As a dog trainer, I often heard new puppy owners ask about feet and ankles biting when they came for a training session. You might think this is cute or funny at first, but after a while, to say the whole experience was a little frustrating would be an understatement.
If you have the same problem and are just wondering why your dog bites your feet, too, here’s the answer.
Here’s Why Your Dog Bites Your Feet and Ankles When You Walk
Most dogs bite ankles and feet because it is something that is hardwired into their nature. Other prominent reasons include puppy teething, lack of training, getting bored, getting excited, lack of stimulation, and exploring the world.
Below, we will take a closer look at each cause of your dog’s feet biting behavior and how we can stop it.
1. It’s Hardwired Behavior
If your dog belongs to herding breeds, feet or ankle biting can be heredity traits. This is because the dog’s herding instinct has been bred into them, and they are hardwired to do so.
Why do herding dogs bite ankles?
Herding dogs like German Shepherd or Border Collie are originally bred to herd livestock by nipping at their heels and feet. Because now they don’t have cattle to guard, don’t be surprised if they see your feet as livestock!
To put it in other words, biting feet is a way to herd.
If your dog is among those called herding breeds, you may notice that they’ll also nip or bite at the ankles of people when walking behind them on a leash. They are using this behavior in an attempt to “herd” their human family member and keep us all together as one happy unit!
Training can help curb these instinctive behaviors and teach the dog more appropriate ways of interacting with people.
2. Your Puppy is Going through an Uncomfortable Teething Process
The teething process can be an uncomfortable and painful time for teething puppies. As they grow, their teeth will come in gradually, with new ones pushing the older teeth out. If your pup is experiencing an uncomfortable teething process, biting at ankles or feet, maybe how it self-soothes itself during this difficult period of its life.
Giving your puppy chew toys are one way to help keep your pup occupied and distracted during the teething process. Together with chew toys, you can also give them frozen toys as they can temporarily ease some of the discomforts as well.
3. Your Dog is Excited
Puppy bites ankles when you walk past them because they are excited and want to greet you. The act of biting your ankles may be a way for them to express their joy on seeing you again or out of sheer excitement.
4. Your Dog Feels Fear and Anxiety of Something
However, this ankle biting behavior is not always a sign of excitement. In some cases, dogs bite ankles because they are either anxious, afraid, or insecure.
If you think that your dog bites ankles because it is feeling scared and insecure about a situation, then the best thing to do would be to take them out of the environment where this insecurity arises and leave them in an area with lower levels of stimuli such as outside on leash while you go inside for example.
As pet parents, it is important that we recognize when our dogs feel insecure to take the appropriate action and remove them from a situation where they feel uncomfortable.
5. Your Dog Uses Their Mouths to Explore
Just like human babies use their hands to explore our environment, but our dogs don’t have this ability. Instead, they use their noses and mouths to explore their world. They can use their mouths to explore things like your hand, a toy, or even the ground.
And so, with human feet, they might be curious and bite your feet when you walk past them because it is a new and interesting thing in their environment.
6. Your Dog is Lacking Stimulation
Ankle biting can also be a sign that your dog is lacking stimulation. If your dog doesn’t get enough exercise and mental challenges, they may express this by biting the person or object that has walked past them most recently, which could be you if you have just taken out the garbage, for example.
Whether it is physical or mental stimulation, you’ll need to find ways for your dog to get enough stimulation. Remember that your dog is more prone to other behavioral problems like aggression and fearfulness without enough stimulation.
Here’re a few things that I like to do to make sure my dogs are happy:
- getting them a new toy that is more interactive, like tug toys
- taking them on walks in different areas of the neighborhood or park where there are other dogs around (or even people)
- play hide and seek with their favorite stuffed toys.
7. Your Dog Just Wants to Play with You
Ankle biting is not always about being aggressive. Puppies bite ankles to get you to play with them. Whether your dog is a puppy or an adult dog, they might just be looking for a little attention.
Also, if you observe a litter of puppies, they will often bite and nip at each other’s ears or tails as a playful gesture. Their canine friends or mother dogs will discipline them when they bite too hard or in an inappropriate location.
To differentiate between a playful nip and aggressive behavior, look at the dog’s body language.
A dog that is being playful will have a relaxed face with its mouth open in what resembles a smile. On the other hand, an angry or defensive growl has tighter lips and furrowed brows to announce its displeasure about something.
8. Your Dog See Your Feet As a Moving Target
Some dog breeds are predisposed to a prey drive that makes them instinctively want to chase after moving objects. For these breeds, your feet and ankles might be seen as just another target for their teeth.
Certain hunting dogs such as terriers are bred to pursue and grab small animals. Other dog breeds may not have the same genetic predisposition but might still display this type of behavior if they were never taught any boundary on what is appropriate to bite.
If you notice this is happening, try slowing down or stopping in place so that they can’t predict when and where you will be next.
9. Your Dog Lack Early Socialization or Proper Training in Puppyhood
An important part of socialization in dogs is something called bite inhibition (or sometimes ‘soft mouth’). This is a process where the dog learns that biting too hard may lead to bad consequences. When dogs ‘test’ their limits by nipping and chewing on people, they try to see how much pressure it takes for humans to reprimand them.
Many dogs learn to control their bites from their littermates, but a few may not have received this training, especially if they were taken away from the litter too early.
When an adult dog bites inappropriately, it could be because they lack early socialization during their puppyhood, which explains why some adult dogs are nippy and biters in adulthood.
10. Your Dog Feels Pain or Is Hurt
Pain and hurt can make dogs cranky, and they may lash out at the person or animal that walks past them.
As dog owners, we should always be observant of any signs or signals our dogs may give us when something is wrong. For example, if your dog has been biting too hard lately, ask yourself these questions: is there something wrong with my dog?
Should You Be Concerned With This Dog’s Behavior?
Dogs nip and bite for a variety of reasons.
If you’re wondering whether you should be concerned with your dog’s behavior, it is best to consult an animal health professional such as a vet. This will help you determine if there are any underlying medical reasons for the dog nipping or biting behaviors that may require treatment.
Especially for adult dogs, it is important to take into consideration any physical ailments that may be causing the biting.
How to Stop Your Dog From Constantly Biting Your Feet and Ankles.
Here are some tips for stopping and eliminating this unpleasant behavior.
1. Train Your Dog To Have Bite Inhibition
Mouthing and biting are natural instincts for dogs, but since they live with us, it’s important that dogs learn to use their mouth gently. Bite inhibition is a dog training technique that involves teaching your dog to know the limits and the consequences of biting too hard.
When puppies are mouthing each other, if one pup starts biting too hard, the other will yelp and stop playing so that he knows not to do it anymore.
In a similar way, you can emulate this by playing with your dog and teaching them to stop when you yelp. When your dog nips a little too hard, yelp in pain and remove yourself from the game. Your puppy will quickly learn how hard he can bite without hurting his playmate.
2. Create an Enrichment Schedule
To keep your four-legged friend from getting bored, you can create an environment that will keep them entertained forever. There are a variety of toys and games you can create to help make their day more exciting!
Here’s an example plan of how you can do this:
- Play fetch with your dog every day for at least 30 minutes.
- Make a tunnel out of sheets and place it in front of the TV so that they are entertained while you watch.
- Buy new toys on a monthly basis to keep them interested! This will include things like Kong, new chew toy, etc.
Try something new every week to keep your dog guessing what’s coming next.
3. Don’t Add Fire to The Fuel
When it comes to correcting behavior, sometimes there is a temptation to yell at them, use your hands or other objects (water bottle) to hit the dog’s nose or paw. However, this could lead to negative results.
Instead of punishing, it’s better to ignore your dog’s actions and walk away. This is the better way to punish your dog while still employing positive reinforcement to correct their behavior.
Ignoring can mean anything from turning your back to them, going away to another part of the house, or just ignoring it by not paying attention.
4. Keep Their Favorite Toys In Your Pocket
One trick that I usually use is to keep a few of their favorite toys in my pocket. Whenever they get rowdy, I pull out one and throw it for them to chase around the house. The toy will make its way back into your pocket eventually, but this keeps him preoccupied with something other than you at that moment.
5. Give Them Plenty of Chew Toys
A chew toy can help to soothe the discomfort and pain caused by swelling teeth. There are many types of dog chew toys available on the market. For example, you can give them chew bones or pig ears. Rawhide is also a great choice if your dog is looking for something softer to chew on.
Whatever you choose, make sure it’s the appropriate sizing for them, so they don’t accidentally swallow the toy and choke.
Aside from helping with teething pain, these toys are also beneficial to clean your dog’s teeth and prevent them from developing plaque. Don’t forget to replace the toys periodically to make sure there is no chance of any bacterial build-up occurring inside them with time.
6. Let Your Dog Play with Other Dogs
Playing with canine friends is a great way for them to release some of their pent-up energy. They’ll be able to run around, chase each other and just generally have fun.
But more than that, they will also learn many important social skills such as how to stop biting, share toys, get along with other dogs, etc.
1. Why Does My Dog Attack People’s Feet?
A dog who feels threatened will either attack the person’s foot to fend off the threat or bite it as an act of defense.
2. Why Does Your Dog Bite Your Feet When You Leave?
Some dogs feel anxious and abandoned when their owners leave the house. In order to gain some sense of security, they may try and claim an article of clothing or even bite feet to draw your attention.
3. Why Does My Dog Jump and Bite Me on Walks?
Dogs who jump and bite often have a variety of motivations. Some dogs enjoy the sensation of jumping and biting, while others are trying to distract you from going on a walk or getting attention.