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No Thumbs? No Problem! A Dog’s Mouth Can Do the Job!

by Dennis ODonnell on April 29, 2020

We humans rely on our hands for just about everything. We use them to grip, open, tear, catch, and more… everything our earliest ancestors needed to do to ensure their survival and everything we do today to live, work, and play. And while dogs don’t have hands with opposable thumbs like we humans do, they can accomplish many of the same tasks with a different tool: their mouths!

Grip

A dog’s bite serves as a grip to hold onto something: be it a shoe, a remote control or a chew toy. Their strong jaws worked well for them when they had to hunt for their dinner instead of gobbling up kibble out of a puzzle! But now that grip strength allows them to hold items still as they abrade them with their teeth. Your job is to introduce them to the things in your home they are allowed to grip and chew, ie. toys, tug rope and puzzles.

Bite

Unlike human mamas who can hold their kiddo’s hand to keep them from wandering off, mama dogs have to use their bite. And while their bite can be used to hold something, bites can also be, well, bites. Whether in defense or in play, a dog’s bite is an instinctual part of their toolbox. Plush toys and rope tugs are perfect outlets for your dog’s need to bite.

Play

Dogs love play. They use their mouths to work toys, to nip each other playfully, to chomp at water, to do all sorts of fun-loving activities. This is why finding a variety of fun ways to play with your dog can burn off some of their energy and give them positive, constructive ways to use their mouths!

Tear

This isn’t always our favorite way for a dog to use his mouth, as anyone who’s come home from work to a shredded couch can attest. But it’s totally natural for a dog to want to tear. That prey they caught and gripped? They had to eat it somehow. Tearing is an instinctive behavior. Giving your dog appropriate things to tear—a fleece rope toy works great—helps burn off that behavior and leaves your sofa cushions intact.

Many of the things we can do with our thumbs, dogs can do with their mouths. All these behaviors are instinctive, so for a fun, enriching experience, figure out how to work them into your bonding time with your pup!

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