Have you ever noticed that your dog will nip, gnaw and bite at your ankles when you are walking? Whether it is tugging at your shoes, the cuffs of your pants, or nipping at your ankles, your dog can become a nibbling menace!
Sometimes, biting at your ankles is just a puppy phase, and your dog may indeed grow out of it, but for some dogs nipping the ankles can be something that they love to do, and will continue to do unless you train them not to.
So, why do dogs bite ankles?
With our guide, we will tell you the reasons why your dog will love nipping and biting at your ankles, which breeds are more inclined to do so, and why this happens.
Why do dogs bite ankles when you are walking?
You may feel a bit like you are walking on eggshells in your own home. Moving your feet, walking or striding along in your home can seem like a trigger for your dog, and they may act quickly to attack your poor ankles and shoes.
So, why do they do it?
The short answer why dogs bite ankles when you are walking is because it is in their nature. Dogs have been domesticated from wolves, and have since been bred for different purposes.
We have hunting dogs, retrievers, working dogs and many other types of breeds. Other dogs were bred for herding purposes, and so this biting trait is ancestral, and is derived from a natural instinct to protect, guard and herd animals.
In other cases, biting your ankles can be an assertive behavior trait, which means that your dog is trying to assert their dominance and authority over you.
On the other hand, for many dog owners, young dogs may bite their feet and ankles because they are teething, and they will usually grow out of this irritating little habit.
Reasons why dogs bite ankles when you walk
As mentioned above, there could be a variety of reasons as to why your dog will not stop biting your ankles. For the most part, puppies that behave in this way will eventually grow out of it or lose interest in it, and the behavior should stop.
However, in older dogs who have passed the puppy stage, biting and nipping at the ankles happens for another reason. In some rare cases, nipping at you can be a sign of aggression, but this is not always the case.
Most of the time, the nipping at the ankles is light, and your dog is not actually trying to get chunks out of your skin, but sort of warning you to move differently.
This biting and nipping mostly happens because of your dog’s nature, instincts and DNA. If the dog is a herder, then it will naturally have more herding instincts, and will exhibit this nipping behavior.
In the past, herding dogs would have been used for farming, or for agricultural purposes, and so most of these types of dogs would be known for keeping animals in line.
This is why you may notice some breeds of dogs, such as a Sheepdog is more inclined to try and nip at horses, cows and sheep’s ankles, to try and get them to move away from them, or in another direction.
Although, we highly doubt your dog has any needs for their herding skills at home, they may still exhibit some of those behaviors that are deep in their nature and DNA.
For instance, nipping at your ankle does not mean that your dog thinks that you are a sheep, or that you need herding. It is simply a natural response to you walking and moving, and your dog’s instincts are kicking in.
Another reason why your dog may be biting and nipping at your feet, clothes or ankles is because of a lack of training. If this behavior does not change after a few months, and they have always done it, then they do not know any different. You will need to train them out of it, or place some preventative measures in place until the biting ceases.
With many different types of dog behavior and aggression, it can also stem from fear, anxiety and nervousness. Some dogs resort to biting and going for the ankles, due to fears and anxieties that they may have.
In most cases, if the dog is sort of aiming for the ankles, and not actually penetrating the skin with the teeth, then it typically is not a problem. What is a problem is if this anxiety is turning into aggressive behavior, and will need to be stopped.
To tell the difference, you should examine your dog’s body language. If the dog is showing signs that they are playing, they will have no stiffness in their body, and a relaxed face and nature. On the other hand, if your dog is being aggressive, then they may be baring their teeth, exposing the gums, and going for an actual painful bite.
Other reasons that your dog may be nipping at your ankles is out of boredom. If your dog is not properly stimulated, exercised or mentally engaged, then your dog will find other ways to grab your attention.
If you do not play with, walk, exercise, or give your dog something to do, then they may struggle with the boredom, and look for ways to alleviate that boredom, or to gain your interest. By nipping at your ankles, the dog is getting an immediate reaction out of you.
Why do puppies bite ankles?
Most of the time, puppies will like to nip at your ankles when you walk by them. This is usually no cause for concern as it is just a playful activity that they will later grow out of.
So, if you have a puppy around the house, and around your ankles, then be ready for some nibbles on your shoes, feet, ankles, toes, and the cuffs of your trousers!
Whilst this nibbling and biting is harmless in most cases, it can become an annoyance, and you do not want to trip over them, or possibly even hurt the dog by falling on them, so you will want to try to coax them away from this behavior.
So, why do puppies bite our ankles? There are a few reasons as to why this happens. Most of the time, puppies are just trying to make sense of the world around them, and biting your ankles is something fun, new and exciting to do.
In other cases, puppies will bite at anything they can get near to, which is probably your ankles as the puppies are so small, because they are teething.
Puppies go through teething until they are about 6 months old, and anything that they can bite, gnaw on, nip, chew or grind their teeth on, they will! If this seems to be the case, then try to give them enough chew toys that they can enjoy instead.
In the beginning, you may think that it is cute, or funny when puppies try to do this, but you should not encourage it by playing along. As soon as those adult teeth come through, it will not be such a fun game for you to participate in.
To avoid this, make sure that you redirect the chewing and nipping from a young age so that the behavior does not continue into adulthood. We recommend offering your dog chew toys such as Benebone Puppy Dog Chew Toy or a Kong chew.
What dog breeds are most likely to bite your ankles?
Whilst nipping at the ankles can be common for lots of puppies, it is far more common in certain breeds than others. This is because some breeds were made for herding animals, and it is in these types of dogs’ natures to herd and bite at the feet.
If you want to check to see if your dog is a herding dog, then take a look at this full list of herding breeds from the American Kennel Club here.
As you can imagine, breeds such as Sheepdogs and Shepherds are herding dogs, the name kind of gives it away, but you may be surprised at some of the others on this list.
For instance, some of the most common breeds of herding dogs are:
- Australian Cattle Dog
- Australian Shepherd
- Bearded Collie
- Border Collie
- Belgian Malinois
- Belgian Laekenois
- Belgian Sheepdog
- Belgian Tervuren
- Bergamasco Sheepdog
- Berger Picard
- Bouvier des Flandres
- Canaan Dog
- Cardigan Welsh Corgi
- Mountain Dog
- Finnish Lapphund
- German Shepherd Dog
- Icelandic Sheepdog
- Miniature American Shepherd
- Norwegian Buhund
- English Sheepdog
- Pembroke Welsh Corgi
- Polish Lowland Sheepdog
- Pyrenean Shepherd
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Swedish Vallhund
- Spanish Water Dog
As you can see, most of these dog breeds were made for herding livestock, and are sheepdogs, but I was shocked to find little Corgis on this list! They are hardly ferocious beasts ready to keep livestock in line!
If your dog is one of these breeds, or is mixed with any of these breeds, then it could explain why they enjoy going for the ankles, nipping or biting at your heels and feet.
Whilst it is nothing against you, it is already hardwired into their DNA, and they simply cannot help it!
Why do herding dogs bite your ankles?
The main reason that herding dogs bite at your ankles is that it is part of their nature.
When these types of dogs were used for herding animals, and so they would naturally start to snap at the ankles or feet of sheep, cattle, horses and other livestock to get them to move.
The livestock will react by jumping or running away, and then the dog can chase them down, and herd them in another direction.
How to stop your dog from biting your ankles?
The best way to stop your dog biting your ankles is to sway them away from this behavior. You should carry a toy with you, and then, if your dog goes for your ankles when you are walking, immediately stop moving, and give them their favorite toy.
By enticing them with the toy, you are distracting them, and so once they take it, start moving again.
In addition, if your dog tries to bite other people’s ankles. Then as soon as you notice her becoming stimulated and reacting to them moving, you are going to need to call them towards you.
Call for your dog, and ask them to sit down in front of you. When they do, reward them with treats, and repeat this until your dog understands that ankle biting is not rewarding for them, and listening to commands means that they will get a treat instead.
To conclude, you may have noticed that your dog tries to nip at or bite your ankles when you walk. This is a common behavior and something that many dogs try to do.
When dogs try to bite your ankles, it usually is not an aggressive action and is just their herding instincts kicking in.
Dogs have been bred for a variety of purposes, and herding livestock is one of them. In the past, many dogs would nip at the ankles, feet, and legs of animals to move them in another direction, and herd them towards a particular location.
Whilst some dogs do not do this to hurt you, their teeth can sometimes be sharp, and painful, and so you should train them out of this behavior, with positive reinforcement and lots of treats!