How to Train Your Dog to Stop Nipping

Medium
1-8 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

It’s a commercial break during Keeping Up With The Kardashians so you slump onto the floor to play around with your dog. You mess around with one of his toys and tease him with it. But as soon as Kendall is back on the screen you go back to watching the TV. He doesn’t like that though, and he starts to bite and nip at your arms and legs. Alternatively, when you do carry on playing with him, he gets so excited that he starts nipping at you then too.

Training this behavior out of him is essential. Dogs that start with nipping often progress to serious biting and you don’t want him hurting you or anyone else in your household, like the kids. He could also end up biting someone else’s dog and you don’t want those hefty vet bills to deal with.

Defining Tasks

Training your dog to stop nipping isn’t always straightforward. You need to address why he’s nipping in the first place. You also need to divert this aggressive behavior towards a safer channel. Training will consist of asserting your position of control and cutting out any biting triggers. If he’s just a puppy, this behavior won’t have developed into a habit for life yet and you may be able to cut it out in just a week or two. If he’s been nipping at people for many years, then be willing to put a month or two into training.

It’s important you get this training right, not just for your health but also for his. If he ends up biting somebody or another dog and doing them serious harm, he may be court ordered to be put down. You don’t want to lose him further down the line when you could have nipped the problem in the bud now.

Getting Started

Before you can wage war on his nipping you’ll need a few things. Some toys he can play tug of war with and to re-direct his aggressive attention will be needed. You may also want to invest in a deterrent spray, a citronella collar, and a muzzle.

Treats or some tasty food will be required to motivate and reward him. Then you just need to commit to spending some time on training each day. 

Once you’ve got all of those bits together, just bring an optimistic attitude and you’ll be ready to get to work.

The Channel Aggression Method

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Step
1
Tug of war
Place a toy in his bed for a couple of days. Also, gently play around with it so he gets used to it and excited by it. Then whenever he nips when you’re playing, get this toy out and play tug of war. He can than alleviate his aggression on the toy instead of your arms and legs.
Step
2
Increase exercise
Many dogs nip because they are full of energy and need to blow off steam. So take him for a longer walk or a second walk each day. If you can’t do that, throw a tennis ball while you’re walking. The sprinting will help tire him out and leave him napping in the afternoons instead of wreaking havoc.
Step
3
Stop ankle nipping
When he nips at your ankle, stop moving, then wave the toy around and encourage him to play with that instead. Only once he’s fully distracted you can move on. Remain calm throughout so you don’t heighten his excitement.
Step
4
Positive reinforcement
When he does play gently, reward him with praise and treats. It’s important he knows what the right behavior is, so really show him happy you are when he plays nicely. As soon as he starts nipping, stop the rewards.
Step
5
Don’t punish him
Never shout or terrify him. If he’s scared he may start nipping and biting out of fear and you don’t want that. Instead, calmly remove yourself from the situation and leave him to calm down.
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The Deterrence Method

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Step
1
Get spraying
You can buy unpleasant tasting sprays that you can apply to your body where he normally bites. They can be bought from a range of online retailers and are harmless. Simply spray them on your body and they’ll prevent him nipping.
Step
2
Limit his access to water
Once he’s nipped and tasted the spray, don’t let him run straight back to his water bowl. He’ll just get rid of the taste and carry on nipping. Make sure he has no access to water for half an hour to help him learn his lesson. Don’t let him get dehydrated, only keep the water away for short periods of time.
Step
3
Invest in a collar
You can get remote controlled collars that spray water or an unpleasant citronella spray. Whenever he nips, hit the button and this will stop him. It will quickly teach him that any form of biting comes with unpleasant consequences.
Step
4
Don’t wind him up
If he nips around meal times or when he’s desperate for the toilet, don’t antagonize him. Making him do loads of tricks when food is in front of him may irritate him and lead to nipping. If you know he needs the toilet don’t hang around and play with him, take him straight out. You wouldn’t like to be made to wait to go to the toilet and neither does he.
Step
5
Use a muzzle if necessary
If he nips at strangers or the nipping turns to serious biting, you must use a muzzle until you get the behavior under control. This is particularly important when children, strangers and other dogs are around. You don’t want to risk injuring anyone.
Recommend training method?

The Bed Method

Effective
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Step
1
When it’s quiet, head for his bed
You’re going to train him to go straight to his bed whenever you command him to. That way when he nips, you can send him away as a punishment. This will help reinforce to him that nipping is the wrong behavior.
Step
2
‘Bed’
Stand next to his bed with him and then issue the ‘bed’ command. You can use any word you like for this command, just give it in a clear but firm voice. As you give the command, point towards the bed and even lure him to the bed with food.
Step
3
Reward
As soon as he touches the bed, give him a treat and lots of praise. Practice this for a few minutes each day, but slowly increase the distance you are from the bed when you send him there. Practice until you can send him to his bed even when you’re in a different room from the bed.
Step
4
When he nips, use the command
Send him straight to his bed in a firm voice. If you do this each time, he’ll associate the bed command as a punishment and because he wants to stay in the room with you, he won’t nip.
Step
5
Combine with positive reinforcement
At the same time as using your new command to reinforce the negative behavior, you need to promote positive play. That means verbal praise and the odd treat whenever he plays calmly. The combination of both will get his nipping behavior under control in a matter of weeks. At that point, you can stop giving him treats.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

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