This is a relatively common issue for dogs just coming out of rescue. How you address the issue in the first 8 weeks the dog is with you 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 at 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. Make sure to be proactive and tell people to refrain from petting her if she is nervous. Also, if your dog is uncomfortable around a few strangers, don’t take them to your child’s soccer game. The key to getting your pup over the fear is by SLOWLY getting them use to whatever scares them. Make sure to carry yummy treats or your dog’s favorite toy. If every time your dog comes across a scary person or situation she gets a treat or special playtime with her favorite toy it will help her to realize that 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 up the dog or even couch 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 that there is nothing to be afraid of.
NO!- If your dog does nip, firmly (no 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 then 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.