Every dog owner has seen how an excited dog acts. Whether it’s because they see other animals, other dogs, an object in motion, or people, when there’s a bit too much energy in their body, a dog jumps, runs around, and barks. But sometimes, dogs bite as well. This may not be that inconvenient for some, but allowing this to persist may encourage even worse compulsive behavior in the future.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a professional dog trainer to learn how to train a dog not to bite when excited. If you want to keep your overly excited dog from nipping, read on.
How Excitement is Connected to Biting
A key thing you need to remember is that dogs are very social animals. Hence, their excitement levels go through the roof when they see a loved one or somebody they really like. Since dogs evolved to be very expressive through body language, this manifests itself in hyperactive behavior, such as jumping, running, barking, pouncing, licking, and in some cases, biting .
They also evolved to have an innate desire to work their jaws, to maintain healthy jaw muscles and keep their teeth clean. It’s also worth noting that dogs explore the world around them by probing with their snout, smelling with their noses as well as feeling and tasting with their mouths.
Possible Reasons Why Your Dog Bites So Much
Here are some potential reasons why your dog is nipping when excited.
Attempt at play
One major reason why dog nipping occurs is because this is their way of inviting you to play with them, or if you’re already at play, it could be because they think you like it.
It’s therapeutic to them
As we’ve mentioned, dogs primarily interact with the world using their snouts. A dog’s mouth is a huge part of their sensory toolkit, and hence they have an intimate emotional connection with this part of their body. This is why biting can be soothing to them, helping them relax or deal with intense emotions like excitement.
In rarer cases, your dog may have an oral fixation. You can tell if they do when they bite, lick, and chew on things frequently, regardless of what they’re feeling at the moment. In this case, your dog nipping when excited is probably only coincidental given their fixation. That, or the fixation serves to intensify the compulsion that makes your dog nip.
Steps You Can Take to Address the Problem
Determine the probable causes
The first thing you can do is to hone in on the most probable reasons why your dog likes to bite. This is going to require a bit of observation and experimentation on your part. See the above possible reasons for why your dog likes to bite and check which of them are the most likely cause or causes. This will inform you on what you can do to minimize and eventually eliminate the behavior. Knowing how to read your dog’s body language is a crucial part of this step.
Manage their environment
Once you’ve honed in on the potential reason why they keep biting, you can start changing things in their environment to minimize the stimuli that cause that behavior. For example, if your dog is overly excited, you can increase your dog walking time or employ other means to make your dog stay calm. Calm dogs are much less likely to bite. On the other hand, if they have an oral fixation, it’s advisable to remove anything that may trigger anxiety as you work on helping them get over this fixation.
Focus on positive reinforcement
Most dog trainers agree that dogs learn best through positive reinforcement. Properly employed, this will be your most powerful solution to getting rid of dog nips, while at the same time not invalidating the use of your dog’s mouth. You can do this by making use of learning aids, such as chew toys. Whenever your dog feels like gnawing at your skin, give them the chew toy to nibble at, and immediately reinforce this positive behavior. This tends to work better with a puppy than with an adult dog, but even adult dogs can learn to follow positive behavior training if you keep at it. You can also employ techniques such as the hand target method to redirect their impulse to bite when they want to greet you.
Only give punishments as a last resort
And by punishments, we don’t mean corporal punishment. Hurting your dog will only cause them to fear and not trust you. Punishments and negative reinforcement should be limited to things like leash time, leaving the room, using a static correction collar, or using taste deterrents like bitter flavor sprays. Taste deterrents are some of the most effective tools to make a dog learn bite inhibition, but remember not to overuse it as this can induce irrational fear and mild trauma that will discourage them from sniffing or probing with their mouths. Muzzling is inadvisable to use for behavioral problems such as a dog’s nipping, so refrain from muzzling your dog.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does my dog try to bite me when excited?
The main reasons why dogs bite are: to express their excitement, to try to communicate with you or play with you, or to satisfy an oral fixation.
Why does my dog bite me when playing?
Dogs primary means of interacting with the world is with their mouth. If a dog is particularly expressive with its mouth, it will be much more likely to bite when at play. The best way to fix this is to redirect their impulse to bite through positive reinforcement.