The last thing any dog owner wants is for their dog to bite them, one of their friends or family, or a stranger. When it comes to puppies and dogs, there are all kinds of biting and nipping – from playful to aggressive, but the habit can prove problematic. Even playful nipping can hurt and your dog may cause injury or scare someone without intending too. If you have noticed your puppy or adult dog is biting or nipping, even playfully, you should try to train them not too as soon as possible.
First, teaching a dog not to nip or bite is similar to teaching a child to stop a bad behavior. If you are playing with your dog, whether with a toy or without, and your dog nips at you the play needs to stop immediately. As soon as your dog nips or bites you, you need to yelp or make a loud painful noise so that they know they hurt you. Dogs understanding a yelping noise to mean that they have hurt you. Consider saying “ouch” or “too bad” and then discontinuing play.By stopping the fun activity, your dog will see that there is a consequence for their nipping and biting. If your dog stops right away and behaves with gentleness, reward and praise them. If they continue to nip or bite, end the play completely.Stop play, take the toy away, and put your dog in a “time out.” Ignore them entirely and consider leaving the room. After a few minutes return and try to resume play. This will teach your dog that gentle play is allowed but nipping and biting will not be tolerated.
Another way to help teach your dog to control their behavior when being played with is to teach them impulse control and obedience. As they learn to control their impulses and follow your instructions/behave, they may be able to execute better control in all areas. Additionally, consider providing a replacement activity such as a toy, bone or other game. This can be helpful when a new person comes over or when play would normally become aggressive. It distracts them from their normal desire to nip and gives them something else in which to channel their energy.
It is important to be able to distinguish playful nipping or biting from aggressive behavior. If a dog’s body and face are rigid and tense, they growl or bark, or the bite is particularly painful. Though playful bites can be painful, an aggressive bite tends to be swift and particularly painful whereas nipping and mouthing is more playful and gentle. If you suspect your dog is nipping or biting out of aggression, it is important to speak to a professional about correcting this behavior in your dog to prevent risk of serious injury.