Dog Biting My Feet When Walking
Since when are your ankles seemingly as tasty as your pup's favorite treats? If your dog is biting your feet when walking, it'll take some guessing to understand exactly why, since there are a few possible reasons. For example, it might be due to your pup's age (related to teething), a desire to play, instinctual impulses to herd you, among other factors. Fortunately, there are ways to weed out, or lessen, this behavior from your dog's psyche; to scoop those details up, keep reading these paragraphs below!
Causes of Feet Biting
As with lots of manifestations in the real world, the same result of feet biting can stem from very different causes. With that being the case, it's quite important to properly diagnose the root cause of the feet biting, since that helps to determine the solution and how you can gear your expectations of progress in minimizing the biting during dog walks.
Here are some of the common causes of feet biting to help spur some ideas for how to help your dog!
A youthful age can certainly be a big reason why your dog bites your feet when walking. When puppies are born, they develop 28 "deciduous" teeth – aka baby teeth which eventually fall out; those are the pointy white pearls that are probably pestering your family’s ankles these days!
By chewing your ankles, toys, and shoes, your puppy’s gums are soothed, helping to relieve the discomfort of 42 adult and permanent teeth eventually taking their place.
Fortunately, after about 3 to 4 months, your puppy should be nearly through the teething process, offering some relief from the feet nipping! With that being the case, the solution here is often to wait the time out, while using techniques such as substitution (having your dog nip at a toy instead) in the meanwhile.
Lack of Mental Stimulation
A lack of mental stimulation, in other words boredom or desire to play, is another reason why your dog might be nibbling at your feet.
Oftentimes, dog breeds which were bred hundreds of years ago for assortments of tasks, from rat hunting, to cattle herding, to game retrieval, have now been further domesticated into urban and modern apartments, with just minimal neighborhood walks each day. Having so much pent-up energy, lots of dogs unfortunately lack an outlet for their energy, which results in bringing toys to their work-from-home owner’s desk, jumping on their lap, and biting their feet.
It’s not an uncommon issue, and fortunately can be fixed easily with a long trip to the dog park, more walks, or trick training!
By accidentally encouraging the feet biting behavior, your dog might feel overly comfortable with nipping at your family’s ankles.
Perhaps because dogs still contain their primal instincts from the wolf days, or from being bred as hunting dogs, there’s an element of “chase” when reactively yanking your feet away when your dog bites, which excites and encourages the behavior – it’s like a carrot on the stick that they desperately want to “win” over. Similarly, if your dog doesn’t get much attention throughout the day, but only gets attention by nipping at your feet – even if it’s negative attention – that momentary attention you shine upon your dog to scold her or him might actually be perceived as positive reinforcement, since they’re at least getting their owner’s focus.
If this is the issue, then usually the best course of action begins with training yourself to properly reward your dog for giving the desired response, or by engaging your dog with more productive activities.
Another contributing factor to your dog biting your feet is that your dog hopes to herd you somewhere – whether it’s to their food bowl, to the backyard, or towards a nice grassy patch on a walk.
Undoubtedly, breed plays a major role here, since many dogs were specifically bred for herding in the past 300 years especially.
From the Icelandic Sheepdogs, to the Australian Cattle Dog, to Border Collies, and Pembroke Welsh Corgis, many dogs were bred to roam more than 10 miles per day, herding livestock from points A to B. Unbeknownst to their modern day owners, many urbanized herding dogs are woefully underserved, since their owners aren’t aware of their real needs.
For herding dogs, half a mile of walking, twice per day, just won’t cut it; without a job to do, herding dogs become restless, using their nose-poking, nipping, and circling instincts out of anxiety rather than purpose.
It’s best to provide your dog lots of mental stimulation, trips to the dog park, and outdoor adventures to relieve the anxious behavior.
Solutions to Lessen Feet Biting
Next, it’ll be helpful to explore solutions for when your dog is biting your feet while walking.
Hopefully, the context provided above helps you diagnose why your dog specifically might be biting your feet, which will aid you in choosing the solution that's best for your dog.
In communicating with your dog, having conversations in English will only go so far; instead, sometimes using more primal language is the key to induce the desired response.
For feet biting, that reaction can be a startling “yelp”, each time your pup bites ankles or feet. In fact, that’s how puppies communicate to their mothers if their nibbling or handling crosses the threshold into pain; the startling yelp provides feedback so they know to ease the bite pressure, or lay off entirely.
In other words, if you don’t yelp and simply endure the pain, your dog (not being a mind reader) might have no idea that you’ve been suffering this whole time, so the revelation might result in a change in behavior.
Boredom, or a lack of mental and physical stimulation, is probably a fiery catalyst for any ankle or feet biting from your dog. In other words, if the real issue is puppy teething or accidental encouragement of the behavior, a bored and unstimulated dog is like pouring gasoline on the fire – it just blows up to the next level.
For humans, by getting lots of exercise and having great conversations (both the physical and mental stimulation), thereby warding off anxiety, we’re much less prone to negative behaviors being amplified. It’s really no different for dogs; by going for long walks, going on road-trips, meeting other dogs, and enjoying the mental stimulation of sniffing during walks, your dog will be much less anxious within four walls by day’s end.
Try creating a routine, wherein your dog (and you) receive adequate stimulation day in and day out.
A simple trick you can try, best used in conjunction with more mental and physical stimulation, is substitution. Rather than biting your feet while walking, perhaps you can give your dog something to carry in their mouth, like a ball, rope, or chew toy. By being occupied, your dog might feel content to carry on with the walking, sans the feet biting.
Recall also that herding dogs nibble at feet, simply because they’d like to feel like they’re doing a job. (Herding dogs are like workaholics who feel uncomfortable and queasy if they’re not doing something from dawn until dusk.)
In that case, you can actually try giving your dog a backpack during walks, adding a small amount of weight, which might make your pup feel helpful and fulfilled. These methods can possibly mitigate the feet biting during dog walks.
Spray deterrents could be another solution for ankle-biting while walking.
With spicy, bitter, or just oddly noxious fumes, spray-on deterrents could be applied to your feet, which cause your dog to recoil at the scent. This tactic is essentially negative reinforcement, which could very well be effective, especially if used in combination with other solutions mentioned above.
With spray deterrents, you might have to try several, since your dog might actually enjoy the scent and taste of certain deterrents; instead, you’ll want to have one which is maximally discomforting for your dog.
If your dog bites your feet while walking, there’s are many reasons why this behavior may be occuring. Similarly, there’s a handful of solutions available for you and your pup to try and wean this behavior away. With patience and persistence in training your pup, this pesky behavior should subside in no time.