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How to Stop Your Dog From Biting When Excited: 7 Simple Tricks

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

Jack Russell puppy biting_Shutterstock_Haelen Haagen

Dogs, especially puppies, get excited about so many things. Anything new or something they already know and love is enough to get their tails wagging. Sometimes, though, the greeting isn’t as nice as you would hope for, especially when they start to nip at you out of excitement.

For many pups, after several months to a year, they grow out of it. Instinctually, they know that it can cause pain, and as they grow older, their teeth are more prominent, and their jaws more powerful. Other dogs, though, retain this poor behavior into adulthood.

Teaching a dog not to do this is the best way to go about their training. Read on to learn why pups do this and the best ways to stop it.

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Why Do Dogs Bite When They Get Excited?

Just like toddlers need to put their mouths around everything, dogs like to explore the world by nibbling on it. This is especially true for puppies. It doesn’t have to be damaging when they are little.

Chihuahua biting on a white rope
Image Credit: Didgeman, Pixabay

This means that when something new or exciting walks into the room, they want to chew on it. They might nip at you if they:

  • They want to put something in their mouths to chew on, and your appendages seem like a satisfying option.
  • Have figured out that chewing on you gets your attention; most dogs don’t realize much difference between happy and frustrated attention from people they love.
  • Are teething and need something to mouth on to help soothe the pain.
  • Wrestle with their other puppy friends by nipping and biting — they think that it’s playtime!
  • They need to calm themselves, and chomping on something has become a way to self-soothe.

Some dogs respond to these things differently. They might spin around quickly or start barking, which might also be behaviors that you want to work on. However, when it comes to nipping, you can use plenty of positive methods to correct this unruly action.

Follow These Ways to Stop Your Dog From Nipping When Excited

Our instinctive reactions are not always the most appropriate. This reaction is true in many training situations, where in response to being bitten or nipped at, you want to squeal or lash out. Making a loud noise sounds like communication to a dog, not discouragement. Being physical with your pup is never a good thing because it teaches them to fear instead of trust.

Instead, use one of these seven simple tricks to train your dog. Teaching them what to do instead and not reinforcing their bad behavior, even accidentally, is essential. Pups like to know that they are making you happy. They just can’t always tell which human reactions mean what exactly.

The 7 Ways to Stop Your Dog From Nipping:

1. Remain Calm

Calm Cocker Spaniel
Image Credit: andrescarlofotografia, Pixabay

Contrast their hyper attitude with one of calm and gentleness. Instead of reacting to the dog, even if it hurts, stay calm. Do not reward the pups with any kind of attention, good or bad, until they calm down. Once they do and can concentrate enough to sit, reward them with attention and even treats. If they are too young to understand “sit” yet, reward them for just being still.

2. Step Forward

If your pup refuses to calm down or the nipping has gotten a bit out of control, try getting into their space. Still, do not reward them with extra attention. Simply take a step toward them while standing. Remain calm during this exercise. Sometimes getting in your puppy’s space helps to bring them down to earth.

3. Make Sure They Have Chew Toys

For those dogs that are struggling with teething or anxiety and nibbling is a form of self-soothing, make sure they have enough chew toys. Do not give them the chew toys when they start nipping at you, which will seem like a reward for their poor behavior. Having the toys close to the entrance might disengage them from you and toward the chew toy, especially when strangers enter.

4. Scatter Food on the Ground

Take a small handful of food, and throw it on the ground slightly out of your circle, but not so that it makes a huge mess. The time they spend finding each piece distracts their minds from becoming too excited about your presence. Although this doesn’t teach them how to behave instead, it distracts and calms them down.

5. Leave Them Alone

leaving dog behind
Image Credit: susanne906, Pixabay

Even if you do not speak to them, pet them, or even acknowledge their presence while they jump around you and nip, your presence can be enough of a reward. If they continue with their bad behavior after you have remained calm and tried to get into their space, then step back out of it and walk away.

This could be stepping back over a railing, shutting the door, or walking away without acknowledging them after a while. As soon as they calm down, reward them, so they understand what the appropriate behavior is.

6. Exercise Enough

Sometimes, dogs that nip and get overly excited when people walk in do so out of boredom and too much energy. They haven’t gotten a chance to explore for a while or to get enough exercise. If your dog continues with this behavior, try taking them on extra walks. Do another before bedtime or before leaving for work.

7. Train Hand Targeting

Hand targeting is a useful way to train a dog to direct their attention to a single spot. It keeps their mind off their poor action and onto the task at hand (pun intended).

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What Not to Do When Dogs Nip

There are best practices, and then there are those that should be avoided. When training your dog out of bad behavior, carefully avoid these punishments. Using them can scare them or teach them to react with aggression or other unruly behaviors.

Hurt Them Back

When a dog nips you and causes you pain, an automatic reaction might be to lash out at them. However, hitting or kicking them in response doesn’t teach them not to nip, but to fear you.

Kennel Them

If you are trying to kennel train your dog, it should never be a punishment. Instead of a safe space for sleeping and retreating, your pup associates it with being trapped and disciplined. Even if they are overly hyper and nipping, if you excitedly capture them and put them in the kennel, it could even become a game.

dog in cage
Photo credit: Tomasz_Mikolajczyk, Pixabay

Squeal or Yell

Making loud sounds at your dog doesn’t sound like words or even cries of pain sometimes. It can encourage them because your squeals sound like their barks and noises. They might think that you are ready to play right back with them. When you come in and they start nipping, it can be difficult, but you must not even acknowledge them vocally.

Hold Their Muzzle Closed

Just as no one likes someone placing a hand over their mouth, dogs do not appreciate a hand held over their muzzle. Dogs with a more aggressive tendency will be tempted to lash out against the discomfort.

More timid animals will have a tendency to become frightened of a person’s hands near their face and can run away or lash out when someone comes over to pet them.

Challenge or Scare Them

Some trainers have suggested scaring them out of their energetic behavior by shaking a jar of coins in their faces. Another tactic is to challenge them by doing something like alpha rolling. The maneuver involves tackling them to the ground and holding them underneath you.

Do not use these maneuvers because they can challenge household roles and cause increased fear of loud noises or aggressive actions.

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Conclusion: Stopping Dogs From Nipping

Starting to correct negative behaviors from a young age is the best way to combat them. Many actions can seem excusable for an adorable puppy. Sometimes they can grow out of them, but that is a risk.

Instead, by using constructive methods that might even help bond the two of you, train them early in their lives. As they grow older, they will better understand how to behave properly.

Featured Image: Haelen Haagen, Shutterstock

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