How to Stop a Dog From Nipping When Excited: Prevent Injuries and Curb Bad Behavior.
Although we would all want to think that our dogs cannot do anything wrong, it goes without saying that all pooches love using their teeth. From chewing on all sorts of things they find at home to making our socks their #1 enemy — both puppies and adult dogs see mouthing as something quite natural. However, learning how to stop a dog from nipping when excited isn’t that easy, especially if playfulness is not the reason it’s even doing it.
We’ve all seen it, and most of us have scars to prove it — dogs love to nip us from time to time to get a reaction. They want us to play, pay attention to them, and probably see if we’re as tasty as we seem. Nevertheless, nipping is quite cute when puppies are involved. If the behavior continues into adulthood, though, you could have a significant problem on your hands.
So, instead of screaming at your dog that you’re not their chew toy, it’s time to get proactive about it. Let’s see how to stop a dog from nipping when excited and why it even occurs.
Figuring out the reasons behind it
We don’t want to burst your bubble, but unfortunately, nipping is also an early sign of lack of impulse control — of course, if’ we’re not talking about puppies. Puppies will go through the teething stage when the new teeth are coming in fast, and their mouths are itchy as crazy. That’s quite normal. Nevertheless, if you have a large dog that could easily take you down…well, casual nipping can turn into bloodshed. These play bites can be sharp and painful, and worst of all — your dog won’t just do it to you. Whoever gets to play with it for a bit might find itself bitten, so there is some danger to it as well.
Learning how to stop a dog from nipping when excited will, however, require figuring out WHY it’s even happening. You never know what’s behind the dog’s intention, especially if it has a rather fearful character or it’s prone to anxiety. So let’s see why you might be in dire need of an anti-nipping guide, shall we?
It wants to play
Obviously, the first reason a dog might engage in nipping is that it’s only looking to play. Dogs are, in comparison to humans, a bit “limited” in terms of what they can do. They cannot play Monopoly or engage in the same games as we do. What’s more, a dog’s mouth is one of the most important parts of its body. Through it, dogs learn more about the world. They can taste the grass, the kibble, and even their owners. So, naturally, nipping is one of the ways they play, both with humans and other dogs.
It’s not that nipping is a huge problem if you have a small dog that doesn’t have very sharp teeth. Tiny breeds won’t be able to draw any blood, although their bites may hurt a bit. It’s the bigger breeds that can cause major issues, as sometimes, they haven’t learned how to be gentle while biting.
How to Stop a Dog From Nipping When excited He doesn’t understand the concept of bite inhibition
Bite inhibition refers to the dog’s ability to know HOW to bite. In essence, by learning from their owners and other dogs where the limit is, dogs can learn how to be gentle with their mouths.
Most of the time, they learn this in their early childhood by playing with other puppies and their owners. For example, you’ve probably seen dogs playing a hundred times by now. They often pounce at each other and bite all over. However, when a dog yelps, the other one is taken aback by it. From that experience, it can draw a very nice conclusion — they’ve bitten too hard and have hurt the other dog. Thus, they’ll slowly learn when to stop and gently nibble.
But here’s the problem — socialization plays a huge part in bite inhibition. So, a dog that’s always kept in the backyard and has little to no contact with other humans or dogs is more likely to bite hard. In contrast, those that have been exposed to other puppies, children, etc. will know how to control themselves and may even grow out of nipping altogether.
Our reaction makes it fun
Of course, one of the reasons a dog might frequently be nipping us is our reaction to it. When a dog bites a human, they usually jump and move faster. That makes the dog think that humans love engaging in such behavior. It reminds them of their little furry friends and only makes them want to nip even more. It’s a game for them, and in most cases, it’s harmless.
Granted, we cannot change our reaction to nipping — it’s not like we’re going to stand still and let the dog do it. But, have you ever noticed that if you stop moving, the dog naturally stops as well? It’s not fun if we’re not giving them the reaction they’re looking for!
Is nipping really that dangerous?
Now, we certainly don’t want to give playful dogs a bad rap. Indeed, dogs love their playtime, and usually, nipping is their way of showing how excited they are. A new game is always a new experience for them, and getting a reaction from someone will tell them more about our world and how they should act.
However, nipping can become dangerous even if excitement is the primary reason it’s even happening. It always depends on how hard they’re biting and if the behavior has been reinforced so many times that it’s now extremely difficult to stop it.
So, yes, in some cases, it can get quite dangerous, especially if it starts as excitement and turns into fear or proper annoyance. You might be surprised, but some dogs do get quite annoyed with humans who don’t know when to stop playing with them. They might engage in some nipping while playing on the couch. But, once a dog, especially one that has a strong character, decides enough is enough, it might start biting harder.
Can anything be done about nipping fast?
Well…fast results require immediate measures. However, we would like you to stop thinking about how to get results quickly and start thinking about how you can put in enough effort for the results to last.
Dogs need our guidance throughout their lives, and figuring out how to stop a dog from nipping when excited will require a lot of trial and error. It will entail plenty of patience on your side, not to mention an early start. The sooner the dog realizes that they have to be gentle with humans, the better they’ll behave in the future.
Still, not all methods are that great if you’re thinking about long-term results. A few might be somewhat effective but will come with certain consequences. Let’s first see what you shouldn’t do if you’re trying to figure out how to stop a dog from nipping when excited. You might be surprised by how many of these sound good in theory but are absolute rubbish in practice.
Methods everyone should AVOID
Showing the dog who the alpha is.
One of the ridiculous things you may find online is that you should pin the dog to the ground so that it knows who the alpha is in the family. Granted, this will stop the dog from nipping you. But that’s only because it’s scared!
No one likes to be put in such a submissive situation, especially suddenly and when they’ve been having fun all along. Remember what we said about dogs and nipping? Sometimes, they’re just trying to get their owners to play with them. So, by pinning a dog to the ground, you’re basically telling it that playing is bad and fear is good.
What’s more, this is one of the more aggressive methods that will surely generate some results. But, the consequences could be dire. We don’t want our dogs to be scared of us. That will only lead to them biting us even more in the future. Fear breeds fear, and over time, the dog will learn to cope with it by biting whoever touches it in an “alpha” sort of way.
Another method many trainers and dog owners swear by is squealing. Although this may seem like a great idea to some extent, you also have to take into account that most dog toys are squeaky. So, by producing a loud yelp, you may warn the dog that they’ve hurt you. However, there’s a 50% chance the dog may get EVEN more excited instead!
Agitating the dog by shaking something loudly in front of it
Remember that scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, when Harry, Ron, and Hermione were supposed to steal a dragon? To make the dragon yield, Ron used some sort of bell to disturb the dragon’s sense of hearing.
You could use the same approach when dealing with a dog that loves to nip when excited. However, as Hermione stated, this sort of practice is quite barbaric. It will stop the dog from mouthing for a while, but it can also lead to some consequences in the future. Some dogs get quite scared by loud noises (like fireworks), so anything similar to that will breed fear in them. What’s more, this sort of method doesn’t teach a dog NOT to nip — it may actually make it nip even more or resort to barking every time we try to do it again.
Throwing things at the dog
What can we say? Some dog owners are just not ready to take care of a dog the way it deserves. Thus, they may resort to throwing things at it if it starts nipping when excited.
Of course, there’s no need to explain why this is wrong. You wouldn’t like someone to throw things at you when you’re excited, right? Then don’t do it to the dog either — it won’t stop it from nipping. In the best-case scenario, it will make it even more playful. At worst — the dog will get annoyed and potentially even aggressive.
Keeping the dog’s muzzle shut
Now, in theory, by keeping the dog’s muzzle shut, we can stop it from nipping us. However, imagine doing that to a large dog; a dog that might not have the right level of impulse control.
Having our hands so close to a dog’s mouth will make it quite nervous. After all, it’s an invasion of its personal space and might remind it of the regular “fights” it has with other dogs. Thus, it won’t yield any long-term results, and it might even cause further issues down the line. If the dog gets nervous every time you put your hand on its muzzle, how in the world will you brush its teeth or get it to stop biting on something horrible?
Spraying the dog with all sorts of liquids
And finally, we have yet another method that will just breed bad behavior. Some dog owners believe spraying the dog with vinegar or something else similarly unpleasant can make it go off nipping fast. However, this method will not sit well with the dog. In fact, it may get scared of us or anyone else that it has been nipping, which would then make it resort to self-soothing mechanisms, such as barking or hiding.
How to Stop a Dog From Nipping When Excited. What to do INSTEAD: anti-nipping methods that WORK
Calm the dog down by tossing food on the floor
Now, when a dog is excited, it’s vital to calm it down first so that the learning process can begin. For that, we suggest using treats to your advantage. When the dog is jumping on you and trying to nip your hands or even clothes, scatter a few treats on the floor.
This method will let the dog refocus a bit by turning its attention to the treats and leaving you free from any bite marks. However, don’t do it too often, especially if your dog loves treats. You don’t want it to escalate or that the dog learns it will get treats if it starts nipping you. In essence, by using this method, we just want to help the dog focus on something else briefly so that we can then move on to other approaches.
Straight-up remove yourself from the situation (give the dog a time-out)
One of the most effective methods that will let anyone stop their dog from nipping is removing oneself from the situation.
Imagine the following scenario: you’ve come home from work, and the dog is trying very hard to show its love for you. Sometimes, that results in a few nips here and there, which may be harmless but are still quite annoying.
Instead of letting the dog gnaw your hand and enjoy itself, try to straight-up remove yourself. Leave the room and wait for the dog to calm down. That way, it won’t have anything to gnaw on, which is the hint it needs to take.
Then, when you come back, try not to make any sudden, “exciting” moves. You have to be calm for the dog to be calm. So, go slowly. Approach the dog, pet it, and give it a treat. But if it starts nipping again, leave the room.
This approach is sort of like a time-out for the dog — and if toddlers are any indication, no one likes getting a time-out, as it’s a serious form of “negative” punishment.
Stop nipping it in its tracks
Another way you could stop a dog from nipping when excited is to stop it in its tracks. Basically, this means you should stand in front of the dog calmly until it settles down.
Dogs thrive on excitement, so your pooch won’t find you standing there very interesting. What’s more, it’ll see that it has crossed some sort of an invisible line, as you’re not giving it your hands to gnaw on.
However, a word to the wise — it’s best not to try this method if the dog is already scared of you or showing signs of aggression. It will most likely see it as a personal attack and will either hide or attack you.
Show the dog how boring you are
Now, we all know that we are not as interesting as our dogs believe we are. Frankly, most of the time, we don’t even know why they find our hands, feet, and clothing so attractive. But, there is a method to this madness, we promise.
In general, when a dog is excited, it wants for everyone else around it to be just as excited, if not more. So, if we are displaying a similar type of behavior, for example, jumping a little bit when a dog is jumping too, they won’t calm down at all. In fact, this will just reinforce the behavior we’re trying to curb!
So, instead of making yourself interesting to the dog — be as boring as possible. Don’t squeal or wave your arms to get the dog to approach you. Stay calm, basically ignore the dog, and if it keeps nipping you even then, scatter some treats so that it can refocus.
Distract the dog with food to help it get used to touching
Some dogs may react to touching or petting by nipping the hands. Of course, this is often seen in puppies that just have a rather playful nature. However, nobody wants to see a big dog react this way, so it’s vital to do something about it.
One approach that might help is again linked to food. While petting the dog, ignore its nips and try to feed it with some treats from your other hand. That way, you’ll let the dog refocus on something else while it’s getting used to being petted. After a while, it won’t react by nipping at your hands anymore, and you may even get to eliminate threats from this equation!
However, do make sure you’re not stuffing the dog with treats. Every single one of these training approaches calls for consistency and repetition. But, that isn’t to say you should use these treats as rewards. They are just a means to an end that will help train the dog to relax when a human’s hand is on it.
Redirect the dog to its chew toys
Dogs love chewing on things, especially us if they find us particularly tasty. However, this sort of behavior can be quite detrimental in the long run. Dogs can easily ruin our homes, chew all our shoes, and even start to see that pattern of behavior as something normal.
Because of that, don’t even think of teaching a dog how to stop nipping without providing it with some truly exciting chew toys. Most dogs love squeaky toys, so aim to get as many of those as you can. Furthermore, some love plushy things too, or toys they can drag around the house.
Whatever the dog likes, try to get it to refocus on that when it starts nipping. If you see that it’s showing its teeth and gnawing at your hand (or someone else’s), throw it its toy.
Redirection is the best approach in this case, and in the long run, it may make the dog stop nipping altogether. Also, carrying a few toys with you everywhere you go isn’t that big of a deal. You can take some of the toys to the dog park too and redirect the dog to them if you see it’s trying to gnaw on some strangers!
How to Stop a Dog From Nipping When Excited. Help the dog refocus with hand targeting
And finally, we have hand targeting. Now, this sort of dog training is especially useful if you’re teaching the dog impulse control. What’s more, it helps curb nipping given that you’ll have to get the dog used to touch your hand without actually gnawing it.
To start, get a clicker and plenty of treats. Place your hand in the air and wait for the dog to touch it with its nose, tongue, or whiskers.
It might help if you rub a treat on your palm first so that the smell attracts the dog. In any case, though, whenever the dog touches your hand, click once and give it a treat. If it doesn’t do it, pull back your hand and wait a bit. Then, try again.
This type of exercise is fantastic if your dog is somewhat unable to refocus with other methods. Furthermore, it works quite well in practically every dog-related situation. We can even use our hands to control the dog’s behavior by guiding it to get off the couch, get out of the car, go into its crate, etc.
Learning how to stop a dog from nipping when excited isn’t too difficult if we know the reason behind it. Still, know that patience and consistency are crucial if you’re looking to stop it. A dog cannot learn not to nip from just one training session. So, aim to incorporate a few techniques and use every chance you have to curb this sort of behavior. In no time, you’ll get a polite, perfectly behaved dog that prefers chewing on its toys than your fingers!