Why does my dog nibble on me?
Pet owners have been asking themselves that question for a long, long time. There are actually a lot of reasons this might be happening with your pup, and they might surprise you. While there are some instances where a dog nibbling could be a sign of something amiss, the majority of times, it’s nothing to be concerned about – unless this unwanted behavior starts to get a little annoying.
These are just some of the explanations behind what causes your pup to start nibbling on you (or your clothes), and how to tell when there’s a chance that some innocent nibbles could turn into aggressive behavior.
Why Do Dogs Nibble On Their Owners Like They’re Eating Corn On The Cob?
Here are a few of the reasons why your dog nibbles – and what to do if you want them to stop.
Your dog can get a little anxious, just like you can. Nibbling might be their way of expressing it. For example, your pet might experience separation anxiety because you’re away from home several hours a day. They might not just nibble on you, but on your furniture, your clothing, your shoes, or other things around the home. They might also suckle on your fingers if they get the chance.1
Be especially observant while they’re exhibiting this behavior. There are some dogs who will do some gentle nibbling or biting at first, and then start to exhibit some aggressive body language. The dog’s tail can be a good sign as to whether you need to worry or not. If the tail is in any of the following positions your pup could be becoming aggressive:
- Facing down and still – This could mean the dog is uneasy for some reason. You might have brought them over to your friend’s home for the first time, or they’re in some other type of uncomfortable environment. You could be at the vet’s office – a place your dog hates to visit. If you notice their tail in this orientation, then do what you can to keep them calm. Offer them one of your pet food secret treats if possible, and a lot of gentle love.
- Tucked between the legs – This is another sign that something’s not right. It probably means your dog is frightened for some reason, either due to a sudden, loud sound or something else. Again, be gentle and reassuring. If you’re not, the dog could attack out of fear.
- Stiff and horizontal – It’s time to worry if this happens. It usually occurs when a dog meets a human or another dog for the first time. This behavior is a challenge of sorts. The dog is being cautious to see what the other person or dog will do. If they make some sort of move the dog perceives as threatening, that could trigger an aggressive reaction.2
It Could Be A Sign Of Affection
Again, most of the time, a dog nibbling is actually something positive. For example, it is often your dog’s way of showing how much they love you. It might actually be a form of grooming, which is how dogs bond and show respect to members of their pack that have a higher standing. The dog views you as the pack leader.3
At the same time, though, remember that your dog really loves the taste of your skin. When you add that to the fact that your clothes have their own scent, then the dog will simply not be able to resist nibbling. They just can’t help themselves.4
They Want To Play
How many times have you come home after a long day at work and seen your dog greet you with a toy in their mouth? Does your dog bring their favorite toy over to you while you’re lounging on the couch watching your favorite television show?
If they do that, and then start nibbling, that might be a sure sign that they think it’s playtime. They might not only do this to you, but also any other dogs you might have in your home. They’re not exhibiting any sort of aggressive or otherwise negative behavior – they’re just ready to get out in the yard or go to the dog park.5
How can you tell whether they’re ready to play, or they’re just being affectionate? As odd as this may seem, look at their butt. If they’re wagging their tail, or wiggling their butt, that more than likely means they think it’s time to play.6
They’re Bored Or Want Attention
If a dog doesn’t get enough stimulation, they might start to nibble on your hand. Hey, it’s better than doing nothing, right? It could simply be a way to kill some time. They might not have anything better to do, so they think, “Why not nibble on these tasty fingers a little bit?”7
If your dog doesn’t think you’re giving them enough love, they might do a little nibbling so you’ll give them some attention.8
Your Puppy Is Teething
The act of nibbling will often have a different meaning if your dog is still a puppy. If they’re starting the teething stage, they’re going to want to use their new teeth to check things out. This might lead to some gentle nibbling on your toes, fingers, or ears. They might be a little more prone to doing this if their baby teeth are falling out. This usually happens between the ages of six and seven months.9
They’re Chilling Out
Some people like to have a nice glass of wine as they relax after a long day. Some dogs like to nibble to unwind. When they put their mouth on something – whether that’s a book, the leg of a chair, or your arm – that’s their way of saying they’re feeling really cozy and content.10
How To Gently Discourage Your Pup From Nibbling
While some nibbles are really cute every once in a while, they may start to get annoying. If your pup’s behavior has turned from kind of funny to, well, a little frustrating, there are a couple of things that you can do to try and put it to a stop.
Try substituting a toy for your finger, or whatever else your pooch likes to nibble. Encourage them to chew on the toy, and then give them a lot of praise when they do. This will show them that they should nibble on toys — not parts of your body. You could also simply try to ignore the behavior.11
Whatever you do, don’t get so annoyed that you decide you should punish your dog. Don’t yell at them, and definitely never, ever strike them. This could, unfortunately, cause an episode of playfulness to turn into aggressiveness. That’s the last thing you want.12
Still Not Finding The Answer? Talk To Your Veterinarian
Hopefully, this information will help answer the question, “Why does my dog nibble on me?” If none of these possibilities seem to fit, then you might have a talk with your vet. They know your dog as well as you do, and they might be able to tell you why this is happening, and what you can do about it.