Dogs are constantly keeping us entertained. Whether they're chasing their own tails, barking at their own reflection or twitching in their sleep, they always seem to keep us confused and laughing at the same time. Another common but odd dog behavior is when they use their front teeth to gently bite you. And if you've ever wondered "Why does my dog nibble on me?", you're not alone. That's why we went to the animal experts to get the answer. Keep scrolling to find out what your pup is trying to tell you.
Why does my dog nibble on me?
Just like humans, dogs are complex creatures, and their behaviors might have different meanings behind them. Here's what they may be saying with those nibbles, according to vets:
1. "You're my favorite!"
Tour dog's little bites might actually just be love nibbles. This behavior is also called "cobbing" because it visually resembles humans nibbling corn off of a corn cob. "Dogs often nibble on their loved ones as a way to show affection," says Dr. Alex Crow MRCVS from Pet Health Guru. "This is a natural behavior that they learn from their mothers as puppies."
But why do they nibble as puppies? It's a form of communication between mothers, puppies and their puppy siblings. "As puppies, they would gently nibble on each other during play," explains Dr. Mollie Newton, DVM and founder of PetMe Twice. "It's a sign of affection and bonding." So if your dog is nibbling on you, she views you as one of her pack and wants to express that she trusts you. Aww!
2. "Pay attention to me!"
What do you do when your dog nibbles on you? You probably turn to them and give them attention — which is exactly what they're looking for. They know a gentle nibble will get some interaction from their favorite human. Observe the context of the situation and their body language to determine the reason they want your attention. "If your dog is nibbling on you while wagging her tail and jumping around, she's probably trying to get you to play," says Dr. Crow. If you have food in your hand, she may be ever so politely asking you to share.
3. "I'm feeling anxious"
Another reason your dog might be nibbling on you is because they're feeling nervous or unsettled. "Nibbling is a way for dogs to relieve stress and self-soothe," explains Dr. Crow. Because it's a comforting behavior from their puppyhood, your dog may be trying to calm themselves down.
Observe her body language — are they relaxed? Are the nibbles slow and gentle, or are they persistent? If your dog is rigid, has their ears pinned back, is nibbling persistently, shaking or showing the whites of her eyes, they may be trying to tell you they'r anxious or uncomfortable. Try to see what is causing her pain or fear and remove them from the situation. (Think it might be a tummyache? Click through to see the foods that are good for dogs with an upset stomach.)
Do some dogs nibble more than others?
While all dogs may potentially nibble, the behavior is more common in puppies and young dogs than adults. "Most adult dogs will not nibble; instead, they've learned that humans tolerate licking much better," says Dr. Linda Simon, MVB, MRCVS and on the veterinary consult team for Try Fetched. (Click through to learn more about why dogs lick your feet.)
When nibbling is a concern
Gentle nibbling typically isn't a sign of a problem. If there's a change in your dog's nibbling habits, however, it's worth consulting a professional. "If the behavior is becoming obsessive, where your dog does it nonstop, it may be time to speak to a veterinary behaviorist," says Nicole Ellis, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Pet Lifestyle Expert with Rover.
And if the behavior is becoming more aggressive or painful, take your dog to a veterinarian or behaviorist. You might assume they're trying to play, but without intervention, unwarranted aggression can become dangerous for you and your dog.
How to make your dog stop nibbling on you
As cute as love nibbles are, you might prefer your dog express their affection in other ways and want them to stop. Don't get angry at them, though. "Remember, they do not know what we expect from them and may think we are happy for them to nibble on our clothes and skin," says Dr. Simon.
To gently get your dog to stop nibbling on you, first get to the root cause of their nibbling. If they're anxious, see if there's something in the environment or on their body that's making them feel uncomfortable. If they're seeking attention, they might be bored — redirect their behavior and distract her. "Try to give your dog a soft toy and see if she will transfer the nibbling behavior to the toy," suggests Ellis. "Get your dog focusing on something else — do some training together, or offer an interactive toy."
Once you've successfully redirected them from nibbling, show them you approve. "Reward your dog with a 'yes!' Immediately after, give her a high value treat. Something like chicken or sausage works well," says Dr. Simon. "The key here is that we need to do this every time they stop nibbling and do something we'd rather they do instead. Make sure everyone in the home is on board and training in the same manner." Repetition and consistency are key in training your pup.
Videos of dogs giving 'love nibbles' to make you smile
Keep scrolling for some adorable videos of dogs giving affectionate love nibbles to their humans.
1. German shepherd love nibbles
This sweet pup is cobbing and singing at the same time to express her love!
2. Golden retriever nibbles
This precious pooch is going to town nibbling her human's foot! We hope the owner knows by now how flattered they should be…
3. Pitbull nibbles, also known as 'pibble nibbles'
"Pibble nibbles," or the Internet's way of saying "pitbull nibbles," are super cute. Look at this sweet bully nibble her favorite blanket.
4. Best friends nibbling
This pup is giving love nibbles to her best friend — a patient ginger kitty! We love how much the cat seems to understand the sweet intentions behind it.
5. Shoulder nibbles
This dog has chosen to nibble her owner in the car. A little random, but a lot cute.
Click through to learn more fun facts about dogs: