How Can You Deal with Nipping?

September 28, 2017
As a dog owner with over 25 years of experience, I can attest that having a dog is one of the most wonderful things that has ever happened in my life. The companionship and joy they bring is incomparable.

Nipping is an issue that is very common in dogs. At times, it'll be just nipping, while at times, it'll be full-fledged biting and it's really hard to tell them apart as they are almost the same. However, whether it's nipping or biting, dogs are always playing when they do it and it's never violent.

If they do it with such intensity that it's hurtful and seems like an act of violence, this is because they haven't yet learned how to inhibit their biting. Consequently, you need to teach them how to restrict their impulse for biting.

Type of Problems & Why They Occur

Nipping and mouthing are the second most troublesome behavior after housebreaking that dog owners worry about. Even though it is most common in puppies, it sometimes persists in older dogs. Most dogs that nip and bite do it in a non-aggressive way, but some take an aggressive approach toward it.

In fact, nipping is very much a natural dog behavior and they do it while they are playing. Dogs usually do it as a form of interaction between other dogs and puppies and sometimes humans too. However, most people do not like it and find it very aggressive.

In such a case, they should try to get rid of the problem as soon as possible. It is easy to tell when a dog nips or bites, but it is rather hard to tell if it does it in an aggressive or non-aggressive way. Sometimes, it does it because of fear and at other times, it nips out of frustration.

It is essential that you know the difference between the posture and expressions of a playful dog and a non-playful dog. When dogs are playing, their muzzle is wrinkled and their facial muscles are relaxed. Their body posture is not stiffened as well; they are cool, calm and easy. Their tails are wagging too. Usually, playful nipping isn't hurtful at all.

On the other hand, aggressive dogs have a completely different body posture. Their tails and bodies become stiff, and they usually bare their teeth. Their ears become erect too, and their muzzle is wrinkled. Their facial muscles become tense as well. When a dog is displaying all of these symptoms, their nipping could be aggressive.

How to Overcome Nipping

All breeds of puppies indulge in nipping. The first thing that you're supposed to teach them is that some people have sensitive skin and hence, they should be careful when biting or nipping. If your dog isn't displaying any sign of quitting, do not scold it. Just isolate it for a while and hand it its favorite bone.

Another important thing to note is that when you are teaching your puppy to quit, never play games such as wrestling or tug of war with it. This will only encourage it to increase nipping and motivate it to fight with you.

No matter what you do, do not pull away from the nipping. This will encourage it even more. You can let out a yelp or say something like 'ow.' Very often, puppies chew on your feet or hands. It's usually considered cute when a puppy does it, but when an adult dog does it, it's usually categorized as violent behavior.

Usually, dogs learn how to nip when they are playing with other dogs. This is when they are playing with other puppies and they playfully nip. When they do it a bit violently, it usually hurts the other dog. As a result, the other dog yelps and stops playing. This is when the dog who has hurt the other dog realizes it shouldn't have done so. Through this, dogs learn to inhibit their bite.

There is another way through which dogs learn how not to nip, and this is through human interaction. It is when dogs are playing with humans and unknowingly bite a bit too hard. When your dog or puppy does this, all you have to do is let out a high-pitched yelp and pretend you are in a lot of pain. You can also yell at your dog or pretend you are mad at it. At this, the chances are that it will quickly try to apologize to you and will start licking you again.

You can also shout something like 'no' when your dog tries to bite you. When it stops and starts licking you again, you can follow up with praise or start stroking your dog. This will give it the impression that you like it when your dog stops.

Hence, it will stop soon and start playing again. Repeat the process if it does it again. Just repeat the same process for around 15 times over and over again, and it will learn soon.

These are a couple of steps you can follow to make sure your dog stops nipping:

  • Continue the process explained above several times.
  • Try providing your dog with something to chew on when it tries to nip.
  • If it’s doing it while you are petting it or stroking it, feed it a treat from your free hand. This will make it accustomed to being stroked without nipping.
  • Do not play games with it that involves touching. If you play games like fetch, your dog will automatically start looking for toys the next time it wants to nip.
  • Teach your dog how to resist impulses. You can do this by teaching it certain command words such as 'leave it' or 'get off.'
  • Provide your dog an opportunity to play with other dogs. This will reduce its drive to play with you.


  • Do not bring your hands near your dog too often. This includes waving your fingers in its face and so on. Teach it that hands aren't toys.
  • Do not restrict it from playing. Make sure the connection between you and your dog is strong.
  • When it nips or bites you, do not suddenly move your hands away from it. Let it nip you once and let your hands go limp. This will discourage it from doing it again.
  • Do not punish your pet by hitting it. Hitting it will either scare it or infuriate it. Both will lead it to nip.


All dogs nip and bite. It is a form of affection, even though they sometimes do it when they are afraid or furious. No matter how hard you try, your puppy will still do it initially. It is a part of its natural impulses, and your pet cannot control it. All that you can do is try to overcome and prevent it. The process isn't very hard and with persistence and hard work, it can happen. You just have to make sure that you're not too harsh on it. You also have to make sure that your reaction to nipping isn't very violent.

Usually, violent reactions are misinterpreted by dogs and they take it as a fight. The aim is to teach them that hands aren't toys and that some people have sensitive skin that they cannot bite.

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