Aggressive or Just Playful? How To Train Dogs to Stop Snapping
If you're a dog owner, you know that your furry friend can be unpredictable sometimes. One minute they might be playing fetch with you, and the next, they could be nipping at your hands and heels. It's important to understand why dogs bite and what you can do to stop this aggression as soon as possible. If the habit continues until they become adult dogs, it is not easy to retrain them. So it’s always better to start them young.
In this blog post, we'll explore why dogs bite and provide some tips on correcting this behavior early on for you to safely have fun with your pup!
Reasons Why Dogs Bite
There can be a lot of reasons why dogs bite and finding the root cause can help you address the challenge right away. The causes may be internal, like a dog's age and breed, but it can also be external through their environment or you. Let’s get into the details below.
They are afraid.
Prime among the reasons is, simply, fear. This is especially true for puppies taken away from their moms and siblings. Their initial reaction to snap or even bite you during their first days could simply be unfamiliarity or a trauma response.
Fear on dogs also happens when their owners always punish them. They have been conditioned that people cause them harm, so when individuals approach them, they become fearful. Their initial reaction is to defend themselves by biting.
First of all, never resort to harsh forms of negative reinforcement, as this will only bite you in the back before you know it. Meanwhile, if you’re adopting a dog with a previous owner, it is best to get the dog accustomed to your presence first and show them that they should not fear you. Eventually, they’ll even be the ones to approach you and initiate playtime.
They are startled and confused.
When your dog just woke up, your presence and immediate engagement can make them startled and confused—a common pup reaction would be to snap and bite. Of course, dogs may not mean it, but because they didn’t have enough adjustment time from sleep to the real world, they may think you are attacking them, and biting or snarling is how they protect themselves.
If you have an adult dog, this situation is more likely to happen because of age. Hence, it would be best not to play with dogs who just woke up. Let them adjust to their environment first before you approach.
They are uncomfortable.
When you introduce something new to your dog, whether these are new things, people, or situations, they will surely be uncomfortable and need some time to adjust. Some of the inconvenient situations dogs hate include:
- Having new dogs around
- A party in your house where there are a lot of people
- Loud noise from music, cars, or firecrackers
- Taking them to new places
- Punishing them
- Putting them on a leash
When dogs are exposed to new stuff, they feel stressed, which can lead to biting. So let them adapt first on their own before stepping in and soothing them to ensure they are already relaxed.
They are guarding their territory.
You must have noticed your dogs rubbing their buts on the floor surface, rolling, scratching their backs on the ground, digging, and pooping or peeing extensively. While these are normal dog behaviors, these are also their ways of marking territories.
When they rub their body parts on floors or even grass, it is their way of adding scent to the area, so when other dogs come near, they know that the place is taken. You might think they are covering their poop or looking for some treasure when they dig, but again, these are part of their territory-marking ways. When they find their territory crossed and their stuff moved, there is a high probability of bite.
They just want to play.
Nevertheless, while many reasons are quite serious and alarming, dogs that softly snap and bite just may be affectionate dogs. Snapping and biting are their ways of showing you that they are comfortable with you and want to play.
This behavior is especially seen in pups that haven’t been trained yet. But be on the lookout because the act of biting can hurt the dogs they play with and their owners. This habit is easier to curb while your pet is still a puppy, so you have to catch and correct it as soon as it manifests.
Training Your Dogs Not To Bite
Biting may worsen as dogs age, when they feel tired, and even with their breed. Nevertheless, like many dog traits and skills, dog biting can also be corrected when trained early, especially during their puppy age. Check out these ways. Note that each dog is unique, and some of the ways work better than others.
Let them play with other dogs.
Socialization with other dogs can teach your pet plenty of lessons, especially on snapping and biting. Observe how the dog plays, and it always includes biting one another. For puppies who are new to the activity, they might make the mistake of biting too hard, hurting their playmate.
As a result, the other dog yelps and withdraws from playing. When this situation occurs, your dog learns that when they bite hard, another dog will get hurt and stop playing with them. They’ll eventually train themselves to bite softly or find other ways to socialize with other dogs instead of biting.
Allow them to play with your hands.
As mentioned above, biting can also be a dog's form of play. However, you do not want your dog to bite too hard, so training would help them learn to bite softly. To know for sure that your dog is just playing and not attacking when they bite, check if they have a relaxed facial expression and body language and are not snarling. Then, you can now let them play with your hands. When they bite, just like what happens with the puppies, make a sound as if you are hurt. Then, back away from playing for a while. Repeat this until they learn that their biting hurts and regulate their behavior.
Give them something to chew on.
If you are not comfortable offering your own hands, you can train your dog to divert their desire to snap, bite, and chew on toys and treats. There are readily made milk or meat bones in pet stores you can give to your dog, and there are also rubber toys meant for dog chewing and cleaning their teeth.
What you can do is always keep the toys and treats handy. When your dog begins to snap and bite for play, offer them the toys and treats instead. If the toys are enticing and the treats taste nice, you won’t have a problem with your dog snapping on you in the future. Their attention will be on the toys and treats, and it is also a good idea to praise them when they eat the treats.
Teach them non-contact games.
Dogs turning on you to snap and bite for play must have limited play choices, so introduce new games! Go for non-contact games, like playing fetch or playing tug-o-war. You can also invest in good toys and games that sharpen their minds and memories. Giving them a time outside where they can run freely and do as they please keeps them away from the activity of biting and snapping. Your dog might just be bored; that's why they turn on you for some biting play. Keep them busy with other activities and games when you sense this.
Trick the sense of smell.
Another technique you can try to keep your dogs from biting your hands and other body parts is applying scents they hate. For instance, chemical smells coming from alcohol and sanitizers can turn off your dog and make them decide you are not a great option to bite after all.
On the other hand, offer treats that are heaven to their smell. Not all dogs love milk-flavored treats, but you can never go wrong with different meat types. Go for bones made of chicken, beef, pork, turkey, and even bacon. The scent will make them forget about biting you.
Ensuring Safe Interaction With Your Dog
The desire to curb the habit of biting boils down to the goal of ensuring you and your dog are both safe. When dogs bite, there is a high chance they will bite again and again. On your end, you need to undergo costly anti-rabies shots. You will also be worried about your dog hurting others when they continue the habit of biting. With that, it is best to follow these ways to ensure safe interaction with your dog and any dogs in general:
- Don’t place your dogs in stressful situations: Know your dog very well that you know where and when they’ll be comfortable or not.
- Go for training instead of punishing: Do not go for punishment like yelling or spanking your dog when they bite, as it can even push them to be more aggressive. Train them instead.
- Get help from experts: If the training suggestions above don’t work, know that you can always ask for help from experts like an animal behavioral therapist, veterinarians, or a trainer.
- Protect yourself when knocked over or bitten: If the dog you are training is big and heavy and you are knocked over, make sure you protect your head, face, and body by following a fetal position and waiting until the dog calms and leaves or you get help.
- Give your dog an anti-rabies shot: Just to be sure, visit the veterinarian to give your dog an anti-rabies shot to keep the both of you protected.
You can skip all the hassles of a dog bite, keep yourself, your dog, and the people around you by being a responsible owner and knowing how to interact with your pet dog safely.
Practice With Perfect Petzzz: The Dogs That Don’t Bite
Dogs are some of the most lovable creatures on the planet, but they can also be unpredictable. That’s why it’s important to know how to stop a dog from biting before it becomes aggressive behavior. By understanding why dogs bite and following some simple training tips, you can ensure safe interaction with your furry friend. If you want to take things one step further, you can practice with Perfect Petzzz—the dogs that don’t bite! The dogs and cats here at Perfect Petzzz are as adorable as real pets, and they come in different cute breeds. They snore like real pets too, but—they do not bite! So if you are not ready to handle training dogs to stop biting, you can go for the dogs here at Perfect Petzzz. They are just as lovable!