If your dog is nibbling on your other dog, it’s a sign of social interaction that could mean several things. The nibbling dog could be asking the other dog to play, relieving their stress, or grooming the other dog. This is harmless behavior, but make sure the nibbling doesn’t get too aggressive.
Dogs use their mouths for just about everything. From exploring the world to transporting their pups, the mouth is involved in it all.
It’s just as natural for them to use those marvelous mandibles as it is for you to use your thumbs to scroll through this article.
But sometimes their behavior can be difficult to interpret. One such behavior is when one dog nibbles on another dog.
In this guide, we will help you interpret this strange behavior by going over the primary reasons dogs nibble on each other.
For humans, when introduced to someone for the first time, handshakes are often exchanged. This is a standard form of mutual acceptance and peace.
Dog’s do the same thing! Well, they don’t paw shake (adorable as that would be). Dog’s will often nibble on each other to display signs of acceptance and respect within both parties. It’s how they test the waters for an accurate read.
Nibbling isn’t only for introductions. It’s also a clear and effective method of showing affection to one another. Dogs are sensitive little beings who not only need positive reinforcement from their owners, but from their own furry friends as well.
Grooming Each Other
Dogs love to groom each other. This is an instinct that has been passed down from their wolf ancestors.
A few years ago, my boxer developed an ear infection. My other dog had picked up on this and proceeded to lick the inside of his ears as her own way of alleviating the infection (as gross as it was, it was pretty adorable).
When one dog nibbles on another dog, they might be asking to play. This is known as “Jaw Jousting.” It’s like their own form of wrestling. As long as the other dog doesn’t seem annoyed, there’s nothing wrong with this behavior.
But how do you know when you should intervene?
As entertaining as it is to watch our hyped-up pooches chase and wrestle, it’s important to know when to diffuse a potentially hostile situation.
It starts with the warning signs.
If you notice your dog attempting to disengage from play, that’s usually a telltale sign that intervention is required. All it takes is one scary experience to solidify a lasting impression.
Stress and Anxiety
It’s a great big world for those paws to discover. And in a great big world, stress is unavoidable.
As spoiled of a life we may provide to our fuzzy buddies, they are not immune to the stresses that life offers.
Dogs can’t exactly talk to us about their problems, so they deal with their issues in a wide variety of ways, ranging from harmless to potentially dangerous for their health.
Nibbling on one another, or even nibbling on themselves, can be a sign that your dog is stressed or anxious.
If you believe your dog might be feeling a bit anxious, keep a special eye on them so you can accurately diagnose. Make sure you provide them with plenty of chews and toys to keep them preoccupied.
Puppies Will Be Puppies
Right out of the gate, puppies will naturally nibble on each other.
It’s an instinctual habit that begins before the pups even develop teeth.
Nibbling is a method that helps bond the litter together. This light nibbling has many terms, such as corn-cobbing or mouthing.
It’s 100% natural and should be no cause for alarm. Especially since this is when a dog learns how hard to play bite.
At first, pups don’t know how to control the strength of their bite. Bite Inhibition is a process that occurs during puppyhood, in which they learn how to gauge the pressure of their bite. It’s important not to deter this behavior if witnessed in the litter, as this is a key factor for their social development.
They learn that hard bites equal a halt in playful activities, which is no fun for anyone.
Situations where a larger dog is “jaw jousting” with a pup shouldn’t be concerning since older dogs tend to have a natural, in-tune sense with youngsters. They adjust their level of play accordingly.
My mom has been burning the same scented candles for as long as I can remember. So, when I return home for a visit, the aroma takes me back to my 11-year-old self playing crash-bandicoot on the living room floor.
Dog’s surf those same waves of nostalgia.
Chewing and nibbling on one another takes them back to a warm and cozy state of mind, from when their eyes were barely open. These feelings can be subconscious and only re-surface given the appropriate triggers.
Dogs are some of the most interesting animals to observe in nature. The complexity of the social hierarchy within a tight-knit pack astounds me to this very day.
Within a pack, nibbling on each other can have multiple meanings. If a beta unintentionally challenges the authority of a high-ranking pack member, light nibbling and mouthing is a way to apologize and mend the situation.
Additionally, it’s a tactic to diffuse a potentially hostile situation, decreasing the chances of a fight.
Lower-ranking members will nibble on the alphas as a way of displaying contrition. To establish that they understand who is in charge and where they stand in the pack. A pure act of submission to establish order and justice.
Dog Nibbling is Normal Behavior
Dogs exhibit a wide range of behavior to cope with a vast number of everyday situations.
From simple playtime to aggressive social dominance, it’s important to understand your pup’s unique personality to interpret the tone of their interactions.
Nibbling on other dogs is completely natural and essential for a healthy social life.
Though it is not recommended to promote these practices, it can be equally damaging to prevent it.
If you feel like conflict is a possibility, be sure to maintain supervision during playtime.
What you are seeing is a completely natural process that is just as common as an ordinary handshake. There’s no need for concern. Dogs will be dogs!
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.