You’re enjoying some playtime with your dog but things take a turn when they suddenly start biting your hand.
Is this normal for all dogs? Or could it be the sign of something more serious?
Keep reading to find out:
- How you may have encouraged your dog to bite your hands.
- The difference between play mouthing and aggressive behavior.
- 5 simple tips to stop your dog from biting you.
- And a lot more…
Table of contents
Why does my dog bite my hands (so much)?
Your dog may be biting your hands due to any of the following reasons: to get your attention, to alleviate their pain from teething, due to a medical condition, or to express their excitement. You may have also reinforced the behavior in the past. In some cases, it can be a form of aggression.
People also ask:
5 reasons why your dog bites your hands
#1: They want your attention
Unlike humans that have our voice and language to express ourselves, dogs do not. They use their mouths for exploration, and also to express their wants.
If your dog bites you, they may simply want your attention. They are asking for playtime, or they just want to cuddle with you perhaps and have no other way to express it.
The problem may arise if you keep responding to your dog whenever they bite you. Because if you keep doing so, they will think it is the right way to get a response or reward.
#2: They are teething or in pain
At around 12 – 16 weeks, your puppy’s adult teeth will come out. So don’t be surprised if they start chewing on things around the house and even you.
It’s a natural reaction to the pain they feel from the teeth coming out. Their gums will be sore and chewing on your hand may help to alleviate that pain. It’s just like babies, right?
To discourage your puppy from biting you or the furniture in your house, you can give them some chew toys instead.
Be choosy when it comes to buying a chew toy as some may lead to various complications in their gastrointestinal tract.
One thing to note is to keep an eye on them while they play with the chew toy. VCA Hospitals says that supervision is important because “no toy is 100% safe”.
Now, there are other times that dogs may bite you when you try to pet them. This could be because they are feeling pain in that part of their body and do not want to be touched.
This type of bite would no longer be considered playful. Once you distinguish that they are no longer playing with you and are trying to stop you from touching them, go see a vet.
It may be that they are injured or have a disease that is why they are in pain.
#3: They are excited
If your dog likes to bite your hand as soon as you get home, or as soon as you bring them out of the crate, they are most likely excited.
They have not seen you in a while, or they have been cooped up in their crate for too long.
This situation is more likely to happen to puppies. They are easily more excited compared to older dogs.
Dogs love to play around, and play biting is natural for them. When they do this with siblings of the rest of their litter, it signals playtime.
Puppies, for example, are much like human babies. They love to put everything in their mouths.
It’s their way of exploring their world, and yes, this can include your hands and even other parts of your body.
If you feel uncomfortable with having your dog mouth you, it’s best to stop the behavior when they are still young.
#4: You have reinforced the behavior
Unknowingly, you probably reinforced the behavior in the past. Did you find it cute when your puppy would bite you before?
If you did nothing to stop them from biting you or other people, this can turn into a habit.
It might have been welcome when it did not hurt much, but when they become adults their bites will become harder and more painful.
Check yourself to see if you have been inadvertently encouraging your dog to behave this way. It’s important that you stop giving them attention when they bite.
I explained how they may be asking for attention when they bite you. Now when you give them attention and play with them because of this, this is already reinforcing the behavior.
It’s not just giving them the attention that does this. Even smacking their nose or saying “bad dog” may be instilling this in their minds.
Now, other owners don’t mind it when their dog play-bites, but what about if someone visits you? Your friends may get fearful if they are not used to this kind of dog behavior.
#5: It could be a sign of aggressive behavior
Playing with their mouths is just natural for dogs, but there are times when biting can already be a sign of aggressive behavior. In these instances, it is important to address the issue right away.
There are many causes of aggressive behavior in a dog. It can be due to stress and fear. They may have also learned this behavior through their environment.
PetMD also lists genetics and sexual maturation as possible causes.
There are several signs of aggression that you want to watch out for, including:
- Stiffening of posture.
- Lowered head and tail is down.
It helps to observe your dog when they are biting. When you are attuned to them, you will know when the bites are no longer playful.
If you suspect that they are no longer mouthing or doing playful biting, it is best to go to your veterinarian. They will help by eliminating any medical issue that may cause aggression.
Once illness has been ruled out, you can go to a behaviorist or dog trainer for assistance.
How do I stop my dog from biting my hands? 5 tips
#1: Let them socialize
Socialization is very important for a dog’s mental health. When a dog does not spend much time with people or other dogs, it would be harder to deal with them.
Undersocialized dogs have a hard time coping with stressful situations. Trips to the vet would prove to be difficult, same with grooming.
Even going on an adventure with them can be hard because they are so afraid to go to a new place or leave the home.
Research shows that dogs who are properly socialized have a lesser tendency to show behavioral problems into adulthood.
Make sure to introduce them early on to different types of people and dogs. From 3-12 weeks of age is a great time for puppies to be exposed.
You can take them to puppy classes, or have a playdate with other dog owners.
#2: Remove yourself from the situation
Dogs must learn that human skin is not for biting. There are many ways you can train them.
One method you can do is leave your dog when they bite. Some owners just ignore them or stop playing with them while others leave the room.
This will let your dogs know that you will not be playing with them if they continue biting your hand or any part of your body.
#3: Use positive reinforcement
It’s best to train your dogs early on about bite inhibition. According to VCA Hospitals, puppies actually learn how to do this naturally when they are with their litter.
It’s natural for puppies to chase and pounce on each other during playtime. Oftentimes, they would also bite their playmates.
When the bite gets too hard and a puppy reacts with a yelp of pain, they learn how to control just how hard they bite.
Puppies who have been separated from their litter too early will not have learned this, so you need to do your part and teach them.
When training your puppy or dog, one thing to remember is to never punish them. Don’t hit them when they bite you.
What you can do instead is give a loud “ouch” or yelp of pain once they bite. Remove your hands so they can’t reach. If they bite while you are walking, stop right away.
Once they stop biting, reward them. Either with a toy that they can chew on, or with a rope you can play tug of war with. This is a good example of noncontact play.
Positive reinforcement gives better results than punishment, as this study suggests. Consistency is very important so get your family in on the method too.
#4: Buy toys for them to chew on
To help distract your dog from biting you, invest in good chew toys or tug toys. Make sure they are age-appropriate.
These should be exclusive to playtime and can be given as a reward. You can also use the toy right away once you see your dogs running towards you.
Also, when they are playing with a toy, don’t forget to play with! When you engage with them, they will know that when they play with their toys, you will not be stingy with attention.
#5: Get the help of a professional
The help of a professional is needed when you are having a hard time teaching your dog not to bite you. Dog trainers can teach them impulse control (if you don’t succeed teaching it by yourself).
For dogs that bite as a form of aggression, you can get the help of a professional too. The truth is there is no cure to this, but you can learn techniques to help curb the behavior.
You can use a leash, muzzles, or crates to help your dog. The goal is to stop them from causing harm to themselves or other persons and dogs.