Greyhound nitting, also known as the greyhound nibble, is a nipping behavior that most greyhounds will show at some point during their lives.
What is greyhound nitting? You’ll feel a slight nipping sensation, which may occasionally hurt, just because their teeth are so sharp, but it rarely draws any blood; it’s more like a pinch with really sharp fingernails.
This may become a daily occurrence but typically happens a few times a year. Read more about what causes this behavior, and when you should be worried.
Why Greyhound Nitting Happens
There hasn’t been much research put into greyhound nitting but based on thoughts by dog behavioral specialists, the behavior could be the result of a few different things:
Although there’s no proof, some greyhound parents feel that nitting is a way for the greyhound to show that they love you. The nips aren’t harsh and clearly aren’t intended to hurt.
Some people think that it’s a method that greyhounds use to clean themselves. Because of their coat type, they need to get close to the skin to clean efficiently. Licking themselves isn’t always sufficient.
When your greyhound does this to you, it might be to help you clean yourself.
Greyhounds are notoriously prone to anxiety (read more about it here in a new tab). They suffer severely from separation anxiety and may become anxious in unknown places or with new smells and sounds.
If they’re feeling anxious, they’re likely to turn to something they know for comfort. If you’re in the room, nitting may be their way of requesting reassurance.
You’ll often find that the behavior stops once you’ve petted them for a while.
Greyhounds are incredibly intelligent and require lots of stimulation to relieve boredom.
As with most dogs, their natural way of learning and understanding is with their mouth, which is why most dog toys are meant to be chewed.
If they don’t have enough toys or are bored with the ones they have, they will look to the nearest thing to chew. This oral motivation helps overcome boredom, but as it’s a natural reflex, they may not even know they’re doing it.
There’s a theory that nitting could be a leftover behavior from puppyhood when your pooch would have used their mouth to suckle at their mother for milk.
If your greyhound feels comfortable with you and sees you as a parental influence in their life, this behavior may have transferred to you.
Generally, the behavior is increased when the person is wearing something particularly fluffy. The greyhound may nit through the clothes rather than nitting bare skin, so this may support the theory.
Some people experience the nitting behavior most when their greyhound is excited. For example, when they first come home from work or immediately before a walk.
This could mean that nitting is a way to express their emotions and show you how much they’re enjoying what’s happening around them.
Is Your Greyhound Trying To Bite You?
No, nitting isn’t the same as biting. Greyhounds usually have calm and loving temperaments, and it’s uncommon to find an aggressive one.
Even in more aggressive dog breeds, there will be warning signs before a bite. Your dog might growl, bark, or take up an aggressive stance first.
If none of these behaviors are present, and you’re just experiencing a comparatively pleasant nipping sensation, it’s pretty clear that they aren’t trying to bite or harm you.
Do Other Dogs Nit?
It’s a myth that only greyhounds do this. In fact, it’s a behavior that many large dogs do the same, especially those in the sighthound family – whippets, deerhounds, etc.
Although other dogs do nit, it is more common to see this in larger dog breeds with a snout-shaped mouth. The behavior isn’t recognized as a trait in flat-nosed breeds such as bulldogs or pugs.
Should You Be Worried About Your Greyhound Nitting?
Nitting isn’t a problem. It’s completely normal behavior. However, some dogs might nit more than others, and with bigger dogs, such as greyhounds, it may even hurt.
Nitting doesn’t usually draw blood, as they aren’t trying to hurt you, but it can often cause minor bruises, which could be worrying if you have children.
You will also need to consider your guests. They probably won’t appreciate being nipped, and any emotional reaction from them could cause your greyhound distress, so it’s best to put in some rules and training around this.
What Should You Do If Your Greyhound Is Nitting Excessively?
As nitting seems to be a natural behavior, you don’t necessarily need to do anything about it as long as you’re happy.
Some owners find it cute and enjoy it as a bonding behavior. However, if you find it painful or annoying, there are some things you can do to limit nitting.
The first thing you need to do is work out the pattern. You can then use this knowledge to pre-empt the behavior and put a stop to it ASAP.
Learn to read their body language.
When does your greyhound start nitting? What behavior do they display immediately beforehand?
You’ll start to notice a particular time that the nitting begins or identify a specific trigger. At this stage, you might start to get an idea of why they’re doing it.
Try not to over-excite them.
Excitement could be the cause of your greyhound’s nitting behavior. Try entering the house calmly.
Don’t fuss them; a gentle pat on the head before you move away will show your dog that you’re happy to see them without making a big drama that will likely result in over-excited nitting.
Try to redirect their attention.
If you notice that your greyhound is about to make a move, try to direct their attention to something else in the room. If they’re nitting because they’re bored, all they need is a distraction.
Use a favorite toy or a treat incentive to distract their mind. If you keep this up, redirecting their brain each time they consider nitting, then eventually the new behavior will stick, and they’ll naturally convert to finding a toy instead.
Be patient though; this won’t happen overnight.
Nitting is carried out more often by dogs that live alone. The behavior is less common with paired dogs.
This could be because they’re more entertained by having the companion, or possibly because they’re doing it to the other dog rather than you. Either way, having a pair of dogs, if they get along, does tend to stop the behavior.
All dogs like to feel like they’re part of a pack. It’s a natural family unit for them, and in the pack, you’re the alpha.
They want to please you and be accepted by you. So, the best way that you can show a behavior is unacceptable is by ignoring them.
Each time they settle down to some nitting, you should immediately stand up and walk away without saying a word.
It would help if you also avoided eye contact. Your pooch will understand that nitting isn’t acceptable to you and only achieves the opposite of what they want – your attention.
This may mean that you have to stand up and sit down regularly for a few weeks, but eventually, the behavior will stop and shouldn’t resurface.
Dogs don’t respond well to negative stimuli, and punishment may damage your relationship with them. However, reward-based training works amazingly well.
Rather than punishing when your dog is bad, try asking them to stop and giving them a reward when they do.
If they don’t stop without force, then they don’t deserve a treat. They’ll quickly learn that the food disappears when they nit.
Overall, nitting isn’t bad behavior as such; it’s just annoying and can be harmful to small children.
However, it’s not something that you’re stuck with. You just need to have some patience and spend time training your greyhound out of the behavior.