If you have a dog, chances are you’ve noticed that they nip when excited. This can happen for many reasons, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it should be allowed or enforced. Even if excitement biting isn’t too harmful, it is something you need to rectify in order to keep everyone safe. But how do you stop such behavior? Well, here is everything you are going to want to know.
So, how do you stop a dog from biting when excited? Stopping a dog from biting when excited requires a combination of purposeful, consistent training and ensuring you are not inadvertently encouraging the behavior. Managing the environment, redirection and even professional assistance are all effective approaches.
Some dogs can grow out of it, but many do not.
The best way to make sure your dog stops this unwanted behavior is to take matters into your own hands and teach them how to act.
We’ll get into that shortly.
But first, why do dogs even do this, to begin with? Besides, don’t they know it can hurt?
Why Does My Dog Bite Me When Excited
Dogs often bite when excited because they have not yet learned that this is undesirable behavior. Alternatively, they are either trying to get your attention, it feels good, or has even learned that this behavior gets them what they want.
The key to correcting many doggy behaviors is to determine the reason why.
Here are some common causes behind excitement nipping.
Your Dog Is A Puppy
Almost all puppies will nip.
As I said, some may grow out of it, but others will require the power of training.
Puppies nip for a reason, and that’s because they are learning their bite force.
They need to learn through experience how hard of a bite someone or another dog can take before it hurts.
This is a necessary part of puppy development and will be very useful for bite force control.
Another reason is teething. Similar to babies, it’s quite uncomfortable when puppies teethe.
They will find what they can to chew on in order to soothe the discomfort.
I would suggest freezing wet rags for them to chew on under your supervision, as the cold can offer some relief.
Read more: Why Does My Puppy Bite Me When I Pet Him?
Your Dog Wants to Play!
A very common reason behind dog biting is playfulness. When excited, your dog wants to play!
Dogs use their mouths to explore the world and interact with other canines the way we do with our hands.
Dogs know this, which is why they may aim for our hands when nipping with excitement.
Dogs may also sometimes reach for our feet, clothing, or anything else they can since they can barely contain their excitement and want to grab whatever is close.
Dogs are actually trying to communicate the fact that they want to play.
However, they could get carried away and nip just a little too hard, but just know that they don’t mean it.
Don’t resort to getting angry and start yelling at your pooch because they don’t know any better until we teach them (in a nice way).
They Want Something
Dogs may learn that biting gets them something that they want; such as food or their dinner!
Excitement biting is not meant to hurt us, but it, unfortunately, can, especially if you have a big strong breed such as a Boxer.
Because They Think You Like It
Another reason why your dog may nip at you when he’s excited is because of miscommunication.
Whether you meant to or not, you could have inadvertently communicated that you like the bites!
How did you accidentally tell your dog that you like biting when you don’t? You most likely did it through vocal encouragement.
Whenever you squeal, yelp, or show any kind of positive exclamation, it signals to your puppy that you like what he’s doing.
Whether positive or not, most loud exclamations will be perceived as happiness or pleasure by your dog.
As puppies, it’s quite cute to see them nibbling at our fingers, hands, or even ears when they’re excited, but when you ooh and ahh over them, you are actually encouraging this behavior that will stay with your dog into adulthood.
Your Pooch Is Mouthing
What is mouthing? It’s a way dogs play with each other.
You will most likely have seen it already.
Mouthing may be perceived as aggression for inexperienced dog owners because it looks like the dogs are trying to bite each other, but they’re just playing.
When mouthing, the dogs’ mouths are wide open and the movements are very similar to biting as they move their open mouths around the other dog’s mouth, face, and maybe even neck area.
It’s a step above playing as it’s more like play fighting. So, when you see your dog mouthing you, he definitely wants to get in a good play session.
Dogs are quite aware of their own emotions, and when they are getting over-the-top excited, nipping could be a way to self-soothe.
It’s not just biting; they can also chew or suck on your fingers as well as a coping mechanism for excitement and sometimes even nervousness.
If it’s a self-soothing type of bite, it may sometimes be accompanied by whining and groaning, and animated movements.
How To Prevent Excited Nipping
Preventing nipping requires managing the environment, redirecting your dog’s attention and being mindful of your own behavior, and not inadvertently encouraging it.
Now we know the “why”, we get into the “how”. How do we prevent excited nipping? It’s bothersome and painful, so it’s definitely something we need to nip in the bud.
If your dog does it to you, then he thinks it’s okay.
This means it’s very likely that he will act this way with strangers, who usually aren’t as understanding as you are.
Manage The Environment
A quick solution that is also the easiest and simplest is to manage the environment.
For example, if your dog gets excited whenever strangers walk by your home, keep your dog in an area of the house away from windows.
If your dog gets ready to lunge or nip visitors to your home, you can consider leashing your pooch or keeping them contained in a fenced-off area or even his crate until he has calmed down.
Do what you can to manage what you can control in the environment. If you can’t remove the stimulus, then think about what you can do to manage your dog.
Redirection is a training technique many professional trainers will suggest.
It’s one of the best solutions, and it’s not difficult to attempt. This method doesn’t eliminate the biting, but it just simply redirects it to a better medium.
Find appropriate chew toys before you try redirection.
I find Kong toys to be very useful as they are very tough and come in different levels of hardness that are appropriate according to breed size, jaw strength, and age.
If done right with consistency and repetition, your dog should seek out the toy each time he’s overexcited rather than go for your fingers.
Tossing a handful of small treats or kibble on the floor is another calming technique.
If you haven’t noticed, distracting your dog is a great way to split his focus, redirect his attention, and curb unwanted behavior.
As your dog is sniffing, looking for, and gathering the treats you threw on the floor, he will “forget” about whatever is exciting him and focus on finding all the yummy snacks you threw.
By the time he’s done, he will have calmed down or interacted with you in a much calmer manner.
Only after your dog is calmer will he really start to register what you’re saying. Try the treat toss next time; we’re almost 100% sure your dog will immediately focus on treat gathering.
Don’t Match Your Dog’s Emotions And Behavior
As I mentioned, your behavior could communicate the wrong thing.
Instead of understanding that you may be in pain or dislike the biting, your dog will think you like it.
The key is not to mirror your dog’s energy and be as calm as possible. There is a good chance your boring behavior will cause your dog to mirror it.
In fact, we would suggest being cool, calm, and collected when you’re undertaking any type of behavior correction.
If you can pair a calm demeanor with treat tossing or redirection, it will further solidify your chances of success.
Nipping is problematic, but it’s not something super serious where a professional animal behaviorist needs to get involved.
However, puppy classes may benefit your dog if you do need some expert advice.
Never be afraid to seek out professional help if you need it.
These puppy classes will also teach your dog the basic commands that can be applied to any future training.
Don’t Punish Your Dog
What you should never do is punish your dog.
I don’t only mean physical punishment, but verbal as well.
Your dog may misconstrue negative verbal communication with excitement, and physical punishment can breed aggression and even teach your dog to resent and fear humans.
The best way to ensure your dog doesn’t nip you out of excitement is to train him with patience, consistency, and lots of positive reinforcement.
Also, remember our tips above and always approach training with a calm attitude.
I cannot stress how important it is to avoid punishing your dog.
Otherwise, you could breed aggression.
Your dog may respond with snarling, growling, and even real biting in severe cases.
What’s worse is you are hurting your bond with your dog.
He will trust you less, his love could slowly fade, and you will have a traumatized dog on your hands before you know it.
Results matter when it comes to deterring your dog from biting you when he’s excited, but the journey is equally important.
Even if it takes longer with positive reinforcement, you don’t want your dog to stop doing something out of fear and develop a slew of other problems along the way due to punishment.
Positive reinforcement is given through your words, actions, and treats, of course!
Say something encouraging in an excited voice with a higher pitch.
Pet your dog and give him a good belly rub when you can and break out the high-value treats to show him he’s doing a good job.
Excited biting is something most dog owners will encounter.
It may be necessary for puppies to do this to learn their bite force, but it’s equally vital for dog owners to know when to start training it out of them.
Remember that your dog means you no harm when he’s nipping out of excitement.
Address his behavior with a calm attitude and the right training techniques with positive reinforcement to reach success in no time!
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I am an experienced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets, from traditional pets like dogs and cats, to the more exotic like reptiles and rodents. I currently own a Cockapoo (pictured) called Bailey. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site dedicated to sharing evidence-based insights and guidance, based on my vast pet ownership knowledge, experience, and extensive research.