Anyone who has seen a litter of puppies playing knows that nipping the muzzle is common. Your puppy might even try to bite your nose for various reasons. Most pet parents let this behavior slide because it is harmless. However, biting your nose could have dire consequences as your dog ages.
Understanding the reason why your dog bites your nose is important. If you are unaware of the reason, you might be stuck with this behavior for a long time. Whether the cause is teething or playing, you should nip this behavior in the bud. If you have a large dog, they may bite your nose without realizing it hurts. It can be dangerous if your dog bites your nose but even more threatening for your children.
Keep reading to learn why your dog bites your nose and how to prevent this behavior in the future.
Reasons Why Your Dog Bites Your Nose
Your dog bites your nose to show affection, get your attention, as a greeting, or because they’re overwhelmed. It could also be an invitation to play or groom you. Depending on the situation, your dog can bite your nose for the following reasons:
1. Seeking Attention
Dogs need attention and will go to any lengths to get it. They generally rely on behaviors like bringing you toys, nudging you playfully, and barking at you. Biting your nose could also be a way to get your attention. When your dog feels lonely or sad, they can come up to you for cuddles. Your dog can use different methods to communicate this to you. You might also notice them:
Walking near you and around your feet. You might even trip over your dog if they are being very persistent.
Gaze intently at their leash to let you know that it is time for a walk.
Nudge their toys towards you to get you to play.
If none of the above methods work, your dog could nibble at your nose for attention. If this behavior gets them attention, they will continue to do it in the future wherever they feel the need for attention.
2. Reinforced Behavior
Keeping the above scenario in mind, paying attention to your dog when it nips at your nose will reinforce the behavior. Sometimes, we unintentionally reinforce our pets’ behaviors without knowing. If your puppy nibbles your nose and you pet it or laugh it off, your pup could grow up thinking this behavior is acceptable. Recurrent reinforcement can strengthen this behavior to a high degree, increasing the chances of your dog doing it in the future.
Even if you have an adult dog, you can still reinforce this behavior. For example, if your dog is unsuccessful in getting your attention and you give in when he bites your nose. This way, your dog might believe that biting your nose is the only way to get your attention. If you regularly reinforce this behavior, your dog could bite your nose harder as time goes on. Be mindful of how you engage with your pet because these actions can have serious consequences.
Dogs can become overexcited and overstimulated while playing, among many other situations. For instance, if you have unfamiliar people over, or your dog has just returned from a trip to the dog park, it could easily be hyper-aroused. An overstimulated dog may be startled easily and bite someone on the nose by accident.
There are many signs that your dog is overstimulated besides nipping somebody’s nose. Your dog will pace, bark frequently, lick himself constantly, and pant. With some dogs, this might be an aspect of their temperament. If overexcitement occurs in a particular situation, you can try isolating your dog and taking it for a walk to calm down.
4. High Energy
Some dog breeds are active and energetic by nature, like the Border Collie, Siberian Husky, and Australian Shepherd. These dogs will need a lot of attention and exercise to prevent such behaviors from developing. Keep in mind that high-energy dog breeds require exercise and mental stimulation, or they can grow bored and destructive.
Even if you have a breed that will grow into a calm and reserved dog, he will still be energetic as a puppy. At this age, puppies usually explore the world through their mouth. A puppy that bites your nose is either exploring or trying to release his energy.
It is also important to provide the right amount of exercise and stimulation. If your dog becomes overstimulated, it might resort to biting your nose again.
If you’ve ever seen puppies play with their littermates or adult dogs play with each other, biting is a common behavior. It is a way for dogs to show affection to each other, similar to how you might roughhouse with your siblings. Puppies engage in this behavior frequently when playing and are usually quite gentle. However, things are very different if you have an adult dog who tries to bite your nose. Their sharp teeth can pierce your skin and hurt you.
You should discourage biting at playtime when your dog is a puppy. Since biting is a natural and instinctive behavior, you cannot eliminate it entirely. However, you can buy your pet toys they can bite. Rawhide or artificial bones can also be a great way to redirect biting behavior.
One of the main reasons your puppy could be biting you on the nose is teething. As puppies age, their teeth fall out and are replaced by stronger adult teeth. This process is similar to what human babies experience. Teething occurs when puppies start weaning from the mother’s milk.
There are two phases of teething since all puppies are born toothless. At first, the deciduous teeth appear around three to six weeks of age. When your puppy grows four to seven months old, these teeth fall out, and adult teeth grow in their place.
Puppies experience irritation in their gums while teething, intensifying the urge to gnaw. Keep teething toys handy for this time since your puppy will need them.
Warning Signs A Dog Is About To Bite
The nose is a sensitive area of your face where bites can have serious consequences. If your dog has a habit of biting your nose, you should stop this behavior as soon as possible. To stop your dog from biting your nose, you should first know when your dog is about to bite you.
It can be difficult to discern if your dog is about to bite you when you’re unaware of the warning signs. All dogs show at least a few warning signs before they bite. Ignoring or not recognizing these signs can make it seem that your dog bit you for no reason. Remember to be mindful when interacting with your pet.
Dogs yawn for various reasons, and one of these is stress. Stress manifests in multiple ways, but yawning is usually the first sign when your dog feels uncomfortable.
Lip licking signals that a dog is trying to avoid conflict. It is an appeasement gesture that dogs also use to self-soothe. It doesn’t necessarily mean your dog will bite you. Look for a combination of signs rather than relying on one.
Avoiding Eye Contact
You’re probably aware that maintaining eye contact is considered confrontational among dogs. If your dog starts to look away while licking his lips, it’s an appeasement behavior and shows that your dog is uncomfortable.
A dog baring his teeth or growling is usually the clearest sign that they are considering biting you. Growling and snapping mean your dog is angry or very uncomfortable.
Unlike how dogs wag with their whole body when happy, only the tail wags when a dog feels irritable. The tail may also become completely still and then swing left to right in some cases. The tail will be very stiff and rigid as it vibrates more than wags.
Dogs about to bite can maintain a rigid posture with a wagging tail and perked ears. This body posture indicates that a dog is uncomfortable in the present situation.
If your dog shows any of these signs while interacting with you, you should give it some space. If your dog tries to bite your nose, avoid putting your face in a position where it can do so.
How To Stop Your Dog From Biting Your Nose
Use the following tips to stop your dog from biting your nose:
1. Discourage Biting At Playtime
We often don’t realize how we encourage undesirable behaviors unintentionally. When exactly did your dog start biting your nose? You can probably trace this habit back to puppyhood. You might have let it slide during that time because it was harmless. As your dog ages, he will still try to play with you in the same ways. The key is to discourage the behavior whenever it occurs. If your dog is biting you at playtime, say “Ouch!” in a loud, firm voice and stop playing with your dog.
2. Redirect Biting To Toys
If you think that your dog is leaning in to bite your nose, slide a chew toy between you. You might have to do this a few times for your dog to understand what he has to do. Once your dog manages to bite the toy instead of aiming for your nose, reward the behavior by saying “Good boy/girl!” and giving them a treat. You will have to reinforce the behavior repeatedly so your dog can learn to stop biting your nose. Have chew toys handy, so your dog has something to gnaw on when the urge strikes.
3. Exercise And Attention
The most common reason dogs bite the nose is because they have excess energy or a lack of attention. A dog whose physical and mental exercise needs are met is much less likely to engage in destructive behavior. Keep your dog mentally stimulated with training and other activities. Dogs can resort to biting if they are bored and frustrated. Play fetch, use puzzle toys, teach your dog commands, and take him on walks. After releasing his energy, your dog should start biting you less frequently.
4. Don’t Use Hands As Toys
Do not use your hands, feet, fingers, or other parts of the body as toys. It can encourage your dog to bite you on the nose. It is normal for most pet parents to use their fingers during playtime. It may seem harmless at the moment if your dog is a puppy, but things will be different when they are an adult. This habit can carry over into your dog’s adult years and have serious consequences.
To stay safe, avoid using your hands or fingers to play. Use toys instead so your dog knows what it can bite.
5. Encourage Calmness
Another reason dogs commonly bite your nose is overexcitement or overstimulation. There are many situations where your dog could become overexcited, such as playing, eating, or going on a walk. Try to encourage calmness as much as possible. Redirect biting behaviors and wait for your dog to calm down before resuming its favorite activities. If you are playing with your dog and it seems overexcited, wait for it to calm down before you resume playing. When going out for a walk, wait for your dog to sit before leashing it. These small changes can teach your dog to stay calm in difficult situations.
6. Positive Reinforcement And Time-Outs
The best way to curb biting behaviors is through a combination of positive reinforcement and time-outs. Use time-outs when biting occurs and positive reinforcement when your dog avoids biting. For example, when playing with your dog and he bites your nose, say “no” or “ouch!” loudly and firmly and stop playing immediately. Wait for a little before you resume playing. Time-outs can be longer if your dog continues to bite your nose.
Exercise patience and repeat the process every time the biting behavior occurs. Consistent training is the only way to stop this behavior in the long term.