Nipping is defined by playful biting and mouthing of your hands and clothes by your dog, it is common among puppies but can also occur in older dogs that haven’t been taught proper bite inhibition. It is important to remember that it is a natural instinct for dogs to mouth and nip. They explore the world using their mouths. Nipping is very different from true aggression; it’s a form of communication, interaction and play. Sibling play is actually how young pups learn a very important lesson, called bite inhibition. If a puppy bites another puppy too hard, the other pup yelps loudly in pain and stops playing with him. When other puppies bite him, that’s how he learns what the pain feels like. Even puppies that have learned basic bite inhibition from their siblings usually need to be re-conditioned again when they arrive in their new home.
Humans are much more easily damaged than dogs, so it is important that we intervene and curb the nipping even further. A dog without any concept of bite inhibition is both annoying and dangerous to have around. The first decision to make is what level of mouthing/nipping you are prepared to accept, some owners are prepared for their dogs to touch their hands with their teeth as long as no pressure is exerted, while others want to give the message that no tooth contact is acceptable.
5 Steps to Stop Dog Nipping
- When your puppy/dog does nip, stop playing with him immediately. Let him know that it hurt by saying Ouch, or by making a yelping sound. As soon as he lets go, turn away from him and refuse to play any longer.
- Teach your dog that you are NOT the toy. Replace your hand with a toy and give plenty of praise when the chewing has been re-directed towards the toy.
- Give him something else to think about, after he has nipped you; make him sit, or lie down. Then reward appropriately.
- Dog nipping can be encouraged during game playing. When playing with your dog avoid playing games that include waving your hands, tug of war or asking him to jump up. Playing fetch and retrieve games is fine as long as your dog knows to drop the toy, that way he is not fighting over the toy with you.
- Be consistent. Decide what behaviour is acceptable and stick to it.