- Pet forum for dogs cats and humans 


nipping at heels of strangers

December 2nd, 2007, 07:54 PM
Our 2 1/2 yr old 70 lb dobbie/mix has just started nipping at the heels of people who come into our home that she doesn't know very well. She hasn't bitten anyone but I can HEAR the teeth snap at their heels and of course it scares all of us. Any suggestions on how to "nip" this bad behavior?

December 2nd, 2007, 08:31 PM
This is a behaviour that could escalate and you're right on the mark for nipping it in the bud so to speak!

I would suggest you use a house leash and, when people come in, correct the dog as soon as she starts this behaviour. You might want to make her sit until the people are in and settled then allow her to approach and sniff them - with you holding the leash. If she shows any indication of being anti-social, correct her until she settles.

December 3rd, 2007, 09:03 AM
I'll try the SIT and SNIFF suggestion..on a leash. If you can think of anything else, please leave me a message.

December 3rd, 2007, 01:12 PM
well for starters, do NOT allow others to react submissively to what she is doing. when she snaps and others jump and get scared she is getting the response she wants. if she snaps and the other person snaps back THEN they are asserting themselves. when she snaps at their heels, have them turn around and stomp their foot and tell her NO! dont stomp on HER but make a show about not allowing this action to happen. if she snaps back, leash her when others come in but make sure they dont jump back (or forwards as the case may be) when she snaps. they need to make a stand for themselves. she is bossing them around and as long as that works for her, she will keep doing it.

maybe there are better ways of taking care of this problem and maybe others will come by with more traditional methods but this is what i woudl have done if it occurred in our house.


December 3rd, 2007, 03:11 PM
You should make sure there are no health issues behind this (especially if this started suddenly) and/or seek the help of a good positive reinforcement trainer or behaviourist.
I think we also need a bit more history on your pup before we can make any solid suggestions... Is this sudden or has she always been like this (perhaps not at this level but has she always been stand-offish, timid, protective, territorial??)? Is she a reactive (fear based) or acting aggressively because she can? Has she had any negative experiences with strangers or people in general? Is she getting enough exercises (physically and mentally)? Does this only happen with strangers who are entering your home? Does this only happen with males, females, older or younger people? Most importantly what do you do and where are you when this happens??? ETC....
Also, I will say that even though this behaviour is not nice to deal with, you are lucky that she is warning first by air-snapping instead of just biting.:)

Dogs do what works. What's more, they get better and better at what they practice. So you definately need to prevent her from air-snapping (and if you can't, she needs to be crated or in another room when strangers come).

I would definately use desensitization. You have to manage the situation so she cannot airsnap. You need to work at a distance from her trigger where she is non-reactive - reward for calmness, or if she makes eye contact with you and jackpot if she glances, moves toward or offers calming signals to the stranger. It's important that she is not pushed over her threshold.

I think its also important that you teach people entering your home how to interact with your dog... Most dogs do not like with when people bend over them, or pat their head or make direct eye contact (all of these are threatening signals in the dog world). People need to be aware how to correctly approach (or in some case, not approach) her (for instance, averted gaze, standing to the side, crouching down, lip licking etc....)

So practicing people coming in and ignoring her completely or being polite by crouching down and averting their gaze and occasionally tossing treats will help. I'd keep her on-leash but you must careful about holding the leash tight or leash popping (all of which you want to avoid).

Teaching incompatible behaviours will help. A dog cannot hold a sit/down-stay and nip; a dog cannot nip if they she's carrying something in her mouth or targeting (a hand, plate or stick) etc...

Lastly, if you cannot focus 100% on a positive and safe interaction with your dog, you need to manage the situation and crate her or leave her in another room. No good will come if she is allowed to air-snap sometimes or if you cannot reward at the right times etc...