Dealing with Nippy Dogs

Posted on October 8, 2007 under Dog Health, Pet Health & Safety

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.