Giving Dogs the Lives They Deserve

Insecure Nipping: Taking a Bite Out of Your Dog’s Fear

Insecure Nipping: Taking a Bite Out of Your Dog’s Fear

Scared Dog You just brought home your new rescue dog and you notice that she tries to nip at you when she is scared. This is a common issue for dogs just coming out of rescue. How you address the issue in the first eight weeks the dog will determine if the nipping becomes a lifelong issue or just a passing fad.

Know what your dog is saying

If your dog is yawning, licking her lips, won’t make direct eye contact, starts to shed excessively, or keeps turning her head away, this is her way of saying I’m SCARED! If you see these signals, calmly remove your dog from the situation. Let her become comfortable with whatever she is nervous about from a greater distance.

Be your dog’s advocate

Many people do not know how to interact with a scared dog, so they will invade the dog’s space or try to pet it. This is very nerve-racking for an insecure dog. Be proactive and tell people not to pet her if she is nervous. If your dog is uncomfortable around a few strangers, don’t take her to a crowded event such as a child’s soccer game. The key to getting your pup over her fear is by SLOWLY getting her used to whatever scares her. Make sure to carry yummy treats or her favorite toy. Every time
your dog comes across a scary person or situation, give her a treat or special playtime with her favorite toy. Eventually she will realize the world is not that scary after all. She only gets play/treat time if she is brave. If she nips because she is scared and then you give her a ball to play with, she will start to nip more and more because she gets to play.

Be calm

Do not grab or chase the dog or force her into a situation because she is “acting silly.” This will only confirm to her that the world is indeed scary and so are you! Instead, use controlled body movement and a quiet voice. This will help to show your dog that you are a good leader and that you do not intend to hurt her.

Be brave

You may want to tell your dog that “it’s okay, the (blank) won’t hurt you.” Or pick her up or even crouch down beside her. This is all meant to be reassuring, but your dog will think that you are praising her for being fearful. Instead, act happy and upbeat! Throw a puppy party whenever she is scared and show her there is nothing to be afraid of.


If your dog does nip, firmly (but not by yelling!) tell her NO. If you are home, give her a two minute time out in the closest bathroom. If you are in public, tug on her collar and remove her from the situation. Although the only way to help your dog build confidence is to follow the steps above, we still must tell her that nipping is never appropriate. Afterward, evaluate what happened and why you think she nipped so you can prevent the situation from occurring again. | 858.414.7797

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