Why do dogs bite hands?

Answered by Douglas Hiatt

Dogs may bite hands for a variety of reasons. It’s important to remember that dogs communicate through their mouths, so play biting is a normal behavior for puppies and even some adult dogs. However, if the biting becomes too sharp or painful, it’s crucial to address it promptly.

One reason dogs may bite hands is because they are teething. Just like human babies, puppies go through a teething phase where their gums are sore and they have an urge to chew on things. Hands and fingers may seem like convenient targets, but it’s important to redirect their attention to appropriate chew toys. Providing a variety of chew toys can help satisfy their teething needs and save your hands from those sharp puppy teeth.

Another reason dogs may bite hands is because they are overly excited during play. Some dogs get so caught up in the moment that they forget to be gentle. It’s essential to teach them bite inhibition, which is the ability to control the pressure of their bites. You can do this by using a high-pitched yelp or a loud “ouch” when they bite too hard. This mimics the reaction of a littermate, signaling that the bite was too rough. By consistently reinforcing this message, your dog can learn to be more gentle during play.

In some cases, dogs may bite hands as a form of resource guarding. Resource guarding occurs when a dog is possessive over something, such as food, toys, or even their human’s attention. If a dog perceives a hand as a threat to their resources, they may resort to biting. It’s important to address resource guarding behavior through positive reinforcement training and desensitization exercises. Working with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist can be helpful in these situations.

It’s also worth noting that some dogs may bite hands out of fear or anxiety. If a dog feels threatened or uncomfortable, they may resort to defensive biting as a form of self-preservation. It’s crucial to create a safe and positive environment for these dogs, and to work on building their confidence through reward-based training methods. Consulting with a professional can be beneficial in addressing fear or anxiety-related biting behaviors.

While puppies and some dogs may naturally bite hands as part of play, it’s important to address any excessive biting or biting that causes pain. Providing appropriate chew toys, teaching bite inhibition, addressing resource guarding, and addressing fear or anxiety can help mitigate biting behavior. Remember, consistency, positive reinforcement, and seeking professional guidance when needed are key to effectively addressing and modifying biting behavior in dogs.