If a dog nips at your hands or feet repeatedly and the bite does not pierce the skin, he is probably “play biting”. This event occurs under the following conditions: 1- (and most commonly) your dog is excited 2-Your dog is bored. 3- Your dog is being dominant, essentially trying to get you to submit to him. 4- Your dog is playing with you as dogs would play with each other.

Although some trainers feel that nipping is a normal puppy behavior, I do not feel that play biting should ever be tolerated. If your dog is very young, give him something different to chew on. Your pup should learn from day one that his teeth should never come in contact with skin. If you’re dealing with a young dog, one method worth mentioning is to make a high-pitched squeal whenever your puppy bites you. In dog language a squeal means “too hard”, but this method does not work with dominant dogs, they will only continue to come after you.

The best way to effectively communicate that play biting is not allowed is to control your dogs’ excitement level. A calm dog will never get to the nipping stage. The best way to eliminate boredom and excitement in dogs is to exercise them. If you find that your dog nips your guests, make sure he is thoroughly tired before your guests come over (see posts tagged “exercise” for ideas on how to get your canine pooped out). If you suspect that your dog is acting dominantly you need to step it up a notch and administer a means of discipline (leash correction, “ah ah”, etc). Stay calm, and see every mistake as an opportunity for communication. Lead your dog!