Dealing with Nippy Dogs

Posted by Audrey Pavia on 10/8/2007 in Training Tips Articles

If you’ve been around dogs for much of your life, you have, at some point, been touched by a dog’s teeth. While these experiences were probably benign — an overexcited puppy mouthing your arm or a friendly pooch gnawing on your hand — the potential for bodily harm is real whenever canine teeth meet human skin.

Nipping is an annoying and potentially dangerous habit in dogs. While most dogs nip as part of play, some do it to send a loud message. Whether your dog is nipping out of playfulness or aggression, you shouldn’t ignore this unpleasant habit.

Before you can figure out how to stop your dog from nipping, you need to understand why he’s doing it. If your dog is a puppy, it’s likely he’s nipping because he wants to engage you in a game (puppies nip each other for fun), or because he’s teething. Either way, this is the time to teach your pup that his teeth should never make contact with human skin, no matter what the reason.

Start by letting your puppy know that nipping is not appreciated. The minute he starts to bite you, say “No bite!” in a loud voice and end the play session immediately. Do this consistently until your youngster gets the message that when he bites you, you react unpleasantly and then ignore him.

In the meantime, give him objects he can safely gnaw on to satisfy his need to chew. Ask your veterinarian to recommend some toys and treats that are safe for chewing. Be sure to enroll your puppy in obedience classes too so he learns that he must respect humans as he grows up.

If your dog is already grown and still has a tendency to nip when he wants to play, use the same method for teaching him that biting is unacceptable. Tell him “No bite!” and walk away–and do this each and every time. If you are consistent with this method, he’ll get the message soon enough.

If your dog nips because he wants to stop you from doing something, like grooming him or moving him off the bed or couch, your problem may be more difficult to solve.

A dog who nips when he objects to what you want him to do has not accepted the fact that you are the pack leader in your household. In other words, the dog doesn’t accept your authority and is basically telling you to take a hike. This behavior is not okay —unless of course you want your dog to start running your household.

To change your dog’s attitude, you need to change his perception of you. The best way to do this is to enroll in an obedience class. Here, you will learn how to gain your dog’s respect, while at the same time teaching him that he must follow your commands — not the other way around.

Remember that your new role as leader doesn’t end when class is over. Practice obedience at home as well. You want to drive home the point that you are the one in charge, at home as well as in class.

If your dog’s nipping continues despite your efforts at obedience training, consult with a professional dog trainer. If your dog has been allowed to get away with nipping for a long time, his habits may be harder to break without professional help.

If your dog is okay with adults but nips at children, your problem is serious. Even a small dog can easily hurt a child, or at the very least scare him or her to the point that the child becomes terrified of dogs. You should consult a professional trainer for assistance with this issue since this type of nipping can also escalate into more dangerous aggression.

One comment

  • Megan

    I have a 5 year old boxer lab mix named Lainey. She wasnt around children much when she was young and i understand that is part of the problem. I have noticed even before that Lainey wasn’t comfortable with children. But at the same time she trys to protect the children. My friend was holder her daughter (only 2years old at the time) and was joking around saying “put em up” and holding her fist up. Her and her daughter play pretended to box eachother and Lainey jumped up on the mom and nipped at her. Now I am in a relationship where the guy has a (now) 4 year old. He also has 4 other small neices. Lainey had been around the kids for a couple years now. Unless the kids are playing she is fine with them. Once the kids start running, jumping, playing, anything of that nature Lainey will launch and nip at them to get them to stop. If a grown up is playing with a kid sometimes she nips at the grown up to get them to stop. Along with the agressive nipping to get children to stop playing, she sometimes gets to excited and she trys to join in but she doesn’t realise she cant play with the children. How can i get her to calm down around children. I can tell when its a mean nip and when shes just trying to get involved. I was just playing with my boyfriends daughter and we were holding hand jumping in a circle. Lainey came over and i could tell by her body language what she was going to do and she did. She nipped at the little girl out of aggression to get her to stop jumping. I automaticly yelled at Lainey and sent her to her bed for time out. I do this every time she gets nippy but she still doenst understand she cant do that. What else can i do to get Lainey to stop and behave propery around kids?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *