Nothing is more disheartening than to have a dog that is unpredictable with their mouth. While puppies are more prone to this, nipping is unacceptable for a dog of any age as a nip is a bite. Dogs must learn that there is never a good reason for their teeth to come into contact with human skin. What to do though, if your dog has not learned this lesson yet?
To stop your dog from nipping, you need to figure out why they are doing it. The most common reasons for nipping are:
• Possessive Behavior
• Previous Rules
• Prey Drive
Obviously if your dog is nipping due to pain, they should see a veterinarian who will determine the cause and alleviate it. When the cause is one of the other issues, there is more of a problem.
Fear biting is very common in small dogs and some specific breeds. These dogs should be worked with slowly and carefully to build up their confidence while remaining firm with your discipline. Whenever your dog chooses a different course of action where he would have nipped in the past, pet him and praise him. For actual bites, you should seek the advice of a professional trainer. Yelling or hitting dogs does not work, and with a fearful dog, it can turn dangerous quickly as it only enforces their fear.
Possessive behavior is one of the most common reasons that bites occur and can escalate quickly if it is not stopped. Often nipping in this situation is the prelude to a bite, and careful thought should be taken as to whether you should see a trainer or your veterinarian in these cases. It can be easy to curb the behavior simply by eliminating the trigger when caught in the early stages. If you notice your dog nips around toys, remove the toy; if the trigger is the couch, then eliminate couch time. Some triggers cannot be eliminated. The most common is food. Food aggression should not be considered a nip. Biting, especially when food is involved, has thought behind it and is a purely aggressive act that needs to be handled immediately, often by a trained professional.
Many times when dogs nip, it is not out of aggression. Often it is that they weren’t told “no” when they were still puppies. This might happen because puppies are cute and it does not hurt. In these cases, it is often a longer road to curbing the issue. The other common culprit of this behavior is small dogs. Often small dogs are permitted this behavior for the same reason puppies are, and it is still unacceptable.
Prey drive is very high in some dogs. Often nips occur when children wave their hands around quickly or run. It is important that your dog learns that this is not OK. Keep them on a leash until they learn that chasing and nipping are not acceptable in order to keep your children safe while they learns.