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 (15)

  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!

  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.


    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!

  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?

  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????

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