If your dog keeps nipping at your hands, 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 to get your dog to stop doing it.
So, why does my dog nip at my hands? Possible reasons why your dog nips your hands are that it is teething, has learned that the behavior is rewarded or that it has not learned that it is not ok to nip your hands.
Since there are actually a number of possible causes, it would help to consider what would make each of them more likely. Once you have a good idea of the main cause it should become a lot easier to get it to stop doing it.
Why your dog nips at your hands
Below are a number of possible reasons why your dog has been doing it and what would make each of them more likely.
It could be the case that it has started teething and that biting on things soothes its gums. This would be more likely if your dog is a puppy and it has been chewing on other things a lot as well.
In this case, it would help to give your dog lots of things to chew on such as toys and bones. It would also be important to give it lots of training now so that it learns what it can and cannot bite on by using “leave it” training and the other tips mentioned below.
Reinforcing the behavior
It might be the case that it has been doing it because you have actually been rewarding the behavior. If you give it things such as toys, treats or more attention when it does it, your dog might have learned to do it more in order to get those rewards.
Instead, it would help to avoid rewarding it when it does it by withdrawing your attention and to reward it when it is well behaved.
It’s trying to get attention from you
It might be the case that your dog does it because it is looking for attention. This would be more likely if it does it more when you have not been giving it attention or if you tend to give it more attention when it does it.
It would help to give your dog attention throughout the day by training it, walking it and by playing with it. But it would also help to avoid rewarding it with attention when it nips on you by withdrawing your hands or leaving the room if necessary.
Dogs interact with the environment using their mouths and their noses as much as they do with their eyes and even more so when they are puppies.
The reason why your dog has been nipping your hands could be that it’s interacting with them. This would be more likely if it is a puppy.
Even if this is the case it will still be important to get it to stop by training it not to do so.
Not enough training
If you have not trained your dog not to nip you it might be the case that it has not learned that it is not ok to nip you. If you haven’t it would help to start training it by using the tips in the section below.
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 your dog first started nipping at your hands
If your dog did not always nip at your hands, it would help to consider what else happened when it first started doing it. If it started doing it suddenly it would be more likely to be due to things such as teething, negative reinforcement or looking for attention.
What is different when your dog does not nip at your hands
If it does not always nip it would also help to consider what is different when it does not do it.
For example, if it does not nip when it has gotten a lot of exercise it might be a sign that it nips when it has excess energy. In this case, it would help to make sure that it is getting the right amount of exercise daily.
How old it is
It would help to consider the age of your dog.
If your dog is still young, it would make it more likely that it nips you because it is teething. In this case, it would help to give it lots of things to chew on and to train it not to nip you using the tips mentioned above.
If it is an adult it would be more likely to be doing it due to rewarding the behavior or because it has not be trained not to do it. In this case, it would also help to train it using the tips mentioned above.
What to do about your dog nipping at your hands
Below are some options you have when getting your dog to stop doing it.
Positive reinforcement training
It would help to train your dog not to do it by using positive reinforcement training. This is where you train your dog by rewarding it for making small steps towards doing the thing that you want and avoid rewarding it when it misbehaves.
To use it to get your dog to stop nipping you, you would:
- Stop giving your dog attention whenever it nips you by hiding your hands or temporarily leaving the room if necessary
- Start giving it attention again until it starts nipping and then stop giving it attention again.
- Repeat the above, rewarding with a treat it each time it doesn’t nip you when it normally would.
Alternatively, you would withdraw your hands, feet or ankles as soon as it shows signs of being about to nip. Each time it doesn’t nip when it normally would you would reward it with a treat.
Avoid encouraging the behavior
As mentioned above, it could be the case that it has been doing it because it learned that nipping you results in it getting things it wants.
Instead of rewarding it when it does it, try to recognize when it is about to do it and to withdraw your hands and attention and to reward it when it does not nip.
Give it other things to chew on
In addition to the above, it would also help to give it lots of things that it is ok for it to chew on such as toys, bones or chews. By doing so you will make it less likely that it will feel the need to bite on things you don’t want it to.
If you cannot figure out why your dog nips you or you cannot get it to stop consider getting the help of a certified dog trainer or behaviorist in your area. By doing so you will be able to get expert help tailored towards your particular dog.
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