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The Pibble Nibble: the Miracle of Strange Pit Bull Behavior

 

One of the many curious things our beloved pit bulls do is using their front teeth–almost like a shivering chatter–to gently chew on toys, blankets, or even you. This isn’t the full-blown chewing to rip open a toy and see what’s inside (although it could complement that); it’s more careful and deliberate.  Its normally done in a playful way, during zoomies, or right as they’re getting cozy in bed. It has a lot of terms: “ninnying,” “corn-on-the-cobbing” (especially appropriate when done to our fingernails), love-biting, and nibbling. While all dog breeds do this to some extent, our favorite term for when our weirdos do it is “the pibble nibble.”

 

What’s the reason behind the pibble nibble?  Unlike most strange pit bull behavior, the answer is pretty straightforward.  That doesn’t make it any less interesting or adorale though.

 

Puppy Playtime Rituals

 

When your pit bull was a puppy, it was surrounded by brothers and sisters who nibbled on each other as a sign of acceptance and affection while playing and getting mom’s attention.  This began even before they started cutting their teeth, so it included gumming their litter-mates until they developed those jagged, razor-sharp teeth that puppies eventually develop.  As their teeth grew, they used them to lovingly nibble each other to maintain familiarity (think high fives instead of handshakes). In the process, they learned restraint, and what amount of pressure was acceptable versus what was past the line of playfulness (mom helped set that straight).

 

Grooming Rituals

 

As your pit bull continued to grow-up with his brothers and sisters, the nibbling became more than just constant positive affirmation; it served the practical purpose of grooming. Combing someone else’s fur through your teeth is a pretty personal way to bond with your buddies, even if it’s your siblings.  That’s why the grooming aspect of nibbling is also a sign of affection and acceptance. So why do our pit bulls do this well into adulthood after they’ve been adopted? It’s because they are comfortable around you.

 

Puppy Behavior For Life

 

When you see your adult dog do the pibble nibble, it is reverting back to a time when it felt safe and comfortable, surrounded by peers, without a care in the world.  We normally see the pibble nibble during spontaneous playtime, perhaps when a toy isn’t immediately available. Pit bulls will not let the absence of toys stop their fun, and will normally improvise with a pillow or blanket.  Rest assured that they don’t want to destroy your stuff; they just associate playing with instinctively nibbling on something that reminds them of being surrounded by the first friends they had in life. So now they’re around you, and they feel like they’re back in the care-free environment that made them feel loved and cared for; they feel like a puppy again!

 

What if I’m the One Being Nibbled (the nibblee)?

 

If you are lucky enough to receive a pibble nibble, you’ll notice that it doesn’t hurt, and that certainly wasn’t their intent.  But sometimes, they can play a little too hard, which is easy because our bare skin doesn’t have the fur buffer that their siblings did.  In that case, experts recommend letting out a high-pitched “yipe,” signalling to your dog that the pressure has crossed your threshold of acceptable play.  Personally, when I feel the painless chatter on my finger, I’m honored that my best friend feels comfortable enough to consider me one of his pack.

 

Comments (44)

  1. Dominique says:

    My Ella nibbles on toys ,blankets, her tail, my cheeks, my hair. So much love, my first pibble but not my last 🐶❤
    Luv you guys

  2. Roxie says:

    Love this! I get pibble nibbles all the time from my sweet girl. I’ve always thought of them as a sign of love and affection for sure!!!

  3. Sue says:

    Our pibble nibbles constantly! Toys and blankets are her favs. She also moans, groans and whines while nibbling. She gets into a steady rhythm , it’s so cute! Thanks for the article! Totally relatable.

  4. Chante' Kline says:

    I call it flea biting !!! They are giving their babies a treatment !! My babies crack me up ! They are so very careful to be gentle with their babies when giving them a treatment or us for that matter. There is nothing like the love of a Pit Bull <3

  5. chris says:

    Thanks for this! My girlfriend and I recently adopted a 2-year-old pit bull. He recently nibbled on me and I told him to stop. Now I know the reason why and no need for me to put him on timeout. Thank you for this!

    1. Albert Belt says:

      My little guy, well not so little anymore he’s almost 7 yrs old likes to nibble on my comforter while I scratch his butt lol and he constantly licks my feet and hands lol I love him so much, he’s full of love and cuddles. Thank you for your article.

    2. Anne says:

      We call it “corn cobbling” when they use their front teeth like that because it looks like they’re eating corn on the cob🤣

  6. Nancy says:

    We have been receiving pibble nibbles since our Brigee came to live with us. Now I know why, thanks for your article.

  7. MANUEL BIBIANGOMEZ says:

    Love the nibble mine does it every time I’m around he especially like the ears

  8. Lj bledsoe says:

    My Labrador Bradytom, he does it too. He was a rescue and I asked his former owners if he did it to then and he said no. That he must really love you. He also loves loves my ear. He has even pulled my earring out several times. My sweet sweet baby.

  9. Monica says:

    My baby just turned 5 yesterday and he’s been doing this since I rescued him as a baby. He has his lovey’s (stuffed animals) which he treasures but squeaks uncontrollably when he wakes up or when people come home. He does nibble on the people he loves at the dog park and has gotten me a few times on a few spots that were tender but he’d never hurt anyone intentionally. He has a heart of gold! Anyone that says differently or has their mind set another way, has never owned one. Thankfully, we’ve changed quite a few kinds of dog owners at the park and they now are believers of the breed!

    1. Joshua says:

      My pit does the constantly.. especially when we’re playing with her and her toys. I always wondered why she does this and now I know. She will also nudge you with her nose and if you don’t notice her or give her the attention she seems then that’s when she will nibble on you…

  10. D. Jacobson says:

    Thanx for the tips!! They really help me understand my adopted pit😊 i love him so much!! Please send me more info and thank you as i love learning about this wonderful breed 😉

  11. Jennifer Ryan-Ourand says:

    I Love My Sampson , and all HIS PIBBLE NIBBLES!!!!;💖😜💖😍😘😘

  12. Corrine says:

    My dog sucks on blankets. She also pushes back her paws while sucking on the blanket. It’s sopping wet when she has finished. Do you know why she does this? My other two do not. Is it because I found her at 3 weeks old?

    1. Anita Stanich says:

      My Bullie does this also. Not sure ehy but I do think it’s soothing thing for them. Much like a baby with a soother. I also wonder if it means they left momma to early.

    2. Janet Rogan says:

      My 13 year old son will nibble on my roommate’s hand and lead her to the cookie jar in the laundry room. Very smart and too adorable to ignore.

    3. Kimberlee J Vincent says:

      We have two beautiful 7 year old pitbulls. The female sucks on blankets too and has from the time we brought her home. We believe it helps to calm her. It is something she enjoys so we let her do it and buy special blankets just for her. It makes her happy so it makes us happy!

  13. Trisha Jones says:

    I rescued a pitbull a year ago and just got my first pitbull nipple from him and it brought tears to my eyes because it shows that he really trust me and loves me And I feel very honored that he loves me this much

  14. Christine Kerrigan says:

    This is so good to hear. Pitbulls being adopted. Looks like things are finally turning around for Pitbulls. As they should. They are a great dog. So many in the shelters. So if you are looking for a dog. I think I can say we all recommend a Pitbull.

  15. aMY says:

    I’ve had my Pitt for a week now and he has been doing his Pibble Nibbles all the time. However; he is also overly playful and CONSTANTLY grabs my wrist to chew to the point I am black and blue. I have tried to discipline him by putting him outside when he does this, getting him a toy, turning my back.. etc.. but just can’t get him to stop. It’s getting quite sore and I’m just so over, and frustrated with this constant behavior. It’s hard to pet him for any length of time because this behavior starts. ANY SUGGESTIONS????

    1. Mike Allen says:

      Ive own pitbulls my whole life the use there mouth like a extra hand feeling you and tasting you sometimes they dont know their own strength just tell them to be easy they will get the picture. They are loving you..they are fantastic dogs just love them and be responsible

    2. Anita Stanich says:

      Mine use to do this until a behavorist told me to just say no in a firm voice and walk away. Don’t show him any attention when he does this. It took a while but it works and now at 2 and a half he is the most loving affectionate dog.

    3. Rebecca says:

      My 2yr old rescue pit is a very pushy high-energy girl who has always been very “mouthy”. She can get way too rough when playing or when excited. She is finally settling down some, but still resorts to nibbling very hard –and being very pushy abt it–when she is trying to tell me she wants something, usually “go outside” or “feed me”. I have always tucked my hands in my armpits and turned my back to her til she settles, then immediately praise her. She gets to go outside or get fed only once the biting at my hands completely stops. Sometimes it takes a few repeats of this sequence on the way to the door or the food bowl to show her the biting doesnt immediately get her what she wants. On the other hand when she is being affectionate she will give me a very gentle lil nibble on the chin for which i lavish her with praise and attention.

    4. Kerry says:

      If it is a puppy, they need naps and some play time. I got my pup benebone, deer antler, Kong toy stuffed with frozen dog food in it. I used to wear long sleeved shirts. I started to socialize my pit with other pups and people by taking puppy classes. She lost the puppy teeth and quit mouthing so much.

    5. Lindsay says:

      How old is he? Pitties are so strong and it takes them a bit of time to learn their thresholds. Don’t give up! Try positive reinforcement only. When he does something you don’t like, just walk away and put distance between you. That is a very clear message for them because they love so much to be near and playing with their person/people. When he takes a cue and/or does the right thing, praise him loudly and excitedly and maybe even give a treat. He’ll learn so quickly! Don’t give up!

    6. Pitties love to play, try seeing if he will play fetch with a ball or two with you? Try to tire him out a ittle and interact with him before leaving him to his own devices. Granted, they are almost impossible to tire, but a good game of fetch gets him to interact with you, train him and get rid of some energy.
      Good luck with your new baby boy!

    7. Kimberlee J Vincent says:

      It would help to know how old your dog is, but….in my experience with mine, repeated training. Meaning, sometimes it just takes a while longer than some other breeds. Just tell your dog “NO” in a stern voice and put him outside as you have been doing. Or clap your hands together loudly and shout “NO”. Never spank or hit them, just as with children that is abuse and doesn’t work in your favor. Sometimes pitbulls just need a little extra time to learn these things. That is just the pittie personality! But once they learn it they are the best dogs ever!

  16. Andrew Walker Jordan says:

    Pitbulls are the most beautiful dogs. I am bias I had one and she was so sweet. Princess, was her name.

  17. Daniel says:

    My pit Copper likes to sneak in a nibble on my ear. Rescued her ayear and a half ago, best dog!!!

  18. Pmllny says:

    I get pibble nibbles on my fingers every night I come home…it’s wonderful!

  19. Sam says:

    Our one year old female does this with (and ONLY with) our two cats. It’s beyond adorable.

  20. Bob Huey says:

    As a pibble-lab mix, we only get half the nibbles, but when the do, they are usually in the ear. My ear ☺

  21. Annabelle says:

    My pitbull King does this and it’s so cute! He just nibbles my hands and fingers. I love it

  22. Nicole N says:

    Aww my baby lulu does this to my face when giving me kisses ❤️ What an honor

  23. If you’ve never owned one you will never understand the crazy stuff they do pibble nibbles,zoomies laying on you like tey can’t get close enough.Sleeping under the covers and especially the loving and loyal dogs they are

  24. Garu Jetton says:

    I’ve beet a pitty hero since my first rescue a trouble maker of the litter aways push away not a but mischievous pup and I named him Pokey best buds for 17 years and I still get eyed.Raise around 2 generatios children and the pibble nibble was his teaching tool for tail pulling lol but its true and I’m64 still rescueing fur babys now I have 5 l9ve thr canine Thank you my Gary Jetton.

  25. Cesca Gronseth says:

    My Pitty hasnt done this, but I had a Rottie that did. We called it nimmels!

  26. KBster says:

    My Pitt rescue was 3 to 4 years old when I adopted him. He didn’t nibble at the start of our relationship. Took maybe a year for him to get comfortable. My granddaughter’s friend said it was stress. Now I know better!! He is such a sweetheart 🤗😍

  27. Chrissy says:

    In our house we call it ‘Live Nibs’. It’s always felt like they’re injecting love into you. They do it at bedtime a lot and besides doing it to us, they’ll inject their love into our pillows and blankets. It’s so endearing. We feel so loved by their ‘Love Nibs’.

  28. Isis Krockel says:

    My baby nibble on every new toy or blanket or pillow I get him always a little corner that’s it then he is happy. I thought it was weird and funny but now I understand. Thanks for the info. I’m so blessed with my baby.
    Best dog ever although he things he’s human 😄😄😄

  29. The Pibble Nibble , has been with me my whole life. Have only had American Pitbull Terriers they have all been gentle with kids. My Joleen I have now a three year old APBT . She’s amazing, best dogs in the world.

  30. My Freddy does this especially when it’s bedtime, it’s so cute he never destroys his toys.
    I often wondered why he was doing this now I know.

  31. Eva says:

    Pibble nibble is always available from our Mag who absolutely loves everybody. The most gentle dog ever! Love pitties and your site. Thank you! You can check him out here: Magzilla.blog.

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