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Discussion Starter #1
One way I like to play with Chance is to grab one of her feet then let go and quickly grab another and let go and quickly grab another. She likes to nip at my hand when I do this. Basically she'll put my hand in her mouth and hold it with her teeth. I discovered this recently and have fun doing it with her but there's a part of me that wonders if it's safe or if there's a chance that she might actually bite me instead of nipping one day. It seems to me entirely like gentle fun but I wanted to see what people with more experience with dogs thought.

More info.: She's a 22 lb very gentle, 1 1/2 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mix.
 

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Usually with dogs there is a ''no teeth in my skin'' rules, but then again, if you trust your dog and you know she won't bite you, then you don't have to worry.
Trust your Dog.
 

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Not a very good game. You're teaching her to be reactive (with nipping) when someone touches her. Groomers, vets and guests will not like that game.
 

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I'm trying really hard to get my pup to really STOP the play biting hand thing. I can't tolerate it. She's gentle with kids so far but... I would hate for her to do that especially to a child or one of our cats. I can't say though how your pup reacts but he just might think it's okay later on to do this more often to you or other people and other people might get offended and annoyed with that behaviour, but that being said, you know your pup best
 

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What might seem like a game to you may be self-defense for your dog. It's not my experience that dogs enjoy having their feet grabbed repeatedly like that for no reason (or for a good one, either!). That's why it takes training to get them to accept people touching them all over. You could be teaching your dog that the best response to anyone who tries to examine or groom their paws is a bite. Could lead to a serious bite later on. I would play a nice game of tug instead. JMO.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
OK. No more of this "game" then. Sometimes she nips at me when I pet her too, not just when I grab her feet. Should I say "no" in a firm voice when she does that to try to get her to stop? Will that be confusing to her because I've encouraged it in the past? Thanks everyone!
 

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I don't think changing the rules about nipping will be confusing as long as you don't revert to allowing it again. I think using the word "No" could be less effective than other methods, however.

Q: Is it a play bite or a "don't touch me" bite? If it's play biting, then I prefer teaching the dog that play biting = I take my attention away from her. When she nips, immediately say "Ouch!", stand, turn your back and ignore the dog completely. With enough repetition, the dog learns that play biting hurts humans, they don't like it, and when you bite them, they'll refuse to play with you. My dog was a terrible nipper when she was a pup. We had to do this routine for a couple of weeks to get her to stop. When she would get real excited and was nipping especially hard, we would actually leave the room. It worked.

If it's a "don't touch me" bite, you may need to consult an expert because if you let it go, the dog can learn that she can get you (or anyone else) to back off if she nips. And that's not something you want dogs to learn. Also, responding to an aggressive act, even if just a small nip, with one of your own only escalates the situation, IMO. (Yelling "No!" esp. when combined with threatening behavior like leaning towards or hovering over a dog can feel aggressive.) I think others on the forum are much better equipped to answer this question than I am. Just offer a little more detail about the kind of nipping she does when you pet her, how you're positioned in relation to the dog when it happens, what actions preceded the nip, etc. That will help them offer an informed response.
 

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Eh, sometimes Wally will get nippy during play - sometimes when I scratch him in "that spot" he'll spin around and nip my sleeves or pants legs or a toy on the floor. Then of course, I really egg him on and he spins faster and faster and he'll start licking me like crazy and doing the dog "laughing" sound.

Sometimes he mouths my hands and heck my arm sometimes if he gets REALLY excited or is highly energetic (like after waking up in the morning). It never hurts, he's not putting any pressure on me, just holding in his mouth. Really gentle.

But he's never been trouble for the groomers (in fact, they love his behavior), doesn't nip strangers, I can grab all his feet, pull his tail, etc.

I think a dog knows the difference between a highly excited game and "normal" life. Like if I'm training Wally and I scratch him there, he'll not do all that (he'll probably sit actually), so it seems he gets the context of whether or not it's a game or not. If I start a chase game and then do that - he'll go into the spinning around, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I don't think changing the rules about nipping will be confusing as long as you don't revert to allowing it again. I think using the word "No" could be less effective than other methods, however.

Q: Is it a play bite or a "don't touch me" bite? If it's play biting, then I prefer teaching the dog that play biting = I take my attention away from her. When she nips, immediately say "Ouch!", stand, turn your back and ignore the dog completely. With enough repetition, the dog learns that play biting hurts humans, they don't like it, and when you bite them, they'll refuse to play with you. My dog was a terrible nipper when she was a pup. We had to do this routine for a couple of weeks to get her to stop. When she would get real excited and was nipping especially hard, we would actually leave the room. It worked.

If it's a "don't touch me" bite, you may need to consult an expert because if you let it go, the dog can learn that she can get you (or anyone else) to back off if she nips. And that's not something you want dogs to learn. Also, responding to an aggressive act, even if just a small nip, with one of your own only escalates the situation, IMO. (Yelling "No!" esp. when combined with threatening behavior like leaning towards or hovering over a dog can feel aggressive.) I think others on the forum are much better equipped to answer this question than I am. Just offer a little more detail about the kind of nipping she does when you pet her, how you're positioned in relation to the dog when it happens, what actions preceded the nip, etc. That will help them offer an informed response.
Thanks; I definitely think it's a play nip, not a "don't touch me" nip, and I'll follow your advice.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I don't ever think it is ok to nip. What if a little kid grabs your dog's paw - lawsuit coming.
Well two things: (a) it seems entirely like gentle play rather than biting and (b) it's fun! That said, I don't think it's worth the risk of it being a real bite one day and have decided to no longer do this game with her. (It was fun though!) I definitely appreciate what you were saying. I was just explaining it from the perspective I had before posting this thread.
 

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Bonn1997 I don't know your dog or how she is reacting to it but if you are doing what I think, I do it all the time. I have with several of my dogs. They have very good bite inhibition and are just playing. I think you have to know your dogs. One thing I do it in the morning when I wake up (I have one dog on the bed with me) I toss the covers over my head and my dog jumps up and starts nipping my head and play growling while I am under the covers growling back and grabbing his feet as if I am nipping. It is TOTAL play. I also play it in the living room when I lay on the floor and sort of protect my head and they come running over by me and I grab their feet for a second and let go. They start pouncing all over with their butts up in the air in play mode. I have done this game for many many years with many many dogs and never had a problem with it. With dogs that know how to play it is not an issue. I know a lot of other people that play like this too. The key is knowing your dog and reading it's signals. Are you sure your dog likes this game? Does he stop the second you tell him "enough?" Also this does not transfer over to touching their paws at any other time because it is different. Kids or anyone else can pick up my dogs paws and handle them and all they will get is a big lick across the face for their efforts. Play is different then handling. I can't explain it and don't know how you are doing it but if your dog is like mine, they know the difference. I should say though, my definition of nipping during play is a very very gentle mouth on me. They are not angry or defensive in ANY way. The growl is totally different then a growl/warning type.
 

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I agree with Inga. We play this game with our older dog Scooby, and he loves it. It is all in good fun and he will stop as soon as we say to. I can also touch his feet at any time and he never will nip. (he is 65 lbs so if he were to really bite it could be bad)
In fact, we have tried to play it wil Jett and he just stands there as we grab his feet... no fun!!
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Well maybe when my dad comes to visit me in about 1 1/2 weeks I'll have him record it and see if I can figure out how to put the video up here so you guys can see it. I really think she knows it's just play, though, because she doesn't show any signs of aggression (growling, firm/strong biting, and she seems happy).
 

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Inga makes a very good point. We do the under the covers game too. The dog does know the difference between that kind of mouthing and the nipping that's not allowed.
 

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I think it's personally fine. As long as he knows to stop when it's too much (i.e. you say "ow!" and he quits) I think you'll be okay. Also, I'm assuming he's not just nipping randomly whenever you touch him or his feet, so it seems like he knows the difference.
 

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As long as he knows to stop when it's too much
...and also as long as you know when he's had enough... i.e. you carefully read his signals to make sure it's fun for him and not crossing the line into frustratingly annoying.
 

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I have played this game about every way there is to play it.

The latest is with my little terrier mutt. She probably weighs about 12lbs.

The only reason that her weight matters is her favorite way to play the game. She jumps in my lap, rolls over on her back, and we commence to play. She lets me put my finger crosswise in her mouth, and we take turns pulling one way or the other. When she's done, she rolls over or jumps off my lap.

Actually, I feel extremely fortunate. All of my current dogs came to me by highway or surrender, and all of them have excellent bite inhibition.
 
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