If your dog has been putting your hand in its mouth a lot, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of reasons why it might have been doing it and what would make them more likely to be the main reason.
So, why does my dog put my hand in its mouth? Possible reasons why your dog puts your hand in its mouth are that it has learned that the behavior gets rewarded, it’s teething, bored, excited or looking for attention.
Since there are a number of reasons why your dog might have been putting its mouth around your hand, it would help to consider what would make each of them more likely. When you have a good idea of the main cause, it should become easier to figure out what you can do in order to get your dog to stop doing it.
Why your dog puts your hand in its mouth
Each of the different reasons why your dog has been doing it will likely come with some clues. Below are a number of possible causes and what would make them more likely to be one of the main causes.
The reason why it has been doing it could be that it is bored and looking to stimulate itself. This would be more likely if it tends to do it more when it has not been able to get exercise and if it tends to stop doing it after getting exercise. It would help to ensure that your dog is able to get the daily amount of recommended exercise for its age and breed.
Encouraging the behavior
It could be the case that it has learned that it gets rewards for putting your hand in its mouth. If you tend to give it things such as toys, treats or extra attention, when it puts its mouth around your hand, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards.
Instead, it would help to reward it when it is behaving the way you want it to and to stand up and completely ignore your dog when it starts trying to put its mouth around your hand until it calms down.
The reason that your dog has been trying to mouth your hand could be that it is teething. This would be more likely if it is still young and if it has started trying to chew on other things as well.
If it does seem to be teething then it would be important to train it to only chew things that you want it to. You will likely find that lots of “leave it” training would work well for this. It would also likely help to give it lots of things to chew on such as toys and dog chews.
Many people jump to the conclusion that their dogs do it because they are trying to be dominant. However, the alpha/beta dynamic has been disproven in studies showing that wolves take turns in taking the lead.
With that being said, it could be doing it due to bullying behavior which would be more likely if it tries to get you to move and if it shows signs of aggression when doing it. In this case, it would help to avoid encouraging the behavior and to get it to learn to behave the way you want it to with training programs such as NLIF (“Nothing in Life is Free) dog training.
The reason that it puts your hand in its mouth could be that it is excited. This would be more likely if it tends to do it in situations where it gets very excited such as when you come home or when it goes out for a walk.
In this case, it would help to avoid doing the thing that it gets excited about until it stops putting your hand in its mouth if possible.
It wants attention
The reason why it puts your hand in its mouth could be that it is looking for attention. This would be more likely if it does it when you have not been giving it much attention for a while and if you tend to give it more attention when it does it.
In this case, it would help to avoid rewarding it with your attention, when it mouths your hand, by turning your back and not giving it attention until it stops trying to mouth your hand.
A lack of training
It might be the case that your dog does it because it has not been trained not to and it does not know any better. If you have not trained your dog not to do it then it would help to do so by following the tips mentioned below.
Things to consider
Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it and what would make them more likely to be the main reason.
What else happened when your dog first started putting your hand in its mouth
If your dog did not always put your hand in its mouth, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it since it might be the case that there was an event that caused it to start. If it started doing it suddenly and it is a puppy, it would be more likely to be due to teething.
What is different when it tends to do it
If it does not always put your hand in its mouth, it would also help to consider what is different when it normally does it.
For example, if it normally does it when you arrive home, it would be more likely to be due to excitement. In this case, it would help to avoid giving it any attention until it calms down.
How old it is
It would also help to consider the age of your dog. If it is still young then it would make it more likely that it is teething or that it does not know any better.
If it is an adult then it would be more likely that you have been inadvertently rewarding the behavior and you need to train it not to do it and to avoid rewarding it.
If it does it aggressively
If your dog puts its mouth around your hand aggressively then that would be a more serious problem.
Probable causes for it mouthing your hand aggressively would be mistreatment, pain, a lack of training or being aggressive towards it yourself.
In this case, the best option would be to get the help of a certified dog trainer or behaviorist in your area.
What to do about your dog putting your hand in its mouth
Below are some options you have when getting your dog to stop doing it.
Avoid encouraging the behavior
As mentioned above, it might be the case that your dog has learned that it gets rewards for putting your hand in its mouth. Instead, it would help to reward your dog when it behaves the way you want it to, to stand up and completely ignore it when it mouths your hand and to try to redirect its focus when it seems likely to start doing it.
Positive reinforcement training
Positive reinforcement training is where you get your dog to do things that you want by rewarding it for doing them or showing signs of doing them.
To use positive reinforcement training to get it to stop mouthing your hands you would:
- Stand up turn away and hide your hands when it starts mouthing your hands leaving the room if necessary.
- Wait a few moments and then go back to giving it attention and then turning away again if it starts mouthing your hand
- Repeat the above until it learns that mouthing your hand causes it to lose your attention
- Reward it with a treat when it does particularly well
Avoid being overly emotional with it
Dogs will usually be highly in-tune with their owner’s emotions. If you tend to get reactive around your dog then it could be causing it to become reactive itself. When around your dog it would help to be calm and to train it to behave the way that you want with the use of positive reinforcement training.
If your dog has not been getting much exercise, it could be contributing to the behavior. It would help to ensure that your dog is able to get the daily amount of recommended exercise for its age and breed.
If you can’t figure out why your dog has been putting your hand in its mouth, it does it aggressively or you can’t get it to stop, consider getting the help of a dog behaviorist. By doing so, you will be able to get expert help tailored to your specific dog.