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Why does my dog pinch me? I am bruised all over my arms mostly, but she'll pinch anywhere. She is 11 months old, Miniature Schnauzer/Sheltie mix. She wags when she does it so she's not mad, but is relentless!  Does not listen to NO or taps on the nose etc, just keeps at it! Love her to pieces but this has to stop!  Help!?

Hi Kim,

Thank you for writing to me about your puppy.  Your puppy's behavior, called "mouthing"  is perfectly normal but it's not something you want her to continue to do as she gets older.  In fact, it should have stopped by now but it's not too late.   Your goal is to train your puppy to stop mouthing and biting people. In order to do this you have to teach her that people have very sensitive skin, so she must be very gentle when using her mouth. She must learn to control the pressure of her jaw, which is called bite inhibition.   A dog who has learned to use her mouth gently when interacting with people will be less likely to bite when she's afraid or under duress (or pain).

Bite inhibition is learned when puppies play with other puppies.  They play rough and they bite just about everywhere.  When a puppy is bitten too hard by another puppy it will usually yelp and stop playing. Soon after the puppies are playing again and over time they learn how not to hurt each other.

This is how, as a human, you would react to your puppy and teach her bite inhibition.  You start out by letting her mouth on your hands. Continue play until she bites especially hard. When she does, immediately give a high-pitched yelp, as if you’re hurt, and let your hand go limp. When she stops, surprised at your high pitch yelp, praise her.  In a high pitched voice you say...good girl...what a good girl!  Continue play and when she tries mouthing, repeat the instructions but...only 3 times within about a 15 minute play session.

If the above method isn't working well enough, then do a time out.  When she bites and you yelp (high pitched squeal) take your hand away and ignore her for about 10-20 seconds or get up and walk away for the same amount of time.  Then engage in play again.  The focus is to teach her that gentle play continues and rough play stops. The more you continue in this training, the less the pressure of her teeth and jaws should progress until she stops the behavior all together.

EVERYONE in the family has to follow the same training plan.

When your dog tries to chew on a person, substitute a chew toy instead.
If your puppy gets all excited when you are petting her, distract her by feeding her little treats from your other hand. This will help your puppy get used to being touched without mouthing.

Alternative forms of play should be encouraged, such as fetch and tug-of-war, rather than wrestling and rough play with your hands.   

When your puppy bites at your feet/ankles while you are moving, instantly stop moving your feet. Take out a toy and wave it at her. As she grabs it, start moving again. If you don’t happen to have the toy available, just freeze and wait for your puppy to stop mouthing you.  When she stops mouthing, praise her and perhaps reward her with a fun toy. Repeat these steps until your puppy gets used to watching you move around without going after your feet or ankles.

Give your puppy new toys to create interest in other than chewing on people.
Socialization is extremely important for your puppy's development so make sure she interacts with other puppies...maybe in doggie daycare or by arranging play dates.  Your vet could possibly put you in touch with other puppy parents.   She can also learn by playing with puppy friendly adult dogs able to tolerate puppies.  If she gets tired playing with other puppies, she will feel less motivated to play roughly with you. I would recommend taking a puppy training class where she can learn as well as interact with other puppies her own age.

After awhile you can change the rules a little. Instead of giving your puppy time-outs for hard biting, start to give her time-outs every time you feel her teeth touch your skin.
The instant you feel your puppy’s teeth touch you, give a high-pitched yelp. Then immediately walk away from her. Ignore her for 30 to 60 seconds. If your puppy follows you or continues to bite and nip at you, leave the room for 30 to 60 seconds. After a short time-out, return to the room and calmly resume whatever you were doing with your puppy.

You can also keep a leash attached to your puppy during time-out training and let it drag on the floor. Do this ONLY when you are there to supervise her. Then, instead of leaving the room when your puppy mouths you, you can take her leash and lead her to a quiet area, tether her, and turn your back to her for the brief time-out. Then untie her and resume whatever you were doing.

Be understanding and patient. Playful mouthing is normal behavior for a puppy or young dog.  It will take time to teach her and you and your family must be patient.  Be sure she is only allowed with children under strict supervision and not until she has better control of her nipping behavior.

Because mouthing issues can be challenging to work with, don’t hesitate to enlist the help of a Certified Professional Dog Trainer (CPDT) who only uses positive reinforcement.

Whatever you do, do not continue the methods you described because they are ALL a sure way to raise an aggressive, fearful dog.  The first rule in puppy obedience training is to never threaten your dog or frighten her. When you yell, tap at or hit your dog you are making your dog afraid of you. To achieve true puppy obedience, your puppy must learn to respect you as their leader, not fear you. By hitting or yelling at your puppy you will only create a timid dog and aggressive dog. Dogs are excellent companions when trained properly, but when they are timid they will most likely be hiding from you most of the time. Hitting and yelling at your dog will also make them anti social, afraid of people and new situations.  This is not the kind of dog you want.

As we say in the industry, a tired dog is a good dog so playing with other dogs, and lots of exercise will mellow her out.

Best of luck with your wonderful puppy.  

Shelley Davis

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Shelley Davis


Cageless Country Boarding, Holistic Health Concerns, Behavorial Concerns.


Crusader in the founding of Dog Runs in NYC Parks, instrumental in changing the law in NY State which allows Pet Facilitate Therapy into Acute Care Hospitals, accomplished artist and craftsperson, certified by Red Cross in pet first aid, pioneer in Children Reading To Dogs program in Ulster Co. NY, founder of Bed & Biscuit:Where Dogs Run Free,

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