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Top 5 Reasons Why Dogs Bite

Updated on March 14, 2018

Do You Have Problems With a Biting Dog?

Many pet owners are faced with the situation of owning a dog that bites and are looking for ways to nip the problem in the bud, so to say.

A dog that bites can be very problematic for the owner, and what sometimes starts out as innocent play biting can quickly turn into a more serious situation.

Not only can a biting dog cause injury to friends and family, not keeping your dog under control can lead to a visit from the dogcatcher or a date at your local courthouse.

This article will explore some of the reasons that a dog might bite, and provide a few tips and tricks to help stop it from becoming a bigger issue than it needs to be.

Dog bites dog
Dog bites dog | Source

What Causes Some Dogs to Bite?

There are several reasons that dogs bite, and your pet may exhibit more than one of these types of behavior. Most dogs find it normal to want to bite, and this is even more so with puppies that are teething. Some breeds of dogs naturally tend to bite more than others, and some dogs are trained to do so.

Listed below are some of the reasons your dog may feel the need to bite something.


Some dogs will develop biting habits from fear. They could be afraid of new surroundings or even their human caretakers. Other unfamiliar canines in the area may result in survival instincts kicking if they feel threatened in some way. They are actually biting as a means of self-defense.

A lot of times fear biting is due to a lack of self-confidence on the part of your dog, and punishing him frequently when he is in a state of fear will more often than not cause even more problems. It is best to introduce your pet to new people and situations slowly, and praise and encourage him or her when progress is being made.

Overly Excitable

It's easy for a dog to get excited around people or other dogs, especially in the case of a puppy. This can be a situation which leads to biting while playing games like tug of war. While it may come naturally on the dogs part, it can lead to more serious biting problems later on.

Protective Instincts

Dogs are famous for being protective of both property and their owners. That is part of the charm of having a dog as a pet. However, this can lead to biting as a means of protecting themselves or their spaces from a perceived threat regardless of how dangerous the threat may or may not be.

Predatory by Nature

Most dogs are instinctive predators. This is how they survive in the wild. These instincts can include chasing after prey or fleeing animals.

In-Bred Herding Instincts

A lot of dog breeds are bred for herding animals like sheep, cattle, and horses. Herding dogs tend to bite at the back of the legs of the animals they are trying to control.

Pitbull puppies playing
Pitbull puppies playing | Source

Basic Tips to Teach Your Dog Not to Bite

It is usually best to train your dog about biting when it's still a puppy. The older a dog gets, the harder it is to break him of bad habits.

Start training as soon as you get the dog home. Dogs love to interact with humans, and jumping, licking, and playful biting are all ways of showing affection. Playful nips and bites are usually done innocently on the dog's part, and your pet may not be aware of how hard they are actually biting, especially when it comes to children.

Playing tug of war and wrestling with your dog has been done by generations of pet owners, but, unless you limit the biting that comes along with these types of games, what starts out as cute and harmless can lead to more serious biting problems later on. It is best not to encourage your pet to play games that result in acts of biting.

If your dog bites you, give out a loud yell to let him know to stop, even if he bites you gently. Allowing your dog to "mouth" your arms, legs, fingers, and toes is probably not a good idea either, as that can lead to biting as well. Resist the urge to slap or otherwise hit your dog, as this can lead to even more aggressive behavior by your dog.

Another tactic is to put your pet in a "time out" for a while as soon as the biting starts. Eventually, he will figure out that the biting is what is leading to the end of play time.

Younger puppies of 6 to 8 weeks can be allowed some leeway when training, but if they have not caught on by the age of 5 to 6 months the idea that biting will not be tolerated you may have to ratchet up the training a bit by being more direct and frequent with your commands.

Playful dog biting
Playful dog biting | Source

Be Calm and Consistent With Training

One of the most important parts of teaching your dog not to bark is to be consistent in your training methods. This also means that everyone in your household or family needs to be on board with this.

If you have younger children in the house, make sure to take some time to show them what is expected when it comes to playing with your dog in ways that do not encourage biting.

Do your best to maintain boundaries with your dog, and make sure that you let him know who is in charge, as some dogs bite as a way of showing dominance. However, physical violence and/or screaming and yelling at your dog will not help the situation, and it may actually end up in a situation with your dog being afraid of you rather than trusting you, leading to fear biting.

You should also keep in mind that teaching your dog not to bite is not an overnight adventure, but will actually take some time and patience to see positive results.

More Signs of Aggressive Dog Behavior

What you don't know may come back to bite you...

One of the ways to avoid or reduce the chances of a dog bite is to recognize an aggressive behavior. This is especially true about dogs you are not familiar with.

Some of the more common signs of an aggressive dog are curled lips and snarling, growling and barking, lunging or circling, and raised hairs on the hackles (areas on the back of the dog). Although raised hair doesn't always mean trouble, it is an indication that the dog is in what he/she perceives as a possible threatening situation.

Another less problematic habit is placing their paws on a person's shoulders and trying to push down. Although not a dangerous situation, and ignored by most people, it is still a sign of aggressive behavior.

Some dogs display what is known as a "submissive smile", where the dog will bare it's teeth in what looks like a smile. If this is accompanied by a lowering of the head on the part of the dog, along with a wagging tail that is not tucked under the back legs, you are probably okay, and the dog is more than likely in a friendly mood.

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© 2013 Hal Gall

Visitor Comments - What is your experience with biting dogs?

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    • AstroGremlin profile image


      5 years ago

      Dogs bite for reasons that make sense to them, mostly fear. When a puppy bites, hold its muzzle closed with your hand for about 5 seconds. They get that signal very clearly. Some breeds bite more than others and, sadly, some owners revel in having a scary fighting breed to give them a feeling of power. It's like carrying an open knife. Dogs sense approval of aggressiveness and behave according to their training (or lack thereof). Movies depict sharks as a threat, but dogs (and their owners) are responsible for many more victims.

    • profile image

      sybil watson 

      5 years ago

      We're fortunate that our Australian shepherd doesn't bite us, but he does nip at the heels of animals he's trying to herd. The "submissive smile" is very interesting, our labrador used to do that and we could never figure out why.

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      6 years ago

      My own dog went through a period of biting - it was really scary. Funny though, we had a lot of conflict in our lives then, as we got more settled so did he. Plus I worked a lot with him. Dogs want to please you and they want to be guided.


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