How Do I Stop My Dog From Mouthing People?

Teach a New Behavior

To break the mouthing cycle, Maggie was taught to heel at her pet parent’s side as she approached a person. If she began mouthing, her pet parent would freeze in place like a statue and wait for Maggie to stop mouthing before continuing to walk forward; when she heeled without mouthing, she received a treat. In Maggie’s old greeting sequence, she was rewarded for mouthing because she was able to keep walking toward what she ultimately wanted, which was the other person. In her new behavior sequence, she was rewarded for heeling. In a very short time, Maggie stopped mouthing her pet parents as she approached someone on a walk because she was being rewarded for an alternative behavior and mouthing hindered her progress.

The next step was to teach Maggie to sit when she greeted someone new. We taught Maggie to sit whenever she greeted anyone, whether it was her pet parents at home or people out on walks, and rewarded her with praise and treats for this behavior. Maggie soon learned that only once she sat with her bottom on the floor would she be given attention and occasional treats.

Since Maggie was an energetic dog and it was hard for her to keep still during the first 60 seconds of meeting someone new, we taught her to hand target, or touch her nose to an outstretched hand. We intermixed sitting for petting with hand targeting so that she could actively flow between both behaviors. Hand targeting was valuable because it allowed her to still touch the person when she greeted, but only with her nose and a closed mouth. Once she had other active behaviors to focus on, Maggie's mouthing decreased and eventually stopped completely.

By replacing your dog’s mouthy greeting behavior with acceptable alternatives and being consistent about only allowing your dog to greet when he doesn’t mouth, you can increase the likelihood that your pet will use appropriate manners when he meets someone new.

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