If your dog has been nibbling you with its front teeth, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you a number of possible causes and what you can do about them.

Common reasons why your dog nibbles you with its front teeth are teething, liking the feeling, or having learned that the behavior is rewarded.

There are actually a number of possible reasons why your dog might have been doing it and it might be due to a combination of them. However, there are some things you can consider when figuring out the main cause and there are a number of things you can do about it.

Reasons why your dog nibbles you with its front teeth

Below are a number of possible reasons why your dog has been doing it and what would make them more likely.

Teething

A possible cause is that it has started teething. This would be more likely if your dog is a puppy, if it has started doing it suddenly and if it has been nibbling on other things as well. In this case, it would help to give it things that it is ok for it to chew on and to give it lots of positive reinforcement training as shown below.

Encouraging the behavior

The reason could be that it has learned that the behavior gets rewarded so it does it more. This would be more likely if you tend to give it things such as toys, treats or extra attention when it nibbles you. 

It likes the feeling

If it is not a puppy, it might be the case that it does it because it likes the way that it feels on its teeth. This would also be more likely if it has also been nibbling on other things a lot. In this case, it would help to give it training and other things to chew on such as bones.

It thinks it’s ok

If you have not given your dog any training it will not know how it is supposed to behave and it will behave the way that it feels like. The way it feels like behaving is unlikely to be the way you would like it to behave which is why it is important to train it to behave the way you want it to.

It wants something from you

Another possible cause is that it wants something from you. This would be more likely if it tends to do it more at around the same time that you would normally give it things such as food or exercise.

Aggression

The nibbling could be due to aggression that you will want to stop immediately. Nibbling due to aggression can be harder to diagnose but the biting will normally be quicker and more painful than playful nibbling.

Things to consider

Below are some things to consider when figuring out the main reason why your dog has been doing it.

How aggressively it does it

It would help to consider how aggressively it does it.

If it does it aggressively, it would be more likely to be due to things such as wanting you to stop touching it or a lack of training. In this case, it could help to get help from a professional dog trainer so that you see how to get it to stop safely.

Whereas, if it does it gently, it would be more likely to be due to one of the other reasons mentioned above. In this case, it would help to consider the other things mentioned below.

If your dog has always nibbled you with its front teeth

If your dog did not always nibble you, with its front teeth, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it. If it started doing it suddenly, it could be due to things such as learning that the behavior gets rewarded, teething or something causing it to become overly excited. 

What is different when it does not nibble you with its front teeth

It might be the case that the timing has something to do with it. It would also help to consider if it tends to do it more at a certain time. 

For example, if it tends to nibble you when you arrive home, it would be more likely to be due to things such as excitement and separation anxiety. In this case, it would help to avoid rewarding it when it nibbles and to limit reasons why it might be anxious.

Whereas, if it does it more when you are sitting down with it, the cause could be that it has learned that the behavior gets rewarded. 

The body language it shows

It would also help to consider the body language it shows when it nibbles you. 

If it shows signs of excitement such as by wagging its tail, it would be more likely to be due to excitement and learning that the behavior is rewarded. 

Whereas, if it shows signs of aggression by doing things such as snarling and nibbling forcefully, it would be more likely that it is doing it due to feeling threatened in which case it would help to get help from a professional dog trainer.

What to do about your dog nibbling you with its front teeth

Below are some options you have when dealing with the behavior.

Avoid encouraging it

As mentioned above, it might be the case that your dog has learned that the behavior gets rewarded. Instead, it would help to reward your dog when it does not nibble you and to stop giving it any rewards, including attention, when it starts nibbling until it calms down.

Training

One option would be to use positive reinforcement training so that it learns that nibbling you does not result in it getting the rewards it wants.

To use it to get your dog to stop nibbling, you would:

  • Stand up and turn away when it starts nibbling you leaving the room if necessary.
  • Wait a few moments and then go back to giving it attention and then turning away again if it starts nibbling
  • Repeat the above until it learns that nibbling causes it to lose your attention
  • Reward it with a treat when it does particularly well

You can watch the video below to see more on how to get your dog to stop nibbling with positive reinforcement training along with more tips.

Redirect it

Another thing you could do is to redirect its focus whenever it seems likely to start nibbling on you. Things to redirect its focus towards could include toys, a bone or a task to complete. 

Give it other things to chew on

It would also help to give it things to be distracted with especially if it seems to be teething. Things you could give it would be toys, chews and bones.

Get help

If you are unable to get it to stop nibbling you or it has been doing it aggressively, it would help to get help from a dog behaviorist or trainer. By doing so, you should be able to see how to get it to stop safely and effectively.

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I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.