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 Is mouthing dominance or just a bad habit?

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DiamondDog
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Female Join date : 2014-08-20
Location : Halifax, NS, Canada

PostSubject: Is mouthing dominance or just a bad habit?   Wed Aug 20, 2014 2:59 am

So, some background on my princess pooch. Diamond is a 3 year old Alaskan Husky, my husband and I got her about 1 1/2 years ago from a couple who were living in a one bedroom apartment. According to them they had tried to breed her on her first and second heat, which I found out quickly is a big no no. She had also had very limited exercise, and seemed to be very lethargic, she also had a pretty bad diet of kibbles and bits, along with a nasty ear infection.

They had said that she was house trained, but for the first two weeks she would do her business in the house and gave no hint at needing to go out. She would pull pretty badly on her leash, and just would not listen. Any time you would touch her tail she would yipe like you were ripping it off and mouth at your hand. She also had no idea how to socialize or play with other dogs, the first three weeks or so at the off leash park she wouldn't go more than ten feet from me, or other people and had absolutely no interest in other dogs, toys or squirrels or anything really. All in all she didn't seem dog like or energetic at all. The strangest thing was how lacking she was vocally. I had heard and read that huskies are very very vocal and enjoy howling and 'talking', she was a mute!

Now a year and a half later, she walks beautifully, socializes well, has a German Shepherd bf, plays with toys, goes on walk a run and a trip to the park every day, and she 'sings' with the family (usually she only sings with my husband and I, we look a little crazy howling with the dog, but she loves it), and after a lot of work you can grab her tail, and even pet it. However, she is still stubborn and when my husband has a hard time getting her to listen to the 'Down' command he grabs her paws and she will mouth him. This, and when you startle her with her tail, or pet her tail too long and she gets testy. Otherwise you can touch her paws freely, we wash them and trim back the fur on the bottoms of her paws once a month.

It's toothy, but incredibly gentle, she never bruises, draws blood, or even comes close to hurting him or me, and even looks a little sheepish afterwards. We have tried to discourage it with everything from desensitizing like her tail, to a firm no, to a tap on the nose (husband's tactics not mine). I have seen threads about puppies doing the mouthing behaviour but what about adults?

She mouths him more than me, and its an even gentler action than when, on the rare occasion the mood strikes her, she roughhouses. I guess what I'm wondering is, is it a dominance thing, a 'hey, please stop I don't like that', a residual puppy habit, or something else, or if anyone else has a similar problem?
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seattlesibe
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Male Join date : 2013-02-05
Location : seattle, wa

PostSubject: Re: Is mouthing dominance or just a bad habit?   Wed Aug 20, 2014 3:28 am

It's a social thing. Huskies communicate with their mouths, both verbally and physically. This is how they interact with their environment.

Essentially, it means she likes you and she's trying to play with you. It's your job to teach her boundaries and when this is appropriate. She needs to do it and wants to do it, so find ways to allow her to do it on your terms. They can learn boundaries very easily.
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wpskier222
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Female Join date : 2013-02-11
Location : NYC

PostSubject: Re: Is mouthing dominance or just a bad habit?   Wed Aug 20, 2014 9:44 am

Watch her when she plays with her dog friends... Does she bite their legs? Do they bite hers? As Jeff said, she probably thinks its play, and your husband grabbing the legs to get her to lay down is a playful action to her (especially if he is on the floor, or on her level), so she is gently trying to mouth and play back.

Here's an old thread about mouthing with an interesting discussion. Smile

http://www.itsahuskything.com/t10746-mouthing-when-being-petted?highlight=mouthing
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seattlesibe
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Male Join date : 2013-02-05
Location : seattle, wa

PostSubject: Re: Is mouthing dominance or just a bad habit?   Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:03 am

Right. To answer the title question, it's neither. This is completely normal behavior and how they interact with their mates and their crew around them.
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seattlesibe
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Male Join date : 2013-02-05
Location : seattle, wa

PostSubject: Re: Is mouthing dominance or just a bad habit?   Wed Aug 20, 2014 10:15 am

another thing that helped me personally reframe this behavior in my mind and start to constructively use it to me and my dog's benefit was create a term for it, so I began referring to it as Teeth-on-Skin (original to me anyway) rather than Biting . The reasons why are hopefully obvious.

I know Jen and I had discussions on here almost daily with new folks about a year ago on Teeth-on-Skin behaviors, redirection, utilization, etc.

It might help you with your Husky to reframe it as well , in the context of understanding your dog' s way of being and helping her meet her needs--building trust and respect.
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