Why Your Dog Bites You When You Try to Pet Him
“My dog bites me when I pet him. Is he having behavioral issues?” You must understand that biting isn’t necessarily a bad habit for dogs. They use their teeth or their mouths to respond to external stimuli. For example, puppies explore their environment, moving things around or licking anything that moves, using their mouths. When they’re teething, they sink their teeth into different objects to soothe their gums. Most dogs grow out of this, but some don’t.
Reasons Why Your Dog Bites When Petted
First of all, before you assume that your dog has behavioral problems, you have to observe the situation. Does your dog bite only when you pet him on a specific spot? For example, if you pet him on the head, he’s fine. But, if you rub his belly, he lunges at you.
In cases like this, you have to bring your pet to the vet because it’s likely that the area you are petting is painful. Imagine if it was you and you had a sore spot on your shoulder. Someone suddenly touches you on that area without knowing that it is sore. You would be mad too.
Another reason why your dog bites you when you pet him is that he wants to play. You’ll know that his biting is playful when it’s not that hard, he doesn’t sink his teeth into your skin, his tail is wagging, and jumping around.
What to Do When Your Dog Bites You When You Pet Him
If your dog has a clean bill of health from your vet, then it is safe to assume that he is not biting you because of pain. At this point, you can use different behavioral techniques to address the biting.
Most pet owners make the mistake of using punishment to make their dog stop biting. It can work, but you never want your pet to respond to you out of fear. The next time you scold him, the biting behavior could reoccur because your dog will be responding to stimuli that caused him to feel scared.
Instead, use positive reinforcement. You simply reward the behaviors that you like and ignore the ones you don’t like. Rewards can be in the form of praise, affection, or treats.
How to Train Your Pet to Stop Biting
When you have a pup on your hands, there will be times where he might play too rough. When he latches on your hand or on your foot, try to imitate the sound of a hurt dog (make whimpering sounds). When he lets go all on his own, ignore him for twenty seconds, and then resume play.
With adult dogs, you can do something similar. You can place him on timeout. When he has nipped your hand or any part of your body, let out a yelp. As soon as you have his attention and he lets go, ignore him. If possible, leave the room for a few minutes. Then, go back and encourage him to play. When he bites hard again, repeat the sequence. Remember to praise your dog or give him a treat when the rough play stops or when his behavior is favorable.
The key to positive reinforcement is patience and consistency. Yes, it’s going to take up a lot of your time, but if you truly want your dog to behave then you have to put in the time and the effort.
When It’s Time to Go to a Specialist
It may take your dog sometime before it picks up the lesson that you are trying to teach. Give him enough time to learn. Don’t give up on him after, let’s say, three days. On the other hand, if you have already done everything that you can and enough time has already elapsed, you may want to consider going to a behavioral specialist when the biting still continues.