This behavior can be bewildering, but it’s also relatively common.
So, why does your dog bite other dogs’ legs? It could be that it’s happening at home with two of your own dogs, or worse, happening with other dogs at the dog park.
Let’s dive into the possible reasons and what you can do about it.
Is It With Your Own Dogs or With Other Dogs?
A critical factor to consider when trying to understand your dog’s leg-biting behavior is whether it occurs with your own dogs (if you have multiple dogs) or other unknown dogs.
Between Your Own Dogs
If the biting is happening between your own dogs, it could be a sign of a social hierarchy being established. Dogs are pack animals, and they might express their dominance or submission through various behaviors, including biting. However, if the biting seems excessive or one dog appears to be constantly victimized, this could signify a problem that needs addressing.
In multi-dog households, it’s also essential to consider the possibility of resource guarding. One dog might bite the others to protect their food, toys, or even your attention.
If it’s play, the dogs should exhibit loose, relaxed bodies, and the play should be reciprocal. They should take turns being the “aggressor” and the “defender.”
With Unknown Dogs
If your dog is biting unknown dogs, especially at places like the dog park, this could be due to several reasons. Your dog might be afraid or anxious around unfamiliar dogs and uses leg biting as a defensive tactic. Alternatively, it could be an inappropriate play behavior that your dog has yet to learn is not acceptable.
The dog’s breed might also play a role. Some breeds are more suspicious of strangers, both human and canine, and could react by biting.
In both cases, it’s crucial to monitor the situation closely and intervene when necessary. If the behavior continues despite your best efforts, it may be helpful to consult with a professional dog trainer or behaviorist. They can provide you with targeted strategies based on the specifics of your dog’s behavior.
6 Reasons Your Dog Bites Other Dogs’ Legs
There are various reasons behind this behavior, let’s run through them below.
Which cause applies to your dog will depend on things like their breed, temperament, socialization, training and upbringing.
Lack of Socialization
Dogs that haven’t been properly socialized may not know how to behave appropriately with other dogs. This lack of social skills can lead to behaviors like biting, as they might not understand the correct way to interact.
Overly energetic or excitable dogs might resort to leg biting simply because they have excess energy to burn. This hyperactivity can manifest as excessive mouthing or biting during play.
Dogs were bred for specific roles, with some breeds instinctually hardwired for herding. This includes breeds like the Border Collie, Australian Shepherd, and Corgis. Herding dogs naturally target the legs of other animals as a method of directing and controlling movement.
When dogs play, they often use their mouths, which can seem like biting to us. Dogs use their mouths like we use our hands, so what looks like a bite could simply be a playful gesture.
Dominance and Assertiveness
Some dogs use leg biting as a way to establish dominance or to get the attention of other dogs. This type of behavior is more common in confident, assertive dogs who like to control the situation.
Fear or Anxiety
If your dog feels threatened or anxious around other dogs, they might resort to leg biting as a defensive behavior. This typically happens when they feel cornered or overwhelmed.
Specific Breeds Prone to This Behavior
Each breed has its distinct traits and behaviors. When it comes to leg biting, certain breeds may be more predisposed due to their historical roles and instincts.
For instance, herding dogs, bred to control the movement of other animals, often use their mouths in their work.
- Border Collie
- Australian Shepherd
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Jack Russell Terrier
- Fox Terrier
- Rat Terrier
- Belgian Malinois
- Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog)
- Rough Collie
Of course, any breed can be prone to leg biting and this behavior certainly isn’t limited to just this list!
Is It Just Play Or Is It Aggression?
Determining whether your dog’s behavior is playful or aggressive is key to addressing the issue.
Play biting usually involves loose, relaxed body language and often includes play bows (front end down, back end up).
On the other hand, aggressive biting often involves tense body language, raised fur, bared teeth, and growling.
Good Play vs Bad Play
Healthy play often involves role reversals (chasing and being chased, being on top and then on the bottom), and a balance of actions. Both dogs should look relaxed and happy.
If one dog seems uncomfortable, or if the biting is one-sided, it may have crossed the line into aggressive behavior.
Preventing This Behavior
Expose your dog to a variety of other dogs in controlled environments. Start with one-on-one interactions, then gradually increase the number of dogs as your pet becomes more comfortable.
Basic commands like “leave it,” “sit,” and “stay” can be very helpful in controlling your dog’s behavior around others.
Keep your dog’s favorite toys or treats handy. These can distract them from any urges to bite.
What Happens If Your Dog Is Bitten By Another
Discovering your dog has been bitten by another can be a stressful experience. When such an unfortunate incident occurs, it is crucial to remain calm and follow a series of steps to ensure the safety and health of your pet.
- Separate the Dogs: Immediately separate the dogs to prevent further conflict. Avoid putting your hands near the dogs’ mouths to avoid getting bitten yourself. Instead, use loud noises or water to break up the fight.
- Examine Your Dog: Once the dogs are separated, check your dog carefully. Look for any visible injuries such as punctures, scratches, or lacerations. Be aware that your dog may be in shock or pain, so approach gently.
- Contact a Vet: If you find any wounds, it is crucial to get in touch with a vet. Even small bites can get infected and need professional medical attention. If possible, take pictures of the wounds to show your vet.
Wound Care Tips If It Happens
Bites from other dogs can carry bacteria and potentially lead to infections, making immediate care necessary.
If you’re dealing with this issue between your own healthy dogs then there’s likely no need to worry about disease transmission.
However, if it happens with dogs out at the local dog park, you just never know. So it’s best to proceed with caution.
Here’s a guide on how to handle this situation:
- Muzzle Your Dog If Necessary: If your dog is in pain, they might react negatively to being touched. To protect yourself, consider using a soft muzzle during the wound cleaning process.
- Clean the Wound: Gently clean the bite wound with warm water and mild soap. This will help to remove dirt and bacteria.
- Apply a Disinfectant: After cleaning the wound, use a pet-safe disinfectant to help kill any remaining bacteria.
- Use an Antibiotic Ointment: Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the wound, if your vet approves it.
- Monitor the Wound: Keep an eye on the wound for any signs of infection such as redness, swelling, heat, or pus.
- Contact Your Vet: If the wound is deep, or if any signs of infection develop, contact your vet immediately. Even if the wound seems minor, it’s still a good idea to let your vet know about the bite so they can provide specific advice.
Remember, these tips are intended for initial wound care. They are not a substitute for veterinary treatment. Bites can sometimes cause internal injuries that aren’t immediately apparent, so professional assessment is critical after a biting incident.
Solving Aggression Issues
Addressing aggression issues in your dog can be a challenging but necessary task. Here’s a comprehensive step-by-step guide on how to tackle this issue.
- Identify the Triggers: Observe your dog’s behavior carefully to understand what triggers the aggressive behavior. Is it certain dogs? Specific environments? Certain types of play? Knowing what causes the aggression is the first step in addressing it.
- Consult a Professional: Dog aggression can be a serious issue and is often best handled by professionals. A certified animal behaviorist or experienced dog trainer can provide valuable insight into why your dog behaves the way they do and offer effective solutions.
- Socialization Training: If your dog is not well socialized, it might react aggressively out of fear or uncertainty. Gradual, controlled exposure to other dogs can help them learn to behave appropriately. Start with calm, well-socialized dogs and slowly introduce them to a wider variety of dogs and situations.
- Obedience Training: Teaching your dog basic commands like “sit”, “stay”, and “leave it” can provide you with more control in situations that might trigger aggression. This control can help prevent incidents before they happen.
- Positive Reinforcement: Reward your dog for good behavior. If they react calmly around other dogs or in a situation where they usually exhibit aggression, praise them and give them a treat. This encourages them to repeat the behavior.
- Create a Safe Space: Providing a safe space at home where your dog can retreat if they’re feeling overwhelmed can help manage aggression. This should be a quiet, comfortable area where they won’t be disturbed.
- Exercise: Regular exercise can help manage your dog’s energy levels, reducing the likelihood of aggressive behavior due to over-excitement or frustration.
Remember, patience is key when dealing with aggressive behavior. Changes won’t happen overnight, and it’s essential to remain consistent with your training. If the aggressive behavior continues, consider seeking veterinary advice to rule out any underlying health issues that might be causing the aggression.
1. Is leg biting always a sign of aggression? No, leg biting can be a sign of play, herding instinct, or even fear. Monitor your dog’s body language to determine the context.
2. How can I stop my dog from biting other dogs’ legs? Socialization, training, and distractions can all help in preventing this behavior.
3. What should I do if my dog is bitten? Clean the wound, apply an antibiotic ointment, and contact your vet if the wound is deep or signs of infection appear.
Understanding why your dog bites other dogs’ legs is the first step in preventing it. Whether it’s playful nips, herding instinct, or a sign of anxiety, knowing your dog’s motivations can help you manage their interactions with other dogs. Keep an open dialogue with your vet or a pet behaviorist to ensure you’re providing the best care and guidance for your furry friend.
In the end, remember that every dog is unique and will require a tailored approach. Patience, understanding, and love will go a long way in helping your pet behave better around their four-legged pals.