My Dog Nips and Mouths When Excited

by Patricia Richotte
(Spanaway WA)



Hi, I have an almost 2 yr old male neutered Pug, his name is Frank. He greets everyone with playful nips. He also nips and mouths when people go to pet him.

He is especially bad around my 4yr old granddaughter. He jumps on her and nips (takes her toys etc…) He gets really hyper and will not listen to any commands.

He has never bitten out of aggression, but his playfulness is getting out of control. I do not let anyone play rough with him; we've even taken away all tug toys as I've noticed that that increases the bad behavior. I'm afraid he is going to get too excited and hurt someone. How do I get him to calm down?

Hi Patricia,

Nipping and mouthing are bad habits caused by a combination of overexcitement and dominance; he is used to using his mouth to make humans play with him when he gets overexcited and to control at play time, like when he takes your granddaughter’s toys, jumps on her and uses his mouth to control her. His playful behavior could easily escalate into aggression if not controlled properly.

So… you must teach him how to greet and play in a more calm and respectful manner. To accomplish that changing the way humans respond to his behavior plays a huge role in the way he behaves, because many times it’s our behavior that intensifies our dog’s behavior.

Here are a few tips that will help you change his behavior:

- To discourage overexcitement at greetings the best is to ignore him until he calms down, ask everyone who visits to ignore him too, since acknowledgement and attention rewards and reinforces his overexcitement. If his behavior becomes too overwhelming and he starts nipping and mouthing you or your guests, you must step in and control him by making him sit or get down and stay until he relaxes. To accomplish that you must be very patient in the beginning, never let him go before he is calm enough to stay on his own, then allow him to get up but continue ignoring him.

- When you play with him, as soon as he starts using his mouth, getting too rough or tugging on toys, just stop abruptly and correct him by firmly saying NO, end the game and give him a chew toy as an acceptable object to bite, then ignore him until he is calm again. That will teach him that no one will play with him unless he controls his overexcitement and when he feels the need to nip or use his mouth, a toy is what he must use to release his urge. If you are consistent with this technique he will eventually know when to stop and pick a toy to chew on instead of people’s hands. This teaches him self-control and gives him an alternative behavior (chewing on a toy). Not letting anyone play rough or play tugging games with him is a must.

- In those occasions when he refuses to stop misbehaving and persists with his nipping, the best way to calm him down is to hold him by his collar or put him on a leash, at a short distance from whoever he is bothering, make him sit or get down and stay until he calms down. It will be tough in the beginning but with time he will learn what you want him to do and it will become easier to control. As his behavior will start to improve and the need for controlling him will give way to his own ability to control his behavior and stay away on his own.

- Teach your granddaughter not to behave in ways that encourage the dog to become overexcited, like running from him, screaming or panicking. Dogs think of all that as play and become more exited about it. Always supervise their interactions and teach them both how to interact in a calmer and respectful manner with each other. Remember that you must be the one to discipline him when he is being disrespectful with her and also teach her to let you know as soon as he starts nipping or taking her toys, so you can correct him.

In conclusion,

- Never give him attention, pet him or play with him when he is too excited, just ignore him.

- Always correct him and end any kind of interaction as soon as he start using his mouth or his excitement starts to escalate, the sooner you do it to easier it will be to control his behavior.

- Be consistent, to stop his behavior he should be corrected every time he misbehaves.

- Instruct everyone who interacts with him, including your granddaughter, on the proper way to discourage bad behavior, if he becomes overwhelming, you must take control of the situation and control your dog, as outlined above. If someone won’t respect your training efforts and won’t cooperate with it, I would recommend you to avoid your dog’s interaction with that person.

Lastly, I recommend you to set strict rules of behavior at home; follow the link to see the rules I recommend, in your case I recommend you to enforce them all and be very consistent with them, FOREVER, you must create a permanent change.
Recommended House Rules For Your Dog.

- Whether he has been trained for obedience before or not, I would recommend you to start obedience training or restart by going back to basics using obedience commands and incorporating them into your daily living as much as possible. This will allow you to regain control over him, specially when you discipline him, because right after you correct his bad behaviour, you must clearly communicate what you want him to do next, using commands like sit, down and stay.

To better understand all the aspects involved in this read more about obedience training here…

The Basics Of Dog Obedience Training

Essential Dog Training Tips For Success


Understanding dog behavior

Thank you for submitting your question and please let me know if you have any more questions or concerns, you can post them as a comment at the bottom of your question or you can also contact me directly at (310) 418 8435.


Comments for My Dog Nips and Mouths When Excited

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Nov 30, 2011
Please keep me updated.
by: Claudia

I’m happy to hear you will get started right away, just remember to be patient, consistent and calm.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
I will also love to know how he is doing, so please keep me updated.


Nov 29, 2011
Thank you for the help.
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much for your help Claudia, I will start immediately. I think maybe I tend not to ignore him when he is doing this behavior. I do make him sit/stay but probably not for a long enough period of time. We did do a puppy training class with him at about 6 mos old. I might enroll him in another with our local trainer.
Thank you again so much for your response to my question.
I will keep you posted as to how he is doing.
Patricia Richotte

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