Dogs may develop the habit of nipping at some point in their life, puppies, in particular, will engage in nipping as they develop. Thus, we can say that nipping is part of natural development behavior in puppies.
However, you will have to stop your dog from nipping before it is too late. If you do not correct nipping, it can turn out to be dangerous. Your dog may actually develop aggression which makes him unfriendly to you and even visitors.
In this article, we are going to look at some of the most effective and practical methods How to stop a dog from nipping. In addition, we will discuss the circumstances in which your dog may nip.
Why do dogs nip?
As we have mentioned above, it is not unheard of to find a dog nipping. In fact, it is a common habit amongst puppies. However, you should be careful in order to ensure that it does not develop into a chronic behavioral issue.
Before you embark on a journey to sort this problem out, examine him to notice when he nips. What is the motivation behind nipping? Well, this means that you will have to spend some time trying to figure it out. Below are some of the circumstances in which a dog may nip at you or even your visitor:
If you have recently adopted a puppy, say 4-6 weeks, you will have to deal with nipping. This is the time he is teething and at the same time trying to figure the world out. Therefore, watch out for teething as a cause for nipping. Puppies are born without teeth.
However, at the age of 4 weeks, he will grow the temporary teeth, which will lead to nipping every now and then. This is because it is going to be itchy and quite uncomfortable for your dog during this time.
In the case that your puppy is nipping because he is teething, you should take care of him. In addition, do not encourage mouthing at this stage even though it is not painful. We shall discuss some of the ways to take care of a teething puppy.
In most cases, we adopt puppies and train them so that we can reinforce desirable behaviors. However, a puppy may nip at you in efforts to greet you. This means that he has not been taught the proper way to socialize with people and other dogs. For instance, you may observe your dog nipping at visitors when they arrive. He might be doing so in efforts to say hello to them.
In some cases, a dog may also start nipping because of aggression. Even though it is rare to have an aggressive dog, it does happen. Usually, dogs will express aggression when frustrated or in pain. For instance, if you keep hitting him, he might react in an aggressive manner.
However, it can be quite difficult trying to differentiate aggression from playful mouthing. We are going to look at some of the ways in which you can be able to detect dog aggression later in this article.
This is the most common situation in which most dogs are likely to nip. It happens to almost every dog, especially in puppyhood. This is actually where dogs develop the habit of nipping. If you do not address this problem, it can turn out to be chronic.
For instance, you might find it all fun and games when you are playing with your puppy. He will nip on your fingers and even clothes during play. As much as this is okay and normal at this age, you should not allow it. This is because your dog will keep on nipping everyone even when his jaws are strong enough to hurt the victim.
Therefore, you will need to come up with a way to stop your dog from nipping as soon as you observe the habit.
Dogs and Children
I have heard several people complaining about their dogs who will nip at children. Some dogs will not actually nip at adults at all. This, however, can be a result of several reasons. Children are not exactly friendly to dogs. In fact, some dogs will not engage in any form of play, based on previous experience with dogs.
In other cases, your dog may react aggressively towards a child. For instance, once you leave the two unsupervised, a lot could go on. Your kid will most likely engage in play with the dog. Initially, this might be going well until something happens.
For instance, your dog may nip at the kid who will, in turn, pull away. Note that this is only going to cause more excitement for your dog. This is because by pulling away, the kid is only arousing the dog’s hunting instincts. To make it worse, if the child runs away, your dog will get excited even more.
Therefore, once you learn that your dog is nipping at a child, you need to stop it immediately. Below are some of the most effective methods to stop a dog from nipping children:
No contact with skin
You should discourage any type of play that may involve contact with the child. Therefore, create some time and invest in ensuring that your child has a toy every time he plays with the dog. Also, teach children how to play with the dog at home. For instance, teach them how to distract the dog’s attention when they are nipping.
As you focus to have your puppy fully trained, you should also teach your child not to wave hands in the face of the dog.
Teach children acceptable play with the dog
It is important that your kids understand the acceptable form of play with the dog. For instance, they are not supposed to hit the dog. Well, you can only be able to do this by ensuring you supervise the two every time they are playing.
They can actually turn out to be a great relationship between the dog and child. However, each one has to know their limits, acceptable and unacceptable behavior. There are several processes that you will have to follow for you to be able to train your dog to be around children. They include:
Most dog owners forget to socialize their puppies. Well, it is essential to understand that puppies learn to pick habits at a very young age. When he is about 8-16 weeks old, they are most likely to learn how to be comfortable around certain situations as well as people.
Therefore, invest some time to introduce these situations to him. However, you should do it carefully so that you avoid anxiety issues later in life.
As we had mentioned earlier, kids are not always the best company for your dog. However, a dog that knows how to play and be around children will not cause you any problems. Teach your children to be well behaved before you actually start introducing your dog to them.
Ensure that he is able to meet children of different age groups every now and then. Your puppy will grow up with the idea of how to engage with kids.
Introduce certain commands
Well, as we all know, once we adopt our puppies, we are left with the task of teaching them a few commands. This is also necessary when you are training a dog how to socialize with the kids. These will definitely introduce obedience. However, with children, some dogs may refuse to obey.
This is because, in the wild, dogs would live in packs. Each pack has a leader and the others follow the commands of their leader. This is the same way with dogs at home. He wants someone to be in charge, which in this case will be you. He might think that the child is not above him and thus refuse to obey the commands.
Therefore, you will have to train him that only the two-legged members of the family are above him. Teach him how to obey commands despite coming from a child. For instance, in order to stop a dog from nipping, teach him the sit command. This way, whenever he nips, which is most likely to happen during play, teach your child to command him to sit. Always make sure that he is sitting when the child pets him.
Get toys that they can both enjoy
Children’s toys are not the same as dog toys. However, you can introduce your dog to the child’s toys in order to initiate safe play between the two. Well, this is not going to be the easiest task but then again it works when you want to curb nipping.
For instance, some toys for your children may be exciting your dog. In return, he will be tempted to steal and play with which may cause chaos in the house. In addition, your dog may end up nipping or even knocking the child down.
To avoid this, you can teach them to play together using the same toys. Once again, you will have to invest some time to teach him a few commands. For instance, teach him to ‘leave it’ once he is pulling the toy from a child’s hands.
Do not force a relationship between the two
Training your dog to associate with children should be a slow and fun process. Watch out for how he reacts towards the child. If your dog does not appear interested in the child, so not force the relationship. For instance, you should not hold your dog in order for the child to pet him. Instead, Command him to sit and let the child pet him calmly.
In addition, teach your kids how to pet him gently. This way, your dog will not take it as an initiation for rough play. Also, avoid leaving both of them alone with each other. Always have someone in the room as the child learns to associate with the pup.
Behavioral Causes of Nipping in dogs
As with every other behavioral issue with dogs, you must first understand the reason behind it before you can address this problem. There are certain situations that will actually lead to nipping in dogs. We are going to discuss some of these behavioral reasons that lead to this habit as we outline how to stop a dog from nipping.
When a dog is subjected to certain situations, there is a likelihood of him nipping. We have already discussed why dogs nip on children. In most scenarios, it is because he is trying to protect something of his. For instance, when a dog is sleeping, he can actually bite, if approached in an aggressive way. We all know that dogs are sensitive to movements as well as noise.
For instance, when he is sleeping, do not approach him at all, instead, let him be. This is why we insist on getting a crate for the dog, a place where he can feel safe from external distractions. Therefore, do not startle him when he is in his sleep if you are trying to stop your dog from nipping.
Your dog may also nip when you approach him when he is eating. He has the need to protect his food, just as he would in the wild. In fact, once you feed him, you should leave him to enjoy the meal. Discourage children or guests from approaching him he is feeding.
Whenever a dog is subjected to fearful situations, for instance having strangers in the house, he has the fight/flight reflex. Well, in these cases, he is most likely to fight since you are in his territory. By fighting your dog will nip at the subject in a way to inflict pain.
For example, if the stranger approaches the direction of our dog’s crate, your pup might nip their ankles or hands. If you own a big dog, this is going to be scary and probably painful. Therefore, warn your visitors from approaching your dog’s crate. If you are in the process of making him stop nipping, ensure that he is in another room when you have visitors.
Also, initiate the process of socializing him with people. He needs to learn how to be around people without nipping or feeling threatened.
In most cases, we tend to forget that your dogs are also emotional. Well, a dog is actually dangerous when he is frustrated as not only will he nip but also exhibit aggression. Therefore, you will need to watch out especially if you have children in the house. Frustrating a dog can be as easy as a child hitting him, or even poking him in his sleep.
In other cases, you might be playing with him when he is eating. For instance, withdrawing his bowl when he is eating can also cause frustration. The bottom line is that digs nip when they are frustrated. Therefore avoid subjecting a dog to frustration as you make an effort to stop him from nipping.
Dogs are territorial creatures. This means that they are willing to protect you and the household at all times. At the same time, your dog will definitely protect his toys, crate or even bed. Therefore, nipping can be a territorial habit that you will need to address.
In fact, in a quest to protect his boundaries, it is likely that your dog will nip to show dominance. In order to address territorial behavior in dogs, you will have to teach him to be calm. Also, I cannot stop emphasizing the need for you to protect him.
If he is not used to having people around the house, take him to another room instead. Ensure that he feel safe in your home and also urge your visitors to keep a distance from him. In addition, do not approach the dog from behind as he might be startled and bite in return.
However, you must take a few steps in your efforts to socialize him. Take it slow until he is comfortable with having guests around. You can also use a leash anytime you have visitors so that you will be able to control him.
Injury causing pain
This is another reason for your dog to want to nip. For example, you might be playing with your dog and he suddenly nips at you. Well, this could be as a result of an injury or pain. If he does not usually bite, consider taking him to the vet’s office. Your vet will be able to examine him properly and also offer treatment in case he is injured.
Other forms of illnesses like arthritis could also cause pain which will result in dog nipping. Therefore, if you suspect that your dog is ill, get the vet officer to check it out at once.
This is probably the most common reason for a dog to nip. Well, not that they hate it but he might think that nipping is part of the game. This is the reason why we insist on gentle play at all times. Rough play is likely to cause your dog overexcitement which leads to nipping.
As we move on to the next section of the article, we are going to look at some of the ways in which you can be able to reinforce gentle play.
How to stop a dog from nipping
Once you identify your dog’s nipping, it is important to stop him from engaging in the habit. However, it is not always easy, especially when you are working to stop an adult dog. This section of this article is going to highlight some of the most effective ways to stop a dog from nipping.
Teach him gentle play
The one thing that you should be sure of when you are looking to stop a dog from nipping is that you are going to invest some quality time in training. As mentioned earlier, it is quite easy to train a puppy than it is to train an adult dog. Therefore, if you have recently adopted a puppy, it is time to curb nipping.
In most cases, your dog will nip during rough play. It is quite possible that he does not understand any other form of play. In fact, when you are playing with him, he will have the same energy as you. As a result, you should avoid engaging in rough play whatsoever. Instead, teach him gentle play and also how to take treats from your hands as gently as possible. This way, you are going to be able to prevent nipping.
However, how exactly do you train a puppy to be gentle? One of the reasons why they bite is because it is only natural for them. I mean, they do not have any other means to try and understand their surroundings. You should not prevent a puppy from using his mouth. This is because he needs to chew in order to burn pent up energy as well as strengthen his jaws.
Teaching a puppy to be gentle will involve a lot of bite inhibition techniques. The goal is to let him know that you do not appreciate it when he bites you or your guest. In fact, he should learn that mouthing people is completely unacceptable and unhealthy.
This is the most effective method to curb nipping in puppies. There are several methods of training bite inhibition. You can be able to do it by yourself whereby you restrict your pup from biting. For instance, if you are playing with him, ensure that he does not mouth your fingers or even feet.
When he does, stop the play and ignore him completely until he lets go of your hand. Only then are you supposed to resume play? However, ignorance does not always work. This is because he might use nipping and biting to get your attention and thus making it a repetitive cycle.
Alternatively, once your pup is about to nip, throw a tennis ball and instruct him to get it. This way, you will distract his attention from nipping and to the ball. Well, this will work temporarily as he still does not understand that biting is not acceptable. It is best used when you are trying to distract him from nipping at your guests.
Bite inhibition is actually best taught by mothers. In most scenarios, puppies are born in a big family and are able to associate with each other, including their mother. The mother will be able to successfully stop a dog from nipping from a young age. However, this is not always the case.
This is because we sometimes adopt puppies when they are very young. In so doing, we deny them the opportunity to learn from their mothers. Therefore, we become responsible for training them on how to stop nipping.
How do I teach bite inhibition to my pup?
Teaching bite inhibition by yourself is quite a task. However, when if you are doing it correctly, it should work just fine. Well, we talked about ignoring the behavior. However, we also have to remember that ignorance is not exactly effective to perform well. Therefore, you will need to permanently eliminate biting. You can be able to do thief following the following techniques:
Always have a toy in your hand when playing with your puppy. It is okay for him to mouth and chews toys as long as they are not harmful to his health. There are several types of toys that you can get for him to play with and chew.
For instance, does your puppy nip at you when you get home? This could be as a result of excitement that you are back after he missed you all day long. If this is the case, always carry a toy when you leave home. This way, you can offer him the latter to distract him from biting.
Alternatively, you can also train him that it hurts when he bites you. For instance, when he is mouthing your finger and ends up nipping at you, gently produce a yelping sound. Do not yell at him nevertheless. However, resist from pulling your hand away as it might stimulate him to bite even more. Yelp until he lets go. Well, just be sure that he does not like the yelping sound as he will continue doing so.
Spend some time training him a few commands. For instance, ‘stop’ or ‘no biting’ should do it for you. Whenever he nips or bites you, command him to stop. Once again, you should refrain from shouting and yelling at him. Do not in any situation consider hitting or even punishing your dog for biting.
Take him to doggy day-care
We had already mentioned that dogs learn bite inhibition from their mothers. However, this is not always the case. This is because puppies tend to be separated from their mothers when they are adopted. Once you adopt him, he will probably have to live with you, and only you.
Therefore, he does not have other dogs and puppies to learn from. However, you can take him to a day-care center in order to socialize and play with other puppies. Well, if he is a biter, he is going to learn that it is not allowed.
For instance, your puppy will learn bite inhibition from other puppies. When they are playing, they use their limbs as well as mouth to play with their counterparts. However, in the case your pup nips at another, all the puppies will not want to play with him again. This is how he learns that biting is not only unacceptable to you but also among his kind.
Address stress and anxiety
In some cases, dogs bite out of anxiety and fear. Well, this is not unheard of since dogs take some time to adjust to any form of change. For instance, I have had a dog owner complain about their adult dogs. As mentioned earlier, puppies are quite easy to train as compared to adult dogs.
In fact, adult dogs will usually bite out of aggression, which can pretty much be dangerous to you, children and even visitors. We are going to look at dog aggression a little later in this article.
Stress and anxiety can also result in dog nipping. For instance, if you recently brought a puppy home, it is going to take some time before he can fully adjust to the new environs. During this period, any outsider will appear as a threat to your puppy.
He will bite when startled, or even bite your visitors. This is due to the anxiety he has been subjected to in the presence of the stranger. Well, he will bite at any strange movement in efforts to defend himself.
It is therefore important that you ensure he is comfortable at all times. Get him a crate and teach him that it is his safe place. This way, once he feels somewhat threatened, he will always go to his crate. This includes when there is a knock at the door. However, you may refrain from having visitors until your dog has adjusted to the new environment.
It is only natural to feel out of place and at the same time anxious when he is in new environs. To treat anxiety, ensure that he knows his safe space. In addition, always leave some exciting toys with him whenever you leave the house. This way, he is going to be occupied throughout the day. This will reduce his stress and anxiety levels.
Teach him how to greet people
Some dogs will nip at you and other people in efforts to say hello. Well, nipping, in this case, will most likely be accompanied by jumping. Therefore, you will need to get some time to train your pup how to greet people. When you get home, it is likely that your pup will be overexcited. As a result, he will jump at you to greet you as he would another puppy.
In the wild, dogs would greet each other by rubbing their noses. However, you are definitely at a higher level for him to reach. This does not mean that he is not going to try and reach your face. Therefore, the first thing you should be concerned to address is the jumping behavior.
You have to figure out a way to let him know that it is not acceptable. For instance, when you get home, do not open the door immediately for as long as he is jumping. I know you are also excited to see your dog as well. However, letting him jump at you means that it is okay for him to jump in efforts to greet other people as well.
When you get home and he can see you, you can delay your entrance until he calms down. Well, my advice is that you do not get a glass door where he can see you. In fact, open the door slowly and if he is still jumping, close it. Dogs engage in behaviors as a way to seek a desirable outcome.
The truth is, the moment you open that door, he will jump. Give him a few seconds to settle. Repeat this until he is calm and only then can you enter comfortably.
Alternatively, you can get down to his level. This way, he will not have to jump at you trying to give you a kiss in the form of greetings.
Watch out for aggression
Aggression is not uncommon in dogs, especially older dogs. The breed of your dog will also determine the possibility of him getting all riled up to a point of biting. Aggression is quite different from playful mouthing. It is not common to get a puppy who is all aggressive for no reason. In older dogs, aggression can be as a result of dementia that comes with old age.
However, we cannot disregard the possibility of your puppy acting aggressively. This is especially when he is feeding, or has major socialization issues going on. You can be able to treat aggression in puppies by introducing him to people and other dogs.
For instance, if you have a Golden Retriever Puppy, do not surprise when he acts aggressively towards visitors. The same goes for the German Shepherd. This is usually associated with their initial breed purpose, hunting, and herding respectively. These traits may not disappear even after domestication.
If you are worried about your dog having aggression issues, then what are the signs? Well, an aggressive pup will snarl and bark aggressively towards guests, children and even other animals. He will also have a wrinkled face and expose his teeth ready to attack. In such a case, you may want to consult a dog behaviorist for assistance.
If you have an older dog suffering from dog dementia, it is important to warn your guests about him. In fact, he might also react aggressively towards you as well. Therefore, be careful and provide the necessary care.
Encourage non-touch play
This is an important lesson for all puppies, and more so puppies with the habit of nipping. You should not play games that will require any form of touch. For instance, surround yourself with a lot of toys when you are about to initiate play.
For instance, you can get a few balls for him to fetch. Not only will this provide the kind of stimulation he needs but also help to burn extra calories.
In addition, you can get a tug-of-war kit and play with him. This will help him with his mouthing behavior and also strengthen his jaws. In the case, your dog still wants to mouth, be sure that he is not teething. If he is, then get him a few chew toys to help with the itchy gums.
Desensitization and counterconditioning
This is considered to be among the top methods to correct undesirable dog habits. However, you will have to locate the stimuli for the behavior you are looking to correct. For instance, what triggers your dog to start nipping? We had indicated that you must recognize the source of a behavior before you are able to stop a dog from nipping.
Is it that your dog does not like children or visitors? Does he bite when you come home from work? Or when you are about to feed him? These are some of the questions you should answer before you initiate the desensitization and counter-conditioning as a method to eliminate these behaviors.
A good example of this method is when your dog nips at children and visitors. Well, this is not to say that he hates them, but it means that he suffers from socialization disorders. Using the method of desensitization and counter-conditioning, you can be able to comfortably curb this behavior.
For instance, introduce him to children using this method. Have the child join in when you are playing with the dog. Well, he needs to know that he has no dominance over the two-legged members of the family as said earlier.
If your dog nips at the child, at first sight, withdraw from playing. Whenever he approaches to nip, have your child offer him a treat instead. He is going to learn that your kids are not exactly harmful to him. This is going to create a positive association with the child as opposed to violence and rough play.
All in all, you are going to have to stop your dog from nipping. This will avoid future issues with aggression that might turn out to be problematic. Understand where all this is coming from before you get to start training.
If you recently adopted a puppy, you should understand that he is probably going through a transformation in order to adjust to new environments. Therefore, there is a need for you to make sure that he is as comfortable as possible.
In addition to the above, spend some time with your puppy. Long morning and evening walk should help you reduce the extra energy that may lead to nipping. Also, ensure you have plenty of toys for your dog to play with. As we have mentioned above, it is essential that you enhance the non-touch kind of play. Teach your dog that it is not acceptable to have his mouth on your skin.
You can also get a leash for when you have visitors. This is especially when you have a large dog that may scare or even injure your visitors.
Alternatively, you can instruct your dog to always go to his safe space whenever the doorbell goes off. Some dogs are scared of doorbell sounds which immediately activates his fight or flight instincts. In such a case, your dog may react aggressively due to possessiveness and territorial nature.
Lastly, spend quality time with your dog. Monitor his behaviors as well as stressors. Eliminate anything that causes him stress, fear or anxiety. The goal is to have a happy and comfortable dog at home. Do not punish or yell at your dog for nipping. The above-discussed tips should help you stop a dog from nipping at all times.