White Husky pup lying on green grass on his back nibbling at owners hand

Why Does My Dog Nibble on Me?

Dogs love to taste things, and one of the things they may want to taste is you! Does your dog try nibbling on your fingers, clothing, or ears? This may seem worrisome if you are concerned that he may try to bite you. But nibbling, also known as cobbling, is usually not something to be worried about.

Dogs often nibble on us to show affection, respect, or to try to get our attention. Your dog may also be trying to socialize and groom you as a loving act learned from his mother and littermates. Nibbling with the front teeth is a normal canine behavior within a close-knit pack.

Keep reading to learn more about this interesting act of canine socialization.

Canine Nibbling (Cobbling) and What it Means

Why Dogs Nibble and What it is

Nibbling is also called cobbling, like when someone nibbles on an ear of corn with their front teeth. When your dog gently nibbles on you with his front teeth, it is like getting a doggie kiss. It is very sweet and only done with the front teeth. It is not a sign of aggression but an expression of affection and love.

Nibbling is something that a puppy’s mother will do with all of her pups to groom them and offer affection. It is a good technique to remove fleas or debri from a pup’s coat. Eventually the whole litter will begin to nibble at one another as signs of affection. When pups want to play with each other they may use nibbling to get another pups attention.

The primary reasons that a dog my nibble on you include:

  • Showing affection
  • A sign of respect
  • An act of grooming
  • Your dog is feeling playful
  • To get your attention
  • Your dog likes the taste of you

Nibbling is an act of socialization and deference offered to other pack members or littermates. If your pup nibbles on you, he signals that he trusts, loves, and respects you. He may also feel very playful and nibbles at your fingers to get your attention. He may also like your salty taste or your fresh scent after getting out of the shower.

What Nibbling is Not

Nibbling is not the same as biting or mouthing. Mouthing is when dogs explore things by wrapping their mouths around something to taste or play with. One of my dogs, Georgia, gets very mouthy whenever she is excited. For example, every time I get ready to take them for a walk, Georgia is beside herself with joy and cannot contain her excitement.

She jumps on the bed and wraps her mouth around my wrist and the clothes I have laid on the bed. I have to move my jeans away to a nearby chair to finish getting dressed without being harassed! This is just her way of being playful when she is really happy.

Biting, of course is a whole other thing. Biting is usually a very aggressive action using the full force of a dog’s mouth and teeth and can do real damage. A dog may bite to defend himself or attack a person or another dog he views as an intruder.

Ways that our Dogs May Nibble on Us

Three primary ways dogs cobble is to nibble on our ears, hands, or clothing. My dog Charlotte loves to nibble on my ears if I allow it. She gets very animated when she does this, and I was actually startled the first time it happened. Then the nibbling devolves into licking inside my ear, none of which seems very enticing to me.

She did this once to our neighbors three year old girl who screamed when it happened, but seemed okay afterward. Charlotte did not hurt her but probably saw this little girl as a new playmate and tried to nibble her ear as an affectionate way of being playful.

My dogs sometimes nibble on my hands, wrists, and fingers to get my attention. I will reach down to pet them and get nibbled on instead. They usually want food or want me to play with them. Georgia can get really obnoxious and very slobbery sometimes!

Both of my dogs will also nibble on my pant’s leg to get my attention. They also like to jump into a fresh load of laundry that I am trying to fold them. The fresh scent seems to attract them to my dismay as they nibble and drool on my clean basket of clothes fresh out of the dryer.

How to Manage Your Dog’s Nibbling if it is a Bit Too Much!

If you don’t want your dog to nibble on you or your clothing, indulging them will certainly make it worse. I often laugh when they do this which only encourages them!

So, if you really do not want your dogs to nibble or if it just becomes too much, you will need to be firm and train them. Easier said then done! But with consistent practice you can get them to stop.

First, do not indulge your dog by making it seem okay to nibble at you.

Next, be firm but positive. Use your “No” training word to signal that your dog must stop what he is doing.

Finally, give your dog something more acceptable to chew on, like a ball or chewy toy. Praise him when he chews on something else and stops nibbling on you.

Don’t yell at or hit your dog. That will only make him confused and fearful, especially since nibbling is intended to be something he does to be affectionate. Just offer an alternative and let him know you care by gently petting and talking to him. Positive reinforcement has long been demonstrated to be the most effective dog training method.

Sometimes dogs like to nibble on things as a way of self-soothing and calming themselves. You may find that your pup likes nibbling on his blanket, which is fine as long as he doesn’t destroy it. So finding an alternative for this natural way that dogs comfort themselves and pass the time is the best way to keep them from chewing on you!

Final Thoughts

If your dog nibbles on you consider it an honor! He loves you and wants to be affectionate. This is like getting a doggy kiss from your best furry friend who probably trusts and respects you as his primary human pack member. This is his way of socializing with you in a loving (doggie) way.

But if it gets too much, you can tell him “no” and provide alternative things for him to nibble on, thereby protecting your tender ears and fingers!

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