Why Are Chihuahuas Called Ankle Biters? (Solved & Explained!)

Chihuahuas are called “ankle biters” because they often have a tendency to bite the ankles of other people, including their owners. They may do this for several reasons, including because they are teething or untrained, they have a herding instinct, or because they are afraid, anxious, or hungry for attention.

The rest of this article will provide more information about why Chihuahuas have a reputation for biting ankles, and what you as an owner can do about it.

Is there any truth to the idea that Chihuahuas are likelier to bite ankles?

There is some scientific basis for the stereotype of Chihuahuas being more bite-happy than other dog breeds. According to a study entitled, “Breed differences in canine aggression,” Chihuahuas are likelier to display an above-average aggression toward other dogs and humans, and Chihuahuas as a breed are more likely to attempt to bite both owners and strangers.

What factors potentially contribute to Chihuahuas biting humans?

According to a different study, entitled, “Dog Behavior Co-Varies with Height, Bodyweight and Skull Shape,” many of the negative traits that a companion dog can have, such as aggression toward owners, are inversely related to the average height of a breed. Basically, the smaller a dog is, the likelier it is to show negative behavior toward people and other dogs.

Is it fair to assume that any Chihuahua will be an ankle biter?

Many veterinarian experts agree that it is unfair to judge any individual dog based on the stereotypes of its entire breed. There are lazy border collies and toy dogs that dislike being cooped up, and there are Chihuahuas that aren’t ankle biters. You should watch your dog and determine if it is an ankle biter based on its own individual behavior.

Does ankle-biting have anything to do with a Chihuahua teething?

A young Chihuahua may resort to nipping or biting in order to aid the teething process. This will obviously only apply to Chihuahuas in the puppy stage, and if the biting behavior continues once the animal has grown, it may be due to one or more of the factors listed below.

Do Chihuahuas have a herding instinct that contributes to ankle-biting?

Although Chihuahuas weren’t bred for herding the way that sheepdogs or cattle dogs were, many dogs nevertheless have an innate desire to herd other animals. After all, even non-work dogs are tempted to chase cars or bark at people that they want to move out of the way. As small as Chihuahuas are, they can still possess the urge to herd.

Why do Chihuahuas bite ankles more than other body parts?

One reason that Chihuahuas go for the ankles is that when they become nervous or get scared by humans and other dogs that are so much bigger than them, they want to react by biting a part of the perceived threat that is closest to them. Since most Chihuahuas are less than a foot tall, that means biting an ankle.

Why do Chihuahuas bite ankles even when they don’t appear to be afraid or nervous?

Smaller dogs are more prone to attention-seeking behavior, and biting an ankle may be one of the best ways your Chihuahua knows to catch your interest. If your Chihuahua gives you a nip on the ankle but doesn’t seem to be frightened, it may just be bored and wanting a play break.

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Do Chihuahuas ever bite ankles because of separation anxiety?

Like many smaller dogs, Chihuahuas are more prone to separation anxiety and may become overly excited when you get home after a long time away. Your Chihuahua may bite your ankle out of a desire for attention and affection rather than out of any malicious intent, and such biting may not be a habitual issue.

Are there any other reasons a Chihuahua might bite your ankle?

Apart from herding, teething, fear, or boredom, Chihuahuas, especially puppies, may use biting as a way of exploring their surroundings. Like a puppy of any breed, an immature Chihuahua might bite anything it can get its mouth on, including your ankles, if for no other reason than to get a better understanding of it.

How should you react if your Chihuahua bites your ankle?

Treat ankle-biting like any other bad behavior, meaning that you should show zero tolerance for the action and give your Chihuahua an immediate “No” command whenever it happens. Be firm, but don’t become overly emotional, or else your dog might become scared of you, which can make this anxiety-driven behavior worse.

How should you teach your Chihuahua not to bite at ankles?

Rewarding good performance through positive reinforcement techniques is just as important as discouraging undesirable dog behavior in the first place. This means that you shouldn’t hesitate to give your Chihuahua a treat and shower it with praise whenever it does a good job avoiding bites during behavior training.

What does behavior training to stop a Chihuahua from biting ankles look like?

If your Chihuahua bites you, loudly and sternly say, “Ow!” to let your dog know that you have been hurt, then provide positive reinforcement if your Chihuahua stops biting you. You can also teach your Chihuahua bite inhibition by letting it play with your hand to learn an appropriate level of mouth-play.

What should you teach your Chihuahua to bite instead of ankles?

One great way to teach your Chihuahua not to bite, including during the teething and exploratory stages, is to give it a suitable toy or bone whenever it attempts to nip your ankle. Tell your dog, “No,” when it tries to bite and give it the toy or bone to bite at instead.

Is there a wrong way to teach a Chihuahua not to bite ankles?

You should not shout at or hit your Chihuahua if it bites your ankle, because this will only scare and confuse the dog and won’t resolve the problem in the long-term. You also don’t want to be inconsistent with disciplining your dog, which is why you should start teaching it not to bite right away.