Reason 4: Stress and Anxiety
Nibbling is primarily a display of positive emotions in dogs, but that’s not to say that is always the case. While you’re more likely to see your dogs nibbling as a sign of comradery or relaxation, it is possible for dogs to take out any anxiety they may be feeling in the form of nibbling themselves or others.
A good comparison for us humans might be someone biting their nails, a behavior often observed in bored and/or anxious persons. Now, you may not be out there biting your friend’s nails, but dogs don’t exactly have the same personal space boundaries that we do!
It’s Probably Nothing To Do With Submission or Dominance
While there are many who speculate otherwise, studies indicate that nibbling actually has nothing to do with your dog’s, or the others’, status within their social group. This behavior has been observed in and between dogs of all ages, sizes, breeds, and general dispositions; by more dominant dogs towards more submissive dogs and vice versa!
As we learn more about canine behavior and expression, the outdated theories that try to tie everything back to a black-and-white notion of dominance vs submission often disregard what has since been observed in recent years.
Reason 1: Affection
It may come as a relief to learn that nibbling has been shown to be almost exclusively an expression of positive emotions between a dog and its doggie pal(s); the nibbler and the nibblees, if you will. In fact, researchers believe that nibbling can actually serve to strengthen the bonds between dogs and is generally an expression of positive emotions and affection!*
Mother dogs tend to nibble their puppies in a caring way, and it seems that the behavior carries over as the puppies grow, evolving into a recognized way to convey their acceptance of others and their levels of relaxation.
While using teeth on one another may seem confusing to us as humans, it’s important to remember that dogs experience the world snout-first, so it’s hardly surprising to find out many of their forms of communication involve their mouth – teeth and all.
Besides, what human sibling or friend hasn’t occasionally leaned over to affectionately smack your shoulder? Just because something might look a bit violent or painful at first, doesn’t mean that’s always the case.
Why Does My Dog Lick the Muzzle of Another Dog?
When a dog nibbles with just their front teeth, we call it dog cobbing, named for the action of nibbling a corn cob. Some may also know it as the adorable pibble nibble.
Dog cobbing is a simple action where they peel back their upper and lower lips and chomp their front teeth together. It’s usually very gentle and not the same as biting or gnawing.
All dogs will cob at an itch, but some gently nibble us, their blankets, toys, and even the cat. So why do dogs cob, and what does it mean? Let’s take a closer look.
Newborn puppies will cob on their mother’s teat to encourage milk production. It’s a very early primal movement that starts as suckling. Because it is such a vital part of early development, it can become both a sign of affection and a way to self-soothe later in life.