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Steve O.
Steve O., Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 4277
Experience:  I have 20 years of canine clinical and surgical experience
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Why is my dog constantly nipping at my feet?

Resolved Question:

Why is my dog obsessed with nipping at my feet when I walk around the house? It's moreso when I have socks or slippers on, but he constantly runs after me and bites them while I walk. It hurts, my slippers are in shreds, and I'm afraid he'll do it to someone else and make them fall down.

I haven't been able to come up with any ideas for how to get him to stop. I don't always have a toy with me to distract him with, and I don't like "shoving" him away with my foot. Additionally, clapping my heads and telling him "NO!" hasn't worked.

Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Dog Veterinary
Expert:  Steve O. replied 6 years ago.

Hi, I'm Dr.Steve and I have a few questions. Is he neutered? How long has he been doing this? Has it gotten worse lately?

Do you have anyone else in the household that can help with this problem and if so does he attack them or just you? Does he seem to be "playing" or a more serious nature?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

1. Yes, he is neutered.

2. He's been doing it since just after I got him (about 9 months ago).

3. It hasn't gotten "worse" lately, but now that he's gotten bigger, he's too big to be "nipping" and his adult teeth hurt!

4. He usually just attacks me. I live by myself, and when my girlfriend visits he doesn't usually do it to her.

5. I'm almost positive he's just playing, because he does the same thing when I'm on the floor with him playing. He'll go after whatever toy I throw for him, and then he attacks my feet. He gets aggressive when he plays with me, but not really anyone else - and I know he's playing - his tail wags and he assumes the "play stance" (flat on his front legs with hind legs and tail wagging in the air).

Expert:  Steve O. replied 6 years ago.

Thanks for the information. I was trying to determine if he is establishing dominance or just playing. I agree with you that he seems to be just playing. The problem is it is difficult for dogs to know when it is ok to do something and not ok. You should not let him attack your feet anytime, even playtime. You need to restructure your play habits so that you are not allowing or tempting him to go after your feet. I don't know the specifics of how you play, but hopefully you understand what I am trying to convey. I would also put him in time out every time he attacks your feet, during play while you are teaching him that that is unacceptable behavior and when he does it on his own. If he has a crate, put him in it and walk away immediately.

He has to associate attacking your feet with being crated and being away from you. When he is in the crate you need to be out of his sight completely. He doesn't have to be in the crate very long (20 minutes or so), just long enough for him to realize the consequences of attacking your feet. The key here is consistency. For this to work he has to be crated ( or put in a small separate room) EVERY time he attacks your feet. Otherwise he will become confused about the issue like he is now. You may want to stop wearing anything that might tempt him to want to play (attack your feet) until this is under control. This will take commitment and persistence on your part, but should pay off in the end and may take weeks for him to understand. Good Luck.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.

This is somewhat helpful, but every other dog expert and training manual says to NOT crate your dog for punishment, as that is his "safe place" and he shouldn't associate it with punishment.

Secondly, one problem with him attacking my feet when I walk is that I can't catch him. As soon as I bend down or anything he runs away and we get into a game of chase, which he also associates with playing.

Expert:  Steve O. replied 6 years ago.

Thanks for the reply. I do understand that the crate should be considered his safe place and I apologize for not being more clear. It is easier to discuss these issues face to face. What I tell my client is that you don't have to yell or scare him when he does inappropriate behavior. The idea is only to remove him from the activity that he views as fun, and you see as inappropriate. By quietly putting him in his crate, he doesn't have to feel threatened or scared, but he will be physically removed and prevented from the behavior that is unwanted. I also see the problem with the chase game.

I have had clients keep their dog on a leash in the house during the training time so that when he does his inappropriate behavior you can catch him. You have to be careful not to let him get tangled in anything, but this way you have more control If you are uncomfortable with crating him, you could try another room. As long as he is separated from you and the activity. If the leash doesn't appeal to you, the only other thing is to be as consistent as you can when you can (especially during playtime when he may be easier to catch) When he attacks you on his own you may have to ignore him so it doesn't turn into a game for him. Hopefully by not pursuing him or giving him attention, he will get bored with that activity. He has posed some challenges for you and that makes it more difficult to easily train him.

Good Luck

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