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Why Does My Dog Nibble on Me? (2022) 15 Reasons

Forming a bond with your dog is one of the most rewarding experiences that comes with unforgettable moments and happiness. But like all relationships, not every day is blissful, especially when your dog displays frustrating habits. 

For example, when your canine follows its tail for long periods and barks at sounds only it can hear, you get a kick out of it. However, there will be habits your dog has that can cause issues or injure other family members in your home, like when it likes to nibble or nip at you with its teeth. Why does my dog nibble on me?

If you want your dog to stop its odd nibbling habit that sometimes hurts you, the goal should be to figure out why it’s nibbling on you in the first place. Whether it’s gnawing, biting, or mouthing issues, there is always a reason which will take some effort to figure out. 

Before starting this guide, the first thing to remember is that it’s a common problem, and there is always a solution with proper troubleshooting. The method you choose will hinge on why your dog is nibbling, which I will help you learn how to discover. 

dog against hauman hand

Why Does My Dog Nibble on Me? 15 Reasons

1. Dog Has PTSD

If you adopted a dog from your local rescue that had an abusive former owner, there’s a chance it will display symptoms of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Other sources of doggy PTSD could be accidents, abandonment, starvation, or being left without water

Doggy PTSD may lead them to numerous behavioral issues like being hyper, defecating inside the home, and being confrontationally aggressive. The only way to soothe their symptoms is often by nibbling or gnawing on you. This habit gives your dog solace, but sometimes it can lead to biting, which turns this behavior into a problem if it escalates. 

dog nibbles on owner

2. Weak Impulse Control

Your dog’s inability to control itself could be a big reason the biting and gnawing behavior doesn’t stop. This behavior becomes an addictive habit, and it’s hard for your pet to cease nibbling on your hand or arms every time it sees you.

The good news is you can train it to stop nibbling and control its impulses. This training is practical and effective whether your dog is a newborn puppy or an adult. Speak sternly to your dog or let out a yelp whenever it attempts to nibble on any part of your body.

It works because by letting out a yelp or speaking sternly, you are signaling to your dog that it caused you to feel pain and that it should not repeat this behavior. Of course, this method won’t work the first time because it will take some repetition for your pup to catch on and let go of an old habit. 

black and white dog with human hand

3. Playfulness

How often do you get home after a long day in the office, and your dog welcomes you at your front door with a bone in its mouth? Or does your canine walk up to you when you are sitting somewhere, holding its favorite toy in its mouth while dropping it at your feet

If the answer is yes to either of the above questions and your dog starts nibbling to get your attention, it means it wants to play with you. It’s a habit most dogs have to signal they want to mess around and have fun.

This behavior has nothing to do with aggressiveness or negative emotions. Instead, it means it wants to go outside in your yard or a park to play. 

Dog-with-toy

There is one body language indicator to look out for to be sure they want to play or only want to cuddle. It may seem like strange instructions but look at the posterior part of their body until you see the tail. If you see the tail wagging in every direction or they start to shake their butt, they may want to play with you. 

4. Enjoys the Way You Taste

If your skin is salty after a hot day in the sun, your dog will like how your body tastes. It will often alternate from nibbling to licking, and it should not be a problem as long as you don’t feel any pain. 

5. Fear

It’s pretty standard for a dog to nibble at you or give you a tiny bite mark if it’s scared of you, which happens if they don’t know you. It’s also common if they were in an abusive family before you brought them into your home.

If you have this experience, there is a solution, but it will not be easy and will take time. The best advice I can give you is to consult a dog trainer and remember to have plenty of patience because it’s worth it in the end!

dog-licking-man-in-the-face-outside

6. Aggression

Nibbling can become problematic when it indicates aggressive behavior and worsens if ignored. For example, when a dog nips at your arms, it may mean it’s being malicious and giving you a warning. 

So the first step is finding out why it’s behaving this way before you can solve the problem. It’s imperative that you do this as soon as possible and hire an expert if you must. 

7. It’s A Puppy

If you just adopted a puppy from a local pet store, it’s normal for it to nibble, bite, or gnaw at you until it’s properly trained. They exhibit this behavior when they start teething but also do it as a way to discover their new surroundings using their taste buds. 

boy with puppy socialization checklist

This practice is an important step your puppy needs to take, so it has firm impulse control during adulthood. From 1 to 6 months old, use this time to train them in mouthing habits. The method you use to deal with mouthing when your dog is a puppy will mold its behavior into adulthood and become permanent.

It’s best to seek advice from a veterinarian first because there are many incorrect ways to do it that you don’t want to try. 

8. Investigating

Since dogs don’t have access to the internet as we do, the only method canines have to investigate and research what they want to know is by using their sense of taste and smell. Their nose and mouth are great tools for learning about unfamiliar environments. 

Another reason your dog might want to investigate is if you’re wearing an unfamiliar scent that it’s not used to. For example, you could have purchased a new shampoo or gone to your neighbor’s house and played with their golden retriever. Your dog will instinctually sense the unique smell and want to nibble on you to understand it. 

shiny dog nose in focus

9. Showing Possession

Another reason your dog might be nibbling on you is to show other dogs you belong to them. It’s not usually an aggressive nibble and is done softly to let you know it won’t hurt you. It’s common for some dog breeds to be possessive of their parents and not want to lose their attention.

You should only worry if the possessiveness becomes aggressive and your dog starts acting violently toward others. That’s when you must put your foot down and train it to accept other animals and people near you. 

10. Comfort

Nibbling is a behavior dogs perform since they were puppies and bring the habit into adulthood. It’s a coping mechanism to help them calm down when faced with a stressful situation. Children have a similar habit because when they feel nervous, they suck their thumbs. 

puppy-sleeping-on-other-dogs-head why does my puppy sleep on my head

Nibbling is comforting to dogs because it reminds them of how their mother soothed them when they drank its milk, and after adopting them into your home, you replace the mother, which is why they nibble on you. 

11. Teething 

Dogs experience teething when they are puppies, like human babies do when they’re infants. The teething phase is usually temporary until the teeth finish growing, but some dogs bring the habit into adulthood. It’s normal, and this behavior helps them feel relaxed and comforted. 

In rare cases, nibbling is similar to the behavior of dogs experiencing oral or dental problems, so regular checkups with a vet will identify this issue. 

dog's mouth

12. Anxiety

Depending on your dog’s breed, some are more susceptible to being skittish and scared around strangers they never met before. This anxiety causes them to nibble and chew on your finger or hang to calm their nerves. It’s another coping mechanism dogs use that you can identify quickly if you know the signs you need to look out for.

The key is to study your pet’s body language and see how it differs when they feel anxious or nervous. 

13. Oral Problems

Toothaches are never a good experience, and it’s not easy for your dog to tell you if they have one. Unfortunately, the only way for them to let you know is by nibbling on you or chewing your fingers softly to indicate it’s going through pain.

In addition, oral issues like cavities, rotting teeth, and periodontal diseases cause extreme pain and leave your dog sleepless at night. If you don’t deal with this issue as soon as you find out, the problem could worsen or become fatal. Therefore, it’s best to take your pet to the vet as soon as you see any symptoms for advice and treatment. 

close up of dog's mouth

14. Excitement

It’s common for certain dog breeds, like labradors and pugs, to start gnawing and nibbling on you when they can’t control their excitement. This is especially true if you are the person closest to them because they are sincerely happy to see you. 

As long as the nibbling doesn’t injure anyone, it’s a harmless habit your dog has when it feels thrilled to see people it loves, and there is nothing to worry about. 

15. Showing Love

Most times, this will be why your dog is nibbling on you since dogs are very affectionate animals if you’re a kind master. Chewing on your fingers is your dog’s way of saying it loves you, and that’s why we love them too. 

dachsund licks a person's face

How To Stop Your Dog From Nibbling on You

  • Be Strict: There is a way to be firm with your dog without making it abusive. Say “no” with a severe tone every time it attempts to nibble on you.
  • Time Outs: This punishment works for dogs as well as it works on kids. When your dog nibbles, put it in a corner with no attention or affection. If you repeatedly enforce this punishment, it will stop after a few times. Remember to increase the length of the time out by 10 minutes every time it misbehaves. 
  • Positive Reinforcement: This method is highly effective and essential. When your dog starts to behave and no longer nibbles on you, shower it with love and cuddles while complimenting it. With positive reinforcement, it learns its lesson through conditioning, so it doesn’t revert to old habits in the future. 
puppy licks woman why does my puppy lick me so much
puppy licks woman

Summing It Up

Your relationship with your dog is constantly evolving, and you are learning from each other. The key is always to seek out the cause of every problem so you can know how to deal with it as quickly as possible.

Also, getting to know your canine more every day will teach you what you need to do when it misbehaves in your home by nibbling on your finger or if it has a bad habit you must work on eliminating. Lastly, you must solve every problem with your dog firmly while still remembering to show it plenty of love and cuddles to make your bond stronger!

dog licks woman's face why does my dog nibble on me

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