Why Does My Dog Bite Me?

Why Does My Dog Bite Me?

Dogs are amazing pets and companions and bring so much joy to the lives of their owners and family members. However, every dog has a couple eccentricities! If your dog bites you, you may be wondering why they do so and what you can do to help them stop.

Let’s consider some of the main reasons that dogs bite people. In general, these actions are merely playful. However, sometimes, they can be a sign of a more serious issue. Let’s dive into the topic and see when you might need to be concerned.

Why Do Dogs Bite?

Dogs bite for many reasons, from simple enjoyment to frustration to fear. It’s important that you know how to distinguish between different types of dog bites when you’re working on training your dog not to bite.

Playful Biting

Most—if not all—dogs bite and mouth during play. They do this with each other and with their human playmates. During play with other dogs, your pup will learn not to bite when he bites too hard and the other dog reacts with pain. 

Usually, play will stop for a moment as both dogs realize something went wrong. This back and forth process will continue as often as one dog bites the other too hard. Eventually, the dogs will have figured out that they shouldn’t bite one another so hard that they stop the play again. 

As a human, you can use a similar technique to teach your dog not to bite and mouth you. All dogs use their mouths in play, not entirely unlike human babies who tend to begin life by putting everything in their mouth. If you don’t want your dog to bite or mouth you, you can teach them not to.

How To Stop Playful Biting in Dogs

Follow a similar pattern to that which dogs themselves follow.

  1. Decide how much you want to allow your dog to mouth you. You can allow them to do so playfully if you want to. If you’d rather they didn’t use their mouth in play at all, you can easily teach them this as well.
  2. When your dog bites or mouths you during playtime, immediately respond with a loud yell/yelp such as “Ow!”
  3. After yelling, immediately remove your hand and stop playing.
  4. If necessary, move away from your dog, keeping playtime on pause for 30-90 seconds. Alternatively, you can use an unpleasant spray (dogs dislike citrus flavors, for example) and spray it in their mouth when they bite—however, this option is less desirable. 
  5. Return to your dog and calmly resume playtime.
  6. Repeat this process as often as necessary. 

Eventually, your dog should learn that mouthing and biting is not okay during play and should stop doing it. 

If your dog tends to bite at your feet and ankles while you’re walking or at your hands while petting, another effective method of halting this behavior is to:

  1. Freeze.
  2. Wait for the biting and nipping to stop.
  3. Praise them lavishly when they stop.
  4. Offer a toy or treat as a reward.

In addition, you can redirect your dog’s attention. If they start to bite or mouth you, immediately offer a toy such as a tug-of-war rope or a chew toy so that they get used to playing with toys instead of biting. Of course, teaching your dog to obey commands (such as “stop” or “wait”) can also help you teach him when biting and mouthing is not okay. 

Socializing your dog is another great way to prevent biting. The more time your dog has to play roughly with other dogs, the less he’ll try to play roughly with you. 

It’s important to note that you should never hit or punish your dog, nor should you ever jerk away from them. Such movements will either lead the dog to believe you’re playing with them or lead them to feel offended and more aggressive. Make sure everything you do is calm and calculated.

Aggressive Biting

In addition to normal playful biting, it’s not uncommon for dogs to bite when they’re feeling aggressive as well. There are many reasons that may cause a dog to feel aggressive and react with a sharp bite. Some common reasons include:

  • Surprise. Suddenly coming upon your dog from behind or while they’re sleeping could cause them to bite out of surprise, just as you might hit someone if you were surprised in a similar situation.
  • Fear. Be aware of what frightens your dog. If they sense danger, whether that’s something as simple as loud noises or as intense as abuse, they may react by biting.
  • Defense. At some level, most dogs are guard animals. This means that they tend to defend the things they love, whether that be you or a favorite toy or treat. If someone tries to get between them and that which they’re defending, they’re likely to bite.
  • Frustration. If a dog feels trapped, whether that’s in an uncomfortable situation or simply a place they don’t want to be because of a leash, they may lash out by biting.
  • Pain. If your dog is injured or ill, they likely don’t know how to deal with their feelings of pain and discomfort. Sometimes, a fear that anyone touching them will make things worse could cause them to react with a bite. 

How To Stop Aggressive Biting in Dogs

If your dog bites out of aggression, the most important thing for you to do is to get to know your individual dog well. Understand what triggers them and keep them away from it if necessary. If they’re very young, it may be a good idea to expose them to these discomforts as positively as you can (e.g. with treats in hand) to train them early on not to react by biting.

If your dog is older and is still aggressive, know when you’ll need to remove them from a situation to prevent them from biting people—both yourself and others in the area. You may want to keep your dog on a leash or in an enclosed space at all times, which will certainly reduce their quality of life but may be necessary if they bite often. 

You can use training techniques to help your dog learn not to bite. These tactics may include using positive reinforcement such as offering treats or giving praise if your dog doesn’t bite after a stressful situation. You may also need to provide extra activities and affection to help calm your dog down.

If your dog isn’t listening to you and doesn’t respond to positive reinforcement, a dog trainer may be your best bet at helping your dog end their aggressive biting tendencies and become more comfortable even in potentially stressful situations.

Creating a Happy Life for Your Dog

Playful biting in dogs is easy to manage. Aggressive biting is a more difficult challenge, but is possible to manage, especially if you work with a certified dog trainer. 

As you work to prevent biting, make sure that you provide your dog with a healthy and happy place to live. Give them plenty of toys and treats when they maintain good behavior. Teach them how to play well. Give them healthy food and keep their yard clear of poop and debris.

If you maintain a happy and healthy space for your dog, they’re much more likely to live a happy life free of aggressive behavior. But don’t hesitate to reach out to a trainer if you just can’t help your dog on your own. 

Need help maintaining a clean yard? Our team at Idaho Poop Scoop would be delighted to help! Dogs poop, we scoop, so check out our services and give us a call if you want to provide a safer and happier yard environment for your precious pup.