Why does my 6 year old start aggressively and randomly nipping at visitor's feet?

asked 2015-12-19 06:51:42 -0500

She snaps one time and walks away. Started with my adult daughter wearing flip flops (August) then my adult grandson wearing tennis shoes (December). We interviewed a house sitter yesterday and she did it to that young lady, too! My husband thinks it is because I am home and she is protective of me. Yet it is a new behavior this year; very random. Doesn't do it when the human first enters the house, either.

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answered 2015-12-19 23:09:51 -0500

How old is she and what breed/mix? Some breeds, especially herding breeds, will develop this tendency to satisfy their herding instincts, which may explain why she's not really trying to hurt anyone (if I interpreted what you wrote correctly). The timing may be due to her age, especially if she's a younger dog (less than 2 or 3 years). It could also be a fear response - maybe she doesn't like the sound certain shoes make (especially if her behavior is specific to certain kinds of shoes). Make sure she gets plenty of exercise. Bad habits have many causes, and one of the most common is pent up energy and resulting frustration. Make sure she has some toys she likes so she's not bored (maybe shoes are becoming really entertaining for her). If these interventions don't help, try simply blocking her from being able to do the behavior until she gets used to not doing it again and realizes you're not going to let her do it.

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She is a 6 yr old aussie mix and I guess she is doing it out of anxiety, as we don't have a lot of people over very often. My daughter thinks she's getting grumpy in her old age (6!) and has less tolerance for people and other dogs, other than my husband and myself, and our one other dog. I'll keep her on a short leash when others are over. Thanks for your comments.

Susan M.'s profile image Susan M.  ( 2015-12-20 06:46:49 -0500 ) edit
answered 2015-12-19 14:57:53 -0500

Hmm. Have there been any changes or upheavals? Can you think of any differences in her life this past year? How long have you had her? If you haven't had her since she was a young puppy, what do you know about her life with the previous owner? What is an "average day-in-the-life" like for her?

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We've had her since she was 8 weeks old. She's know my daughter (who is grown and lives a few miles away) since then. So it was out-f-the-blue when she snapped. It was so fast I hardly saw it. She didn't actually bite. And then she slinked away! No changes in her lifestyle. So odd. She does bark at strangers, noises, etc, but never was aggressive.

Susan M.'s profile image Susan M.  ( 2015-12-19 17:10:46 -0500 ) edit

Yes, that's strange. I'm inclined to agree with Jean and Laura. Make sure she has enough outlets for energy, and that she has enough to keep her mind occupied. If she is acting anxious, make sure you don't "soothe" her, and reward her for proper behavior.

Shannon L.'s profile image Shannon L.  ( 2015-12-22 15:09:59 -0500 ) edit
answered 2016-01-03 21:18:46 -0500

My old teacup yorkie used to do the same! When someone enters the house they would not bother. But once someone is in the house, walking around and near me (hugging, or too close) he would start to nip at their feet. He was tiny but very protective of me. So my opinion, I think that's exactly what it is. Protecting their owner :)

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answered 2015-12-21 03:58:18 -0500

Could be a herding behavior; the quick nip-and-dart is a common tactic of herding dogs. Those innate behaviors are easy to fall back on when a dog is bored, frustrated or stressed. It could just be a fun game for her that she's picked up recently. A smart, high energy dog will give herself things to do if she isn't provided with enough stimulation in her day to day life, and you may not think her self-appointed jobs are very useful or fun. Channel her energy in other ways with lots of exercise and mental stimulation.

Also, as Jean suggested, restrict her access to guests so she can't practice the unwanted behavior until she's learned how you want her to behave around company.

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