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How to Stop Dogs from Giving "Love Bites"

Dogs are a pretty active species. They play a lot and their play can get pretty rough. The last thing we want, though, is for our dogs to be so rough they scare or even hurt friends or family when they visit.

So, if your dog has a habit of wrapping his mouth around people's hands or nipping them, it's time to make some changes.

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Why Dogs Nip and Mouth

Dogs will start wrapping their mouths around people when they are young, as early as a few weeks old. It's a way for them to play and learn how to assert placement in the litter and later the pack. Mothers will often teach them not to bite each other.

If a dog is taken away from their mother too early or if they don't have litter mates, they might never learn not to do this. Additionally, if you allow them to mouth your fingers when puppies, when teething, they might think it is as acceptable behaviour.

And while the behaviour will very rarely lead to any violence or injury, it can be very scary to children and adults alike and it can cause quite the mess when it comes to doggy slobber. So, getting a handle on it is important.

Stopping the Nips

To stop this behaviour, you need to reteach your dog in how to play. Step one is to show them that you won't respond to this behaviour. If they jump on you or nip at you, turn your back and ignore them. If you can get everyone in your house to do this repeatedly, the dog will very quickly learn.

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The act of casting a dog out socially is as strong a deterrant as anything and can work quite quickly. Additionally, never get angry or violent in response to your dog's behaviour. Because of the circumstances, yelling can lead to additional aggression or possible real biting.

Another trick that works well, especially with puppies who will do this a lot, is to tell them that their actions hurt. A small yelp or whining sound will trigger in their head as a bad thing - the same response that their litter mates had when they nipped each other.

Another thing that works really well is putting sprays on your hands and arms that your dog will not like. It may not be pleasant for you, but a bit of bitter apple spray will go a long way toward cutting off the nipping and mouthing. Don't use anything harmful - just unpleasant.

When to Be Careful

There are certain situations in which nipping and mouthing is not a playful activity but a dominance related issue that can lead directly to aggression from your dog. This is when you need to be extremely careful.

A dog with dominance and aggression issues is extremely dangerous if you try to cut off their habits with something simple like bitter apple spray or ignoring them. You need to already be the alpha leader of the pack, showing them that you are in charge at all times.

If the situation has advanced to the point where your dog is trying to challenge you for leadership or is attempting to be aggressive, you need to seek out professional help to stop this behaviour. Your goal should be to establish the alpha leadership of your pack, then to fix these behaviours.

Playing with your dog is a fun activity that can be therapeutic for the both of you. And while you may not mind their slobber dripping from your arms, eventually it can turn into a problem for your friends and family.

Fix the behaviour early and it will be far less stressful to have visitors in the future.

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