If your dog nibbles on your arm, you might be wondering why and what you can do about it. This post will show you five common reasons why dogs do it and what you can do to get it to stop.

So, why does my dog nibble my arm? Possible reasons why your dog nibbles your arm are having learned that the behavior is rewarded, excitement, teething, or not enough training.

It is possible that there is a combination of causes at play. However, there are some things you can consider when figuring out the main causes and there are many things you can do about them.

Reasons why your dog nibbles your arm

Below are a number of possible causes and what would make each of them more likely to be the main reason.

Encouraging the behavior

The cause could be that it has learned that the behavior results in it getting rewards. If you give it things such as toys, treats or extra attention, when it nibbles your arm, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards. 

Excitement

The cause could also be that it is excited which would be more likely if it does it more in situations such as when you arrive home or when you’re about to walk it. In this case, you could try waiting for it to calm down before giving it what it wants. 

Not enough training

If you have not given your dog much 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.

Teething

The reason why it has been doing it might be that it has started teething. This would be more likely to be the reason if it is a puppy and if it has started chewing on other things a lot as well.

In this case, it would be important to train it to learn what not to chew as discussed below and to give it lots of things that it can chew on.

Dominance

Often, people jump to the conclusion that their dogs do it because they are trying to be dominant. However, the alpha/beta dynamic has been disproven in studies showing that wolves take turns in taking the lead.

Despite that, it could be doing it due to bullying behavior which would be more likely if it tries to get you to move and if it shows signs of aggression when doing it. In this case, it would help to avoid giving it reasons to feel threatened and to get it to learn to behave the way you want it to with training programs such as NLIF (“Nothing in Life is Free) dog training

Things to consider

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

What else happened when it first started doing it

If your dog did not always nibble your arm, it would help to consider what else changed 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 your dog nibbles your arm

If there is a certain time that your dog tends to nibble your arm, it would also help to consider what is different about the timing. For example, if it tends to nibble your arm 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.

The body language it shows

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

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 your arm

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

Avoid encouraging the behavior

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

Positive reinforcement training

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

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

  • Stand up, turn away, and hide your arms when it starts nibbling them 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 biting with positive reinforcement training along with more tips.

Redirect its focus

Another thing to do would be to redirect its focus towards something else when it is likely to start nibbling. Things to redirect its focus towards could include toys or bones. Doing this should help to get it out of the habit of nibbling your arm. However, it would be important to make sure not to do it after it starts nibbling otherwise you’ll be rewarding it for nibbling.

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.

Exercise

It would also help to make sure that it is able to get the daily amount of recommended exercise for its age and breed. Doing this could help to get it to be calmer when it is around you and result in it nibbling you less.

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.