVM, Hempstead, New York.

Member, APDT (UK); Psychologists in Ethical Treatment with Animals

Harcourt Brace Learning Direct: "The Business of Dog Training" "The Fail Safe Dog: Brain Training, not Pain Training"

Ph.D., UC Berkeley

Past/Present Clients
Board of Directors: Northeast Dog Rescue Connection; The Dog Project; Sav-A-Dog Foundation; etc. Pro Bono counselor: Little Shelter Humane Society My practice is presently limited to forensics. I diagnose cause of dog bite, based upon testimony before the Court, for attorneys and insurance companies litigating dog bites, including fatal injuries. I also do pro bono work for bona fide rescue organizations, humane societies, et al, regarding such analysis in an effort to obtain release for dogs being held for death in municipal shelters in the US.

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