Why Do Dogs Nip At You?
[We'll Tell You Everything]

Aaron Rice Expert Dog Trainer
Written: January 17, 2022

If you’re wondering what is meant by “Nipping,” you’re not alone. When dogs are excited, they tend to grab at our arms, legs, or even hair. This behavior is called Nipping or Mouthing. It is common in puppies as well as adult dogs. Sometimes, this behavior can be pretty annoying or scary as you don’t know when a playful bite may lead to injuries, especially around small children.

Kids don’t have any sense of surroundings when they are playing, as the same applies to dogs when they are extremely happy or energetic. 

Some puppies that bite when they are playing stop doing it when they grow up. Unfortunately, some dogs perform this action even when they become adults. If you don’t teach your dog to stop biting or nipping, you might have difficulty spending quality time with them.

Why Do Dogs Nip?

Though there are no specific reasons why your dog or puppy nips you when they are excited, here are some common causes for their behavior:

  • Most probably, nipping or mouthing calms them down. Having something to bite makes them relaxed.
  • Your dog knows that nipping makes you move. Adult dogs and puppies will nip you if they need something from you. Once they understand that you will respond to them when you get bit, your dog will use this trick.
  • They might want you to play with them. This is the most common reason why dogs might nip you.
  • Your dog likes to have a playful wrestle with you or other dogs. You may see this behavior when you try to take their favorite blanket. Dogs love to have a Tug of war game in these situations. When dogs play with each other, they may bite them here and there to provoke them to play harder. The chances are, your dog thought you also liked to wrestle with them.

Dogs and puppies will express their excitement by spinning, barking, sprinting, and nipping, as you might have guessed. Some might wonder, “why do dogs nip at heels?” and “why do dogs nip at ankles?” There’s no specific reason here. Your dog will bite the closest thing available near to their mouth, be it fingers or heels.

Dogs spend so much time nipping and chewing, playing with their human, and exploring new things. Of course, they also like playing with other people. Puppies bite on our fingers and toes, and they use their jaws and teeth to inspect people’s bodies. They like having things to chew. 

Around the time your dog is seven weeks old, this type of behavior is cute, but it’s not so lovely when they are two or three years old—and a lot bigger!

It’s critical to train your dog in teaching to control their mouthy behavior. You can teach this lesson in various methods, some of which are more effective than others. The final focus is for your dog to quit altogether mouthing and nipping people. Perhaps the most crucial objective is to teach them that human skin is extremely sensitive; thus, they must be very delicate when playing with their mouth.

How To Stop This Behavior?

We have made this section into two sections. 

  1. Methods to avoid 
  2. Proper methods to use

Methods To Avoid

Grabbing the dog’s muzzle 

This is not the best way to make your dog stop nipping or biting. Forcefully closing your dog’s mouth will do nothing but make them more aggressive and uncomfortable. And you will have difficulty in the future when trying to brush your pet’s teeth or trying to get something out of their mouth.

Remember this: Do not try to touch your dog’s mouth anytime they are very excited. 

Similarly, avoid slapping your dog’s muzzle or pulling your arms and feet when they mouth. Doing so will only increase your pain. In response to slaps, they will play harder, thinking it’s a game. So avoid slapping and pulling at any cost.

Physical Overpowering

In the old times, trainers used ‘Alpha Roll‘ to exert dominance by pinning the dog onto the ground, like how wolves show power on others in the wild. If you use this unconventional method, you may see the result. Your dog may stop biting you for that moment or even in the future. But they’ll be scared of you.

We strongly advise you never to use this method as you may hurt yourself and your pet in the process. Plus, we want our pets to love us and not be scared. Rather than using aggressive and violent methods and rules, there are many ways in which you can teach your dog to remain calm and help them channel their excitement in other ways.

Spraying water or any other substance

People who need to get rid of this behavior will often spray water. Even though this works immediately, it is pretty unpleasant for your dog. How would you feel if someone sprayed water on your face? Doing so will teach that you or strangers are a threat to them. Your pet will become more aggressive, and it’s less likely they listen to your commands.

The more you use force, the more it’ll be challenging to teach them the correct behavior. We need calm pets and the key to achieve it is to be patient. 

Throwing Things At Your Dog 

Throwing things at your pet when they bite you while they are excited is not going to help at all to stop them from not biting you. It would do much more harm than benefit. As we said, this method may help make your dog stop chewing or biting for the moment. But in the future, your dog will act out of aggression if you or someone else picks an object, thinking you will throw it at the dog. 

To conclude this part, if you use harsh rules and methods that inflict pain and discomfort, your dog is less likely to listen to you. All these actions will lead to more biting and aggressive behavior in the future

We are again reminding you not to use said methods; certified professional dog trainers do not approve them as the result may not be as positive as you expect.

Many animal behaviorists have stated that harming or applying force in disciplining dogs or animals, in general, will have detrimental effects for both the animal and the human. Prolonged use of violent and painful methods and rules in training will make the animal susceptible to retaliate out of aggression and anger. 

The best example to clear the fog is how animals are mistreated and trained using painful and violent procedures in the circus. Gradually, the animal will develop a grudge towards the trainer and attack them sooner or later

Let us now discuss the better methods and tricks that you can adopt.

More Tips To Stop Dog Nipping

Let’s be honest here when you’ve got an adult dog pulling and chewing your arms and sleeves, your mind will be asking you to stop them now instead of looking for a detailed training program. But patience is the key, and trust us, it will pay in the end. There’s no need to use those Alpha Rolls and fist throwing when you’re with your dog. Save that for later when you’re in a nasty situation with humans. 

Here are some trainer approved tips that you can use to teach your dog to stop chewing on your stuff:

Toss The Treats

This is one of the easiest tricks that you can use in training your ground. Grab some treats and then scatter them on the ground when your dog is jumping around you. Sniffing and finding the treats from the floor helps most of the dogs in calming them. 

You might have a tough time trying to teach your dog when they are energized. Once they have calmed down after eating their treats, you can start training them to channel their excitement into something other than biting and then reward them for behaving correctly.

Make Yourself Relaxed

Most of the dogs get excited because you are behaving similarly. All the squealing and yelping makes them think that you are also having fun. Why? What makes noise when it gets bitten? Toys. When you squeal, you are no different than a toy for them. 

Make yourself calm and relaxed. Don’t be too excited around your dog, especially if you have a very active dog. Pair the previous trick with this method, and you have somewhat solved the problem.

Invade Their Space

If you have left your dog loose and they are behaving erratically, one thing you can do is invade their personal space. No need to push, pull or shout – walk up to your dog close. After a couple of tries, your dog will calm down and stop biting you. 

The reason is that anything more significant than your dog seems a little bit intimidating for them. You’re giving a message that you are in charge and you have the situation in control. But do not use this method if your dog is already scared. Your dog may attack you, thinking you are a threat to them.

Leave Your Dog Alone

If your dog still tries to bite on your arms and toes, ignore and leave them alone for some time. Exit the room immediately. Get up, walk away and close the door. You will have to repeat this to properly message that you don’t like it when they nip on your fingers and other body parts. 

After repeating this a few times, your dog will likely understand that you are not playing a game and you don’t like getting bitten. Who wants a toy that doesn’t make any noise anyway. 

Get Help From Certified Trainers

If you cannot change your dog’s habit of nipping and biting, the final and best method is to get the help of a certified professional dog trainer. This is necessary if you think your adult dog’s playful and silly bites have now become a little aggressive. We recommend you consult a certified dog trainer or any animal behaviorist in your area. 

With the help of these certified professional trainers, it would be effortless to train your dog that they are not supposed to bite you or anyone around. You can enroll your dog in several coaching programs and services where they’ll be trained to get rid of nipping and mouthing.

Concluding Thoughts

Most of us do not enjoy getting bit and nipped by adult dogs as it can be very painful. There are various tips and tricks that you can use from the list you read earlier. When you pull or wave your fingers in front of your dog, they might think you are playing a game and may nip or bite harder.

The key is to be patient and reward your puppies when they behave correctly. Asking the help of certified dog trainers will benefit you if you cannot teach them yourself. They will use proper methods to train your dog.