Every dog owner knows that dogs can have some odd behaviors. These include turning in circles before lying down, eating grass, burying or hiding treats, and getting the zoomies.
While these habits may seem quirky to us, there are reasons behind their actions. Nipping or biting people’s feet is another seemingly unusual habit. But there are explanations to help us understand why they do this. Here are some helpful things to know about this common dog behavior.
Read More: Why Do Dogs Suddenly Get the Zoomies?
(Credit:Alexandra Morrison Photo/Shutterstock)
The instinct to herd is strong in certain breeds, such as Australian shepherds, corgis, sheepdogs, and border collies. Breeders have bred dogs for many years to herd animals, but dogs sometimes apply that behavior to humans.
Your dog sees their human family as something to herd, so they nip at your feet or ankles in an attempt to herd you the same way they would do to livestock.
Don’t respond with wincing or other sounds because that will encourage your dog to continue. Since the herding instinct typically occurs during walking, stop moving when your dog starts biting.
(Credit: thanes satsutthi/Shutterstock)
Most dogs love to play, and biting or nipping during playtime can be fun and amusing to them.
Dogs learn and explore by using their mouths. This is especially true during the life of a puppy. In their excitement, they naturally use their mouths to play bite, and they especially love to do this to feet and ankles.
When the biting starts during playtime — stop playing with your dog until they cease biting. Once that happens, reward them with one of their favorite toys. Their focus will become redirected toward enjoying the toy.
Biting, even foot or ankle biting, can be a sign of aggression. It’s important to determine if your dog is being playful or not.
If they feel threatened, fearful, or anxious, a dog might aggressively bite as a form of defense. For some dogs, feet, ankles, or lower legs are close to their level and make easy targets. If your dog growls, snarls, or snaps when biting, you should take it seriously.
If your dog is displaying aggressive biting, you should bring them to your vet. It’s important to rule out medical reasons as the cause. If it’s not medically based, some professional training is probably in order.
Boredom can lead to negative or destructive behaviors in dogs. Pacing, barking, and licking their own paws are a few actions they do when bored. Nipping at feet is another.
A lack of stimulation will cause a dog to seek out ways to amuse themselves. Boredom can also trigger anxiety in dogs, which can manifest itself in biting. Not only can feet become the target of a bored or anxious dog, so can your furnishings. Dogs have been known to chew on rugs, couches, and more in an effort to relieve boredom.
Quite simply, give them more attention and exercise. Going on a walk, chasing a ball, or simply spending time playing will engage their mind and body.
(Credit: Lia Kos/Shutterstock)
Like with any canine behavior you’d like to change, positive reinforcement is a powerful and effective tool. The same is true in regard to this frustrating habit.
Telling your dog “no,” moving your feet away from them, or ending your interaction with them when they bite — are ways to stop the behavior as it’s happening. Follow up with a treat or praise so they build a positive association.
Negative reinforcement, such as yelling, hitting, or spraying your dog with water, is not recommended for training your dog. While it may stop the biting at the moment, your dog may develop fear or aggression toward you.