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When you think about dogs you don’t normally picture an aggressive, scary animal. You think of a kind and loving best friend.
Although some dogs are friendlier than others, all dogs are capable of biting. Even the nicest dogs can bite, so how can you stop your dog from biting?
In this article we discuss:
- The 5 reasons dogs bite and how to fix it
- 13 ways to get your dog to stop biting (#8 is surprising)
- Why do dogs bite specific people and not others
And much more…
Why Do Dogs Bite? (5 Major Reasons)
Each reason for why a dog bites is specific to the scenario, the dog’s history, breed, and age. Dogs can bite because they are gauging the world, teething, resource/territory guarding, excited, fearful, or injured.
Usually dogs that bite are provoked by something that pushes them into fight mode or they are improperly trained.
Puppies on the other hand are learning the ways of the world and don’t really know what they are doing yet.
Let’s look into each of the reasons why dogs bite in more detail.
1.) Gauging The World
When dealing with a puppy it’s important to understand that because they are so young they are learning the ways of the world.
One of the ways they do this is by putting their mouth on everything. This includes licking, biting, and nipping.
At early stages they have no idea biting may hurt you since they haven’t been trained yet.
Older dogs will also gauge the world using their mouth but usually, the biting and nipping subside unless they were never properly trained.
2.) Puppy Teething
A teething dog bites and nibbles mostly to relieve the discomfort in its mouth. While teething puppies experience inflamed gums, increased chewing, bleeding gums, and missing teeth.
These are all very uncomfortable for them and the only relief is chewing. So instead of them biting and chewing on you have something like a toy ready for them to chew.
3.) Resource / Territory Guarding
Some dogs may bite to defend a resource like food, water, territory, or someone/thing they care about.
In puppies, resource guarding will be noticed early on and can be removed with training. Some older dogs not properly trained will bite for these reasons.
Dogs that were abandoned and lived in the streets or in areas where food was scarce may develop these habits for survival.
You tend to see these kinds of dogs hold onto this behavior even after getting adopted depending on how harsh it was for them.
4.) Play / Excitement
Puppies that are still not quite sure the most appropriate way to play with humans tend to bite when they play and get excited.
It’s a habit for them to bite when they are playing since that’s what they were doing with their siblings at one point in time.
Older dogs won’t usually bite for these reasons unless poorly trained.
5.) Fear / Injury
In a fight or flight situation, a dog may bite due to fear or injury.
Even the nicest dogs when in a state of fear can snap and bite. Never approach an unfamiliar dog when they might be injured or in fear.
In addition, some dogs who had a bad history of abuse tend to be fearful even when there is nothing to fear.
This can spark aggression and biting for what seems like no apparent reason. That is why we must understand a dog’s history to fully know why they are biting.
How To Stop Your Dog From Biting In 13 Steps
Here is a quick overview of how you can stop your dog from biting:
- Identify Why They Are Biting
- Have Chew Toys & Treats Ready
- Redirect Immediately
- Use Positive Reinforcement
- Exercise Your Dog
- Place Them In A Boring Environment
- Always Use A Puppy Line or Leash
- Try Not To Be On Your Puppies Level
- Know Your Puppies “Witching Hour”
- Socialize Your Dog
- Spay or Neuter Your Dog
- Read Your Dog’s Body Language
- Seek Professional Help
1.) Identify Why They Are Biting
It’s easy to determine which of these is your dog’s reason by analyzing the situation.
If you have a puppy, they are likely ignorant, teething, and learning if they are biting you.
If you have an older dog that is biting people analyze what is occurring to entice your dog to bite. Are they scared? Is someone approaching their territory? Are they sick?
Once you can isolate the reasons for their biting you can work toward finding the problem and training your dog how to properly behave.
2.) Have Chew Toys & Treats Ready
If you notice every time you go to play with your dog they are nipping and biting, try having a chew toy ready and treats for training.
That way when you go to play you can put the toy in their mouth instead of your hand, or clothes.
In addition, you can use the treats to move them into a feeding state. This will calm or stop the biting since they are so focused on the food.
3.) Redirect Immediately
If your dog is biting while you are playing you want to redirect the biting onto something that is okay to bite.
This is why you want to have chew toys and treats ready to go at all times. This is going to be really important for training them.
Anytime your dog nips or bites, redirect.
4.) Use Positive Reinforcement
Positive reinforcement is a training style that rewards good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior. This can include using treats, play time/toys, verbal encouragement, petting, or anything else you know your dog loves.
A 2009 study found that dogs training using punishment over positive reinforcement are 25% more likely to respond with aggression than other dogs.
5.) Exercise Your Dog
Keeping your dog or puppy exercised is a great way to burn off their energy.
When dealing with puppies making sure to exercise them and keep them mentally stimulated throughout the day will help with controlling their energy.
This will indirectly reduce their nipping and biting from excitement. ‘A tired dog is a good dog’ as the saying goes.
6.) Place Them In A Boring Environment
If your puppy is biting and they are overly energized, move them to an isolated area. This will quickly let them know whatever it is they were doing is not okay.
Over time when you are consistent with this, they will begin to understand that when they bite bad things happen, and when they don’t good things happen.
7.) Always Use A Puppy Line or Leash
Make sure you always leave a line attached to your dog. If your dog is biting, this behavior is not okay.
Rather than running around the house every time they make a poor choice and making things worse, having a line on them puts you in control.
Not to mention it stops them from getting in the habit of thinking that running away from you is a game, and it keeps them knowing who is in charge.
If your dog is older and has a nipping or biting problem, leaving a leash on them at all times is a good idea to control them better.
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8.) Try Not To Be On Your Puppies Level
When you are trying to cuddle or play with your puppy, it’s easy to get on their level to play. However, when you do this you are putting yourself in a position for them to nip and bite.
When puppies are young they play with their brothers and sisters by nipping and rolling around with them.
You want to avoid doing this with them until they are training and understand you are the boss.
This means avoiding getting low on the ground with them and also bringing them up onto the couch to your level.
*Bonus Tip: How you play with them matters! Make sure if your puppy does anything you do not like while playing you stop it immediately (using the puppy line).
9.) Know Your Puppies “Witching Hour”
You may have already noticed that there is a certain time throughout the day that puppies will nip and bite more often. We call this the “ witching hour” or the “zoomies”.
If you can familiarize yourself with your dog’s behaviors you can be proactive to reduce the nipping and biting that comes during these times.
If you can exercise them and mentally stimulate them before they get to their “witching hour” they will already be tired and sleepy.
Thus, reducing their energy level and the nipping and biting that comes during these times.
10.) Socialize Your Dog
Allowing your dog to meet other dogs and interact with different types of people, including children, older people, disabled people, etc. Will go a long way in helping your dog be better with others.
If biting is a problem for certain social settings for your dog you need to work on desensitizing them to their triggers.
You can make controlled social meets to help your dog familiarize themselves and develop their social skills.
This is extremely important for puppies in the first 6-12 months of development. It’s also important to make sure the social experiences are always positive to avoid trauma.
11.) Spay or Neuter Your Dog
While spaying or neutering your dog will not guarantee they won’t bite anyone, there is evidence to suggest that ‘fixed’ dogs are less aggressive.
In fact, a study by Marschalkerweedrd, Endenberg et al. 60% of dogs who were neutered showed a decrease in intermale aggression and 50% of owners claimed their dog was calmer.
So if you find your male dog is getting aggressive with other dogs this might calm things down and help deal with their biting.
12.) Pay Attention And Read Your Dog’s Body
If you know your dog has biting tendencies or aggression, look for signs and warnings from their body.
You can tell when a dog is getting tense, fearful, or aggressive based on how their body looks.
Some will begin to back up with the fur on the back of their neck starting to stand up. If you know something is leading to aggression, control the situation or your dog’s behavior.
If you can tell your dog is becoming agitated, remove them from the situation.
To help further, here are some of the body language cues you can look for:
- Raised fur
- Rigid Posture
- Rapid tail wagging
Also make sure you can distinguish aggression versus reactivity. If your dog is biting out of aggression this is completely different then if they are biting due to reactivity.
Dog reactivity can cause dogs to bite butt he major difference is their intent.
13.) Seek Professional Help
If nothing is working and regardless of what you do, they continue to bite and nip, it might be time to call in the experts.
Behavior professionals are the best to solve these types of issues.
You can take your dog to training or enroll them in a classes to teach them social skills while also removing their bad habit.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that most online programs suck. We’ve reviewed a ton of really bad dog training programs. However, there are a few that we feel are worth mentioning.
So If you’re in need of some extra help that is more in depth and specific to your dog check out this post breaking down the 9 best online dog training courses. There are a few on this list that have specific training systems for biting. Plus, they are extremely affordable compared to in person training.
How To Stop A Dog From Nipping When Excited
When a dog nips when excited it’s becuase they have built up energy and they need to release it somehow, for some dogs this leads to biting. So as dog owners we need to redirect that excitement into a positive habit.
If your dog bites when excited, the best thing you can do redirect their biting to a toy, walk away from them, or isolate them.
They just want to play so if you take away what they want and only continue playing when they are behaving the way you want, they will eventually catch on.
When Enzo was 4 months old he would get the zoomies and then start biting me aggressively. At this age he was roughly 50 pounds so having him biting this way was scary. Especially for my 5’2 girlfriend.
He had no idea that what he was doing was wrong. He was just over stimulated and excited.
To fix the issue we found that having a toy on hand was key for redirecting his biting onto something other then us. In addition, if he was getting out of hand we would stop playing, ignore him and turn away, or isolate him.
All he wanted to do was play or get our attention so by doing this it showed him that biting us lead to no more playing.
Over time these strategies worked to eliminate his nipping.
Why Does My Dog Bite Only One Person In Family?
A dog may only bite one person in your family because that person is accidentally encouraging this behavior. In addition, your dog may be teething, bored, excited, or they are continuing to practice their bite threshold on their new owner.
If your dog was taken from their mother too early they sometimes never fully developed their bite threshold and thus use you or someone else as their practice partner.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dog Biting
Why Do Dogs Bite Themselves?
Dogs bite themselves for a variety of reasons, including boredom, anxiety, discomfort, and allergies. If your dog is bored, he may start licking or chewing on himself as a way to pass the time.
Dogs with anxiety may also lick or chew on themselves as a way to self-soothe.
Lastly, discomfort can also lead to dogs licking or chewing on themselves, as they may be trying to relieve an itch or irritation. This can be from allergies or any other form of discomfort.
If your dog is biting himself, it’s important to figure out the underlying cause so you can address it. Otherwise, your dog may continue to bite himself, which can lead to serious health problems.
Why Do Dogs Bite Their Owners?
There are many reasons why dogs bite their owners. It could be out of excitement, fear, or even aggression.
Generally though a dog bites their owner becasue they are excited or happy, and want to play. However, sometimes a dog may bite their owner becasue they are fearful or aggressive.
What To Do With A Dog That Bites?
If you have a dog that bites, it is important to take action to prevent them from doing so again. Depending on the severity of the biting, you may need to take your dog to the vet or animal hospital for a check-up.
You may also want to consult with a dog trainer or behaviorist to help you work on training and behavior modification with your dog.
If your dog has severe aggression and biting problems towards people and other dogs that even professional trainers and behaviorists cannot help with, you may have to consider euthanization.
Biting is a serious problem that should not be taken lightly. If you have a dog that bites, it is essential to understand why and how to change their behavior.
There are many reasons for why your dog might bite, but the good news is that there are just as many solutions.
Remember, if you’re struggling to correct your dog’s biting problem, reach out to a professional for help. A behaviorist or trainer will be able to give you specific advice on how to deal with your dog’s biting issue.
Other posts you may find interesting:
A Timeline Of Puppy Teething
Does Spaying And Neutering Affect Behavioral Disorders In Dogs?
How To Stop Puppy Biting And Train Bite Inhibition
How To Stop Your Dog From Biting
Survey Of The Use And Outcome Of Confrontational And Non-Confrontational Training Methods In Client-Owned Dogs Showing Undesired Behaviors