What to do if your Dog Nips at your Heels?

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When we lived in Pasadena, we had a neighbor with a cute bull terrier named Lucy who would come over for play dates with Sally & Tino several times a week. They would race around the front yard for 30 minutes or so chasing each other or chasing a ball or playing bite face.
 
One of Tino’s favorite things to do was nip at Lucy’s heels. We didn’t allow him to do it too often, but sometimes he’d get so excited with their chase game, he’d go for the heels. He only did it to Lucy, never to Sally or any of the other dogs he would play with. I don’t know if it was her size or shape or what.
sallytinolucy
 
Heel nipping is a herding behavior and even though Tino looks like a Shepherd mix, the DNA test we did on him told us otherwise – mainly Doberman and Afghan, so I guess he got the herding behavior from the Afghan in him.
 
It’s not really a behavior you want in your family dog, especially if they do it to humans. Here’s some tips to help prevent heel nipping:
 

  • Redirect your dog to a different activity – use treats or toys to distract them when they start nipping.
  • Limit the chase games and the excitement levels to avoid the nip from starting.
  • Teach your dog to heel. If you teach the heel correctly, you can get your dog to focus on that correct behavior while still running by your side.
  •  
    I know many of you have herding dogs – what suggestions do you have for preventing unwanted heel biting or herding behavior?
     

    Additional Readings:
    How to Stop a Dog From Nipping at Your Heels
    How to Stop a Dog From Nipping at Ankles and Pant Legs
     

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28 Comments

  1. No nipping of any kind around here, but we have met some heal nippers. It can be quite a problem.
    Emma recently posted…Emma’s 8 Photos Of HappinessMy Profile

  2. I was a pant legs ripper as I was a puppy. I grabbed their pants and they dragged me around like an ankle shackle :o)
    easy rider recently posted…easyblog MISCHIEF MO(A)NDAYMy Profile

  3. Our Aussie and Aussie mixes have been finger nippers. Flash would nip Hunny’s finger tips when he’d get home from work, a way to get his attention. Eventually Hunny trained him to stop, giving him attention before the nipping could start.

    But Chewy! Chewy is a butt nipper! And a finger nipper. I walk through the front door and he’s jumping and nipping my rear end all the way to the back door. Often I’m carrying groceries. And I think it’s hilarious, so I haven’t worked to stop him. Yet.
    Flea recently posted…Dogs and Dolphins, FBM 133My Profile

  4. We’ve been through the nipping with all of our dogs and we were able to get them to stop by yelping. This showed them that they were hurting us – I didn’t think it would work when it was recommended, but it worked like a charm with our dogs.

    Now they still herd if we’re running or riding a bike, but it doesn’t hurt 😉
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…Would You Drink Tea with Your Dog?My Profile

  5. We don’t have nippers. Ours like to get under our feet and see if they can trip us. LOL!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…All or Nothing DayMy Profile

  6. UGH I have met those heel nippers before! Luckily we don’t have that problem here.
    ღ husky hugz ღ frum our pack at Love is being owned by a husky!
    Jenna,Mark “HuskyCrazed” Drady recently posted…Florida Woman Rescues Her Dog From An AlligatorMy Profile

  7. The only nipping we’ve had to endure was Maniac Jaxson when he was a little pup. So happy to report we are out of that painful habit.
    Groovy Goldendoodles recently posted…TAIL WAGGIN TUTORSMy Profile

  8. My last Standard would do it but only with my daughter (probably due to some helpful encouragement from me 🙂 ) but thankfully Sam isn’t in to it. He’d just rather pogo stick himself against you when he gets excited. Oh. that. dog!
    Monika recently posted…Bubbles and BallsMy Profile

  9. I’ve never had an ankle-biter or heel-nipper, lol! I would think Kimberly’s advice about yelping would be pretty effective especially if you stop and turn around when that happens (stop the chase).
    Elaine recently posted…8 Photos of HappinessMy Profile

  10. We’ve luckily never had this issue. Sheba wishes Luke didn’t like grabbing her tail so much though…LOL!
    Jan K recently posted…Bratty Little Brother – Monday MischiefMy Profile

  11. Our Old English Sheepdog didn’t nip, but if she thought we were hiking too fast she would run at our legs from behind and hit them with her shoulder. We didn’t fall down but we slowed down.
    jan recently posted…Breaking Creed — A Book ReviewMy Profile

  12. Mom says I (Jessie) shouldn’t nip heels but there are some people that I just have to nip. Nobody else in our pack of herders does it. Mom tries to pick me up so I can’t do it but that doesn’t always work. That yelp think might help.
    De Hufford recently posted…Fetch! Monday Mischief with Aussies in ChargeMy Profile

  13. No herding dogs except for one foster who was too young for that behavior yet. When Honey nipped as a puppy, she went right for the bodacious ta tas. In comparison, heel nipping doesn’t seem to bad. 🙂
    Pamela recently posted…Do You Need To Walk Your Dog Every Day? Take The Quiz.My Profile

  14. great tips, people think the herding thing is funny when they are pups then the pups grow up into adults and it isn’t so funny when they keep doing it especially towards children.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…4th Master Pass~Monday MischiefMy Profile

  15. I took some convincing not to nip as a pup, but I went for the back of the thigh!

    I have met some Border Collies who nip at my ankles as though they think I’m a sheep – I thought they’re supposed to be intelligent!
    Clowie recently posted…Couriouser and CuriouserMy Profile

  16. Good advice. I like to work up to being able to jog with the dog in heel position. If you only do it at a walk, when you run you might still have an issue because the dog gets too excited.

    Also I wouldn’t just redirect to toys, I would play lots of tug of war with the dog, so you build value for biting and playing with the toy. Over time, nipping heels will seem boring and heeling and playing with toys will seem more fun.

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