Why Do Chihuahuas Bite Ankles & Feet?

why do chihuahuas bite ankles

Chihuahuas are one of those breeds of dog that come packed full of attitude. Perhaps it’s their size and they want to make up for their lack of stature. Whatever your opinion, there’s one thing you can’t deny; some chihuahuas do like to bite ankles and feet as you walk past.

Before I get flamed by all the chihuahua owners out there, let me get one thing straight. This breed isn’t naturally aggressive, and in the majority of cases, dogs will be a product of their environment and training. So, a lot of what I will say in this guide to chihuahua biting feet will be tongue in cheek but does have a lot of practical advice too.

However, having spoken to many chihuahua owners in the past, there is certainly a common theme around ankle and feet biting. Today I will explain why chihuahuas bite ankles and some steps you can take to stop it from happening – but rest assured, all puppies bite ankles, not just chihuahuas.

Why do chihuahuas bite ankles? Chihuahuas bite ankles and feet for a range of reasons including fear, anxiety, play, teething, and even hereditary reasons relating to herding behavior in their dog ancestors.

Why does my chihuahua bite my feet and ankles?

Now let’s get into more detail on why your chihuahua is biting and nipping at your feet, ankles, shoes, or shoelaces.

1. The herding instinct

It’s in the DNA of all dogs to try and herd. Whilst some breeds are more prone to herding than others, even a small breed like a chihuahua will have this ancestral instinct in them.

chihuahua bite pressure
Chihuahuas will bite your feet and anything else they can get their jaws around as puppies.

Obviously, you are never going to see a chihuahua on a farm herding sheep, but that doesn’t mean your little four-legged friend doesn’t have this trait in him or her.

Next time you walk past your chihuahua and they make a play for your feet and ankles, it’s simply their inner sheep dog coming out!

Handy Hint: A bite to the ankle can hurt, and it’s no real surprise given how many teeth chihuahuas have!

2. Anxiety and fear

Not all ankle biting is a hereditary trait, many chihuahuas will bite ankles and feet due to be fearful, with the aggressive response being instinctive to defend themselves.

Given how tiny chihuahuas are, they are at risk of being stepped on and kicked. When you’re that small, it must be very stressful being down there with all those stomping human feet.

And with chihuahuas only being on average between 6 to 9 inches high, sometimes a quick lashing out with a bite to your ankles is their best defence and easiest target.

3. Lack of mental stimulation and boredom

Ankle biting chihuahuas will often just be bored and suffering from a lack of attention and stimulation. All dogs need toys and playtime and if you’re not giving them that, they will act out or find other ways to entertain themselves.

Ask yourself whether your dog has enough stimulation before you ask yourself why your chihuahua is biting your feet. The two things can be linked.

You might want to consider buying your chihuahua toys that are appropriately sized for their breed. Here’s a good option for chihuahuas on Amazon.

4. To investigate things

This point is more geared towards chihuahua puppies, as they will use their mouths to investigate what things are. This is the same behavior you see with human babies who will put everything into their mouth first – puppies are the same.

If you have a chihuahua puppy biting your ankles when you walk, it might be just a case of them exploring the world around them and testing the boundaries. After all, they don’t have fingers and thumbs, so their mouth is the best way of figuring things out.

Handy Hint: Chihuahuas are prone to leg injuries, and you see them limping. Here’s what the limping could mean.

5. Because it so much fun

Another puppy consideration will be ankle biting because it’s a lot of fun. Chihuahua puppies will need to practice chasing and catching, it’s instinctive. Your feet, ankles, and shoelaces can make for the perfect prey during their formative months.

You can’t blame a puppy for wanting to play, but I would think about discouraging ankle nipping as their teeth can be sharp. It’s certainly very hazardous for young kids and elderly people who aren’t’ as agile on their feet.

6. Because they are teething

And the last one that is puppy specific is due to your chihuahua teething. The teething period only tends to last up until they are 6 months, but in this period, they will want to chew and bite anything that can get their mouth around.

Try investing in a teething toy that’s suitable for a dog the size of a chihuahua. Here’s a great choice on Amazon.

7. Lack of training

Lastly, if the ankle and feet biting continue into adulthood, it’s all down to training and the education of your chihuahua.

And I can help you with that, with some quick tips below on how to stop your chihuahua from biting your feet and ankles.

Handy Hint: Read this guide to Chihuahua teething to better understand how to deal with the nipping.

How to stop the ankle biting

You can put in place certain actions to prevent the unwanted behavior such as:

  1. Substitute toys or a chew bone when the chihuahua goes for the feet with a firm no command. You can then redirect the biting and nipping to the toy.
  2. Reward good behavior over bad and give a treat when the ankle biting is stopped.
  3. Use firm no commands, turn your back, and don’t act over excited as this can exacerbate the behavior.

Handy Hint: I’ve written a far more comprehensive guide which explains how you can get a Chihuahua to stop problem biting behavior.

Conclusion

Don’t think that chihuahuas are any more prone to biting ankles and feet than any other dog breed. In fact, they are probably less likely to keep this behavior into adulthood, as they are not a herding breed so don’t have as much of this in the DNA as other dogs.

However, they do have sharp little teeth, and can get quite overexcited, so when they do bite your feet as you walk past, it can hurt.

And believe it or not, I actually found some statistics online which suggested that the bite from a chihuahua was responsible for one death in the US between the years 2005 and 2017!

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If you like chihuahuas you might also be interested in these other breed specific guides:

Marc Aaron

I write about the things I've learned about owning a dog, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips I've picked up along the way.

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