You walk in the door after a long day of work and your dog comes rushing over. You greet him with a hello and try to hang up your coat so you have a free hand again. He swarms around your feet so much so that in the only three feet to the coat rack, you nearly step on him four times. In the kitchen, you’re cooking up dinner and as you are basting the turkey, Fido is at your feet, barely letting you move an inch. No matter how far away from that turkey you get, he is on top of your feet. You begin to waddle and shuffle your feet to avoid stepping on him. You’re sitting on your couch and your dog brings his toy to your feet. When you pet him and say, “Not right now, buddy. It’s the season finale.” He just looks at you. He then picks up and places it back down again at your feet. He sits, wags his tail, and eagerly stares at you. Eventually, he sits down right next to your feet and starts gnawing his toy right on top of your tootsies. Why does your dog bother your feet so much?
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The Root of the Behavior
Dogs of all different breeds and sizes will bring toys to your feet, play at your feet, trip you up, or even nip at your ankles. All of these have slightly different meanings and are based on you and your dog’s relationship and his breed. A dog who brings toys to your feet could be sharing his gift with you who he has deemed the great pack leader. When dogs lived in packs, they shared their findings with the leader. Today, his toys are his findings and he offers his prized possession to you as a sign of respect. If you’ve praised him for this, he’s likely to repeat it. And if you’ve played with him after bringing this toy, he’s probably ecstatic. Dog breeds more likely to bring you’re their prey are the Labrador Retriever, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, American Water Spaniel, Golden Retriever, Standard Poodle, Irish Water Spaniel, and Curly Coated Retriever. These dogs were bred for hunting and they are accustomed to returning their prey to their leader.
Some dogs might get under your feet, but also may nip your ankles. Dogs who were bred with a specific purpose will often do this. Dog breeds like Corgis, Aussies, Border Collies, and Dachshunds are known to herd. When your four-legged friend is biting at your feet, he is herding you away from the turkey dinner so he can sneak a bite. He’s not playing, he’s working. Also, your dog might play at your feet because that’s where you are. As a rather vertical presence, your dog can only reach your face if he jumps, which you may have trained him not to do. When he brings a toy to your feet, circles your feet, or gets in your way, he might be trying to get your attention. In addition, your feet are also one of the stinkiest places on you and your dog loves your smell. He might appreciate the odor that your feet are emitting and want to be near it.
Encouraging the Behavior
Feeling like the king of the house and having a member bring you presents can make you feel good, even if they’re covered in dog slobber and dirt. If you notice your dog is bringing you toys to play with, you should play with him. It’s healthy for the both of you to play together. It gives him exercise, stimulation, and connects you two. Playtime is a great time. However, if your dog constantly brings you his toys to play with and you are just too busy either working, cooking, or talking to guests, you can reassure your dog he’ll get playtime later. He might be bored or lonely, so set up a schedule so your pup knows he has playtime every day and he can look forward to it.
A little dog who is trying to herd you might become bothersome. You’ll have to decide how much waddling and shuffling you can tolerate before you’re fed up with this behavior. With you as the alpha in the house, your dog should move on your command. If you’re struggling with nipping at certain times, like entering the home, cooking, or greeting guests, you can train your dog to behave appropriately. Teaching your dog to greet people calmly is important not only in your home, but for meeting strangers when you’re out on walks. Cooking and eating without interruption is necessary; hot pans with oil, boiling water, and food that is unsafe for dogs can prove dangerous with a dog nipping at your feet. You want to train your dog so he is not in the kitchen, or has a designated spot, like his bed, if he wants to be near the action.
Other Solutions and Considerations
You don’t want to trip over your friend, even if he is trying to have fun. It can be dangerous if you have a guest with a walking or balance problem or it can just get annoying. Take your dog to a trainer and explain what behaviors he is demonstrating and what you need to change. If your dog is a herding dog, the trainer might recommend herding games, like playing with large balls. If he is a retrieving dog, you might play fetch, but other mentally stimulating games as well. No matter how well you scrub your feet, your dog will still smell you. If he is playing at your feet because he wants to be close to you because you smell good to him, it’s perfectly safe, but if it bothers you, you need to find a solution. A trainer can assist you with how to redirect your dog’s show of affection without hurting his feelings.
Dogs love to play and if he is playing near your feet and it is bothersome, you should put a stop to it. Your dog might try to woo you with his presentations of gifts and even tell you that you look quite fetching, but ultimately you are the alpha in the house and should determine how your dog behaves.