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Why Does My Dog Nibble On Me? Dog Corn Cobbing Explained

In the dog world, nibbling is considered a grooming gesture. You might have seen your dog nibbling on themselves, but they also nibble on each other.

A dog nibbling on you with their front teeth is a gesture of affection, bonding time, or simply a playful behavior intended to incite play in some cases.

Some owners call it corn cobbing, as the dogs do it with their front teeth, much like eating corn on a cob.

Why does my Weimaraner nibble on me?
Weimaraner playfully nibbling their owner

Why Does My Dog Nibble?

Dogs interact with the world around them with their mouths, and nibbling is one of the many ways they communicate with us and each other. Here are a few reasons why your dog might nibble:

  • grooming
  • affection
  • play
  • soothing & stress release
  • getting attention
  • teething


As I mentioned above, grooming is a typical reason for nibbling. Dogs groom themselves to scratch and itch, to get rid of parasites, dirt, stuck twigs, or anything like that on them and in their fur.

Nibbling on another dog is called allogrooming, which basically means mutual grooming, though one party may remain passive. Allogrooming happens with dogs in close relationships – between mother and her puppies, siblings, and even unrelated dogs who share a household. 

This nibbling is also common in wild wolves!

Dog grooming himself
Dog grooming themselves

If you have multiple dogs who get bonded well, you may have witnessed this nibbling a lot. Usually it starts with licking the ears and can progress to nibbling on the neck and head.

Some dogs may also display this behavior on cats they live with and are great pals with, and of course, us, and that ties to the next reason why dogs nibble.


In the canine world, grooming is basically a way to show affection.

When dogs nibble on people, it’s called nitting, and it’s a type of allogrooming. Many dog owners refer to it as corn-cobbing, which I think is pretty accurate.

Since we don’t have fur like they do, we can’t be essentially groomed like their dog friends. 

Still, nibbling promotes social bonding in their world and a way to show you that they love you.

Dog grooming another one
Dog grooming another one


Many times, when your dog is hyper, they may start to nibble on you. It’s not the same as mouthing, but more on that below. How do you tell the difference between affectionate and playful nibbling?

Usually, affectionate nibbling happens when the dog is calm and relaxed. On the playful side, their tails will wag, and they might pant in excitement.

Nelly likes to nibble our forearms, especially as a playful gesture when she’s on her back, and we’re petting her. It’s adorable, but she has the tendency to pinch my skin. And I thought wearing a thicker hoodie would fix it, but no, she still manages to pinch in her excitement.

I would put a video here of her doing it, but since it stings, I don’t let her do it for long. If I can film it, I’ll add it here. In the meantime, enjoy this video of wild wolves grooming each other!

Wild wolf grooming another

Nooking & stress release

Nooking is a behavior typical for Weimaraners and Dobermans, although any breed of dog can do it. Nooking refers to a suckling behavior, where the dog will nibble on a blanket or a soft plush toy.

It’s a self-soothing gesture, usually done before bedtime or when they’re relaxed. I wrote an entire article on nooking here, where you can learn more about this behavior.

Nibbling can also be a stress release behavior. Especially if your pup suffers with separation anxiety. Their nibbling can turn into chewing and eventually destruction. Make sure to read my guide for separation anxiety.

Getting attention

Not paying your pup enough attention? Some dogs may nibble on you, so you can pet them or play with them.


A teething puppy nibble is different from an adult nibbling, as they’re trying to soothe their sore gums

Key Takeaways

  • Dogs interact with the world with their mouths
  • Most often your dog displays affection when they nibble on you
  • Nibbling can also signal a playful behavior 
  • Nibbling is a bonding grooming gesture and is often done to other bonded dogs and even cats

Is Nibbling a Sign of Illness?

Excessive nibbling can indeed be a sign of parasites or something else going on, depending on the part of their body they’re nibbling on.

I know one dog who nibbled on his tail, and it turned out it was broken, so they can definitely nibble a spot that’s painful.

If your dog keeps nibbling and licking their paws, make sure to inspect them for any stuck grass. If they’re obsessively nibbling on a blanket or a toy, make sure they’re not swallowing any fabric and try to determine why.

When in doubt, please consult your vet.

Weimaraner sniffing human hand

Can Nibbling Be Dangerous?

Nibbling is different from biting, so it’s not dangerous per se. However, human skin is thinner, and we don’t have fur, so the dog often pinches it when they’re corn cobbing. This can be painful, and the dog may cause accidental bruising, especially on children and seniors.

How to Stop a Dog from Nibbling on Me?

Nibbling can be pretty cute, but it can get annoying if it’s happening often. Your dog can also pinch your skin, and while we appreciate their display of affection, we’re not that keen on being hurt.

If you’d like to stop your dog from nibbling on you, here are a few tips:

  • Voice it – “ouch“, “no“, “gentle” or “leave it” are all good commands to use if your dog knows them.
  • Leave – remove yourself from the situation and don’t pay any attention to the dog for 10 minutes or so. Don’t pet them, don’t talk to them or look at them if you’re relaxing on a couch. If you think you can’t do that, you can try leaving the room altogether.
  • Reward – you can get them a toy they enjoy, a treat and praise for not nibbling you

Repeat as needed, and hopefully the nibbling will lessen in time.

Silly Nelly
Silly Nelly showing off her incisors

How Do I Stop Nelly from Nibbling on Me?

Nelly’s love & play nibbles actually hurt. She’s not meaning to, and I don’t punish her for it, because I know why she’s doing it.

As she usually nibbles when she’s on her back, and I’m petting her, I move my hand out of her reach and pet her elsewhere or simply step away. She typically relaxes and calms down from her playful state.

How is nibbling different from mouthing or biting?

Nibbling is done through the incisors (aka the front teeth). Mouthing, as the name suggests, is done with their whole mouth.


Mouthing is very similar to nibbling in that it’s mostly harmless. The key difference is that your pup will use most of their mouth, but won’t apply any pressure.

Dogs do this typically when they are excited. You might feel their teeth, of course, but they know not to chomp down. It happens when they’re in play mode, someone is greeting them, or they’re just super excited. 

It can be a pain because some people may feel intimidated by a dog mouthing them. If the excitement gets too much, they might apply a little pressure.

Keep in mind that mouthing is always a playful action, even on other dogs.

Correcting mouthing behavior

If this is an issue for you, one simple way to avoid mouthing is by giving your dog a toy whenever they’re getting too excited. 

You can also stop any activity that made your dog this excited by saying “all done” or something similar. If you have a command for your dog to calm down, then even better!

Dog nibbling on a cat


Biting can be completely different from nibbling and mouthing. On one hand, a dog may bite if they’re getting a bit too carried away in play.

Other times, it can be an aggressive gesture. However, it’s easy to spot the difference and if you’re paying attention to your dog’s body language, you can stop an escalation and potential bites.

If your dog looks rigid, their muzzle is wrinkled and showing all of their teeth, they are expressing aggressive behavior because they feel agitated, threatened or scared.

Some people also point out the raised hackles on their back (piloerection) to be a display of aggression, but it’s not always. It signals arousal, which can be from excitement, fear, uncertainty, and aggression among other things. 

Key takeaways

  • nibbling (corn cobbing) is always done just with their incisors
  • pay attention to your dog’s body language to distinguish between playful and aggressive biting

Further Reading


  • G., B. B. V. (2009). Canine behavior insights and answers (Vol. 2). Saunders/Elsevier.
  • Canine grooming behavior. Veterian Key (link)
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Dana - site owner


I’ve always loved dogs, ever since I was a child, but I wasn’t allowed to have one. I dog-sit my sister's Weimaraner often. I decided to start this blog and share what I’ve learned about Nelly, the Weimaraner breed, and dogs in general from scientific papers and journals and my own personal experience. Learn more about Dana.


  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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