Puppies may bite feet due to teething, playfulness, attention-seeking, fear, or aggression. Usually you can train your puppy by yelping and saying “no” when they bite.
Ignore them and redirect their behavior to a toy. Reward heavily when your puppy bites toys instead and interacts nicely with you.
Below, I’ll discuss the the first and main things to understand, which are the reasons puppies bite feet and how you can tell which category your dog fits into.
I’ll also talk about how to train your dog to stop biting your feet, and what you shouldn’t do to try and solve the problem.
Training out fear or aggression responses can be a little different. While I don’t dig deep into that in this article, I do suggest you read more into socializing your dog or desensitizing them to behaviors or objects, depending upon what triggers them to bite.
Why Puppies Bite Feet
It can sometimes seem to people as if their puppy is biting for no reason, but there is absolutely always a reason for any behavior.
It might even be something small or unimportant from a human’s perspective, but I promise you it’s there.
The problem is that there’s a huge language barrier between humans and dogs!
But through using a combination of reading body language and noticing patterns, hopefully you can determine what’s causing the biting.
Below, I’ve discussed various reasons in-depth to hopefully help you out.
Your Puppy is Teething
Puppies teethe until they are around 6 months old. During this time, they may experience pain in their gums as new teeth grow in. They’re likely to seek out things to put in their mouths to relieve that pain.
While ideally they only gnaw on chew toys, anyone who’s owned a puppy knows that isn’t the case! Puppies will stick just about anything in their mouths.
This is also how they learn about different objects. They don’t have hands to feel things with, so they explore with their mouths instead.
Most likely if your puppy is biting your feet because they’re teething, it likely won’t be a quick bite. If your puppy is chewing on your feet for stretches of time, that’s a good indication that teething is the cause.
Make sure your puppy has chew toys in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. This way, you’re sure to have something that feels nice on their gums.
Many pups prefer a rubbery toy to chew on while teething, but different puppies have different preferences when it comes to the toys they’ll use.
They Want Attention or to Play
A common reason puppies bite your feet is to get your attention. Whether they want to be pet, they’re ready to play, or they just like to get a reaction, it shows that they care about spending time with you—even if it doesn’t feel so sweet!
Of course, that doesn’t make it okay for them to do. It just gives us a starting point when it comes to how we address the problem.
Puppies who are biting to roughhouse or because they want to play with you likely won’t bite hard, although they might do so without meaning to.
Biting too roughly during play is especially common in puppies who were separated from their littermates at a young age, and in puppies who are the only dog in the household.
Look for signs of playfulness in their body language, such as a wagging tail, perked ears, or pouncing around at your feet with their head low and their butt in the air.
Make sure your pup is getting lots of love and play throughout the day. If you don’t already know how much exercise your puppy needs, research the guidelines for their breed. For a mutt or unknown breed of puppy, make your best guess or choose a breed with a similar size and body type.
Most puppies will benefit from a daily walk and multiple play sessions throughout the day, but how long these walks and playtimes are will vary considerably.
Short-muzzled dogs are prone to overheating and require shorter walks, or indoor-only play when it’s very hot outside.
And in general, smaller dogs tire faster than larger ones.
When determining the right amount of exercise for your pup, use common sense, and pay attention to their energy levels.
You should also have toys around the house for your puppy to play with on their own if they get bored while you’re busy with other things.
The Puppy is Annoyed, Afraid, or Angry
Lastly, your puppy might be biting out of aggression or fear.
Maybe they’ve been stepped on or even kicked, and they’ve learned to fear feet as a result. Or, you’ve done something to annoy them and they’re retaliating.
The dominance theory of dog training can also bring about fear and aggression in dogs. Although it’s been disproven, many people still think it’s an okay way to train a dog.
If you are training this way, please do some research to learn why it’s harmful to your dog, and begin using more positive training methods immediately.
When it comes to body language, it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate between fear and aggression.
A fearful dog may retreat quickly after biting your feet, and act more withdrawn. Cowering and flinching are typically signs of fear.
An aggressive dog might advance toward you instead of moving away.
However, this isn’t a hard rule that applies to every situation or every dog.
Signs of fear and aggression in dogs include a tucked tail, ears back, wrinkled snout, teeth bared, and fur on their back standing upright.
Keep in mind that fear and aggression can be paired, especially in puppies who’ve been abused.
If your puppy is biting out of fear or aggression, you should first find what’s provoking that emotion in them. Maybe they bite your feet when you make a specific movement, or they’re only biting the feet of one person in your household, for example.
Once you find what’s triggering the behavior, you can either stop provoking your dog into biting or train them to accept the occurrence is happening without biting as a response.
If you’re doing something unnecessary to annoy the dog, I suggest stopping it. But if an ordinary action is causing the biting, or you’re doing something that’s necessary for your dog’s health, they will need to be trained to accept it.
Some examples are your puppy biting you when you mess with their filled food dish versus biting your family’s feet while you walk around the house.
In the first example, you can leave them alone while eating. In the second, you need to sort it out because you have to be able to walk in your home!
In addition to the steps below, look into socialization and/or desensitization training for puppies that are biting out of fear or aggression.
How to Stop Your Puppy from Biting Feet
Firmly Say No or Yelp in a High Pitch
When your puppy bites your feet, move your feet away from them while firmly saying “no” or yelping in a high pitch.
“No” will teach them a command, while yelping is how puppies would interact with one another to tell them they’re playing too roughly.
You can combine both of these or just use one or the other. The key is to be consistent and respond even when the bite doesn’t hurt.
I’ve always kept a firm rule that my dog’s teeth can’t touch my skin at all, even if he’s not biting down. You don’t have to do this, but it can be a good idea, especially if you have a hard biter, or if your dog is around children or strangers often.
Ignore your Puppy after the Bite
After your puppy bites you, don’t fuss over them. They won’t listen to a lecture, yelling won’t help, and you certainly shouldn’t give them attention to reward the behavior.
You’ve already indicated that you didn’t like being bitten in the step above, so now just ignore your puppy for a bit to reinforce the point.
If they’re still going after your feet, walk away and close a door behind you if you have to.
Redirect Biting to Toys
The only attention I would recommend giving is to give your dog a toy to show them what you want them to bite instead of your feet.
If they do chew the toy, praise them for that and offer a treat.
This is especially helpful if they are teething or playing, but I’m not sure it’d do anything for an aggressive or fearful biter.
It also might encourage some dogs to bite if they see playtime as a reward for biting your feet.
Pay attention to how your puppy responds to this method, and use your judgment when it comes to redirecting behavior, or ignoring it as mentioned above.
When possible, try to redirect biting before it happens. If your puppy is about to pounce on your feet, for example, move away and start playing with them with a toy instead.
Reward Good Behavior
Depending on why your puppy is biting, rewarded behavior will look different.
Maybe your puppy bites your feet whenever you walk past them. In this case, you’d reward them for allowing you to pass without biting.
If your puppy is biting out of aggression, reward them for interacting nicely with you or whoever they’re showing aggression toward.
If they’re biting to roughhouse, reward them for playing with their toys instead of feet.
I’m sure you get the idea. When you see the behavior you want to see, reward your dog with praise, pets, and/or treats—whatever motivates them.
The last step of training is to be patient. Your puppy is still young and learning as they grow.
If you’re consistent, the training will pay off over time, but nothing is going to change overnight. You’ll likely have to redirect their biting many times before it stops.
Hire a Professional if Needed
If you can’t get your puppy to stop biting your feet and need some extra help, look into a puppy training class or hiring a professional dog trainer.
Just make sure you look into their training methods first. Choose a trainer who uses positive training methods, not one who believes in punishments or dominance training.
I once was horrified when I found myself in a class with a trainer who actually promoted abuse as a training method.
You would think dog trainers would care about dogs enough to know what they were doing and keep up with the science on the topic, but unfortunately some of them don’t.
If the Puppy Won’t Let Go, Push Inwards
One last tip for puppies who latch onto your feet: If they don’t let go, push inwards.
This feels unnatural and your first instinct is to pull back, but this can cause the puppy to bite down harder. It also tugs at your skin and might worsen the bite.
Pushing inward will be uncomfortable for the dog and cause them to let go.
If your puppy bites hard enough to break skin, clean the wound and watch for signs of infection. Go to the doctor if you’re concerned.
What Not to Do
Don’t Punish Your Puppy
Puppies don’t tend to understand consequences, and will likely associate you with any punishment you give.
This can make them fearful of you, which in extreme cases can turn into them biting out of fear or even aggression.
It also worsens your relationship, while positive reinforcement can teach your dog the same thing more effectively and without any of the negative consequences that come from punishment.
There simply isn’t a need to yell and scream at your dog, and you definitely should never punish them physically.
Don’t Provoke Your Puppy to Bite
This may seem obvious when you’re researching how to get your puppy to stop biting, but I’ve definitely seen people provoke their dogs and expect the dog to just take it.
For some reason, some people think it’s funny to pick on animals and do things they dislike to get a reaction, but then grow angry or confused when that reaction is biting.
It’s not funny at all, and it only hurts you and your puppy both.
Don’t Use Your Feet as Toys
Feet aren’t toys. If you use them as such, don’t be surprised when your puppy begins to think it’s okay to bite even outside of playtime.
Think about your puppy’s other toys. You don’t tell them it’s okay to play with their ball sometimes, then yell at them for it at others.
If the toy is there, why shouldn’t they play with it?
That’s how they’ll see your feet if you don’t set clear boundaries, and making biting off-limits all of the time.
Writer: Katelynn Sobus