Dog nipping is one of the most common vices you will ever have to deal with. As much as we associate it with normal puppy development, it can result in chronic behavior. Well, no one likes a dog that keeps on nipping at ankles and even hands. Therefore, you must learn how to get a dog to stop nipping at an early age.
In this article, we are going to discuss everything you need to know about the nipping habit. We are also going to look at what happens when you do not curb this habit.
Why is my dog nipping at me?
There are several reasons why your dog has suddenly started nipping at you. In most cases, he will target your ankles and sometimes your fingers. If this starts at an early age, you probably do not have to worry so much as compared to adult dog nipping. Well, this can be quite painful if you do not handle it as soon as you can. Some of the reasons why your pup is nipping include the following:
While it might appear odd to observe your pup nipping, it is actually normal. This is especially in puppies who are just starting to teeth. They will need something to chew on at all times. You might be playing with him and he will nip at your fingers.
In other cases, you may stand up to walk away only for him to bite on your ankles. If he has started this behavior at a young age, say 6-8 weeks, he might be teething. It is not unnatural for puppies this age to nip at you and other people.
Secondly, your puppy is learning the environment he is in. he wants to discover how everything, including your body parts, works. This is the same way children want to figure out everything except that puppies do not have hands. They have to use their mouths in order to discover their surroundings. However, once you get to stop your pup from nipping at this age, you will not have any more trouble later.
We all know how much puppies love to play. However, as much as we want to keep up, rough play is not exactly healthy. In fact, some puppies will use their mouths and teeth during play. In other cases, puppies will nip at you in efforts to initiate play.
If you are used to playing rough with your pup, then nipping might be a usual habit. This is because they have a constant need to have something in their mouths. This means that you will have to stop him from unacceptable behavior.
Some puppies nip and bite because they are excited. Once again, this is likely to happen during play. It is natural to engage in exciting activities like chasing while playing with him. However, he might nip at you because he is excited.
When we domesticate dogs, we sometimes forget that they still have their animalistic instincts. For instance, in the wild, your dog would have to fetch for food for himself. This would involve hunting and chasing prey for food. These instincts are still there somehow. You might arouse his h8unting and chasing instincts during play which will result in nipping.
This is actually a more serious scenario. Even though it is rare to have your puppy get aggressive, it does happen at some point. There are various factors that contribute to aggression in dogs. For instance, some breeds of dogs might turn out to be aggression. Age and also the environment may also lead to aggression as well as pain.
Dog nipping at visitors
Some dogs will nip at your visitors. Usually, this has a lot to do with dogs that have poor socialization skills. Now, in most cases, it is not exactly a friendly gesture to have a dog nipping at the guests. It can be quite scaring especially if you are dealing with an adult dog. This is because he has strong teeth as well as his jaws, which could cause an injury to the victim.
This starts off when you adopt the pup. In most cases, change of ownership is a cause of stress and anxiety in dogs. He will be exposed to a new owner as well as a new environment. However, once you adjust the behavior of your dog nipping at you, he will settle.
Understand that he is familiarizing himself with the new surroundings. He ends up creating a new safety zone for himself. In this zone, he is comfortable with you and your family. However, he might not be ready to meet new people yet.
Once you have guests in the house, your dog might behave aggressively towards them. I mean, he has already established a safe zone for him and feels threatened when someone else invades. This might be accompanied by nipping and biting the visitor’s hands as well as ankles.
Some dogs will be more protective of their territory than others. This is especially common with dogs that were bred for security or herding purposes.
What can I do to stop my dog from nipping guests?
I have heard plenty of complaints from dog owners who cannot get to stop their pups from nipping guests. Well, there are so many ways of training a dog out of this habit. However, all this goes back to the reason why he is doing so.
In most cases, a dog will bite your visitors should he feel threatened in any way. Having people over in your house may be a friendly gesture towards you but not towards your dog. In fact, this might arouse his protective instincts that may lead to nipping.
As mentioned earlier, puppies will nip gently and you may not feel pain. However, an adult dog is capable of inflicting injuries to the victim. Therefore, you have to address this issue as soon as possible.
For instance, if your dog is not used to other people, focus on applying socialization methods. Learn what makes him uncomfortable and thus arousing his need to nip and attack visitors. Then ensure that you withdraw the stimuli for this behavior.
For instance, if having a guest approach him is a problem, warn your visitors to steer clear of his ‘safety zone’ usually a crate or bed. You can later teach him how to greet people and also how to be comfortable around visitors.
You will have to invest plenty of time to train him out of the nipping habit. Well, this is usually a time-consuming activity but will definitely help you stop your dog from nipping. We are going to discuss the methods to use in order to stop a puppy from nipping a little later in this article.
Dog nipping and attacking children
This is also another common vice in puppies. Unfortunately, children do not know the acceptable play with dogs. This can actually lead to some kind of misunderstanding between the two. As we mentioned earlier, it is normal for a puppy to mouth and nips to get attention. However, this does not mean that it is okay. You should be very careful with a dog that is biting and mouthing children.
When a dog nips at a child to initiate play, it will most often work. This is because they both want to play with each other. You will have to come in and stop this unacceptable habit as soon as you recognize it. No one really wants to keep an aggressive dog at home.
It gets difficult trying to control a dog that is nipping at children because the behavior gives the desired outcome. For instance, when a dog nips on a child’s hand, the child is likely to screech or even run away. Your puppy, on the other hand, will take this as a way to initiate play.
It is likely that the kid is scared and now has a dog chasing him. This will only promote the habit of mouthing and biting because the dog will get what he wants at all times.
Now you will need a good and productive method of making it stop. For instance, you should not leave the dog with your child unsupervised. Once again, you have to learn a few tricks to break this habit. Well, when dealing with breaking unacceptable behaviors in dogs, it is similar to the methods you use to stop certain behaviors.
There is a possibility that your puppy nipping children are a developed habit. This means that he has adopted it because no one is addressing it. Now, to get your dog to stop nipping, you must eliminate the stimuli and offer something different.
It is the same way you can practice when you want to get out of a certain habit. For instance, if you are working to stop binge drinking, then you have to replace it with another activity. You can opt to go on a hike rather than go to a party with alcohol involved. Replacing these habits with productive activities will surely assist you in killing the habit.
When you notice that your dog is attacking children, offer another activity. For instance, you can throw a ball or another toy to distract him. Alternatively, you can instruct your dog to sit and your child will be able to pet him. Also, ensure that both parties know that rough play is unacceptable and so is mouthing.
In addition, ensure that your exercise your dog regularly. This will get rid of the pent up energy your dog has that is driving him to rough play. I mean, a good morning walk will leave him calm and tired. At this moment, he is unlikely to engage in some of these undesirable habits.
Reasons you should discourage nipping
Well, there are so many reasons why you should not encourage biting and nipping in dogs. In fact, you should take care of this habit from a very early age. Your pup should grow up knowing that it is unacceptable to bite or even mouth people. Well, below are some of the reasons why you should ensure that your dog stops nipping.
Scary to children and guests
As much as you may understand that nipping and mouthing is normal behavior, it can be pretty scary to children. This makes people want to run away taking it for aggression. If you have children, then you must understand how scary it is for them to have puppies nipping their hands or feet.
For instance, when you have a guest in the house, your puppy might nip on them as a way to defend his territory. And because your guest is scared, they are likely to want to run away from the dog. This will only entice the dog to keep chasing them.
This is not only embarrassing but can lead to emotional trauma for children. This is especially if your adult dog is chasing and mouthing kids. Now, if you own a dog who loves to mouth, you need to handle it as soon as possible. You have an obligation to see to it that it does not happen once more.
Could lead to actual aggression
We have repeatedly mentioned that biting is a normal development behavior. However, in the wrong circumstances, it can actually lead to actual aggression. This will have your dog attacking people and inflicting pain. Aggression in dogs requires immediate attention.
To be able to detect aggressive biting from play biting, observe your puppy. During this time, he is going to expose his teeth with a wrinkled face. It is also likely that he will growl while at the same time staring at you.
He will try to exhibit dominance over the victim, which is contrary to normal puppy behavior. In addition, your pup will have the intention of hurting and inflicting pain on the victim.
This being said, you will need to handle it as soon as you can. This is the reason why you should discourage nipping, mouthing and biting from the very start. Read on to discover how to get rid of aggressive biting in puppies as well as adult dogs.
Arouses dangerous instincts
We have already established that most puppies bite and nip with the intention of getting your attention. However, as we have mentioned above, nipping can quickly escalate to aggression. This is unacceptable since we live under the same roof with these dogs. The reaction from the biting can actually arouse dangerous instincts in dogs.
For instance, if your pup bites you and you react angrily, chances are that he will not back down. Dogs love and enjoy a challenge. He is going to react with the same amount of negative energy as you. This is the reason why we do not advocate for punishment as a solution to a nipping dog.
On the same, when a dog nips a child, the child is likely to withdraw. In addition, the kid may run away, which will only arouse the chasing and hunting instincts in your dog. This is in relation to their wild instincts where they hunt and kill prey. Well, there can be possible aggression exhibited in such a scenario.
How to get a dog to stop nipping completely
Every dog owner will have to deal with their dog’s nipping and biting at some point. This means that you should have the basic skills to curb the habit once your dog starts nipping. There are various methods of doing so. However, the best way to approach a behavioral problem in dogs is to always identify where it is coming from. When is your dog likely to nip?
The funny thing about a dog nipping is that he will nip at your kid but not at you. We have already looked at some of the reasons why your dog may nip children. In such a case, you have the obligation to stop the habit before it turns into something more serious.
For instance, you can train your dog to sit whenever he wants to play with your child. This will encourage your child to pet him rather than engage in rough play contributing to nipping.
Well, if your dog is nipping your guests, he needs to understand that you will not allow it. We are responsible for the ways our dogs behave. You will need to teach socialization as well as other alternative behaviors to help you stop the habit. Your guests also need to be aware that your dog is sensitive to new faces.
In addition, you will have to teach your dog how to go to his safety zone. He needs to know how to withdraw to situations that make him uncomfortable rather than engage in a confrontation. For instance, if your dog is not exactly friendly towards guests, teach him to go to his crate. Every time you have someone coming over, instruct him to go to his bed or crate as your guests come in.
In order to get your dog to stop nipping, use the following tricks:
Understand the circumstances causing him to nip
This should be the very first step you take once you see your dog nipping. There are various circumstances in which your dog may nip. In most cases, puppies nip during playtime. When you are playing with a puppy, it is natural for him to engage in some rough play.
When this happens, he can engage in rough play. He thinks that nipping is also a part of playing. You have the obligation to make it all stop. Some of the other causes of nipping may include:
Fear and anxiety
Just like we all do, dogs also experience fear and anxiety when faced with certain conditions. For instance, if a stranger approaches your dog, it might cause him to arouse the fight or flight reflexes. In most cases, your dog will have the fight response to the stranger and thus bite.
Understand that this is not going to be the playful kind of a bite. In fact, this is associated with aggression whereby you find your dog growling angrily. Therefore, it is important to ensure that this does not happen. Warn visitors to approach the dog from the front to avoid scaring him. In addition, your visitors should steer clear of your dog’s safety zone at all times.
Normal development behavior
As we discussed earlier in this article, it is important to monitor your puppy. As much as you don’t find it dangerous when he nips, it can develop into a lasting habit. For instance, your pup will nip your hands trying to understand how they work. It might appear playful or generally safe but it is not. So you need to make it stop by teaching him that it is unacceptable to keep nipping.
Therefore, teach him alternative behaviors should he start nipping. Do not allow him to engage in this behavior whatsoever.
Your pup is in pain
Well, this is another common cause of nipping in dogs. You might be playing with your dog and he suddenly bites you. It could be as a result of an injury or pain in his body. This is especially with the dogs that will nip during rough play.
If so, you will need to examine him to see if he has any injuries on his body. This type of nipping should not take long before it goes away completely.
Address behavioral causes of nipping in dogs
We have already discussed that you should figure out the reasons why your dog gets all nippy. Once you have that in mind already, it is time to address the behavioral causes. For instance, if your dog nips at children, you have to come up with a way to make it stop.
Well, children cannot be considered as friendly to dogs. While your kids will love spending time with the pup, they may not be aware of how to handle them. Therefore, in one way or the other children may encourage the habit of nipping. However, you can teach your children how to play with the dog.
In addition to the above, ensure that your dog is comfortable at home. He needs to feel safe even when you have guests around. In the case where your dog has trouble accepting visitors in the house, use alternative methods to solve this problem.
For instance, ensure that he does not get to see them as they enter. You might also need to take long walks with your dog in areas he can meet other people. This will not only alleviate the fear of people but also help him socialize with people and other dogs.
Teach your puppy how to be gentle
In order to get a dog to stop nipping, you should concentrate on teaching him gentle play. This is not usually as easy as it sounds. However, he needs to know that you do not appreciate it when he engages in rough play. In order to do so, always play games that do not involve any contact with him.
For instance, when your dog is jumping up at you, ignore him completely. Do reciprocate play at all. Some dogs will ignore this and start mouthing your hands in order to get some interaction with him. If he does, refrain from pulling away from his teeth. This is especially when you are trying to get an adult dog to stop rough play.
Instead of pulling your hand away from his mouth, ignore him. Do not move and do not look at him. As we had discussed earlier, dogs engage in these behaviors in efforts to get attention. Once he gets it from nipping, then it is going to be impossible to get him to stop.
You can, however, give him a yelping sound. For instance, once he gets your fingers in his mouth, you can gently say ‘ouch’ to let him know that you are hurting. In most cases, your dog will let go of your hand. Repeat this severally until he drops this habit.
You can also reinforce gentleness by offering your dog a treat. For instance, once you say ‘ouch’ and he lets go, offer his favorite treat. Alternatively, you can also give him praise or his favorite toys. This way, he will always have it in mind that when he does not nip, there will always be a reward.
Don’ts for dog training to be gentle
However, this trick does not always work. This is especially when he feels like you are rewarding him for his unacceptable behavior. Therefore, you will need to draw a line in one way or the other. Do not offer him a treat in order for him to let go of your hand. Instead, only show him the treat once he lets go.
Once again, do not pull away when your dog is mouthing your hand. Earlier on, we talked about how we encourage this behavior by arousing his hunting instincts. Therefore, remain calm and direct him to let go.
If at all you move while he is nipping your ankles, you will only be encouraging him to keep biting on your hand. Dogs have it in them for they are just but scavengers. It is quite easy to arouse the animal instincts in them, especially when you are dealing with mouthing.
Do not yell at your dog even when you want to get him to stop nipping your hand. Now, in the wild, dogs would live in packs. This means that they would associate and keep each other safe. However, once we domesticate them, we immediately turn into their packs.
They, however, are sensitive enough to pick up our energies. This means that if you yell at him, he can notice that you are upset and so he gets upset. Other times, your dog might think that you are cheering him and thus it can get completely impossible to stop him. Therefore, do not shout or hit him in a bid to get him to stop nipping.
Teach biting inhibition
This is actual training that every puppy should be taken through. He has to know that biting to inflict pain on others is unacceptable. Well, as we discussed earlier, sometimes it is quite difficult to get a dog to stop nipping especially when he is only trying to learn how everything in his surrounding works.
However, training a puppy is way easier as compared to training an adult dog. They tend to pick up new habits quickly and thus proving to be effective.
Biting inhibition will involve a lot of activities that we have already looked at above. For instance, you will have to let him know that you do not appreciate it when being bites.
However, the best method to train biting inhibition is by letting him play with other dogs. Well, if your puppy had the opportunity to be raised together with his mother, then you may not have to do this at all. This is because mothers will teach their puppies biting inhibition.
In addition, his siblings will also train him that it is not okay to bite. For instance, when they are playing, puppies will definitely use their mouths. However, it is not supposed to inflict any type of pain on another puppy.
Unfortunately, not all puppies get the privilege of growing up with their siblings. Therefore, some do not get to learn biting inhibition naturally. In the case you adopted a young puppy, it is important for you to ensure that he has socialized with other dogs.
For instance, you can take him to a doggie daycare near you. This will not only aid in socialization but also teach biting inhibition to your puppy the same way he would have learned if he was with his family.
My dog won’t stop biting my hands despite teaching biting inhibition
Even as simple as it sounds, some puppies will continue biting your hands even after teaching biting inhibition. If you cannot get to stop your dog from nipping, then you can apply other methods. For instance, you can apply dog deterrents on your hands before playtime.
A good example of an effective deterrent is white vinegar. Apply a favorable amount of the latter on your hands before you get to play with your dog. This will ensure that he does not mouth your fingers because dogs hate the smell and taste of vinegar.
In addition, you should only encourage play without contact. Ensure that you have a toy in your hand when playing with your dog. Not only will this reduce the chances of your dog engaging in rough play but also stop mouthing. For instance, get a tennis ball, or even a Kong bone toy. This will help you distract your pup whenever he is about to mouth your fingers.
Invest in several toys for your dog. These will help you engage in non-touch kind of play at all times. In addition, they are quite helpful when it comes to playing with children. You should always have a toy in your hands if you are trying to get a dog to stop nipping. This means that whenever your dog wants to bite your hands, throw the toy or simply give it to him.
In addition, when puppies are developing, they will get to a point when they want to have something to chew. This is especially when they are teething.
They will constantly need to chew non-food items, which may also involve nipping your hands. However, there are several types of toys you can get for your dog to chew during this time. It will also help burn the excessive energy and prevent your dog from overexcitement.
Use a leash whenever you have visitors
If you have recently adopted a dog, he might have trouble adjusting to the new home. Well, after a few days, it is possible that he is already adapted to his environments. However, this does not .mean that he is okay and accommodating to other people.
He might act aggressively or even nip at your visitors. In this case, you may consider having him on a leash when you have people coming to your house.
In addition, warn your guests to stay away from his bed or crate. This is because he has already gotten the idea that it is his safe place. Therefore, he is going to react whenever he feels threatened. Also, warn your visitors not to shout at your dog. They should also approach the dog from the front as opposed to behind. This way, your dog will not nip at them in a fight/flight reaction.
Alternatively, you can have your dog go head to another room when you are expecting visitors to your house. Also, get a toy and distract him when you are getting the door to welcome the visitor. You can alternatively offer him a treat to keep him busy when you have guests.
The goal is to replace nipping with more exciting behavior. As we mentioned earlier, you have to offer your dog an optional method to nipping.
Watch out for aggression in a dog
In the first section of this article, we mentioned that it is possible to be dealing with aggression when a dog starts nipping. Therefore, you should be vigilant to notice when this happens. Watch out for signs of dog aggression such as growling and even howling.
Some dogs will also bark in a scary way while staring at the stimuli. Usually, he will be quite aggressive towards the visitors and sometimes children. However, you can be able to get a dog to stop nipping out of aggression.
Dogs that are bred for security purposes such as the german shepherd or even a Labrador will also tend to nip more than others. This can be as a result of aggression that comes with their protective nature. In order to tell whether a dog is nipping out of aggression, watch out for the signs.
These will include a dog in a posture ready to attack. He will also bark and growl while staring back at the subject. In this case, you may consider getting the opinion of a professional dog behaviorist.
However, ensure that you discourage aggression in puppies at an early age. You can do this by teaching him how to be gentle as well as biting inhibition. In the case you are dealing with aggression in an older dog, you may want to dig more into it. This way, you will be able to determine whether it is related to dog dementia. Therefore, seek professional assistance if you suspect aggression in your dog.
Always supervise your dog while playing with children
It is important that you always supervise your kids if they are playing with the dog. As much as puppies are friendly, children are not exactly nice to them. This can lead to an actual act of aggression from either party. For instance, your kid can actually hit the dog which will in return attack them. Even though rare, there have been reported cases of aggression of dogs towards children.
Therefore, ensure that you teach your puppy how to be gentle. Also, educate your kids on the dos and don’ts when playing with the dog. Alternatively, command your dog to sit when your kid is petting them. This should get rid of any misunderstanding between the two. Ensure that the two are not left alone at any given time.
In addition, avoid rough play with your child. Well, it is quite common for kids to want to chase and even wrestle with the dog. Puppies also enjoy this kind of play. However, when it gets too exciting, your dog may nip your child. He may also bite because he is in pain.
Do not punish your dog
You should never consider punishment as a solution to any undesirable habits in dogs. When you are trying to get your dog to stop biting, do not hit or yell at him. This will create a negative impression on your dog. In addition, if you inflict pain on him, he might retaliate with a painful nip as well. Therefore, use the above-mentioned methods to stop a dog from nipping rather than punishment.
Lastly, you will need to know why your dog is nipping. Well, as we have discussed in this article, dogs may nip when subjected to various circumstances. Observe your dog’s notice when he is doing so. This way, you will be able to approach this behavior from the source. For instance, if he bites when you are wrestling, you should not engage in such kind of play any longer.
If he is nipping when you are playing calm and exciting games, withdraw from the play. Do not give him any form of attention. This is because dogs engage in certain behaviors in efforts to get the desired outcome.
You should stop your dog from nipping immediately you notice this behavior. Get to know why he is engaging in unacceptable behavior and stop him. I hope the above methods are going to be of help to you as you get your dog to stop nipping.