How Do I Stop My Dog from Giving “Love Bites”?

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Receiving “love bites” from your pup is kinda cute and it’s probably an honor to be blessed with this type of dog mouthing affection.

Every owner has experienced this mouthing behavior with their puppy but now that he is a grown-up adult dog, the biting might be a bit concerning.

“Love bites” are defined as affectionate bites or nibbles that don’t hurt and do not pierce the skin.

Adults know how to deal with this kind of behavior but what should you do if the bites are directed towards strangers, children, or other dogs?

So why exactly does your dog gently mouth your hand or nibble on you?

Reasons for your dog’s gentle mouthing and nibbling include affection, grooming, and play. Especially puppies use play-biting to explore and seek attention during the teething phase.

Dog Mouthing Affection

Soft and gentle mouthing is a common sign of affection shown by many canines. Whether you have a puppy, adult or senior dog, they can all show the same kind of love.

If you have successfully taught bite inhibition during the puppy biting phase, the mouthing shouldn’t occur later on.

Puppies that had limited contact with their littermates or have been separated from their mother too early, will have a difficult time learning how to control their sharp teeth.

The feedback provided during canine interaction is a crucial learning lesson that can hardly be copied by a human.

If you believe that your dog doesn’t differentiate between toys and skin due to lack of training or socialization then go back to the basics and really work on bite inhibition. You can also watch a very detailed video below that will provide you with a lot of tips.

Puppy Biting? Learn Bite Inhibition Training!

Other than a lack of training there are two main types when it comes to mouthing: play biting and grooming which I will be talking more about in the next section.

Play Biting

Play biting in puppies is a very natural and common way of expressing excitement and communication. Dogs do not have hands and thumbs so the mouth is used for play. It’s also a crucial way for them to receive feedback from another canine on their bite force.

Puppies have those little sharp teeth because their jaw muscles are not yet developed. So in order to receive feedback and adjust the force, the bite must hurt a little.

This biting is generally harder than mouthing and only occurs during play sessions or times of high arousal.

While play biting shouldn’t be suppressed, rough playing shouldn’t be encouraged either. In order to control the behavior, you will have to teach your puppy how to correctly interact with you or other people during play.

When Do Puppies Stop Biting?

Generally speaking, your dog should be out of the puppy biting phase around 4-8 months. It depends on various factors, most importantly your dog’s breed as large breeds develop more slowly.

If the bite inhibition training and feedback was successful, you shouldn’t be confronted with any issues later on. Mouthing can still happen in certain situations simply because your skin is tasty or your dog would like to get your attention.

Why Do Dogs Nibble On You

Grooming is another type of mouthing and is usually presented through nibbles and “love bites”. You may have noticed that your dog is nibbling other dogs too.

The reasons for this mouthing include affection, play, grooming, and exploring. It usually occurs in a calm and relaxed manner.

Gentle nibbling is definitely not concerning but it can get annoying at times. Keep in mind that if your dog is nibbling on you, he might also tend to do this on other people or children. If your adult dog has poor ABI (acquired bite inhibition), the love bites might become too hard.

You will have to decide for yourself if you want to completely eliminate the love bites as a safety precaution or if you just want to tolerate them to a certain level.

How to Stop Dog Mouthing

If you are generally okay with occasional mouthing, the first thing you should be doing is reinforcing bite inhibition training.

Every time your dog mouths on your clothes or on your skin too hard, say a loud “Ouch!” and ignore your puppy for a few seconds.

Whenever your dog is biting on your hand, do not yerk it away because this only triggers your dog’s chase drive and will make things worse. He should be the one to let go which develops a quicker understanding.

If your dog doesn’t stop after one “ouch”, simply get up and leave the room for a while. This is especially effective if your dog is doing the mouthing for attention. If you are removing yourself from the situation, this sends a very clear message that you are not tolerating this behavior.

So, in short, if your puppy bites too hard, you should:

  • Avoid jerking hand away as this activates their chase drive
  • Yell “Ouch!”
  • Leave if he doesn’t stop

If you decide that you never want to be mouthed by your dog in general then do not wait for the bite to become harder. Get up immediately if your dog goes for your clothes or skin.

Your whole family should be doing this training with your dog to effectively show him that it’s not okay to touch human skin with his teeth.

Redirecting

Another method you could be using is simply redirecting the mouthing. Instead of giving love bites on your skin, he can learn that you would rather like him to play tug of war.

In the process, make sure that you are not rewarding attention-seeking behavior.

Only provide your dog with the toy once he has stopped nibbling your clothes.

Certain situations might trigger the behavior, so you should always be ready to have a toy close by to prevent the mouthing from occurring in the first place.

Prevention is the best training method. Always set your dog up for success.

When guests visit your house, use a favorite toy and play with your dog to redirect his attention.

If your dog is a tug lover, I can highly recommend the K9 Dog Bite Pillow. It’s easy to handle even with strong dogs (I have a Rottweiler) and very durable as long as you’re not abandoning it in your dog’s cave.

If your dog tends to bite or jump on you when excited then try to keep the tugging as low as possible.

When any biting occurs, immediately stop the play and ignore the dog. Correct behavior will be rewarded and unwanted behavior will be ignored.

Two dogs sharing love bites

When Love Bites are Actual Bites

I have talked about the definition of love bites at the beginning of this post and how your dog shouldn’t apply any pressure.

A love bite won’t hurt and can be accompanied by licking and nibbling. The dog will have a relaxed face and body posture when giving you these love bites.

However, a dog that is showing aggressive signs might snarl, bare his teeth and retract his lips. Serious snaps will definitely hurt and don’t always have to pierce the skin.

If you believe that your dog has aggression issues, consult a behaviorist and talk things through to prevent any future damage.

What Not to Do

Don’t pull your hands away – Sudden movements will trigger the canine’s natural prey drive and will encourage your dog to chase after your fingers. It’s best in these situations to act calmy and wait for your dog to back up. If he doesn’t let go, simply remove yourself from the room.

Don’t squish his face – I know it’s cute to play with your puppy’s little face but waving with your hands in front of his mouth will only encourage your dog to bite.

Do not yell at your dog – In situations of excitement and play, your dog might start mouthing or biting at your hands. Yelling at your dog never helps and will only make him scared and confused.

Do not hit your dog – Slapping your dog for love bites or mouthing will only make him bite you more like during rough play. Physical punishment is a non-humane correction which the dog doesn’t understand. Pain and confusion through inadequate punishment will lead to fear and eventually to aggression towards you and other people.

What Your Dog Needs

Mouthing and excessive grooming can emerge out of boredom especially if your dog is mostly doing it to get your attention. Make sure that your dog’s daily physical and mental needs are met and that he has access to sufficient exercise.

Recommended Reading: 12 Boredom Busters

Do not leave your dog in the yard all day, isolated from his pack. When you leave the house make sure that he is occupied with a stuffed Kong or other puzzle toys.

Provide your dog with interesting chew toys such as the Benebone Chew Toy to satisfy his chewing urge.

My dog’s favorite toy is also a good way to prevent separation anxiety or any other conditions that can develop when your dog’s alone.

Your dog needs to have as many canine interactions as possible in order to be well-tempered and calm. Controlled dog play classes are way better than any dog park and your dog will come home with a positive and fun experience.

Let me know in the comments if you’re currently struggling with puppy biting.

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Danielle
In love with dogs, their behavior and psychology. I am writing on this blog since February 2019 to provide you with valuable information on everything dogs. When I am not working on my blog, I study research articles and enjoy the time with my beloved Rottweiler Amalia.

11 thoughts on “How Do I Stop My Dog from Giving “Love Bites”?”

    • Hey Donnie,

      it’s important to know in what situations your bloodhound is showing this kind of behavior. Is he alone? Or has he just been walked? Right in the morning with all that energy after sleeping?

      Often, it’s not only a matter of having toys but making them attractive to him and choosing the right toys (some dogs like interactive toys while others desire chew toys etc.).

      Happy to help with a bit more information,
      Danielle

      Reply
  1. Hi. I have a Beagle. Everytime he hears thunder and when their is rain, he is literally shaking because of fear. He stays in our garage and he breaks almost all of our things there everytime there’s thunder and rain. He is like that for the past 2 years already. We bought another dog, Labrador so he won’t be afraid anymore but unfortunately, he is still like that. All of our friends told us that his reaction to rain and thunder is very unusual.
    Thank you. I hope you could help me.

    Reply
    • Hi Bhea,

      usually, puppies are desensitized to these kinds of sounds during socialization – have you brought your Beagle home when he was already an adult or did the fear develop as a puppy already?

      Your best bet now is still desensitizing with thunder sounds, start with short amounts of time and gradually increase. Use treats, toys, whatever your dog likes. Be careful not to reinforce fear. Don’t try to treat or calm your dog when he’s shaking it will just convey the message of “it’s good to be afraid. I like that you’re afraid”. Dogs don’t think rationally.

      Furthermore, I’ve linked a couple of products in my separation anxiety guide, but the principle is the same. If you scroll down, you’ll find a thundershirt that may help with thunder phobia.

      Cheers,
      Danielle

      Reply
    • Hey Ken,

      it’s totally normal for pups from rescues to have extended periods of puppy biting since nobody ever taught them what to bite and what not to. Hang in there :).

      Let me know if the steps above helped!
      Danielle

      Reply
  2. I rescued a 11 mo old German Shepherd he is “mouthy” and usually gentle, how do I stop it when he’s not, now that ABI training window is gone?
    Also who did the video above I can’t see contact or subscribe info.
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Tammi,

      great that you rescued this German Shepherd, congrats on your new family addition!

      Even though the ABI window for puppies has closed, that doesn’t mean that they can’t learn it anymore at all, it might just be harder. Just follow the steps above and condition your dog to do something else, paired with appropriate corrections. Mouthing behavior is totally normal, especially at this young age.

      If you want to contact me, hello@pawleaks.com is the email and you can subscribe after clicking on the video :).

      Cheers,
      Danielle

      Reply
  3. We just adopted a 5yo Boxer mix who’s spent her whole life tied to a tree. Mostly she’s sweet and loving, but has a couple of periods during each day where her “nibbling” becomes very rough and insistent. It seems to happen most often when she’s tired. I know she’s never had love or socialization, but you can’t even walk away when she begins the biting. She attacks your feet. I know this adjustment to living in a home will be a long term project, but other than trying to redirect with a chew toy, or shake a can with coins, how do we address this?

    Reply
    • Hey Maryellen,

      congrats for rescuing your Boxer! You’re right when you say she needs love and socialization, but to help stop this behavior you might want to check out my puppy biting article.

      Besides redirecting, you can also leave the room. This way, she won’t be able to chase any limbs you have and it teaches your dog that nibbling = no attention. Depending on the exact situation, standing still and giving her a firm no (with positive reinforcement once she shows the behavior you want) will also do the trick.

      The key is to make the biting boring. If we quickly pull away, walk elsewhere where the dog is able to chase you, etc. then that entices our dogs to play with us even more. You just need to take the fun factor out of it. Be patient and cherish each and every tiny progress :).

      Hope this and the article helps,
      Danielle

      Reply

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