Why Do Dogs Nibble on Hands?

by Melodie Anne Coffman, Demand Media Google
    "What is that on your fingers? I taste beef!"

    "What is that on your fingers? I taste beef!"

    Playing with Rascal has become a painful chore. He gnaws on your hands every time, not to be mean necessarily, but just to play. You may want to spend time training him that nibbling is not appropriate. After all, you don’t want him biting an unsuspecting family member or child.

    He’s Playing

    After tossing the ball around in the yard, you get on all fours and wrestle with your four-legged friend for a moment. As you’re rubbing him down and letting him know what a good boy he is, he starts getting a little mouthy. He’s excited and nibbling on your skin as part of his way of wrestling back with you. Typically playful nipping doesn’t hurt like an angry dog bite would, although you’ll want to watch his body language to ensure he’s not feeling aggressive. If he’s being playful, his body will be relaxed and often he’ll stick his rear up in the air and let his head dangle closer to the ground. His face should look relaxed, possibly a bit wrinkled, almost like he’s attempting to smile. If he bites hard or tenses up, he’s playing too rough and you’ll need to stop.

    You Taste Good

    Rascal spends all day alone and by the time you get home, of course he’s happy to see you, although he also has an empty belly and wants some supper. While you’re sitting down to relax, he’ll squander over and nibble on your hands. Your pooch enjoys the flavor of your salty skin and can get a whiff of that burger you had for lunch. He’ll gently chew on your fingertips and lick your hands until he removes any essence of a food flavor.

    Getting Attention

    You might have actually trained Rascal to nibble on people to get the attention he wants, surely not on purpose though. He realized early on that when he starts nipping at your hands, you shoo him away or pick him up and put him outside. Even though it was short-lived, for a moment in time, he got you to focus on just him. Now that he knows the rope of your routine, he plans just when to come over and chew on your hands to get your attention. You’ll need to ignore him or get up and move until he quits. Then you can give him the petting session he needs.

    Making It Stop

    If Rascal’s nipping habit truly becomes a nuisance, keep squeaky toys or flavored plastic-based chew bones around your house. When he puts his teeth on your hands while you’re trying to take a snooze, put something in his mouth to divert his attention. You can also make him think that you taste terribly. Before sitting down on the sofa, spread a few dabs of dog-friendly bitter lotion on the palms of your hands. When he scurries over to start nibbling, he’ll realize that his human suddenly taste gross and won’t want to chew on you anymore. You may have to do this for several weeks though and have everyone in your home participate until Rascal gets the hint.

    About the Author

    Melodie Anne Coffman has been writing for various online and print publications since 1996, specializing in human and animal nutrition. After receiving her master's degree in food science and human nutrition, she opened up her own nutrition consulting business in the New England area.

    Photo Credits

    • Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images