Behavioral problems

How to Stop a Dog From Biting When Excited

Eduarda Piamore
By Eduarda Piamore, Expert in canine and feline psychology, education and training.. Updated: April 30, 2024
How to Stop a Dog From Biting When Excited

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The act of biting is part of a dog's body language. Although not very pleasant, it is necessary given how much they rely on their mouth to interact with their environment. While we might associate biting with aggression, there are many reasons a dog might use this behavior. Understanding why a dog bites can help us to stop them from biting inappropriately, such as when they are excited or when they feel threatened. Regardless of the reason, a dog which bites is a serious cause of concern for a guardian. The results can threaten the well-being of themselves and others.

AnimalWised shows you how to stop a dog biting when excited by looking at the different causes and how behavior can be modified. Once the dog is able to understand appropriate behavior, they can interact positively with other dogs, other animals and humans.

You may also be interested in: How To Stop Your Cat From Clawing You
  1. Why do dogs bite?
  2. How to make a dog not bite while playing
  3. How to make one dog not bite another
  4. How to make a dog not bite people
  5. What to do when a dog bites a person

Why do dogs bite?

The first step to knowing how to stop a dog from biting when excited, is to know why they do it. By understanding the causes of this behavior, we can prevent them doing it in the future. Although we usually associate biting with aggression in dogs, there are actually a wide range of reasons they will do this. It isn't only limited to when they are excited. By paying attention to a dog's environment, behavior and routine, we can see the reasons a dog bites in the first place.

1. Teething puppies

Just like a human toddler, puppies are keen to put almost anything in their mouths. In the first phases of their physical and cognitive development, puppies tend to bite everything. This is mainly because they experience many changes in their dentition as their baby teeth fall out and their adult teeth come through. Biting helps to relieve the discomfort and pain caused by this sensation.

2. Exploring their environment

Relieving discomfort is not the only reason puppies bite. A puppy will bite to better understand their environment, investigating different stimuli and testing their boundaries. However, as we will explain further below, teaching your pet pal to manage their biting is essential. This needs to be done from at least the third week of life, otherwise they may assimilate this behavior as something positive when they become an adult.

3. Poor socialization

If a dog becomes an adult and does assimilate excessive biting as a way to interact with other dogs, animals and people, it is due to poor socialization. In other words, the dog has not understood that this behavior shouldn't be part of their social life and form of communication. They do not understand the repercussions of their actions and ca be aggressive with others. Socialization is a vital part of a dog's development and will allow them to live a happy and positive life with others.

4. Defense against negative stimuli

Even a well socialized dog will still have it in them to defend themselves if they are in danger or encounter other negative stimuli which threatens their security. In these cases, biting behavior is understandable in the context. However, if the dog bites or growls because they perceive something as negative, even though it isn't, this can be dangerous. An example might be if someone tries to take something away from them, a stranger walks past them in the street or someone tries to pet them. If a dog bites when you try to take something away from them, they could be possessive and are showing a misplaced protection of resources.

5. They think they are playing

A dog may bite when they get excited because they think they are playing. This is linked to poor socialization. Although they do not mean to hurt anyone, they don't understand the limits of play and take it too far. The dog will get excited and think it is OK to bite, but they do not know where to draw the line.

Do dogs bite unprovoked?

Similarly, it is worth noting that a dog will not bite ‘out of nowhere’. They will give prior warning when they feel threatened or uncomfortable in a situation. A dog will usually only bite as a last resort or when it feels like they are under extreme duress, even if that is not the actual situation. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to determine the signs a dog is giving. These signs are known as calming signals and it is the method canines use to communicate with others.

What can often happen is that ignorance of these calming signals, body posture and facial expressions means a person approaches a frightened dog. The dog is in defensive position, but the person does not realize what is happening. In turn, the dog feels like their calming signals are being ignored and will bite as a form of self-defense.

Health reasons for biting

There are some other reasons for biting, but it is not something we can simply blame on the dog's nature. Even if it can be difficult to determine, there are reasons why a dog will bite. Before we determine if our dog is exhibiting any of the above behavioral issues, we also need to rule out health reasons. Some diseases or conditions such as hyperthyroidism can cause negative reactions in our best friend. They can be the root reason why the dog is excited in the first place.

When a medical cause is ruled out, we should go to a dog trainer or canine ethologist. They will be able to help us determine the reason for the dog biting as well as offer practical guidelines on how to help an individual dog.

How to Stop a Dog From Biting When Excited - Why do dogs bite?

How to make a dog not bite while playing

Biting when excited and playing is especially common in puppies. This is a way to discover and experience the stimuli which make up their environment. While this is a natural behavior which is part of their physical and emotional development, it is essential we teach them to manage their bite. This is technically known as ‘bite inhibition’. The puppy will need to inhibit their own bite naturally, without having to be told to do it.

An incredibly important factor in bite inhibition is to keep the puppy with their mother and siblings for a minimum of 8 weeks after birth. This allows for a healthy weaning process and is imperative for socialization. The puppy's mother and siblings will intuitively be able to teach them when a bite is too rough or otherwise inappropriate.

If you work on bite inhibition early in the puppy's life, you can help avoid them assimilating it into adult play and interaction. If the puppy does not learn this from an early age, they will find it a difficult habit to break later in life. They will not be aware of their own strength, which can put themselves and others in jeopardy. This is particularly the case with large or muscular dogs when they share homes with children or other vulnerable persons.

When wondering how to make a dog not bite while playing, we need to work on bite inhibition. The earlier this is done, the better. It will also be important to teach them to drop objects and follow basic orders. This will both make the dog easier to live with and improve their general security.

How to make one dog not bite another

As we have commented above, dogs can mistakenly assimilate the act of biting as part of their social behavior, especially if they have a poor socialization process. If a dog does not socialize properly, it is much more difficult to interact positively with other individuals. This can lead to behavioral problems later on as well as anxiety, depression or possessiveness.

When in the park walking, or even if you have another dog in the home, one may bite the other when excited. Socialization is the way to ensure these interactions go smoothly. In can be a longer process with some than others, but it is important to ensure the dogs are in a safe environment, are given plenty of positive reinforcement and you are able to separate the dogs if there is a problem. For health reasons, it is also important to ensure both dogs are properly vaccinated and dewormed.

Also, before you decide to adopt a new dog into the home, you need to be sure you properly condition them. This is especially the case if you already have pets. Prepare the home for their arrival and introduce the two animals slowly.

If you need some practical help on how to introduce one dog to another safely, check out the video below:

How to make a dog not bite people

With human interactions, proper socialization from an early age is also a key factor. However, to ensure appropriate interaction with humans, dogs will need to be educated properly also. This will involve teaching them basic commands such as to sit, come and stay. In addition to providing basic orders to help them interact better, it will also help to stimulate their cognition and help reduce behavior problems by encouraging general well-being.

It is not just the imperative of the dog to behave well. It is also essential for anyone in their environment to respect canine nature, as well as the personality of an individual dog. For example, many dogs do not like to be hugged, kissed or over-manipulated. It can threaten their feeling of security, even if the initial intention comes from a positive place. If we continually interact with dogs in ways they do not like, biting can be a warning and we should not blame the dog. This is another important reason why learning a dog's body language is so important.

As rational adults, we should be able to adapt well to their nature. However, children can find it difficult to respect boundaries as they do not yet known any better. This is particularly the case with unknown or stray dogs. It is incumbent upon a child's care-provider to ensure they interact positively.

How to Stop a Dog From Biting When Excited - How to make a dog not bite people

What to do when a dog bites a person

While it may be difficult to hold back when a dog bite you, it is important you don't scold them. Punishment in this way can be counterproductive. Instead of educating the dog, it can exacerbate the reasons they are biting in the first place. Aggression can beget aggression and encourage the dog negatively. This will provide the dog with negative emotions and can make them more likely to bite again in the future.

In this situation, the best thing to do is maintain a neutral demeanor and act calmly. We should not stare at the dog or try to look intimidating to them. This signals to the dog we mean them harm and are preparing for a fight. Once the dog has looked away, then you need to walk away quietly and not turn around to them.

If the dog is yours, then you need to consult a professional canine behaviorist or ethologist. These professionals will be able to help you conduct behavior modification sessions and explain the appropriate guidelines in preventing unwanted canine behaviors. They will also be able to look at your individual dog and provide specific assistance in understanding their needs. You should not try to train a dog if you do not know what you are doing. You could accidentally be further encouraging negative behaviors.

When a dog which is not yours bites you, you need to encourage them to consult professionals to help them. If a stray or abandoned dog bites you, then you need to call your local animal services to carry out a rescue. They can then bring the dog to an appropriate center and help them to be rehabilitated.

If you want to read similar articles to How to Stop a Dog From Biting When Excited, we recommend you visit our Behavioral problems category.

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How to Stop a Dog From Biting When Excited