General info

Why Does My Dog Nibble On Me With His Front Teeth?

Nelly likes to nibble on my forearm from time to time. I wasn’t sure what she was doing, whether she wanted attention, wanted to go out, play or something else. That’s why I decided to find some answers and understand what this crazy pup was telling me.

Nibbling is usually an expression of affection and trust. It is esentially a grooming gesture. Depending on the situation, it can also mean excitement and showing their want to play.

Dogs love to get their teeth in to just about anything. Be it their favorite squeaky toys, a juicy steak, your favorite sweater, or just plain you, a dog’s mouth is the same as our hands – it’s their mouth hands!

A dog’s mouth is their natural tool for exploring the world around them. In fact, dogs use their mouths for just about everything: playing, showing affection, exploring and of course, for chowing down on a tasty meal! Put it this way, without thumbs, how would we interact with the world? It would be quite difficult indeed…

So what about nibbling? Well, in short, nibbling is just one of the many ways that dogs interact with people, other dogs or anything around them. It’s adorable, sure, but dogs are incredibly intelligent creatures, so they’re not just nibbling to look cute!

With that, let’s take a deeper look into this canine curiosity.

Why Do Dogs Nibble?

Far and away, the main reason why your doggo nibbles you is simply to show affection and to show that they trust you. Yes, if your dog is gently nibbling you or your clothes with their front teeth (incisors) like they are eating a corn on the cob, they are, in effect, grooming you.

Grooming is a common behavior in dogs, and they do it to show affection. It’s not just us humans who can be the recipient of this endearing behavior, but other dogs too. If your doggy has a few furry BFFs, then you may have seen them nibbling another dog’s neck or ears. This is essentially your dog’s way of saying, “I love you, man!” to their friends.

You can also see dog mommas doing it to their pups!

Nibbling is also a way for dogs to communicate to you that they want to play. Whether it be you, a toy or another dog, playtime nibbling playtime is their excited nibbling. The easiest way to spot the difference between this type of nibbling and affectionate nibbling is by taking a closer look at your dog’s derriére!

If your dog is wagging their tail or their behind when they’re nibbling then they are engaging in playtime nibbling – they’re telling you that they want to do a game of tuggy or do a few laps in the park!

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If a dog is still a puppy then their reasons for nibbling are a little different. More often than not, it’s a pesky teething behavior…. oh, the horrors! While puppies do nibble to explore, the most common reason for their constant nibbling is due to their teeth finally coming in.

Teething is a little painful for puppies, so nibbling or biting on you, your furniture, and/or a toy is a way for them to soothe the pain. It’s best to give them a toy though; otherwise your new sofa or jacket will be their nibbling preference!

What’s The Difference Between Mouthing, Biting And Nibbling?

While nibbling is done through the incisors, mouthing and biting are a little different.


Mouthing is similar to nibbling in that it is mostly harmless, but the key difference is that a dog will use most of their mouth rather than just their incisors. A dog might use their entire mouth when they mouth, but they won’t apply any pressure. Typically, dogs mouth when they are excited. You might feel their teeth, but they know not to chomp down because that would be a bad doggo.

It usually happens when they’re in play mode or someone is greeting them, dogs only tend to mouth when they’re super excited! It can be a pain because some people may feel intimidated by a dog mouthing them, and if a dog gets too excited, they may apply a little pressure.

If this is an issue for you, one simple way to avoid mouthing behavior is by giving your dog a toy whenever they’re getting too excited. The toy will be a natural outlet for their overly enthusiastic mouthing. You should know though that mouthing is always a playful action even if they can get a tad carried away. Even on other dogs; mouthing and nibbling isn’t dominant behavior, it’s playful!


Biting can be completely different. On one hand a dog may bite because they’re getting a bit too carried away in play, but it can be an aggressive bite. It’s easy to spot the difference though.

If your dog looks rigid, their muzzle is wrinkled, they’re exposing all of their teeth, or their back is up (piloerection) while they bite or are about to bite then they are expressing aggressive behavior because they feel agitated or vulnerable.

This kind of biting isn’t playful – a playful dog will always look relaxed – so either your dog is scared or they are defending themselves. If you see this, try to remove your dog from the stressful situation.

Weimaraner sniffing human hand

How To Stop a Dog From Nibbling?

While nibbling can be adorable, if it becomes irksome to you because you are always the nibble-ee, offer up your dog a toy for them to nibble on. This will teach your dog that if they want to nibble then they’ll have to do it on something that isn’t you.

For dogs that suffer from separation anxiety, nibbling can be a stress release. If you’re out all day and your doggo has nothing to occupy themselves with, then sometimes, they’ll chew up whatever they can find. This can be because they are stressed. I wrote an article how to deal with separation anxiety in Weimaraners, go check it out!

Being around all the time isn’t always viable to some owners, so you just need to leave your pup something more suitable than furniture to nibble on. Leaving a few toys around for them will help satisfy their nibbling needs.

Alternatively, when you are out, leave something for your dog that has your scent on it like a piece of clothing. This should stop your dog from nibbling altogether because it’s comforting for them to be able to smell you when you’re not there. But maybe leave a toy out as well though just in case.

If your dog is getting too teethy with their mouthing or nibbling, simply say, “Ouch!” when this happens, and then don’t interact with them for at least a minute. When you do this and repeat it, it will show the dog that they have gone too far this time, and that they need to be gentler in the future.


Nibbling is a perfectly natural behavior for doggies. It’s mostly playful or affectionate, but it can teeter on being a bit frustrating. In most cases, all you need to do is give your furry little friend something good to chew on!

The main takeaway is this: dogs interact with the world through their mouths, so don’t scold them for being natural adventurers! Simply, divert the nibbling elsewhere if need be!

Now I now that Nelly’s nibbling is an affectionate gesture, sometimes mixed with playtime excitement and needing attention.

Do you have a Weimaraner (or another dog) that likes to nibble you like this?


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  1. Marisa Setzer
    Marisa Setzer
    June 11, 2021 at 4:41 am

    My mixed breed, large dog that we adopted from a shelter, likes to nibble on me when I see her at the end of the day. Usually doesn’t hurt but it seems to come from separation anxiety.

    • Dana - author
      June 13, 2021 at 2:49 pm

      Hi Marisa! For sure it can be from separation anxiety but it’s still an affectionate gesture I think. Like ‘yay you’re home, let me nibble on you!’ 🙂

  2. Debbie
    August 4, 2021 at 7:19 pm

    My boxer gets realy excited over excited and starts to jump and mouth but doesn’t bite. People ask me if there is something wrong with him but I just say he isn’t biting he’s playing he is only one anyway he is a baby yet. People don’t understand because he is a big lad they don’t think he can be still a baby.

    • Dana - author
      August 5, 2021 at 11:56 am

      That’s the thing with large breeds, a lot of people don’t understand dog behavior and think that because they’re big, they have to bite or be aggressive. Which is not the case, since chihuahuas can be vicious but people laugh at them when they bite.

      He’s a pup/adolescent, so he’s gonna be a tad more rambunctious. I don’t mind the nibbling too much, but if the pup gets too mouthy (even without biting), I either stop playing or give them a toy to munch on.

  3. Carol Wickwire
    Carol Wickwire
    October 7, 2021 at 3:57 am

    We have a 15 month old 105 lb Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dog who is a mouther and a nibbler. Thank you for solving the mystery behind this weird nibbling behavior! Gru is very “toy-focused” rather than “treat-focused” so you gave some great advice for us! Thanks!

    • Dana - author
      October 10, 2021 at 6:58 pm

      Very happy to help! Hope some of these tips work for you. 🙂

  4. Marti
    October 14, 2021 at 5:58 pm

    I have a 10 pound toy goldendoodle who is 6 months. She nibbles and barks at me. I know she is trying to get my attention but I was feeling more attacked as she would come close, nibble nibble then back away and bark. Oftentimes her nibbles just catch my skin! OUCH! I tried that. I’ve tried lemon juice, water in a spray bottle which she found to be the most delightful game. Any hints? Or does she just love me that much.

    • Dana - author
      October 14, 2021 at 6:38 pm

      Hi Marti, I’m guessing your pup just about finished teething and is still a little bit wild. Have you done any bite inhibition training while she was still teething? Regardless if it’s getting attention/playful or a loving gesture (I think it’s the former in your case), if it bothers you, you should address it sooner rather than later.

      Nelly liked to go for the tug toy where I was holding it, so she would often just bite my hand. When that happened, I just dropped the toy and left the room for about a minute or two and haven’t paid any attention to her. It will take a lot of patience but she will get it eventually if you’re consistent.

      Also another way is to roll their lip under their teeth as they bite. You will have to be consistent and do it everytime though.

  5. Linda Romano
    Linda Romano
    October 15, 2021 at 3:48 pm

    I have a × and 6 month old American Eskimo. He had been mouthing me since he was 8 weeks old and continues to d that till this day He has ripped my clothes etc and although I know he just wants to play, he can hurt me till I bleed. I have created him or walked out of the room but he continues to play hard. He is also afraid of people and has been Ben from a vets office for aggre
    ssion. He is on medication now to calm him down. He has goid medical care food toys love and affection The only way to get him to stop d letting him smell vinegar then he backs off and behaves himself. I can not take him f for training because of his aggression issues What else can I do ? I want him to enjoy life by be fearful of it.

    • Dana - author
      October 15, 2021 at 4:20 pm

      Hi Linda, I know that this is hard for you and him as well. It seems like his aggression is from feeling afraid. Has he been socialized at all?

      I suggest finding a vet behaviorist rather than a trainer. They’re trained both in veterinary practice and animal behavior and should determine what’s causing your dog’s aggression and hopefully find a solution. You can find one in your area or if you’re in the US/Canada.

      Best of luck and let me know how you get on!

  6. Ashley
    November 20, 2021 at 5:37 pm

    We have a Belgian Malinois that bevels when he’s ready to play or wants to love on you. He never licks to show affection, it’s always his love nibbles. We’ve never really discouraged it because it never hurt – that was our mistake! Now it is starting to hurt when he gets more insistent. We’ll try these tips – thank you!

    • Dana - author
      November 21, 2021 at 8:20 pm

      Hi Ashley,
      I’m happy to help, let me know if any of these tips helped you with your pup!

  7. Carole
    October 17, 2022 at 4:28 pm

    Yes he does! Hes a big pyrenees it hurts and i dont like it!!😡

    • Dana - author
      October 17, 2022 at 6:48 pm

      Sorry to hear that, Carole! But at least now you have some tips how to minimize it, and you know that he does it because he loves you. 🙂


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