Why Do Dogs Bite Ankles?

There is a commonality among herding dog breeds– they bite ankles! Why?!

Dog breeds like the Corgi, the Great Pyrenees, the German Shepherd, and others, and even mixes are known to bite ankles when playing.

Well, they’re trying to herd you. Think about their instincts for a moment. Way back when, the sheep or other livestock would be running and they would be nipping their ‘ankles’ lightly to get them to stay in line, and get to where they want them to be.

Now, take today’s situation. Let’s say you are running with your dog, playing… her natural instinct may be to bite at your ankles. They’re copying the behavior they were originally bred to do.

Altering the Behavior

Even though this behavior is based on instinct, of course that doesn’t mean we’re okay with our dogs nipping at our ankles. So, we need to re-direct our dogs in an effort to remove this behavior from their ‘behavior menu.’

If you’re noticing this behavior, your dog needs a job mimicking this behavior… or even just a little bit of extra exercise. But, make sure to give them a purpose. They need to feel like they’re being productive.

Don’t pay attention to this behavior. If you give your dog extra attention when he bites your ankles, he will either see it as positive (like you wanting to continue playing), or as punishment which can be damaging to the bond you share with your dog. And… if you think about it… he may not understand why you’re mad (remember, instinctual behavior).

Ideas to Rid of Ankle Biting

The following are several ideas you can try out to remove this behavior from your dog’s mind (or just make him content):

  • Toy balls: Herding dogs often love toy balls. Throw them in the yard and let them run, and chase.
  • Keep a toy ball available during play. When you’re playing, and she nips at your ankle, throw the ball to redirect her attention.
  • Puzzle toys: Puzzle toys are recommended for not only this behavioral issue but many others well. Puzzle toys stimulate the mind and decrease problem behaviors.

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