Although a puppy playing and nipping at our hands is awfully cute, it becomes worrying as they grow. An adult dog can cause some significant harm, even if they are just playing. If you want to know how to get dogs to stop nipping when excited, you’ve come to the right place.
Trying to train an overly excited dog is very difficult. They may not only nip, but jump up all over you. We want to help you identify why it is that your dog is excited nipping. As well as outline the clear preventative and appropriate training methods. No longer will you have to worry about painful bruises and sore hands!
Why is my Dog Nipping at Strangers?
We have outlined the reasons why your dog is nipping when they are excited. This is not to be confused with defense, aggressive, or anxiety induced nipping.
Your Dog Wants to Play
We all know how clumsy our dogs can get when they become excitable and want to play. Their nipping may be easily explained by them simply wanting to play, and grabbing the nearest thing they can, which unfortunately is a part of you!
Our dogs are aware that we use our hands to play in the same way they use their jaws. Their aim is most likely not to cause pain, but to explain to you that they want to play. A dog may try to engage you in play by referencing that which you play with, pulling at your hand. It is simply their excitement of the prospective play session that causes them to bite or pull just a bit too hard. They may even be grabbing whatever they can to encourage you. This could mean nipping at your ankle, arms, and anywhere they feel to get your attention.
They Think You Like it
As surprising as it is, your dog may believe that you enjoy being nipped because of your previous reactions. This may be because of your positive exclamation when they were a puppy and it was cute, or even because of the noise you make when you are in pain. We hear what you are saying, with a recognized empathy level as high as dogs have, how do they interpret our cries of pain as excitement? It is simply because we communicate differently to dogs, and the noises we make are not like theirs. Therefore, it is not a lack of empathy, but a miscommunication.
As for when they are puppies, many of us will think it is adorable to see their little puppy chewing on their fingers. Because of their small size, it is not that painful either. Encouraging this behavior at a young age though will increase the likelihood that an adult dog will do the same with much more painful consequences.
Your Dog Is Jaw Wrestling
Jaw wrestling, also known as mouthing, is a form of play dogs will partake in with one another. They open their mouths wide and mimic biting and chewing movements around the mouth and face of another dog. It is essentially a form of play fighting. When your dog is excitedly nipping you, it may be that they are attempting to play fight with you and think that this would be enjoyable for you both.
Therefore, they may not necessarily be trying to nip you, and it may be accidental when they are excited and in play mode. In moving their head erratically and quickly with an open jaw, they may accidentally nip you or catch you with a tooth. This is especially likely for very excitable dogs or those considered hyperactive, as their behavior and movements will be much faster and erratic. This increases the possibility of an accidental injury because they are less controlled.
They Want to Feel Calm
Dogs may use chewing, sucking, and biting an object as a form of self-soothing or stimulation to help them feel more calm. In the same manner we may repetitively click a pen or tap our fingers when we are stressed, dogs have their own coping mechanisms as well, especially if they are anxious. Therefore, your dog may be trying to comfort themselves, and the goal is actually nothing to do with you.
They may be near you as another form of comfort, and the self-soothing nip may just be targeted towards whatever is near. In this scenario, of course that is most likely you. It could also be the case that they are just lying in a comfortable and quiet place and, once again, try to chew something nearby. It can simply be the case of you being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
How to Stop Your Dog From Nipping When Excited?
There are a few different steps you can take to prevent or stop your dog from nipping you when they are excited.
Step 1: Offer Chew Toys to Your Dog
Redirecting your dog’s chewing is one of the best and first solutions you should try. If your dog is nipping to play or self-soothe, this technique allows them to still do so, but to the appropriate medium. Over time, your dog will actively search for their chew toys and begin to avoid nipping you. However, this is a process that requires patience and repetition to work.
When your dog excitably nips you, calmly move away and draw their attention to the chew toy. This may just mean showing them it, for others you may have to engage in a session of play and shake the toy or pull it to get them to chew their toy. By redirecting their energy, your dog will be able to form an association with their need to nibble and where to put that energy. Therefore, they will not look or go for you to nibble.
Step 2: Do Not Punish Your Dog
Punishing your dog will not help them to gain understanding, it instead teaches them to fear you and humans. We do not promote any form of aggression or fear-inducing actions for two reasons: cruelty, and it simply is not beneficial. If you want your dog to stop nipping you, the use of positive reinforcement, redirection, and natural deterrents can all prevent them from behaving this way without the need for negative reinforcement.
Punishing your dog can actually induce new negative behavior. A tap on the nose and yelling at your dog may cause them to become defensive. They may begin to snarl, snap, and even outwardly bite. Furthermore, their trust of you will lessen. The close bond you have with your pup will fade when there are so many alternative ways to prevent this behavior. Remember, it is not always about the quickest way to reach the end result, but how to get there.
Step 3: Give Taste Deterrents a Go
Although it should not be one of the first methods to try, taste deterrents on your hands and other areas your dog nibbles should stop them wanting to put your hands in their mouth to nibble. These taste deterrents can be purchased online as drops or sprays most commonly. They will contain a flavor that your dog will not enjoy. So when they are about to nip you, they will taste the unpleasant taste and either stop, or look for something else to nibble.
If you reconsidering using a spray deterrent, there are a few things you need to be aware of. Firstly, make sure the spray is only used on yourself, spraying it into your dog’s mouth could frighten them as well as lead to the spray getting into their eyes. This could be dangerous. Furthermore, be sure to check the ingredients and that it is well tested with no poisonous ingredients upon ingestion.
Step 4: Use Detention Time
Detention time does not mean isolating your dog or making them stay in a room alone. It means withdrawing your attention so they understand that if they nip you, playtime and affection will be taken away. When you are giving your dog attention or playing with them, be prepared for when they nip. As soon as they do so, calmly put down their toys and stop acknowledging them. Give them two or three minutes to calm down, then you can provide them with attention once more.
If your dog remains hyperactive though and continues trying to nip you, ignore them and leave the room. Again, give them time to calm down and then you can reenter the room. For this to work properly, you need to make sure that you are doing this every time your dog nips. They need to be aware that these repercussions will occur every time your dog nips you, so they will begin to stop.
Step 5: Put Your Dog on a Leash
When a visitor comes over, it can be worrying knowing how to stop your dog nipping while they are in the process of being trained to stop. Before a visitor arrives, place your dog on a leash and keep them away from the visitor until they are able to calm down. However, this method should only be used for dogs that can calm down within a matter of minutes and being kept on a leash will not increase their hyperactivity.
If your dog is quite hyperactive, it may be worth putting them in their crate until they are able to calm down. Be sure that your dog is crate trained and that you allow them to enter their crate in as calm of a manner as possible. Once your dog is calm, they can be let out of their crate and allowed to meet the visitor. If their behavior goes downhill, take them back to their crate and repeat the process once more.
Step 6: Use Positive Reinforcement
When your dog calmly interacts with you, a visitor, or even avoid nipping during lay or a greeting, you should praise them. Positive reinforcement is praising your dog after they display good behavior. This is usually by giving them treats, as many dogs are food orientated. Some dogs will also positively react to attention and praise. Although, make sure to keep any praise and attention calm, as increasing their hyperactivity can lead to more nipping.
When your dog is greeting you, if they do not nip at you, give them a treat. Stroke them calmly and be sure to reward them whenever they display positive behavior like this. Dogs respond so much better to positive reinforcement than negative. They will associate the lack of nipping with receiving a treat and will then aim to repeat this to achieve the same goal.
Dogs Nipping When Excited – FAQ
Every situation of dogs nipping when they are excited is different. This is why we have included extra information and answers in case you need some more information on the topic.
Many owners have trouble dealing with excitable dogs who nip them. Patience and calm behaviors are the key to preventing it and training dogs not to do so.