Teef Brief: A Behavior Expert Explains Why Dogs Nibble On Us

My! What sharp, big teeth does your dog have? It’s a great way you can … nibble your mouth with?

If your dog is fond of your hand as a chew toy every now and then time, there are probably many questions in your head (as well as dirt on your hands). The expert in behavior Sherrie Yuschak RVT VTS (Behavior) KPA-CTP will be there to answer your questions but not the slobber. In addition to defining the distinction between biting and nibbling, she will explain the reason your dog may be eating and suggests what you can do to prevent the behavior.

What is the difference between nibbling and biting?

Before we go any further it is important to know the difference between nibbling and not. According to Yuschak, the definition of a nibble is when the dog’s teeth touch your skin, without biting it. She describes this low pressure on the teeth as mouthing. She states that it could involve the whole mouth of the dog, or only one or two teeth (or Teef, which is what they’re often referred to as). The dog that is chewing is also free of body language that is associated with aggression and its usual sources, stress, and fear. The signs may differ between dogs, however, the dog that has a rigid, low posture and ears that are flat, with raised hackles and a tail that’s tucked isn’t.

The pressure on your teeth which is greater (more than a pinch) in conjunction with the body language mentioned above isn’t in line with the definition of a nibble. In these instances, Yuschak suggests seeking assistance from your doctor or a board-certified vet behaviorist.

Five Reasons Dogs Don’t Like To Eat

Yuschak examines the causes that your dog may be licking your fingers in five major categories which aren’t mutually exclusive.

1. The Developmental Stage (Puppy Teething and Exploring)

If the person who is causing the problem is a puppy Yuschak believes that the behavior might be due to the age of your pet and what’s happening to their brains and mouths. The most pertinent aspect of this discussion on development can be the idea that puppies experience an initial period of teething. Between 4 and six months old when puppies are born, they begin changing their initial set of sharp teeth to 42 adult permanent teeth–a process that causes lots of chewing. Take into account how puppies chew their teeth to explore and understand their surroundings and you’ve got the recipe for gnarly teeth.

2. The typical behavior of breeds

It’s possible that instinct is at the very least partially to blame for your dog’s teeth habits, Yuschak explains. Certain breeds have been bred for centuries to use their mouths to perform certain tasks, both in the workplace and in sports. As an example, as per the name Labrador retriever dogs were originally trained to pull fish and ducks from the icy waters of as well as around Newfoundland. They also have herding dogs that like those of the Australian cattle dog are known to use nipping in order to help move cows. This is why the desire for finger-snapping could be connected to a sense of instinct.

3. Arousal

Note the times when your dog is most likely to bite your hands. If it’s during a game, Yuschak says the behavior could be the result of the dog’s arousal. This means that your dog may be chewing their chompers in order to show their enthusiasm. Yuschak says that what starts as a natural expression of joy can turn into an acquired, attention-seeking behavior. If your pet observes that their nibbling draws your attention at them, they might be positively conditioned to do it again in the future.

4. Fear/Conflicted Emotions

To take a line taken from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice It is generally accepted that dogs who have an open belly will be in desperate need of a belly rub. Is it? “Dogs are known to roll onto their backs since they’ve been taught that it draws attention and affection from human companions,” Yuschak explains. “But the dogs can also roll on their backs if they’re scared and want to behave in a submissive way.”

Imagine that you go over to an anxious dog and begin giving them a good scratch. The gesture you thought was only a way to get toward Cloud 9 can instead make the dog feel uncomfortable and nervous. Along with eating, Yuschak says to look for a tail that is tucked, eyes that are dilated as well as tense lips shut mouth or ear that is stretched back as well as a stiff posture. “If you spot these indications,” she continues, “encourage your dog to get up and to continue petting them when they draw attention from a more relaxed pose.”

5. Grooming Behavior

Have you ever seen your dog’s paws being bitten by corncobs on their own fingers? It’s a normal grooming technique dogs use to reduce itchiness and get rid of bugs such as ticks, fleas, or ticks. It’s, therefore, possible that the dog that your pet is applying its front teeth towards your face in this manner you’re simply sharing a small portion of its skincare routine. Furthermore, it’s possible that the sharing of teeth can be a sign of affection in the sense that Yuschak mentions that social grooming could be an affiliation (i.e. bonding) behavior in animals.

3 Things to Do If Your Dog Bites You

Your dog is more likely to have more important things to do instead of treating your cuticles as corn but they might require your assistance to get rid of the habit.

1. Recognize the Triggers of your dog

Yuschak suggests that you observe your dog’s behavior in order to pinpoint the specific triggers. “What is the face contact look like? When is the time when this behavior occurs? What is the frequency? The answers to these questions can aid you in completing the next step, which is to eliminate triggers whenever you can,” she explains. If, for instance, your dog is known to be aggressive towards an individual or group of people, you might want to keep your pet in a cage outside, in the open, or in a secure area before guests arrive. You may also have to ensure that playtime is peaceful and even suspend it when your dog starts to get tense up.

2. Redirect to the desired behavior

Yuschak suggests that it may be helpful to understand your dog’s body language signals that indicate that excitement or arousal is rising, so you can avoid the behavior by introducing early redirection. A redirection tool is to employ signals. “Teach the desired behavior that is not compatible by nibbling, for example, “go to the crate, grab and hold a pet, or even “nose to hand,” she suggests. “Then you can offer your pet the correct signal that will stop this behavior before it starts.” The idea of filling trigger areas of treats as well as toys to ensure they’re always in reach could help to shift your pet’s attention and also.

But redirection isn’t an instrument for prevention Yuschak claims. Cues treats, cues, as well as toys, are useful in stopping the behavior after it starts. The punishment, on the contrary, however, isn’t. “Avoid telling your dog no, taking your dog away, or grasping your pet’s muzzle,” she adds. “Doing such could trigger the dog’s behavior and lead your dog to fear you.”

3. Meet Your Dog’s Mental and Physical Exercise needs

Another method to prevent this is to make sure the dog gets enough physical and mental stimulation daily, Yuschak says. She mentions the following: walks walk-ins and treat searches around the yard or in the house, puzzle feeder toys play, and the training as ways to exercise your dog’s body and brain. And if you’re ever unsure or want help with redirection ideas, reach out to your veterinary team or to a credentialed positive-reinforcement trainer. Your fingers will be grateful.


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