Any dog owner that ever got their furry friend as a puppy knows that nipping is an issue. Sometimes, it is relatively easy to get a pup out of the habit through training. What if you find yourself with a particularly stubborn breed or a dog that still bites when excited?
Having a dog that nips or bites at anything they can get ahold of – hands, arms, feet, legs, clothing, or even hair – can frustrate the owner. It can be embarrassing when company comes over, and he is over-jubilant with guests. Worse, it can be downright scary trying to train a dog that bites.
The good news is that even if your puppy did not grow out of this bad habit on her own, she can still be trained to deal with her emotions and excitability in a healthier way. Read on to learn how to teach your dog not to bite when excited and give yourself – and your visitors – peace of mind!
Why Does My Dog Bite When He’s Excited?
Imagine not being able to explore the world with the use of your hands. When you walk on all fours, the best things you can use to learn about everything around you are your nose and mouth. When your pup gets excited, nipping is a natural reaction to the feeling for various reasons:
When dogs are playing with each other, they use their jaws. You are part of the pack, so in their minds, you should like it, too!
Dogs love to play with things in their mouth, this is why dog chew toys are so popular among our canine companions. Your hands and feet are often the closest and most accessible parts of your body to them, and they are often moving the fastest.
You likely squeal or yell when he bites at you, plus you move faster. These sounds and actions are a sign of you playing, and that’s what he is trying to do.
Dogs like to chew on things to self-soothe, so nipping can make them feel calmer.
Dogs that nip in this manner are considered high-arousal, meaning they are easily excitable. They don’t know what to do with all of that emotion and energy and often deal with it by spinning around in circles, barking, jumping, and of course, nipping.
Can I Stop My Dog From Nipping When Excited?
It is quite possible for your dog to learn bite inhibition. First off, don’t believe everything you read online. Let’s go over some of the things not to do when training your dog not to bite.
Holding Your Dog’s Muzzle Closed
Theoretically, holding a dog’s mouth closed would say to her, “don’t do that.” This form of punishment can quickly backfire, as it only serves to make your pup nervous that your hand is so close to her mouth. Your dog will not learn bite inhibition in such conditions. This will not bode well later if you need to remove something from her mouths, such as a dangerous food or object, because she has been trained to be nervous or even scared and may bite in retaliation.
Alpha Roll (Pinning the Dog to the Ground)
An old-school way of thinking is that acting like the alpha and establishing dominance through pinning a dog to the ground was an excellent way to train. This outdated science is based on wolf packs, in which the submissive wolves roll over to show their fear. In effect, you may get your dog to not bite right at that moment, but you are creating a dynamic in which she is scared of you. Instead of teaching through violent and scary methods, it is much better for you both to train her to redirect her excitement.
Many people advocate the pennies in a can method. When your dog is doing something you don’t like, you pick up the can and shake it. The loud noise startles the dog, and he will stop what he’s doing. The problem with this method is that it only works because the dog is scared by the sound. It does not teach him what to do instead of the action that prompted the noise. Dogs have been brought into shelters because their owners used this method so much that the poor animal started barking or growling anytime anyone picked up an object resembling the can. This outcome is not what we want for any dog or its owner, so please do not do this.
Spraying the Dog
It may seem great to be able to pick up a bottle and just spray your dog anytime they get out of hand. While this may work at the moment, it teaches your dog that you are scary and cannot be trusted. It is especially true if you are using anything other than water, like vinegar, citronella, or apple cider vinegar. This action can cause more biting, lunging, barking, or even hiding. We want positive results, not to cause our pet more distress.
Squealing or Yelling
Acting like you are in pain is a method many owners use to train their dog that she’s playing too rough. However, we all know how dogs love their squeaky toys, so it goes to reason that sounding like one will only get them more excited!
Enforcing through fear or confrontation may work at the moment, but these methods often come with a price in the long run. A fearful dog is much more likely to act out and be aggressive, which is the last thing we want. Now that we know what not to do let’s look at more preferable methods to stop dog nipping behaviors.
Professional Dog Trainer-Approved Methods to Stop a Dog from Biting in the Moment
Whether you have a crazy Chihuahua or ramped-up Rottweiler on your hands that is intent on nipping at your ankles or biting at your sleeves, you want it to stop now. In-depth training options are likely the furthest thing from your mind right that second.
Instead of resorting to trying to pin down the Rottie or shaking coins at an already neurotic ankle-biter, try these alternatives:
Stay Calm and Don’t Move
If you are making all sorts of noise and moving around, you are going to be a dog’s favorite toy. After all, if you are this excited, shouldn’t he be as well? If you make yourself boring to the dog, this is often enough for them to calm down.
The Treat Scatter Method
Scattering dog treats is often a dog trainer’s go-to method, and it works wonders with the staying calm approach above. A dog will not be able to resist sniffing and gathering the fistful of yummies that you just spread out for them, and the action helps redirect their attention and calm them.
Try not to think of this as rewarding the animal for jumping. The part of the brain that needs to be engaged for training is not activated at this exact moment, so the main point is to quiet their excitement through redirection. Dogs are much less likely to rebound at you after searching out the treats. If yours does, try something else on this list.
Step Into Their Bubble
If your pup is being playful and her tail is wagging happily, but she’s still nipping, try stepping into her space. Keep your own demeanor calm and stand straight up as you do so. Do not use any intimidating actions in the form of raised hands, shouting, or pushing the dog. Note that this only applies to a happy dog, not one that is being fearful or otherwise aggressive!
Leave the Room
When all else fails, leave. Go into another room and close the door, step over a baby gate, or walk outside for a minute. In effect, you are taking what your dog wants (you!) and removing it, so in your pup’s eyes, this is a punishment. When you return after a few minutes, you can attempt the training again, whether it is sitting on cue or retrieving treats, or whatever you were trying. Repeat as needed. It will take patience on your part, but this is one of the best ways to teach your dog.
Now that we have answered the question, “How to stop my dog from biting when excited,” let’s see how we can reinforce positive behavior for the long term.
How to Stop Your Dog From Nipping: Long-Term Methods for Bite Inhibition
Prevention is the key to most of life’s problems, and your dog’s nipping is no different. But, how do you stop your dog from biting in the first place?
Teach Him Something Better to Do
This method, known as Differential Reinforcement of Incompatible Behavior (DRI), uses a reward system (1). When the pup does something that they cannot simultaneously do while biting at you, she gets a treat—for instance, teaching the animal to sit when greeting a new person or another dog. You then add to this by making the situation where you train her more difficult and distracting, like when a cat or squirrel runs by. You can then move on to the dog park when all of her furry friends are running around.
The more the intensity of the situation increases, the more patience you will have to have. These training sessions will be well worth it in the end, however! One thing to keep in mind, if your dog is still nipping in between sitting for you, you may be creating a behavior chain. If this is the case, make the following situation less exciting and then reward her when she does not bite.
Hand Target Method
Instead of sitting, a lot of trainers have found the hand target method to be more preferential. The behavior you teach is to have your dog press her nose to your hand. This handy trick refocuses the pup quickly, and from here, you can train her to move around with your hand.
With this method, you are not trying to teach an excited dog to sit still; after all, how easy is it for you to do so when you are overly enthusiastic about something? It also points the dog’s mouth to a specific point- your hand- and thereby redirects them from whatever they were interested in previously.
Lastly, we all know how our pups love their dog toys. If they have one in their mouth, it is hard for them to simultaneously bite you or a guest. Therefore, you can train Spot to greet guests with a toy in his mouth. He won’t bite them, and I’m willing to bet your guest will think it is much cuter!
One word about toys, do not play tug of war with them. This type of play will just reinforce to your pup that biting and pulling is acceptable behavior.
In closing, training your dog will take time. During this phase of teaching your dog to stop biting, environmental management may be helpful.
For instance, you may choose to use a dog gate or the best dog crate you can find to train her. You could protect guests by using a leash when they come over. This way, you can pull him away from the person if you see your pup about to nip.
You may need a dog muzzle for an aggressive breed while trying to stop your dog from biting while excited.
With any of these, be sure to have plenty of treats on hand. Remember that positive reinforcement is the goal, so do not ignore your pup when she is crated or behind a barrier. And when she is displaying behaviors your want, be sure to reward her, so she continues to do so in the future. Your dog wants to make you happy, and with plenty of patience, she will learn precisely what actions will do it!
How to Stop My Dog From Biting When Excited FAQ:
Why does my dog bite me when excited?
Dogs explore the world with their mouths and noses. They do not know how to contain all of that excitement and are trying to explore and play with you.
Why does my dog get aggressive when excited?
When dogs are playing with one another, they are often jumping and biting. If you notice how they interact, you will see that it can seem rough at times. Our pups see us as part of the pack and think that it is okay to interact with their humans in the same manner.
How do you stop a puppy from jumping up and biting?
Positive reinforcement is the key to training your dog not to jump and bite. The last thing you want to do is create an environment where she is scared of you, so stay away from training methods that cause fear. These include shaking cans of pennies, trying to establish dominance, or even using spray bottles. Instead, use methods like the treat scatter or train her to touch her nose to your hand.