When puppies play with one another they often nip or bite at each other. This behavior is completely natural, and for the most part, tolerated by their mother. Nipping is not usually a sign of aggression but simply a puppy’s way of trying to play with you. They have learned this play technique at an early age, and will carry it over from the mother’s den to your home.
Regardless of the dog’s size, this is a behavior that should be discouraged. People often make excuses for the dog by saying that it was an accident or that they were just playing and will grow out of it. In most cases, however, the dog or puppy was completely aware of what he was doing and thought that it was an acceptable way to interact.
If a dog was not taught to stop this behavior when he was young he may continue to do so as he ages. Dogs that are prone to herding may nip when their “herd” (often children) do not move the way they want them to. Also, because the dog has gotten bigger the nipping often turns into “mouthing”. The dog will put his entire mouth on your arm or leg during play or to get your attention. While the dog may not be trying to hurt or injure you, the mouthing can be just as painful and dangerous.
In order to prevent this behavior from escalating it is best to teach a dog not to nip when he is a puppy. This is one of the first topics covered in our Puppy Pre-School classes or in our Private Puppy Consultations. If you have an adult dog that still nips or mouths we can address that along with many other behavioral issues in our one-on-one sessions or in our residency camps.