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So, I have always been fascinated by mouthing behaviour in dogs and why they do it. Obviously, 'mouthing' is different from 'biting' in the sense that their intentions are completely different (though I can't tell you how many clients have panicked and messaged me saying their dog is biting and being mean, when really, it's just impulsive mouthing behaviour). Now, that being said, I also worked with a dog before that engaged in mouthing behaviour that actually turned into aggression, which is fascinating to me, but something I still don't fully understand.

Working in a shelter, I assess the dogs that come in and make notes of their behaviour. I see a ton of mouthing in shelter dogs (which makes total sense), but sometimes I feel like they mouth for different reasons, such as:
- Excitement mouthing, typically wanting attention or to play.
- Frustration mouthing- typically out of over-excitement, except the dog starts getting more intense due to frustration of not being reinforced or able to get want they want in that situation, and re-directing onto you.
- Anxious mouthing, kinda like when humans bite their nails, dogs mouth when they are anxious and don't know what to do. Sometimes they even carry a toy.
- Correction mouthing/get you to stop doing something. For example, when I'm doing a sensitivity test on a dog and they mouth my hands when I'm feeling them. Sometimes I feel like this is excitement and over-stimulation when touched, but other times, I feel like they mouth me to get me to stop touching them.
- Playful mouthing to diffuse situation. For example, I try to put a collar on a dog and he gently mouths my hands, then playfully runs away and ignores. He doesn't want to actually play or continue with play, but almost like he playfully mouthed to reduce conflict/tension. Is this a thing?

Anyways, maybe I just think too much into everything, though I truly feel like dogs mouth for numerous reasons, which can really affect the training plan for them. If a dog is mouthing you to get your attention, then walking away/removing attention would be the best solution to decrease said behaviour. BUT, in another situation, if a dog is mouthing you to get you to stop doing something, and you ignore/walk away, then you actually reward this behaviour in this situation.
Would love to hear others insight on mouthing, and if anyone has any good mouthing articles or body language articles it would be greatly appreciated!
 

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I don't really have any insight, I just wanted to comment that my older dog does the excitement mouthing. She's a 6-year-old Boxer/Rottweiler that we've had since 7 weeks old. I try to discourage it because it can be a bit scary to have an 80lb dog put your hand in her mouth. Not to mention the drool ;-)
 

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So, I have always been fascinated by mouthing behaviour in dogs and why they do it. Obviously, 'mouthing' is different from 'biting' in the sense that their intentions are completely different (though I can't tell you how many clients have panicked and messaged me saying their dog is biting and being mean, when really, it's just impulsive mouthing behaviour). Now, that being said, I also worked with a dog before that engaged in mouthing behaviour that actually turned into aggression, which is fascinating to me, but something I still don't fully understand.

Working in a shelter, I assess the dogs that come in and make notes of their behaviour. I see a ton of mouthing in shelter dogs (which makes total sense), but sometimes I feel like they mouth for different reasons, such as:
- Excitement mouthing, typically wanting attention or to play.
- Frustration mouthing- typically out of over-excitement, except the dog starts getting more intense due to frustration of not being reinforced or able to get want they want in that situation, and re-directing onto you.
- Anxious mouthing, kinda like when humans bite their nails, dogs mouth when they are anxious and don't know what to do. Sometimes they even carry a toy.
- Correction mouthing/get you to stop doing something. For example, when I'm doing a sensitivity test on a dog and they mouth my hands when I'm feeling them. Sometimes I feel like this is excitement and over-stimulation when touched, but other times, I feel like they mouth me to get me to stop touching them.
- Playful mouthing to diffuse situation. For example, I try to put a collar on a dog and he gently mouths my hands, then playfully runs away and ignores. He doesn't want to actually play or continue with play, but almost like he playfully mouthed to reduce conflict/tension. Is this a thing?

Anyways, maybe I just think too much into everything, though I truly feel like dogs mouth for numerous reasons, which can really affect the training plan for them. If a dog is mouthing you to get your attention, then walking away/removing attention would be the best solution to decrease said behaviour. BUT, in another situation, if a dog is mouthing you to get you to stop doing something, and you ignore/walk away, then you actually reward this behaviour in this situation.
Would love to hear others insight on mouthing, and if anyone has any good mouthing articles or body language articles it would be greatly appreciated!
You are correct. Dogs mouth for different reasons. Pay attention to the dog behavior and you will be miles ahead in understanding dogs. Frustration mouthing is the kind we use to train. Teaching the dog to wait for the reward (ball or tug or whatever you choose) combines learned self control andresulting in increased drive with the end of frustration being delivery of the reward. You will also see dogs "unload" anxiety etc onto a toy. Having a ball inad repeatedly squeezing it in their jaws can help them unload anxiety etc. and relax. Some dogs like to "carry." They are happiest with a toy in their mouth.. and just carrying it. Of course, if a few dogs dogs are together the best thing is no toys as that can result in a fight.

Listen as well to the tone of the barking. Prey drive, excitement, fear, defensiveness, aggression and anger all have different tones.
 

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For literature, look up the term, "Bite Inhibition." It's the research term that indicates conscious control over bite pressure... as opposed to a simple on/off - Bite /No Bite.

A related search term is "Dr. Ian Dunbar's Dog Bite Scale" - It may not be the info that you want, but it is good to know this scale exists. You'll also find related literature that may help.

As you've suggested, some dogs like to carry a toy etc., like a security blanket. Some dogs chew for a similar activity like people smoke cigarettes. And, some dogs will play bite when fighting, but may bite too hard [even after learning bite inhibition) due to excitement. It's difficult for people to recognize the difference, between excited play biting and aggressive biting, but the playmate victim can frequently tell, b/c he won't escalate to an all out fight. But, he may bite back after a yelp, anyway...
 

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Once the dog is over teething, I don't think there is any excuse for mouthing a human, so it should be strongly discouraged. My dog does it. He is a naturally pushy dog, using his nose to nudge everything really, including your arm or hand for petting (while other dogs in different breeding lines won't engage that way). But this dog can nudge the side of an x-pen to get closer to what he wants. I should've stopped it straight up. But figured it was his way of communicating. And to an extent you just have to accept each dog as they are (within safety limits). Fortunately he's never turned aggressive, angry, resentful or negative. But I do not permit any recalcitrant attitude, and when he reaches a limit, I remind him he's not the one in charge. We play a lot of ball (which he likes to squeeze over and over, which relieves anxiety, energy, tension) He's very good about retrieval, hiding and digging it out of tight spots, doing short chases. Whenever he forgets and applies his mouth, to me lightly, I faux cry "ouch" and he turns it back into a lick, or a nudge (wanting favor again). So it's a matter of reminding him about limits. And not ever pushing him over his limit where he couldn't recover his self- restraint. The bonding process (trust) is always a work in process. Meaning that neither of us should cross the line to damage that relationship. We need to be able to trust one another!
 
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