I’ve had 3 clients in the last 2 years whose dogs were nipping or mouthing family members, not in anger but in play. It had reached the stage that the play bites were beginning to hurt, in one case they had broken skin. Fortunately, we managed to sort the issues out, by teaching inhibition, distraction and deterrence techniques. But a contributing factor in all 3 cases was that all the dogs had squeaky toys!
Of course Fido should have toys, but beware of buying squeaky toys, particularly if you intend to work Fido in the shooting field at some stage. Why? Because Fido will quickly learn that in order to get the reward of the squeak, he has to bite down hard.
This can have unintended consequences if the dog is not taught bite inhibition at an early age. You can’t blame Fido for thinking it’s fun and ok to bite down hard on anything: another dog, a bird (in the case of a working dog) or, worse still, human skin.
Of course, removing squeaky toys will not, on its own, stop a dog mouthing. But it’ll be part of the solution. To leave Fido with squeaky toys will be inadvertently to encourage him to continue biting down. In all cases, we should try and develop a “soft” mouth in Fido. As well as teaching a young pup bite inhibition, what I do with my dogs is remove the squeaker from any toys I give them, so that they can enjoy carrying around a toy pheasant without learning to bite down hard to get a squeaky reward!