Why does my dog ​​bite my hands when I pet him?

The use of the mouth is one of the preferred ways for dogs to communicate with the rest of the world, understood as other dogs and other living beings. Just as we address people and animals with attitudes typical of our species (tones of voice, body postures, etc.), for our four-legged friends it is exactly the same: wrinkling our nose, showing our teeth or not while growling, maintaining The mouth closed or open are all signals they use to communicate (associated with different body postures).

Why does my dog ​​bite my hands when I pet him?

Why does my puppy bite me when I pet him?

The newborn puppy, still deaf and with its eyes closed, orients itself tactilely in search of its mother and siblings and if you separate it from them it reacts by complaining and swinging its head until it finds them. The puppy that will have intense physical contact first with its mother and siblings and then with the human being will grow up confident.

Problems usually begin from the so-called “ socialization period ” (4-12 weeks of life), in which puppies become aware of their environment and learn to react to stimuli appropriately . If petting them will increase the bond that unites us, it is also good not to overdo it in certain circumstances. Let’s see which ones:

During the game

With play, puppies train themselves in everything that can happen to them in life, in pleasant and unpleasant situations, but also to test skills and limits, often through fights. Trying to hold and pet the dog at these times could result in the puppies biting because they are so agitated that they cannot control themselves in those moments of excitement , with the risk of harm that this entails (given the degree of acuity of their teeth).

It is much better to wait until the game is over to try to interact with them, remembering that caressing can also be considered a reward for our dogs: petting a puppy in a moment of calm will help him understand that this is precisely the behavior he should have. . So, reward situations that do interest you and not their exaltation.

During the dream

A puppy can sleep up to 18 hours a day (depending on different types of breeds), and during the deep sleep phase, being touched even with a pet could cause him to startle , with the instinctive reflex of biting your hand. It is always best for the interaction to occur when the dog is awake so as not to generate unpleasant results.

The situation is different when petting a puppy falls asleep, since petting a dog helps reduce the levels of stress and anxiety present in the body. In addition, physical contact transmits calm and tranquility. Therefore, it is very important to pet the puppy at the right time, since this gesture is intended to convey that calm, not «reward» the excitement, much less scare the dog.

Why does my dog ​​bite my hands when I pet him?  - Why does my puppy bite me when I pet him?

Why does my adult dog bite my hands when I pet him?

We have already mentioned that body communication in dogs is very important. Both among themselves and towards us they make gestures with different purposes. For example, in dominance gestures the subject can rest a paw on the back of another dog or bring its muzzle closer with a body position that indicates to the other that it must submit. This may be due, among other causes, to a lack of socialization. At this point it is important to remember that hierarchical relationships occur between members of the same species (we will never be the «leader of the pack», but rather a guide or reference person).

They also give us signals that indicate that they are not receptive. So, if at one of these moments we try to touch our dog, our caress can be misinterpreted and, therefore, he can bite us. In these cases it is essential to analyze all the body language to see what our dog is trying to tell us or what may happen to him to show himself in that way with us. The causes can be very varied, such as a health problem, poor socialization, suffering from stress or anxiety, having used inappropriate training methods (such as punishment or shouting), etc.

In addition, your dog biting your hands when you pet him may also be due to these reasons:


In the same way that a puppy can bite if we pet him when he is very excited , so can an adult dog. The degree of exaltation that he reaches is such that he does not control his reaction and tends to bite, even though he really does not want to hurt us. Again, we insist that it is very important to know when to pet and when not to.

Sleep disturbance

Does your dog bite your hands when you pet him while you sleep? Have you stopped to think about how you would react if you were suddenly woken up? As in puppies, it is an instinctive reaction in which the dog acts without knowing who or why. If he is fast asleep, it is better not to pet him.


If in terms of play and sleep we find similarities between puppies and adults, it is necessary to independently consider the situations in which dogs may be afraid. Lack of socialization with humans due to a life behind bars in a kennel, problematic situations related to sensory deprivation , unpleasant and traumatic events, are examples of situations that can evolve into a dog with behavioral problems.

Thinking about petting a phobic dog, even with the intention of bringing relief to the animal, could be counterproductive: in situations of extreme difficulty it is instinctive to seek to escape or attack the subject that appears before it, without thinking about the consequences. Therefore, approaching a frightened dog (especially from the front and holding his gaze), with the intention of calming him by petting him, will almost certainly result in the dog biting.

What should I do if my dog ​​bites me when I pet him?

Although we may not realize it, the way we touch our dogs causes different sensations and effects:

  • Stroking them with your hand open to the sides causes calmness, lowers alertness and reduces stress.
  • Patting tends to excite them .
  • Scratches on the back and shoulders are a source of gratification and a much appreciated way of complimenting their behavior .

On many occasions, our dogs communicate with us in the same way they do with each other: very often they literally throw themselves on us or lean with all their weight on our legs when they sit. We almost always pay attention to the signals they send us, but we do not observe or analyze them to understand what they really want to tell us.

To prevent the dog from biting when you pet him, do not take the initiative directly by putting your hand on his body, but you should make sure that he really wants you to pet him . To do this, put yourself at his level and invite him to accompany you if he is not at your side. Use a persuasive voice and show your palms open to allow him to smell them and interact with him.

Avoid putting your hands directly on his head , especially if he is not looking at you and it may be an unexpected gesture. How would you behave if a «giant» friend reached out with his outstretched hand to place it on your head? Let us remember that we are two species that have evolved together over time and, as is fair, we must respect each other for peaceful coexistence.

If, despite putting these tips into practice, your dog bites you when you pet him and shows other signs, such as always being alert, growling every time you try to get close, hiding from you, etc., do not hesitate and go to an ethologist so that evaluate the case.