Your dog might be so cute that the mere sight of his deep brown eyes can melt all your stress away in an instant. Despite the undeniable canine adorable factor, however, the furry guys also can occasionally display problematic behavioral patterns, with hand chewing -- or mouthing -- being one such example.
By chewing on your hand, your doggie could be attempting a spirited playtime session with you -- nothing too complicated. In the curious and exploratory weeks and months that dogs spend as puppies, they employ their mouths for a lot of different play activities, whether involving their littermates or learning about random items using their mouths and tongues as guides. Although many puppies cease chewing behaviors once they reach adulthood, not all of them do -- perhaps due to insufficient socialization with their mother dogs and littermates, inadequate training and attention from their human families or lack of appropriate chew toys in their environments.
Your pooch also could be chewing on your hand as a reaction to stress in his life. Perhaps he's scared about the loud and persistent sound of your neighbor mowing his lawn. Perhaps he's stressed out because he feels isolated and lonely, or maybe because he doesn't receive enough regular physical fitness. Since this type of chewing can sometimes trigger fierce behavioral patterns in canines, it's crucial to be cautious about it. Look for problematic body language hints of these behaviors in your pet, such as rigid posture and visible teeth. In many cases, these bites feel markedly different than playful chewing -- significantly sharper and faster. If you think your doggie's hand chewing is in any way related to these types of patterns, talk to an expert in pet behaviors. Do not under any circumstances try to fix a potentially hazardous situation all by yourself.
Dogs sometimes chew on peoples' hands when they feel overwhelmed, often because of unbridled enthusiasm, newness and uncertainty. If you're throwing a surprise birthday party for one of your closest pals and your home suddenly is packed with faces that are totally unfamiliar to your dog, he may just start mouthing as a way to handle the thrill and confusion of it all. Dogs sometimes utilize hand chewing as a "hello" behavior. If your dog is extremely happy about seeing you, he just might display it in this way. It also isn't uncommon for canines to chew on hands in times of physical fitness -- think walks around the neighborhood or in the middle of fetch time.
Doggies occasionally turn to hand chewing as a method of receiving attention. This sometimes arises due to experiences from their time as puppies. If a puppy received a reaction from his owners each and every time he chewed on their hands, he could have learned that doing so always leads to something he wants so much -- attention. By chewing on your hand, your smart pooch could be fully aware that it's going to encourage you to give him some instant interaction -- and quickly.
By Naomi Millburn
MSPCA: Mouthing Behaviors in Puppies and Dogs
DogChannel.com: Dog Biting
DogChannel.com: Chewing Behaviors in Dogs
The Merck Veterinary Manual: Behavioral Problems of Dogs
ASPCA: Mouthing, Nipping and Play Biting in Adult Dogs
ASPCA: Puppy Mouthing
Nebraska Humane Society: Play Biting and Mouthing in Puppies
Center for Shelter Dogs: Problems and Management
Animal Humane Society: Managing Mouthing and Chewing in Young Dogs
About the Author
Naomi Millburn has been a freelance writer since 2011. Her areas of writing expertise include arts and crafts, literature, linguistics, traveling, fashion and European and East Asian cultures. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in American literature from Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.