Dog Nipping at

How to Stop Your Dog from Nipping at Your Heels

Hello, fellow dog lovers! You’re probably here because your furry friend has picked up a new habit. Let me guess, every time you go for a walk, you find yourself doing a funny dance to avoid those quick little nips at your heels. Trust me, I’ve been there!
Welcome to the club of dog owners grappling with this common, albeit pesky, behavior. While it might seem amusing (or alarming) at first, it’s a behavior that needs our attention and understanding.
Your dog isn’t turning into a tiny, snappy alligator, I promise! Dogs, like humans, have their quirks, their ways of communicating, and sometimes, they develop behaviors that we need to help them modify. Nipping at heels is one such behavior.
Although it can be annoying and even a little painful, take heart! This isn’t a cause for panic. It’s a call for understanding, patience, and a little bit of dog behavior know-how. We’re in this together, and this guide will help you get to grips with why your dog might be acting this way, and how to gently guide them towards better behavior. Remember, every dog has its day, and today might just be the day your dog starts to turn this behavior around!
Dog Nipping at

Understanding Your Dog’s Heel-Nipping Behavior

Understanding why dogs nip at heels can provide insights into how to address and manage the behavior. Let’s delve into the origins and motivations behind heel nipping:
  • Herding Instinct

    One of the most common reasons, especially among certain breeds, is the herding instinct. Breeds like Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Corgis were bred to herd animals. Nipping at the heels was a method used to move animals in a certain direction. When these breeds don’t have sheep or cattle to herd, they might direct this behavior towards people, especially moving children.

  • Playfulness

    Puppies, regardless of breed, often nip during play. For them, it’s a way of interacting with the world around them and engaging in play. This kind of nipping is generally soft and inhibited, but if it’s not addressed, it could become a habit into adulthood.

  • Attention-Seeking

    Some dogs quickly learn that nipping at heels gets a reaction. Whether it’s because you turn around, shout, or playfully chase them away, to the dog, it might be an effective way to engage with you.

  • Overstimulation

    In some instances, dogs become overly excited or stimulated, which can result in nipping. This could be during play, when guests arrive, or in high-energy environments.

  • Predatory Instinct

    While domesticated, dogs still retain some of their ancestral predatory instincts. The act of chasing and nipping can be linked back to these instincts. Moving objects, including feet and heels, can trigger this instinct in some dogs.

  • Fear or Defensive Behavior

    If a dog feels threatened or cornered, it might nip in an attempt to create distance or warn the perceived threat.

  • Lack of Socialization

    Dogs that haven’t been properly socialized during their critical developmental periods might not have learned appropriate bite inhibition or might be more reactive to certain stimuli.

  • Health Issues

    In rare cases, certain health issues, like pain or neurological problems, might cause a dog to nip or bite

To effectively address the behavior, understanding the motivation behind it is crucial. For example, if it’s a herding behavior, providing the dog with alternative herding-like activities or challenges can be beneficial. On the other hand, if it’s due to overstimulation, teaching the dog to calm down and settle is the key. Always consider the underlying cause when looking for solutions.
Nipping at

Signs of Your Dog’s Tendency to Nip at Heels

If you’re trying to recognize when a dog might be about to engage in heel nipping or understand the signs associated with it, it’s crucial to be observant of your dog’s body language and behavior. Here are some signs that a dog might display when they’re about to, or are currently, nipping at heels:

  • Stalking Posture:

    The dog may crouch down and fixate on the person’s feet, resembling a stalking predator. They’ll often keep their body low, ears forward, and eyes locked on the target.

  • Excited Behavior:

    Overly excited behavior such as wagging tails, jumping up and down, and running in circles can precede nipping.

  • Herding Circles:

    Especially in herding breeds, before the nip, they might try to circle around a person or other animals as if trying to herd them.

  • Barking or Whining:

    Some dogs may bark, whine, or make other vocalizations before or during their attempts to nip at heels.

  • Tail Chasing:

    While tail chasing can be a separate behavior, some dogs might transition from chasing their tails to chasing and nipping at moving feet.

  • Mouthiness:

    Before the actual nipping, a dog might display general mouthiness, which includes opening and closing their mouth near your feet, light mouthing without applying pressure, or even air-snapping.

  • Fixation:

    The dog might stare intently at moving feet or the lower legs of a person, indicating that they’re focused on that area and might attempt to nip.

  • Pacing or Following Closely:

    If a dog is closely following behind someone, matching their pace, it might be gearing up to nip at their heels.

  • Audible Growling or Warning Sounds:

    Some dogs might growl or make other warning sounds before nipping, especially if the behavior is motivated by fear or defensiveness.

  • Raised Hackles:

    The hair along the dog’s back (from the shoulders to the base of the tail) might stand up, indicating heightened arousal or reactivity.

  • Quick Movements:

    Dogs that are in the mood to nip at heels are often responsive to fast movements. They might get more excited or reactive if someone starts running or moving their feet quickly.

Understanding these signs can help you anticipate and potentially prevent heel-nipping before it happens. It allows for timely intervention, redirection, or training opportunities to correct the behavior.
Dog Nipping at

How to Address Your Dog’s Heel-Nipping Behavior: Do’s and Don’ts

So, now that we’ve discussed the potential signs of heel nipping, let’s discuss some do’s and don’ts on how to handle this behavior. The right approach can make all the difference!


  • Redirect the Behavior:

    If your dog starts to nip at your heels, try to redirect their attention to something more positive, like a toy or a treat. This helps your dog associate good behaviors with positive outcomes.

  • Use Positive Reinforcement:

    When your dog chooses not to nip, even in a situation where they usually would, be sure to reward them with praise, a treat, or a favorite toy. Over time, they’ll start to associate not nipping with these positive experiences.

  • Teach Commands:

    Basic obedience commands like “leave it” or “sit” can be incredibly helpful. Train your dog to understand and respond to these commands. So, when they start to nip, a firm “leave it” will signal them to stop


  • Avoid Physical Punishment:

    It’s important to remember that physical punishment is not only ineffective, but it can also damage the bond between you and your dog, or even lead to more behavioral issues. Always stick to positive, rewards-based methods.

  • Don’t Unintentionally Reinforce the Behavior

    If your dog nips at your heels to get your attention, and you respond by looking at them, talking to them, or touching them, you’re accidentally teaching them that nipping gets your attention. Try to ignore the behavior as much as possible, and only give them attention when they’re calm and not nipping.

Remember, changing a dog’s behavior takes time, consistency, and patience. It’s all about creating a positive environment where your dog can learn and thrive. There might be setbacks along the way, but don’t get disheartened. Keep at it, and over time you’ll start to see progress!
Dog Nipping at

Recommended Products for Managing Your Dog’s Heel-Nipping Behavior

PetSafe Gentle Leader
The PetSafe Gentle Leader Headcollar is a unique and innovative training tool that discourages dogs from pulling, lunging, and jumping. It offers a humane alternative to traditional collars and helps to curb unwanted behaviors such as nipping at heels. The design directs your dog’s attention towards you, enabling you to provide effective training and guidance.

Key Features

The headcollar fits around your dog’s snout, preventing him from straining against a leash or nipping at heels.
The adjustable neck strap and nose loop ensure a comfortable fit for dogs of all sizes.
It provides immediate, gentle control for your dog.
The PetSafe Gentle Leader is veterinarian approved and trainer recommended.
The collar is made of soft, durable nylon for long-lasting use.
It comes with a detailed instruction guide and training DVD.


It allows for effective training without causing any harm or discomfort to your dog.
The design of the collar redirects your dog’s attention toward you, making training more efficient.
The adjustable features ensure a comfortable fit for any dog.
It is approved and recommended by vets and trainers.


Some dogs might need time to get used to the headcollar.
It is not suitable for brachycephalic breeds (like bulldogs) due to their facial structure.
There may be some initial resistance from your dog.
Requires regular reinforcement and patience during the training process.
Halti Training Dog
The Halti Training Lead is a double-ended training leash designed to provide optimal control during walks and training sessions. The lead can be used in various lengths and configurations, making it versatile and adaptable to your dog’s training needs. It is ideal for heel training and helps discourage dogs

Key Features

The lead is double-ended, offering multiple length options and configurations for varied uses.
It is designed to work in conjunction with the Halti Headcollar or Halti Harness for optimum control.
The lead is made of soft, padded material for comfortable grip.
It features trigger hooks on both ends for easy attachment and detachment.
The lead is available in two widths to accommodate dogs of different sizes.
It is suitable for both training sessions and everyday walks.


The multi-functional design of the lead allows for varied uses and greater control.
It can be used with a headcollar or harness for enhanced training.
The soft, padded material ensures a comfortable grip for the handler.
The lead is available in different widths to suit dogs of all sizes.


Dogs might take time to get accustomed to the lead.
The length might be too long for some users or situations.
Not as effective when used without a headcollar or harness.
It may not be sturdy enough for very strong or large dogs.
The Company of Animals Clix
The Clix Multi-Clicker is a versatile dog training tool from The Company of Animals that uses sound to correct and control behavior. It features an adjustable volume/tone control, making it perfect for sound-sensitive dogs. This tool is great for training your dog not to nip and helping them understand correct behavior.

Key Features

It employs a sound-based mechanism that dogs understand and respond to.
The clicker features adjustable volume control to suit sound-sensitive dogs.
It comes with a training guide to help you use the clicker effectively.
The product is lightweight and portable, making it convenient for on-the-go training.
The design includes an elasticated wrist strap for secure handling
It can be used for various types of training, including heel-nipping control.


The clicker uses sound as a clear form of communication for training.
Adjustable volume control makes it suitable for all types of dogs.
The clicker comes with a training guide to help you start the training process.
The product is portable and convenient to use anywhere.


Some dogs may not respond to clicker training.
The clicker may be less effective without consistent use and reinforcement.
Sound sensitivity adjustments may not be significant enough for some dogs.
It might take time to see results, as it requires consistent training and patience.
Pet Training Clicker with Wrist
The Starmark Pro-Training Dog Collar provides gentle and effective control in a patented humane design. Due to its design, it helps correct leash pulling, lunging, and jumping while offering a high level of comfort for the dog. It’s an effective tool to train your dog against unwanted behaviors such as nipping at heels.

Key Features

The collar is designed to gently correct unwanted behaviors like leash pulling, lunging, and nipping.
It features a patented design that mimics the natural way dogs communicate with each other.
The links in the collar can be customized for a perfect fit.
The collar is made from durable plastic that is resistant to chewing and damage.
It offers quick release and easy on/off making it user-friendly.
The collar is suitable for professional trainers and everyday pet owners.


The design offers gentle correction for various behaviors.
The durable plastic links are chew-resistant, ensuring longevity.
The quick-release feature makes it easy to put on and remove.
It offers a humane way to train your dog and manage behaviors.


Some dogs may initially be uncomfortable with the collar.
The plastic links, although durable, may not withstand intense chewing.
Sizing and fitting the collar correctly may be a challenge for some.
It may not be effective for dogs with thick fur or necks.
PetSafe SprayShield Animal Deterrent
The PetSafe Spray Shield Animal Deterrent Spray is a powerful tool to deter aggressive or unwanted behavior in dogs. It emits a strong citronella spray that dogs find unpleasant, discouraging nipping, biting, and other unwanted behaviors. This is a humane and effective method to deter your dog from nipping at heels.

Key Features

The spray releases a strong citronella scent that dogs find unpleasant.
It’s designed to deter aggressive or unwanted behavior.
The spray is safe for dogs, humans, and the environment.
The canister has a safety lock to prevent accidental discharge.
The spray can reach up to 10 feet, protecting a safe distance.
It’s suitable for indoor and outdoor use.


The spray effectively deters aggressive or unwanted behaviors.
The citronella scent is safe for dogs and humans.
The spray can reach a considerable distance, providing safety.
The canister features a safety lock to prevent accidental discharges.


The scent may not be effective on all dogs.
The citronella smell may be unpleasant to some people.
Regular use might be required for ongoing effectiveness.
It may not be suitable for use in windy conditions as the spray can be carried away.
Herm Sprenger Ultra-Plus Prong Training
The Herm Sprenger Ultra-Plus Prong Training Collar is a professional-grade training tool that provides a control for large, strong dogs that might tend to pull or nip. When used correctly, it can be a safe and effective training tool.

Key Features

The collar features a patented center plate for even pressure.
It is made of high-quality, durable stainless steel.
The links can be added or removed for a custom fit.
It has a secure fastener plate for stability.
The collar’s prongs provide controlled, even pressure to discourage unwanted behaviors.
It is designed to be safe and effective when used correctly.


The patented center plate ensures even, controlled pressure.
The collar is made from durable stainless steel, making it long-lasting.
The ability to add or remove links provides a customized fit.
It’s effective for training large, strong dogs.


The collar requires proper use and understanding to be safe and effective.
Some dogs may find the collar uncomfortable.
It might not be effective for all dogs or behaviors.
Improper use can potentially harm the dog or exacerbate behavioral problems.
Outward Hound Fun Feeder Slo
While not a traditional training tool, the Outward Hound Fun Feeder Slow Feed Dog Bowl can aid in curbing nipping by encouraging slower eating and better digestion. The bowl’s maze-like design turns mealtime into a challenging game, which can help keep your dog occupied and less likely to engage in unwanted behaviors like nipping.

Key Features

The bowl features a unique design that slows down eating and prevents gulping.
It promotes better digestion and reduces the risk of bloating.
The feeder bowl is made from durable, food-safe materials.
It comes in multiple sizes and designs to accommodate various breeds and feeding needs.
The non-slip base prevents the bowl from sliding around during mealtime.
It’s dishwasher-safe for easy cleaning.


The bowl slows down eating, promoting better digestion and reducing nipping arising from hunger or boredom.
It’s made from durable, food-safe materials, making it safe and long-lasting.
The non-slip base prevents movement and spillage during mealtime.
It’s dishwasher-safe, making cleaning easy and convenient.


Some dogs might get frustrated with the slow feeding process.
It may not be suitable for dogs with short snouts.
The bowl needs to be filled regularly, which may not be convenient for all owners.
Some users have reported that the bowl’s paint can chip off over time.
Pet Corrector Spray for
Pet Corrector Spray is an easy-to-use tool that helps correct unwanted behaviors such as nipping, barking, and jumping. The spray emits a hiss of compressed air that captures your dog’s attention, thus interrupting the undesirable behavior. The spray can be used alongside verbal commands to reinforce positive behavior.

Key Features

It emits a hissing sound that dogs find unsettling, thus interrupting unwanted behavior.
The spray is safe for dogs and doesn’t cause any harm or discomfort.
The Pet Corrector Spray is easy to use – just aim and press the nozzle.
The spray comes in various sizes to suit different training needs.
It can be used alongside verbal commands to reinforce training.
It is highly portable and can be carried in a pocket or purse for on-the-go training.


The spray is an effective deterrent for unwanted behaviors such as nipping and barking.
It is portable and easy to use, making it ideal for on-the-go training.
The spray doesn’t cause any physical harm to your dog.
It can be used alongside verbal commands to reinforce training.


Overuse or incorrect use may cause fear or anxiety in some dogs.
The effect of the spray may lessen over time as dogs can become desensitized.
Some dogs may not respond to the hissing sound.
It doesn’t address the root cause of the behavior but only interrupts it.


While it can be frustrating when your dog starts nipping at your heels, remember, they’re not doing it to be a pain in the neck. With understanding, patience, and the right approach, you can nip this behaviour in the bud. After all, you and your furry friend have many more peaceful walks ahead of you!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is heel nipping exclusive to herding breeds?
While herding breeds like Border Collies or Australian Shepherds are more predisposed, any dog, irrespective of its breed, can exhibit this behavior due to playfulness, excitement, or other motivations.
Are certain situations more likely to trigger heel nipping?
Fast movements, such as running or cycling, can trigger a dog’s chase and herding instincts. Children, due to their unpredictable movements and high-pitched sounds, can also inadvertently provoke this behavior.
Is nipping always related to herding instincts?
Not always. While herding is a common cause, dogs might also nip out of excitement, playfulness, or even anxiety. It’s essential to understand the root cause to address it effectively.
What if my dog is aggressive when nipping?
If nipping is paired with aggressive body language or growling, it may indicate a behavioral issue beyond herding instincts. In such cases, consult a professional dog behaviorist.
How should I react if my dog nips strangers or guests?
Calmly remove your dog from the situation and give them a short timeout. It’s crucial to ensure your dog is well-exercised and mentally stimulated before introducing them to new people or exciting scenarios.
Can puppies be trained out of this behavior?
Yes, early intervention is beneficial. Consistent training, socialization, and positive reinforcement can help redirect and reduce nipping tendencies in puppies.
dogs for sale on

Dogs for Every Lifestyle

Whether you’re seeking an active companion or a cuddly couch buddy, we have dogs of all breeds and temperaments to fit your unique lifestyle.

Meet Your New Best Friend Today

More from PetMeetly

Share This

Share this post with your friends!