You’re with your dog. You’re thinking about something and… all of a sudden your dog grabs your arm (kind of like a Piranha).
What’s that all about?
If you’re looking for answers, you’ll find them right here.
Read on to find out:
- When your dog grabs your arm out of pain (#7 is a must-read).
- How you could be ‘inviting’ your dog to grab your arm (without even realizing it).
- The hidden meaning between grabbing your arm with their mouth vs. grabbing your hand with their paw.
- And even more…
Table of contents
- Why do dogs grab your arm with their mouth?
- Why do dogs grab your arm with their paws?
- 7 reasons why your dog grabs your arm
- 5 tips to stop your dog from grabbing your arm
Why do dogs grab your arm with their mouth?
Your dogs grab your arm with their mouth because they are anxious or in pain. Looking at their body language and facial expression narrows down the cause. Erect ears, looking around and pacing can point to anxiety. It also helps to check their body for wounds or injuries.
Why do dogs grab your arm with their paws?
Your dogs grab your arm with their paws because they want attention and affection. They are tactile creatures, using physical touch to communicate their needs to their humans. Sometimes, they also grab your arm because they want you to play with them.
7 reasons why your dog grabs your arm
Dogs can’t talk. But they employ several ways to communicate with humans.
According to this study, dogs communicate through the following:
But humans seem to overlook the importance of physical touch. Dogs use touch to communicate what they need and want from you.
And they do that by grabbing your arms through their mouth or paws.
#1: They crave attention
Dogs are tactile beings. They love to be in close physical contact with their humans.
That’s why they lean on you or nudge you with their head or nose.
And they grab your arm using their mouth or paws. You have probably experienced this one several times.
Aside from grabbing your arm, they give you an attentive gaze. Add to that their upright ears and tail wagging vigorously.
They would use this moment to be close to you and crave your attention. Particularly if you’ve been gone most of the day.
Note: Your dog cannot differentiate between positive and negative attention. As long as they get attention from you, they would grab you using their mouth and paws.
#2: They want you to play with them
Most often, it’s puppies that grab your arm with their mouth.
Puppies love to use their mouths, whether for playing or exploring their surroundings. You’ll notice how they use their mouths often to play with other dogs.
Consider that play is as important to puppies as it is to kids. Thus, give them as many opportunities for play as you can provide.
The challenge here is teaching your dog to be gentle. It’s because human skin is more vulnerable to scratches and bites.
You also need to teach your dog other ways to play aside from biting body parts.
Thankfully, puppies engage less in grabbing your arm by their mouth as they age.
#3: They want you to stop doing something
Imagine this scenario:
Your dog jumps up on the couch and plops down beside you. Instinctively, you reach out to touch their belly.
Your dog grabs your arm as if to tell you something. But you continue giving them scratches anyway.
All of a sudden, your dog grabs your arm using their mouth.
It doesn’t break your skin. However, you can see that your dog isn’t in a good mood.
All these signs point to your dog not liking what you did. And forcing them to do what they don’t like can lead to biting mishaps.
That’s precisely how Lissa acts too. If she’s in a mood for cuddles, she comes to us and nudges us with her nose.
Then, we start petting her and giving her belly rubs. And at some point, when she’s had enough, she starts grabbing our hands with her mouth. As if to say…
Other times, I want to brush her (especially during shedding season) and as soon as I touch the brush to her back, she starts biting my hand. Not too hard but just enough to give me the right message.
But back to you and your dog…
To help you decide on a course of action, ask yourself these questions:
Does your dog react aggressively? Does grabbing your arm lead to injuries?
If yes, then it’s time to seek the help of a professional behaviorist. That’s because if you let this behavior pass, your dog will repeat it.
Note: When looking for a behaviorist, choose someone who employs positive reinforcement.
#4: They want affection
Your dog loves all the ways you show them your love.
In fact, they love to be petted all the time. And they always find ways to get you to engage with them.
First, they grab your arm with their mouth or paws. It makes you look at those soulful eyes. And now they have your attention.
Next, they would lay their chin on your lap. Or lean against your leg.
Yes, they’re looking for affection.
So you reach out to pet them, perhaps give them ear or belly scratches. And when you stop, they grab your arm. They wouldn’t let go of it.
Their relaxed or expectant facial expression seems to say something.
Kind of like saying, ‘Why did you stop, human?’
In that case, they grab your arm because they want you to keep petting them.
Just like what this cutie does:
Aside from wanting affection, they grab your arm as a return of affection. Or perhaps they’re directing your hand to where they want more scratches.
#5: They want food
Dogs would do anything for food. Even grabbing your arm to get food from you.
Dogs do this because they’ve learned that grabbing your arm works for them. Perhaps you’ve given them food in the past after grabbing your arm.
A habit like this seems harmless at first. What’s wrong with giving a small piece of bread, right?
Just one piece and your dog would leave you in peace.
But that’s what you think!
Now every time you eat, your dog grabs your arm and looks at you with those puppy dog eyes.
#6: They feel anxious
Does your dog grab your arm, and then look at you with their ears upright?
Then they look around and pace?
As a dog owner, the first thing you want to do is find out why they act this way.
Sometimes this is challenging. After all, the reason could be anything.
But try to be more observant of your dog’s reaction and your surroundings. Their body language and facial expression can help narrow down the cause.
As such, check if they’re drooling or panting too much. See how their tail is positioned. If it’s low, then your dog could be anxious.
If you notice these signs shortly before leaving, it could be separation anxiety. But if you’re just home, it could be something else.
Does your dog hate thunderstorms? They could sense it before it arrives, so it could be what’s making them anxious.
#7: They are in pain
Dogs grab your arms if they’re in pain.
You’ll know pain is the reason if your affection, attention, or food does not make them happy. Or they whine or yelp.
If you suspect they’re in pain, do a careful inspection of their body. Look for wounds that could be hidden by tufts or dark fur.
If they’re limping, check their limbs for swelling. And see if there is something stuck between their paw pads.
Don’t forget to check the inside of their mouth. Something could be stuck between their teeth.
If your dog is young, could it be that they’re teething? The pain or discomfort could make them grab your arm with their mouth.
And if it’s internal pain, the best course of action is taking your dog to the vet.
5 tips to stop your dog from grabbing your arm
#1: Know the underlying cause
The first step to stop this behavior is knowing why your dog does it.
It isn’t always easy, but your dog’s body language is a huge help.
Knowing the underlying cause helps you plan the best course of action in a timely manner.
And if it’s pain, it’s best to bring your dog to the vet asap.
#2: Ignore them when they display unwanted behavior
Sometimes the solution is just as easy as ignoring your dog.
Especially if they grab your arm to get your attention.
As soon as they grab your arm, ignore them. Or even better, stand up and go to another room.
By ignoring them, you avoid chances of it becoming a learned behavior.
According to this study, dogs can learn to beg food from attentive people. It’s only right that the solution is ignoring them.
If you keep ignoring them whenever they grab your arm, this unwanted behavior will eventually die down.
Aside from ignoring, teach your dog that you’ll give them attention or affection. But they must wait for it. Calmly.
Once your dog has waited calmly, give them the attention and affection they deserve.
Make the reward something they will enjoy. Give them lots of love, treats, and praises.
Here’s another thing to consider:
Teach your dog that grabbing your arm is not the way to get your attention.
Teach them other preferable ways instead, such as shaking paw to hand. Check out tip #5 for more on this.
#3: Prevent unwanted behavior
Prevent this unwanted behavior from worsening.
One, help your doggo create new habits.
Do that by making the new habit more rewarding than grabbing your arm. In other words, make your arm more boring.
For example, teach them to ‘Fetch’ or ‘Get your toy’ instead of grabbing arms with their mouth. And reward them when they follow your command.
Two, prevent it from happening in the first place.
Give them an interactive toy. It will keep them busy and distract them from the unwanted behavior.
You can also take them for a walk or do a play session.
If your puppy loves grabbing an arm using their mouth: Engage them in other activities. For instance, play tug of war with them.
#4: Redirect the behavior
Teach your dog to do other things. This takes their focus off grabbing an arm using their mouth or paws.
Why not teach them to greet visitors by holding a toy? Do this by giving them the toy before they grab someone’s arm. Tug a bit on the toy to initiate play.
This is to remind your dog to bite on the toy, not someone’s arm!
#5: Teach your dog to shake paw
Train your dog to interact with you in other ways.
One is shaking their paw to hand. If your dog doesn’t know how it goes this way:
- Hold your hand in front of their paws.
- If they sniff or nudge your hand with their nose, don’t do anything.
- When they lift a paw, give them praises and a treat.
- Repeat the steps a few times until your dog figures out how to put their paw on your hand.
- If they do it, give them praise, treats, and affection.
- You can incorporate the word ‘shake’ every time you ask them to do this trick.
- Teach them that you will only reward this trick when you ask for it.
- If they shake paws with you when you did not ask for it, ignore them. Don’t say anything. Either remove their paw from your hand or move away from them.
Eventually, your dog will learn to stop grabbing your arm using their mouth or paws.