You Taste Horrible; Aversive Dog/Puppy Training for Mouthing

Ick! You Taste Awful!

I get lots of complaints about young dogs and puppies that have biting or mouthing problems!  Whereas I have written a few articles on the subject, I thought it best to write another with yet another point of view and one I don’t normally tend toward; aversive training.

A good dog trainer should have limitless tricks of the trade to use when needed, and this one is especially good for mouthy puppies!  And, it is important to note that it is not aversive in a painful or frightening way!  I would never recommend true aversive training; this is simply a bit of a mind game.

Aversive training is defined by the online encyclopedia as a form of behavior training or modification in which a noxious event is used to punish or extinguish undesirable behavior.   I hate the word punishment, because punishment comes after the fact and is not effective even on humans who understand it (dogs don’t understand punishment)!  But I do embrace the idea of “noxious event” because that is what I am shooting for in this scenario.

The first step is to redirect a mouthy puppy by giving him appropriate toys, or other things to chew on.

If that doesn’t work, crying out like a littermate or another puppy and whining is often effective to stop the offensive behavior!

If neither of those work, removing yourself from the situation and stopping all play is usually especially effective!  As a matter of fact, the reason most puppies mouth, bite and chew on us is because they want to play with us; so if you remove the motivating factor you often extinguish the behavior!

Biting or teeth coming out = no interaction is usually enough to stop most puppies from biting.  But you MUST be consistent!!!  You can’t remove yourself sometimes and not others.  For example, I don’t care what dramatic event you are witnessing on TV (Superbowl, or “Say Yes to the Dress) , you must get up and leave the room when your pup begins to bite you!!  Consistency is the key!

If all of these techniques fail; then I recommend this simple bit of aversive training:

You must teach your dog that you taste AWFUL and therefore putting his mouth on you is the LAST thing he wants to do!  If your puppy thinks you are simply grotesque in the tasty department, he won’t put his mouth on you anymore = problem solved.

How Do You Achieve Total Nastiness in the Taste Department?

You use a bitter spray or lotion on your skin or clothing.  Lotion is better and lasts longer but the bitter sprays can be quite effective as well, you must just reapply more often.  Not all bitter sprays are created equal and some dogs don’t mind some but hate others…you may have to shop around.  My favorite is the true “Bitter Apple” spray and lotion.

If you are consistent about applying your dog should stop mouthing you in a matter of days, however if you are inconsistent you will continue to have problems because your dog will never know when you taste bad and when you taste good!  So, be consistent and apply often.

You Can Spray Your Clothing Too!

This is extremely simple and usually incredibly effective!  Remember to redirect and praise your pup when his teeth are not on your skin.

Exercise and dog obedience training is also crucial to curb any bad behavior, a tired dog is a good dog!  And, a dog that is use to obedience is less likely to put his teeth on you!

Last but not least….WASH YOUR HANDS before eating or you too will experience some aversive tastes!

For more information check out one of my older blogs on the subject Help For Your Land Shark

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  1. Gale says:

    I correct biting and nipping the same way their siblings did; I issue a very LOUD OUCH in a high pitched voice, just like a puppy yelp, and usually the biting and nipping stops. This is positive punishment, which makes that bad behaviour less likely. It is also the reaction that they are used to, unless they were a singleton or separated too young from the litter.


  2. Kathy Holmberg says:

    I have two dogs which I obtain one at 9 weeks the other 7. The first one had a very bad biting habit and we tried everything from different trainers and she finally out grew it. Buddy whom we got from a trainer at 7 weeks showed us while petting if the dog starts to mouth simply touch his back end and say eh loudly. We only had to do it a few times and he had never mouth us since. We used the bitter apple on the table legs when we realized he was chewing on the legs.


  3. Peter Gobel says:

    Minette, I agree, I hate aversives too. This is what I do: I set up in a low distraction area, with clicker and lots of treats. I bring my hand close to the dog and c/t before he opens his mouth. I’m rewarding not biting. I use the same technique to stop leash biting. This way my dogs still give me those lovely doggy kisses.
    Thanks for all the training tips.


    Minette Reply:

    Excellent! There are a lot of ways, I too prefer the positive but for those insane constant nippers and biters, learning people, clothing and furniture taste bad sometimes works without the regular negatives of other aversive training!

    I too, enjoy a good doggy kiss here and there…but shhh don’t tell anyone 😉


  4. Antoinette Drake says:

    How can I get my dog to stop barking when the dog across the street barks? And it is quite often.


  5. Robert says:

    I’ve got a three-year old Shepard lab mix. He gets “mouthy” when he and my kids (ages 7 and under) are playing on the floor. I’m worried that having them yelp will reinforce that he’s the alpha. Advice?


    Minette Reply:

    Read my article, Help for Your Land Shark there should be a link at the bottom of this article or you can do a search.


  6. Karleen says:


    Thanks for the advice. I haven’t had a puppy for a long time since I usually rescue older dogs, but it is definitely something to keep in the back of my mind, if, as you say, all else fails. I am a mobile dog groomer and I have clients ask me training questions sometimes so I will pass this information on to the ones who have mouthy puppies!


  7. Mai says:

    hey there minette~
    great blog there i actually tried this a few days ago with my pup and it did wonders!. but i didn’t use lotion since i’m afraid of poisoning him. so i went with spicy vinger and chili i dipped my right hand in vinegar and rubbed it with a fresh red hot chili i kept my left hand safe from the vinegar and chili by wrapping it in plastic. so i played with my puppy with only my left hand and everytime he bit my left hand i’d quickly stuff my right hand in his mouth and he’d jerk back trying to shake the taste away a couple of tries later he stopped biting.
    thanks a lot minette i’m sure whenever he has the idea of biting he’d think of chili 😀


  8. Jack Falkner says:

    I’m confused. I was under the impression that dogs loved chilli…meaning cayenne, etc. Am I wrong??


  9. Roberta McIntyre says:

    Thank you for the tips on chewing. My daughter’s dogs chew the edges of the benches and the trim around the glass door from the porch into the main house. They do it out of boredom I think. I tried a flour and water paste with hot pepper mixed in, but that stuck to the surfaces as hard as cement so I was not very popular. Will try the bitter apple.

    My own dog, 5 year Jack Russell, is very good about not barking in the condo except for the two quick shrill rings when the intercom buzzes for someone visiting. She did it the very first time she heard it, and still spontaneously lets out two loud yelps. I move fast, say “no barking” then walk straight to our door, waiting for the company. She stands there trembling in anticipation while I talk quietly saying, “just a minute, just a minute.” Do not know my way out of this one. People do tell me she is the best trained Jack Russel the know. Roberta


  10. Sue Taylor says:

    I wonder if you have a suggestion for discouraging a pup from eating his own poop. My Boston terrier is 2, and has been doing this from day one. I have tried everything that’s sold by vets and over the counter, plus a couple of other so-called remedies. At this point in time, the “give her banana because she’s probably lacking in potassium” doesn’t work, because she probably likes the poop now. I go outside with her to pick it up before she can recycle her meal, but she’s become somewhat cagy – watches for me – delays until I get tired of waiting, etc. If you have any suggestions, they would be much appreciated, because I can’t think that what she is doing is healthy, even if I am getting, as my husband says, “twice the bang for my buck!”


  11. Lauren says:

    I have a dog who has two spots on her front legs that she obsesivly licks. There is no fur left in those spots and sometimes they bleed when she licks. We have tried various sprays, and covering the spots up with bandages that are supposed to have stuff to keep them from licking. She chews them off and licks anyway. We tell her no when we catch her licking and will turn her head away and place a toy over her front legs. She will play with the toy for a while, but always starts licking again. Any ideas on what we could try?


  12. Dennis says:

    I have a 12 month old German Shepherd Australian cattle-dog mix who pulls on the leash when I walk her. No amount of telling her to heel will stop her. Any suggestions?


    Minette Reply:

    you have to teach her what the leash is and what it means with no distractions.

    Read this article and the other ones I mention in it in order to help.


  13. Patricia says:

    I have a 4 month Shih Tzu who loves to nip at my feet and legs when I am walking. I have tried “yelping” loudly, ignoring, etc. but nothing is working with her. Any suggestions?


  14. Linda K. says:

    Our dog was 14yrs old and ate his poop all his life. I also tried everything. The only thing that worked a little was changing his food. Try a very bland food, because what she is eating now is very tasty. So it smells just as good after it’s recycled. Unfortunately it’s just a bad habit. I don’t think they are lacking anything. Good luck.


  15. Carol Robejsek says:

    My 9 year old daughter constantly gets bit by our 11 week puppy. Yes, I know sometimes she brings it on herself, but our puppy tends to seek her out. He doesn’t nip/bite my other daughter like that. 2 examples… 9 year old standing at the table talking with her sister and the puppy comes from the other room and bites her on the back of the knee.
    2nd example, both daughters sitting outside with the puppy, puppy playing in the grass and runs up to the 9 year old and bites her ear. This time he made her bleed and left a good mark on her ear.
    I have read articles about the human yelping when the puppy nips/bites, but it doesn’t appear to work. I have tried everything I know to know success when it comes to my daughter. I want our puppy to see my daughters as his master like he sees me. I need help! My husband now wants me to get rid of the puppy because he goes after our 9 year old.
    I believe we all just need to be trained, puppy included.
    We had to rehome our 3 year old lab mix because she bit my daughter in the face and left her scarred. I don’t want to go through that again.
    You help would be much appreciated. Thank you


    Minette Reply:

    I suggest more exercise and enrolling the puppy and your daughter in obedience class to change the dynamics of their relationship.


  16. sharon sampson says:

    Minette, We got 2 puppies, lab and heeler (they think, I took the last puppy for a promise mom dog would be fixed, and money. I intend to ‘follow up’, humans need consistency, too). I want to be able to brush their teeth and clip their nails and insert thermometers…etc. So I am massaging their gums, not ‘playing’…is this a bad idea? I massage their feet, all is calm, all is right…I think. They get rubbed all over.

    Potty training is interesting. I’ve NEVER had a puppy poop or pee in my house. Once a big malamute I took care of went inside our LOG home and unloaded himself on a ‘natural’ log. Duh, who ever saw trees in the home? Now these puppies were supposedly ‘paper trained’. Ugh paper training to make everything tougher was the below zero weather and lots of snow. Puppies are 7 weeks, too early but now I am glad we got them early as their previous stewards just didn’t get it. Had the puppies sleeping in their beds? They are now potty trained to paper for emergencies (right after awakening while we are leashing them) and they are already asking to go out to poop and pee some more.

    The biggest ‘trick’ for potty training is a kennel. They aren’t that expensive! Worth every single penny. Puppies won’t poo in their kennel and with 2 puppies I didn’t have to make the kennel smaller. Just a bed and a pillow to cover the floor. NO newspaper. Not one accident. Those potty pads are just a dumb idea. They do understand newspaper, the feel, the sound but at 7 weeks they would rather go outside even into the blizzard and 20 below.

    Puppies should come with directions for the new owners!! ‘If you are unable to be ON 24/7 don’t take me home’. This is such an important time! They are learning basics and imprinting. It is simply amazing how capable puppies are at learning. No ‘formal’ training yet just CONSISTENCY. Such as ‘drawing a line’ for STAY BACK. I am blown away how fast they learned that, no stepping over the threshold of their kennel until ‘come’ (and leashed). No stepping over the line in the couch so they don’t bother our older dog. Amazing. On leash, saying ‘come’ leaving a second before dragging them a bit. And now they don’t pull and the walk on loose leash. Never allowing them to pull on the leash. So nice to have puppies walking on a leash so soon! Like you, Karleen, I’ve mostly experience with older dogs. I had no idea how quickly puppies can learn just by consistency and our own calmness! Never will allow anything to be a ‘big deal’. Never yell…I do growl when puppies are biting anything other than their toys. Loudly. Like a surprise to them because we are striving for calm and controlled dogs. We stay calm and controlled. Gotta go watch more on puppy indoctrination to our rules…to become part of our pack. Both our male puppies are well matched…well matched not only because they are identical but they are both Alphas. How does one teach dogs to know the command is for them not their brother? ‘Zip, come’? ‘Jack, stay’? I get separating them but I’d like to start them inside (not in 3′ of snow in their paddock we’ve built for training).


  17. sharon sampson says:

    Dogs are not born knowing human words. Every single thing needs to be taught. No big hurry just brutal CONSISTENCY. Keep watching Chad’s videos and you’ll learn the timing, responses and more timing.

    Think about this; when your dog is pulling what is the correct response? No more going forward for this pup! No angry pulling back, just become a tree. I can’t believe what our 7 week old puppies are doing!! No pulling and loose leash? When I say come I give them a partial second to respond and then pull them (little drag). After a few corrections these guys are actually learning and a loose leash with puppies?


  18. Belle says:

    We gave our dog pineapple a few times & he never did it again. It worked really well. Good luck.


  19. Luanne says:

    I have an 8 week old puppy I am training using treats when she does what I want as a reward. The problem is she is like a shark when I go to give the treat and doesn’t seem to realize the difference between my fingers and the treat. She’s already 15 pounds so I’m not talking a small puppy and has drawn blood twice. I’ve tried several different things like yelling “ouch”, turning my fingers so that she isn’t getting the tips of them, but she just bites down on anything. She’s super sweet about everything else, but not when it comes to this.


  20. Linda R says:

    We have adopted a 8 week old puppy. Have not had a puppy for 20years. After loosing 3 adopted dogs we decided to try a puppy because she grabbed our hearts when we saw her at the kennel. We are senior citizens so this was not a smart idea puppies are more work than we remember. She is precious at 3 months now but the biting and potting on the rug and in every room is driving me nuts. HELP please. I’ve tried so many suggestions


  21. Greg says:

    puppy is 12 weeks and each day she is learning new tricks and playing. my wife works with her every day throughout day. but with me the playing turns to nipping and then she attacks with jumping up on edge of couch, me and everything else. My wife wanted to raise her with rewards which I messed up when puppy started nipping and nipping before I gave her treats i tugged her away from things. I really hope I haven’t messed up the next ten or more years with my pup.


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