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Mouthing is a natural, non-aggressive instinct for a retrieving breed that finds comfort in holding something in its mouth. However, when it is your hand, arm or clothing, it can be annoying and even scary for visitors who are unfamiliar with this habit. Puppies tend to do this when they play. If not properly dealt with, mouthing will continue to occur as the dog grows older.

Here are the basic steps to train your Golden to curb his mouthing:

  1. Yelp or yell “Ouch!” in a loud, high-pitched voice to startle from your dog. Fold your arms and turn your back for 20 seconds. If mouthy play continues, leave the room or place the dog in a confined area for 20 seconds. Then, encourage your dog to play and repeat these steps if mouthing resumes. Never punish mouthing as that can lead to more aggressive behavior.
  2. Redirect your dog with a sturdy chew toy. If your dog puts its mouth on your hand, yell “Ouch!” and replace your hand with a toy. Praise your dog enthusiastically if he takes the toy instead of play-biting you.
  3. Stop moving and go limp if your dog places its mouth on you. If the dog stops, praise with treats, toys and petting. Resume playing until mouthing occurs again. Mouthing is not enjoyable for your retriever if it makes you stop playing.

Obedience classes, daily practice of basic commands, working on retrieving and frequent grooming are also important. These activities benefit your dog’s tolerance of handling, enjoyment of your touch and increased responsiveness to commands.