It is very normal for dogs, especially puppies, to explore things with their mouths. The problem is that if they have not been properly socialised within their litter then, in all likelihood, they will not have learned ‘bite inhibition’.
Bite inhibition is when a puppy is playing with another puppy and the other puppy lets out a yelp or squeal to let the puppy know that it has went too far. Puppies/dogs generally do not want to inflict pain or discomfort on other dogs or people but sometime they can get carried away and apply too much pressure. Puppy teeth are almost razor sharp and are designed that way so they can learn pain boundaries from when they are mixing/playing with their litter mates. This is the first thing that most dogs learn but not always.
Further to this playing with people is a whole lot of fun and sometimes they just get carried away. This is where you need to be the litter mate and let your puppy know it has went too far and you don’t approve. This does not mean that you have to inflict a ‘correction’ or scald it as this will not teach the pup anything. The best way for your pup to learn that it has went too far is to allow it to self-learn.
You can speed up the self learning process by letting out a small yelp or squeal when the pup’s teeth firmly touch your skin and stop play altogether. Don’t wait for your pup to actually bite, no matter how gentle this may be, as we want our dog to learn that all biting is unacceptable. If we place a degree of force into the equation this will only confuse your dog therefore it is best to keep things simple and clear. The rule should be that if teeth touch skin then the game stops. End of.
You can resume the game playing a few seconds after your puppy has calmed down and no longer in an excited state. In order to ensure that your dog gets this message embedded you should do tis each and every time teeth touch skin. Further to this you should ensure that this ‘rule’ is to be practised by everyone who interacts with your puppy. This will let your pup know that there are no exceptions and if it wants the fun to continue then it will do well not to bite.