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Why Does My Dog Nibble Me When Excited? Understanding the Canine Mouthing Behavior

Dogs are known for their unique behaviors, one of which is nibbling on their human friends when they’re excited. If you’ve ever wondered, “Why does my dog nibble me when excited?” you’re not alone. This behavior, often referred to as ‘mouthing,’ is quite common and is rooted in a combination of instinct, social structure, and learned behavior.

Origins of Mouthing Behavior

To understand why your dog might nibble or ‘mouth’ you, it’s essential to trace back to their wild ancestors. In the wild, puppies would playfully nip and mouth their siblings. This behavior was not only a form of play but also a way to establish dominance and understand bite inhibition, meaning how hard they can bite without causing harm.

Reasons Behind Excited Nibbling

  1. Affection and Bonding: Dogs often nibble when they’re feeling affectionate. In the wild, mutual grooming and nibbling were ways pack members bonded with one another. Your dog might see you as a member of their pack and express their affection with a light nibble.
  2. Over-excitement: If your dog gets overly excited during playtime or when you come home after a long day, they might start nibbling on you. It’s their way of channeling that burst of energy.
  3. Attention-Seeking: Sometimes, dogs nibble because they want your attention. If you notice your dog nibbles you and then waits for a reaction, they might be trying to tell you something or simply want to play.
  4. Teething: Younger dogs, especially puppies, might nibble when they are teething. Much like human babies, the act of chewing or nibbling helps alleviate the discomfort of new teeth coming in.

Distinguishing Nibbling from Aggressive Behavior

It’s crucial to differentiate between playful nibbling and potential aggressive behavior. Signs of aggression can include growling, showing teeth, or a hard bite. If the nibbling is accompanied by these signs, it’s essential to address it immediately to ensure safety for both the dog and the people around them.

How to Manage Excited Nibbling

Understanding why your dog nibbles is the first step, but managing or redirecting this behavior is the next critical step.

  1. Teach Bite Inhibition: If your dog doesn’t understand bite inhibition, it’s essential to teach them. When they nibble too hard, let out a yelp or say “ouch!” This mimics the response they’d get from another puppy and teaches them to be gentle.
  2. Use Toys: Redirect the nibbling onto a toy. When your dog starts to nibble, offer them a chew toy or a tug toy. This way, they can channel their need to chew into something appropriate.
  3. Training: Consistent training can help manage excited nibbling. Commands like “sit” or “stay” can calm an overly excited dog. Additionally, reward-based training can encourage good behavior.
  4. Stay Calm: Reacting aggressively or with excitement can exacerbate the behavior. Instead, remain calm and redirect or command as necessary.
  5. Consult with a Professional: If you’re having difficulty managing your dog’s nibbling or are concerned it may escalate, consider consulting with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist.


Dogs have many ways of expressing their emotions and feelings, and nibbling when excited is just one of them. While it can be endearing or even ticklish, understanding the root of this behavior and knowing when and how to manage it is crucial. Through patience, training, and understanding, you can enjoy a safe and loving bond with your furry friend.



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