Does Your Dog Nip?

Nipping, or biting, often occurs in young puppies. It’s a very common behavior problem and one that can be easily resolved, so if you have a puppy who nips or plays too roughly, don’t get too upset about it. Here’s how to handle it.

Why do puppies nip?

It’s perfectly normal for puppies to bite when they play. It’s part of dog behavior and they do this with their littermates and with their mother from the time they get teeth and start to explore and play. But puppies soon learn something called “bite inhibition” with their mothers and siblings. When they bite too hard or play too roughly, their littermates will stop playing with them. And no puppy wants to be ignored or left out of the pack. If a puppy bites his mom too hard while he’s playing, she might nip him in return to tell him to mind his manners. Puppies learn very quickly that they need to curb their nipping behavior and play more gently if they want to be part of the gang.

However, when puppies leave their dog families and go to live with humans on their own, they often don’t make the connection between bite inhibition with their siblings and bite inhibition with people. If they nip or play too roughly with people, they have to learn this lesson again. Fortunately, they will learn quickly when you remind them.

Teaching your puppy not to nip

If your puppy nips or plays too roughly, you can teach him better behavior by mimicking the same things his littermates do. When your puppy nips or plays too roughly, you should let out a loud YELP and stop playing with him for a few minutes. Let him know that his behavior hurt. Then you can continue playing. If he nips or plays too roughly again, you should YELP again and stop playing for a longer period of time. If he nips yet again, you should YELP and take a full time-out with your puppy. Stop playing, walk away, and don’t speak to him. Don’t have any contact with him for at least 15 to 30 minutes. Ignore him. After this time, you can interact with him again but don’t immediately return to playing with him.

If you follow these suggestions each time your puppy nips or plays too roughly, he should modify his behavior in just a few days and stop the nipping and roughhousing.

You should also be sure to reward your puppy for calmer, gentler behavior. Pet him gently and let him know that you like calm, relaxed behavior. Give him a treat when he’s being quiet and gentle. We often forget to reward dogs for good behavior.

What about other kinds of biting?

If you have an adult dog who is biting or threatening to bite you, that’s a more serious problem and you will need to consult a canine behaviorist or an experienced dog trainer to help you. If you or anyone in your family is ever in fear of your dog, don’t wait around. You need to get some professional help with your dog. Dogs DO bite their owners, even dogs you love and dogs you’ve had for a long time. In some cases a dog may have a veterinary health problem such as a tumor which could be affecting his behavior, so it’s often a good idea to have your dog checked out by your vet if you notice a sudden change in his behavior.

If you have a dog who is showing aggression toward other people, that’s also a serious problem and you need to consult a canine behaviorist or an experienced dog trainer to help you