If your dog has been nipping you, when you pet it, 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 it to stop.
So, why does my dog nip when I pet it? Possible reasons why your dog nips you when you pet it are that it is teething, it has learned that the behavior is rewarded, it does it naturally or that it has not learned that it is not ok to nip.
There are actually a number of possible causes, but there are some things you can consider when figuring out the main cause.
Why your dog nips when you pet it
Below are a number of possible reasons why your dog has been doing it and 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.
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
The cause could be that it has learned that it gets rewards when it nips you while you pet it. If you tend to do things such as give it extra attention (positively or negatively), treats or toys, it will likely do it more in order to get more rewards.
Instead, it would help to withdraw your hands and to stop giving it attention, when it starts nipping then to give it attention again when it is being calm. If it starts nipping again you would then stop giving it attention again. This should teach it that nipping does not get rewarded.
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 fingers and 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 when you pet it
It would help to consider what else happened when your dog first started doing it, if your dog did not always nip you when you pet it. If it started doing it suddenly it would be more likely to be due to things such as teething, getting rewarded or looking for attention.
What is different when it does not do it
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.
What to do about your dog nipping when you pet it
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, when petting it, 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 fingers 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 get it to stop or it does it aggressively, 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.