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I have a 4 month old Wire Fox Terrier who is a “mouther.” Since I am the main subject of his mouthing affection, I continue to have small punctures and scratches on on my arms, hands and ankles. He has a number of puppy teething toys and we have tried “no” commands, displeasure yelps, constraint until he calms, bitter spray (which he loves), and ignoring him. While he is improving, his biting continues and seems to increase when he gets tired (when he bites he is placed in his playroom and promptly takes a nap). He is teething. Is there anything further we can do to alter the mouthing behavior or is his persistence just a part of his teething?

AKC Answer:

Puppies mouth or nip for several reasons.  As you noted, two of the primary reasons are teething and becoming overtired. Puppies also play with littermates and explore the world this way. The main message you want to get across to your puppy is that when he nips you, all fun stops immediately. Make sure you have a toy when you play with your puppy so he has something besides you to “go after” but if does nip you, we recommend the following.

  • Stop all interaction for five seconds then resume play. Remember, no interaction means no talking, no eye contact.
  • If he continues to nip after the break, stop the fun again and stand up or leave the room for five seconds.
  • If he still continues to mouth or nip you, put him in his crate calmly and quietly. This is not a punishment, just a time out.
  • While he is in his crate time-out break, be sure he has something to chew on while he’s calming down. For teething puppies we recommend freezing a stuffed Kong or a frozen Chilly Bone.
  • In addition to bitter no-chew sprays, other natural deterrents you might try include lemon juice, diluted hot pepper sauce, or vinegar.
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