In the dog world, Chihuahuas are known for one thing: They’re the kind of small dogs yet have huge personalities. That’s why your Chi catches you and bites your ankles from time to time.

So, what’s up with that behavior?

Continue reading to discover:

  • Nine reasons why Chihuahuas bite ankles.
  • Five tips to help you stop your Chi from ankle-biting.
  • Three natural causes that drive your Chi to bite your ankles.
  • How you could encourage your Chihuahua to show this behavior.
  • And many more…

Why do Chihuahuas bite ankles?

Chihuahuas bite ankles due to their small dog syndrome, which stems from encouragement. Sometimes the reason is fear, anxiety, boredom, or playfulness. Other times it happens due to a lack of exercise, entertainment, socialization, or stimulation. It could be from an innate drive or pain as well.

Nine reasons why Chihuahuas bite ankles

#1: Small dog syndrome? No, it’s encouragement.

Never underestimate a Chihuahua, a lot of people say.

It’s because Chis are seen as a force not to be reckoned with despite being small.

That’s where the so-called ‘small dog syndrome’ or SDS comes in.

“Is that something to be worried about?”

If by worried you mean to be alarmed by a medical condition, then no.

It’s because SDS is not actually a scientific term. It’s only coined due to these instances of small dogs being fierce.

SDS is like a little dog’s way of claiming its place in the world. They disregard their size and fiercely show their capabilities.

The Oakhurst Vet Hospital (OVH) gives us a list of behaviors associated with SDS:

  • Growling.
  • Noncompliance.
  • Begging for food.
  • Jumping on people.
  • Resistance to be put on a leash.
  • Claiming spaces in the furniture.
  • Pushing through the door to be the first one to go.
  • Aggression causes them to bite your ankles.

Those behaviors could be disrupting. That’s why it’s still a cause of concern.

The cause of small dog syndrome

There’s still a question about this phenomenon.

“Is it just the size talking, or are there other factors involved?”

To start, let me answer the first part of that question.

The OVH says that there is no genetic reason behind SDS. It’s not inherited or innate at all.

“So, what causes it then?”

It’s none other than encouragement, whether it’s intended or not. That’s the only factor involved in causing SDS.

How so?

Small dogs are extra cute because of their size.

That’s why sometimes, dog parents could overlook unwanted behaviors.

Sometimes, your puppy’s cuteness cancels out the annoying habits.

Maybe one time when your Chi bit your ankles, you found it amusing. There might’ve been a fiasco about how cute and entertaining it looks.

With that, your Chihuahua learns that such behaviors are encouraged.

#2: Fear and anxiety

Since they’re small, the only area they might be able to reach easily is your ankles.

And all your Chi aims to tell you through biting is that they’re feeling scared…

So, what is fear in dogs?

It’s the typical response to an actual or perceived threat or stimulus.

“What could they be scared of?”

The MSDVM gives us a list of common dog fears; they are:

  • Unfamiliar dogs.
  • New environments.
  • Loud and foreign noises.
  • Visual stimuli like mirrors and hats.
  • Surfaces such as wood floors or stairs.
  • Strangers or unusual people. By unique, I mean they have a scent or look your pup’s not accustomed to. One example is when they see toddlers.

If anything within that list is present, then it must be fear.

And that ankle-biting is equal to a child hiding behind their parents. Or a kid holding on to an adult’s arm because of the terror.

Now, how about if this feeling of fear manifests and occurs too many times?

Fear turns into anxiety.

Unpleasant experiences during fearful situations would create a lasting effect on your puppy.

If that happens, they could develop anxiety about the stimulus.

According to AKC, here are the signs of dog anxiety:

  • Pacing.
  • Drooling.
  • House-soiling.
  • Constant barking.
  • Destructive behaviors.
  • Restlessness and sleeping too much.
  • Development of repetitive behaviors or compulsiveness.
  • Aggression, drives your Chihuahua to bite your ankles.

It could be separation anxiety, too.

The MSDVM says that at least 14% of dogs experience separation anxiety.

Your Chi could be included in that statistic…

They might bite your ankles as you’re about to leave. 

It might be an attempt to drag you back into the house and not let you go.

It’s usually caused by hyper-attachment to their guardians.

Moreover, Chihuahuas are highly loyal to their dog parents. Such a fact justifies the point that Chis are prone to separation anxiety.

Signs of this condition include:

  • Always wanting to be picked up by you.
  • Following you everywhere around the house.
  • Shows over-excited behavior once you come home.
  • Extreme desire to be in the same room as you. One example is when you’re in the bathroom, and your Chi would dig at the bottom of the door.

#3: A show of playfulness and attention-seeking

Your Chihuahua Bites Your Ankles Because They Invite You To Play And Seek Your Attention

Your Chi’s intention might be to invite you to play with them this time.

If this is the case, the bite would be less painful. 

That’s because your Chi’s not carrying any tension in their mouth. With that, they don’t bite as aggressively as they would if they’re angry or scared.

Plus, a study tells us that dogs use play signals. These aim to communicate clear and playful intentions.

The study’s main result shows that one of those signals is played bowing. 

Moreover, according to the ASPCA, a dog’s posture can tell you if they’re playful or not.

How to know if your Chi’s body is relaxed or stiff. The former is a sign of playfulness, while the latter indicates aggression.

This situation also shows that they’re seeking your attention. Since it’s you who they want to play with.

Here are other signs of attention-seeking in dogs, according to experts:

  • Whining.
  • Pawing at you.
  • Rhythmic barking.
  • Bringing their toys to you.
  • Nudging their nose at you.
  • Stealing things from you to initiate a game of chase.

#4: Boredom

Imagine this:

It’s a lazy day today. You decided so because of the chill and rainy weather…

Your Chi, on the other hand, isn’t a fan of this situation…

The weather meddled with their daily walk, and their streak was lost.

Moreover, because you’re relaxing, there’s nothing else for them to do…

You’re not paying attention to them. Then, they’ve grown exhausted with the activity they’re doing by themself…

And so, later on, they settle with biting your ankles.

“Oww! What’s up with you?”

You asked them as it was all so random for you…

Was it?

The lazy day got your Chi bored. And do you know what they say about such?

According to AKC, it goes like this:

A bored dog will create their entertainment.

Here are other signs of boredom in your canine:

  • Digging.
  • Barking excessively.
  • Looking lazy or restless.
  • Going through the trash.
  • Constantly mugging you for attention.
  • Chewing on furniture, chews, and sheets.

Lastly, research claims that boredom is a welfare concern for animals. That’s because it introduces problems like:

  • Producing unwanted behaviors.
  • Risking your dog’s physical well-being.
  • Contributing negatively to your dog’s social life.
  • Creating detrimental effects on their mental health.

I will discuss the causes of this occurrence in detail in the article…

#5: They’re still a puppy

Puppyhood is a beautiful stage for dogs.

This period in their lives is the time to learn and navigate…

That’s why your Chihuahua, who’s still a puppy, would sometimes be drawn to bite your ankles.

But what’s the exact reason behind it?

Exploring

A puppy first explores their surroundings using their mouth…

That’s why you’d see that puppies chew and nibble everything that they can reach…

They’re like:

“Hmm, what is this? … I must eat to know…”

Once it goes in their mouth, they discover what it is…

Note: This is the reason why you should always supervise your puppy.

Teething

You know how it feels to lose some teeth. Little kids, for example, get excited as they anticipate the coming of the Tooth Fairy…

Your pup may not know of such magic, but they lose their teeth in puppyhood.

The process is called teething. And here’s a table to better understand the timeline for this event:

Puppy ageWhat happens with their teeth
3 weeksThe teething process begins.
12 weeksTheir milk teeth would start to fall.
6 monthsAll milk teeth have fallen and been replaced by permanent teeth.

This is another reason for your young Chi’s chewing and nibbling habits.

According to VCA Hospital, such is normal puppy behavior. 

Your young Chi would be compelled to bite on your ankles.

Moreover, nipping and chewing might also aid the discomfort. It’s because there’s pain associated with teething.

After your puppy completes this process, it’d finally grow a permanent set of adult teeth. 

#6: It’s all a game for them

Biting your ankles might be your Chi’s favorite activity…

Or, you’re their favorite chew toy…

Regardless of which, what caused such thinking in your Chihuahua?

It’s the same reason why they develop their small dog syndrome.

It’s because of encouragement.

Remember that short scenario in reason #1? I said that you might have found it amusing when your Chi bit your ankles one time…

That reaction creates this motivation for your Chihuahua.

Moreover, if you’re ticklish in your ankles and react to the bite in a funny way…

Oops…

Your Chi thinks it’s all fun and games because it makes you giggle.

What if you wave your feet around or run away from their bite?

Such are still counted as encouragement for your puppy.

It’s because doing those could only intensify your pup’s excitement…

Then, running away from them is a game of chase.

So, your Chihuahua thinks that you get entertained every time they bite your ankles.

In return, they get delighted and continue it as much as they can…

#7: It’s innate

It's A Chihuahua Thing

There are many innate reasons why dogs do a lot of things…

And who knew that the behavior of biting your ankles is written in your Chi’s biology?

Resource guarding

Let’s play a scenario:

Your Chi is chewing their favorite toy on the living room carpet.

You decide to be in the same room as them. However, you don’t intend to bother them for a while…

And so, you make your way onto the sofa and pass by your Chi…

But, as you do, your puppy suddenly bites your ankle.

“What did I do to you?” It must be an initial reaction from you.

You walking past their toy is the trigger for such behavior.

You might not have any intentions of disrupting them. Despite that, your Chi still feels compelled to be protective.

The innate behavior to blame for this is resource guarding.

Dogs are naturally drawn to protect their food and belongings.

It comes from living in the competitive wild. If they let their guards down, they won’t have anything to eat or have trouble surviving.

Maternal aggression

If your Chi recently gave birth to a litter, that also explains the behavior.

A dam, or a mother dog, is naturally protective of her puppies.

Not only that, but your Chihuahua also experiences many changes in her body. It’s because she constantly receives a rush of different hormones when nursing.

Territorial tendency

Your Chi is urged to bite your ankles if you step foot on their favorite spot.

That’s because dogs are naturally territorial.

This is most common if the approaching creature is a stranger or an unfamiliar canine.

#8: Lack of stimulation and socialization

Remember what I said under reason #4? Boredom could cause your Chi to bite your ankles…

However, I didn’t mention the causes of boredom yet. That’s because its causes could also be isolated reasons for this biting behavior.

Without further ado, here are the three reasons that could cause boredom and this behavior:

Lack of physical exercise

Physical activity uses your Chi’s energy.

Chihuahuas need to be exercised. That’s because they’re dogs with high energy…

If that stamina isn’t drained, you’d have to deal with an overly-energetic pooch.

With that, your Chi wouldn’t know where to put their extra energy.

Biting your ankles isn’t the only thing your puppy will result in doing.

You’d also see other signs of lack of exercise. According to PetMD, those are:

  • Barking.
  • Whining.
  • Weight gain.
  • Hyperactivity.
  • Sudden withdrawal.
  • Destructive behavior.
  • Lack of interest in activities.

Insufficient mental stimulation

Physical exercise is only half of the equation. Your dog needs mental exercise, too.

Frequent lack of such causes your dog to get bored. Moreover, it could result in behaviors like biting your ankles.

Dogs could get mental exercise from learning new tricks.

They could also get it during active play with you.

Inadequate socialization

Dogs could learn from everyday interactions, too. That’s why regular socialization is essential for their well-being.

If they don’t get much, it could be detrimental for them.

PetMD says there are dangers in not socializing with your dog. They are:

  • Disliking adventures.
  • Becoming more fearful.
  • Developing sound sensitivity.
  • Reacting to almost everything.
  • Becoming nervous around new people and canines.

#9: They’re in pain

Sometimes your Chihuahua doesn’t intend to become aggressive…

However, they feel something inside that drives them to act that way.

Exactly where in their body could aggression manifest?

For this, let’s talk about your pup’s endocrine system. A typical medical issue that’s associated with aggression takes place there.

The condition is hypothyroidism. The MSDVM describes it as:

The situation where thyroid hormone is deficient. That hormone is assigned to many things in your dog’s body. Those are:

  • Regulating heartbeat.
  • Managing metabolic rate.
  • Controlling muscle and digestive functions.

Without those, your canine’s bodily functions are disrupted. Then, having this condition urges your puppy to become aggressive…

Thus the frequent biting of your ankles.


Five tips on how to stop your Chihuahua from biting ankles


#1: Distract and encourage the opposite

Dogs are naturally easy to distract.

How so?

It’s because they have an innate predator drive. That urge gives them the ability to hyperfocus on objects.

Moreover, they’re quickly interested in new scents, food, and people…

They’re also easy to distract with toys!

So, drop a chew toy near your feet when your Chi goes for a bite on your ankles. You could use a treat for this trick, too.

Try anything that’ll send your dog’s focus away from your ankles.

You could also keep them distracted from you by discouraging contact play.

“What’s that?”

Contact-play is any interaction where you’ll come close and touch your dog.

So, skip the wrestling and rough play with your hands. Instead, here are games that you could play with your dog:

  • Fetch.
  • Tug-of-war.
  • Hide-and-seek.

Here’s a recommendation for a fantastic chew toy and equipment for your next tug-of-war game with your dog.

#2: Think about spaying or neutering

Based on research, castrating could decrease aggression.

Here are the results from that investigation:

Gender of the dogDogs that become gentle and less aggressive
Male dog61%
Female dog53%

With that, if your Chi becomes less aggressive, this behavior decreases.

Plus, castration helps with behavioral problems, too.

Gender of the dogDogs with reduced behavioral problems
Male dog74%
Female dog59%

Those aren’t the only benefits of the procedures.

Experts say that it could also help with the following:

  • It costs less than caring for a litter.
  • Lesser occurrences of escaping and roaming.
  • Decreases mounting and humping behaviors.
  • Your female pooch won’t go into heat anymore.
  • Prevents UTIs and breast tumors in female dogs.
  • Hindering testicular and prostate cancer in male canines.

#3: Seek the help of professionals

Some reasons for this behavior are of serious concern.

That’s why a professional’s opinion would be precious.

Set an appointment with the vet

You might need to get your Chi checked by the vet.

As I previously mentioned, a medical issue could be behind the behavior.

The vet would thoroughly assess your Chi to rule out any issues.

The vet would handle any concerning medical matters to be found. After that, the doctor would suggest the best treatment for your puppy.

If no related medical issue is discovered, the vet might suggest a behaviorist.

Consult an animal behaviorist

Seeking help from a licensed behaviorist would highly improve your dog’s obedience.

Moreover, the professional would create a specific plan. That system is for your pooch’s particular needs.

#4: Improve their mental and physical stimulation

Establish a regular playtime and exercise for your puppy.

Dogs are consistent beings. You could take advantage of that fact and build a schedule for your Chi’s needs.

Walk them regularly and play with them at a scheduled time during the day.

Moreover, provide them with exciting toys at home.

You could try giving your Chihuahua this beginner toy puzzle for a start. It’s an interactive toy that hides treats and keeps your pup’s mind sharp.

Note: Practicing this tip could also make your Chihuahua extremely happy.

#5: Work with their socialization skills

You must socialize your Chi. not only with fellow canines but with other people.

Note: In this tip, remain patient with your Chi. Friendships can’t form overnight.

Give your puppy some time to get used to the new beings.

So, when introducing your Chi to other individuals, follow their pace.

If they advance by approaching the new friend, then it’s a go-for friendship.

If your Chi shows hesitation and distress, try again next time.

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