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Do you notice that when your dog gets excited, their first instinct is to bite or mouth you? While this is not aggressive behavior, it’s certainly not ideal – and it can even hurt! While arousal biting is most common in puppies and adolescent dogs, older dogs may also exhibit this behavior. In this article, we take a closer look at arousal biting and why your dog bites you when excited.
What is Arousal Biting in Dogs?
It’s essential to make clear that arousal biting does not necessarily mean that your dog is sexually excited, although this may likely be the case in adolescent dogs. Arousal biting is often caused by an emotion – whether excited, playful, frustrated, or anxious. As a result, your dog will bite their humans or environment. A highly stimulated dog is more likely to engage in arousal biting when their human comes home after a long day or when you’re playing with them.
Why Do Puppies Like to Bite When Aroused?
It should be noted that while nipping or mouthing behavior in puppies often leads to arousal biting later in life, puppies may mouth their owners for several other reasons. These include teething, bonding with their owners, and simply being playful, as mouthing is a way of early communication for young puppies and their mothers.
However, mouthing and arousal biting both come from a lack of impulse control. A puppy is more likely to exhibit this behavior than an older dog because they have not yet been taught foundational training basics. Even basic commands like sit, stay, and lie down, will help guide a young puppy not to engage in arousal biting.
Benefits of Training Bite Inhibition
Bite inhibition is a dog’s ability to control the pressure of their mouth when biting. If a dog hasn’t been trained in bite inhibition, they may not realize that they are hurting you, even when they leave bruises, marks, or scratches on you. A dog or a puppy trained in bite inhibition will be less likely to engage in arousal biting once they reach adolescence or adulthood.
While many dog owners choose to let their puppy engage in mouthing behavior, thinking that they’ll grow out of it, this is often not the case. A dog who is not allowed to bite will be less likely to engage in this unwanted behavior in the future.
How to Stop Arousal Biting in Your Adult Dog
It’s essential to put a stop to arousal biting, especially if your dog is six months of age or older and has grown out of the teething phase. While puppies should be taught bite inhibition by at least five months, it is never too late to teach your dog that arousal biting is an unwanted behavior.
The following are methods to help avoid arousal biting and teach your dog that they do not need to use their mouths when excited:
Try the “Be a Tree” Method
Does your dog start biting due to excitement? Then the “Be a Tree” method may be an effective way to end their biting behavior. The “Be a Tree” method is often used to help train a dog to stop pulling on the leash. This is when you hold yourself entirely still when your dog starts their unwanted behavior. By not reacting and withholding your attention, your dog may realize that biting is, in fact, a boring activity.
Redirect Their Behavior
If you find that the “Be a Tree” method does not work for you and your dog, then redirecting their mouths is often effective for diverting arousal biting. Once your puppy or adult dog begins biting, throw some treats or a favorite toy on the ground to drive the attention away from yourself.
Engage Them in Physical Activity
Engaging your dog in equally physically demanding activities is another effective way to stop arousal biting. Take them in the backyard and play fetch or take them for a walk. Any activity that tires your dog out and redirects their attention is recommended, as arousal biting is often made worse by a lack of mental stimulation and excess energy.
Lead Them to Their Calm Spot
While an active dog should always be well exercised, it’s crucial to have a spot in the house just for them to calm down. Their calm spot should be completely separate from you, such as a crate, gated room, or puppy pen, and should contain bones, toys, or any other dog-appropriate stimulating object. Giving them an appropriate place to calm down and redirect their biting behavior is essential for teaching them that you, their owner, are not a chew toy.
When to Call a Professional Trainer
If your dog is still engaging in arousal biting behavior after trying the above methods, then it is time to call in a professional dog trainer. This is especially important if your dog has started exhibiting aggressive behavior on top of the arousal biting, such as growling or showing their teeth, or if the biting has escalated to destruction or damage in the home.
Should I Be Concerned About Arousal Biting?: The Bottom Line
It’s important to note that no dog behavior will be changed overnight and that your entire household is on the same page when teaching your dog that arousal biting is a no-no. While you, as a dog owner, may think that this type of biting is not a big deal, others you may come in contact with may think differently. It’s essential to put an end to arousal biting before it becomes a more significant issue. Try the above methods and stick with them to put an end to this unwanted behavior as soon as possible!
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Welcome to Spike’s Dog Blog by Acme Canine. Throughout the site, you will find a variety of helpful dog training articles, insightful dog behavior tips, and truthful product reviews from nationally-recognized canine trainers and professionals.