Ask the Scottie News: What do I do about a foot/toe/ankle-biting Scottish Terrier?

Kevin writes:

I’m hoping I can get some advice from you and your readers. We’ve recently added nine-week-old Malcolm (left) to our family. He’s the second Scottie we’ve owned and I can tell you he’s quite a pistol.

We’re having a bit of a problem with his rough play, though. He LOVES biting fingers and toes. So much so, in fact, it’s becoming a hazard since he almost tripped my wife going for her foot while she was walking.

I would really appreciate any advice on dealing with biting puppies. I know chewing and nipping is natural, but feel we’ve got to make sure he knows we don’t like this behavior.

Thanks for any help.

Dear Kevin,

I so feel your pain. Those baby Scottie teeth are very sharp.

Our dog Bridget was also a terrible foot biter. My ankles were covered in cuts and scratches when she was a pup. We couldn’t walk anywhere in the house without getting attacked. We even resorted to hideous Crocs shoes for foot protection.

In the end, we stopped the biting with my secret weapon, the spray bottle. If you follow the link, you’ll also find that the comments include other methods for putting an end to biting.

As for Bridget, she never completely outgrew her ankle biting, but it is now just an occasional nuisance as opposed to a vicious force to contend with on every much-needed trip to the bathroom. Let’s just say that what’s happening in the video below would never take place at our house where the policing would be far more interventionist than a few barks.

20 thoughts on “Ask the Scottie News: What do I do about a foot/toe/ankle-biting Scottish Terrier?

  1. I feel your pain, those razor sharp puppy teeth are no fun. When our Piper was in that phase, I would grab her by the scruff and give her a shake while saying, "No!!!" in a firm voice. This isn't cruel, the mother dog does the same when she corrects her pups.

    At the age of three she will still occasionally growl and bite at my shoelaces when she is feeling full of beans, but a firm NO! stops that.

  2. Ken, you're a true Texan.

    Rick, I'm with you and hope you don't get excoriated.

    You may even have inspired a post on the rolled-up newspaper.

  3. My Lilly was a champion ankle biter who ruined a pair of Uggs the year I got her, but at about 5 months old she went on to pursue other things. Occasionally she will still have a moment of madness where she grabs and ankle, but she quickly lets go as soon as she hears me yelp. Good Luck.

  4. At nine weeks old Gracie was an ankle biter too. A loud, firm NO ! and smacking a rolled up newspaper against my own hand would make her stop. I also discovered that when she started the ankle biting or other crazy behavior, she was OVERTIRED. So, we learned to pick her up and hold her in our arms, rock her gently. and then put her into her crate for a nap. Just like young child, the more tired a puppy gets the rowdier she becomes. Also, we learned to play gently with her so as not to get her all fired up.

  5. I have two female scotties thistle (13) and Milla (4) of course I know that those razor sharp puppy teeth are no fun…I use saying with in a firm voice "NO" and I agree with use spray water for bite or bark or behavoir whatever without smack or grab their neck. It's work.

  6. Oh Rocky Creek, Bridget ripped up my then 12-year-old daughter's beloved Uggs with her foot-biting. It was a fashion tragedy.

    On the bright side, she has never ever chewed up shoes when not being worn or anything else in years.

  7. I have always been leery of the spray bottle unless something horrific happens and even then, i try to consider the circumstances…still its a very effective remedy. I have been working with my Grrrrl by consistently telling her "Gentle," or "Gentle with Momma." I would abruptly stop the rough play, look directly at her and tell her. Its right now a rarity that she bite her Momma's tootsies. When i say "Gentle" she will ease up and beg for kisses.

  8. Ohh ya. I have been around many a puppy that decided that biting was the way to go. With both of our Scotties though we took the "Yelping Method." We would start with fingers so that they could see the response better. You start playing with the pup using your hands and the minute you see feel a bite say Ouch or whine really loud and pull your hand away. Don't play for a few seconds, then go back to playing and repeat. This was really bad with our oldest Scottie who was the only survivor out of her litter. She was also segregated from her momma because of other health issues. So no other dog was there to tell her when she had crossed the line.

    The problem with doing this while they are ankle biting though is that when you start walking immediately after yelling, they still think you are playing. We haven't had too many issues with ankle biting just because they would tend to do this on stairs, which leads to them getting a slight kick in the face just from us walking if they aren't careful.

    Many dogs are different though so if yelping doesn't work after a day or so, I would definitely try different approaches.

  9. I guess we have been lucky so far but we would be careful not to encourage chasing feet. With our most recent pup we mainly had hand issues. I also did the "No!" mother dog thing at first with Ceilidh but not sure how successful that was. Sounds silly but if she licked my hand I would say "kissy, kissy" and if she bit I would say No, take my hands away, bring them back and command "kissy kissy" instead (and maybe at first accompanied by a little treat) until she stopped trying to bite them. If she still tried after 2-3 times of that, would stop playing with her. She seemed to get the picture that we don't bite hands, just kiss them. If she had an "accident" and actually bit, would yelp and say No, and the game would stop. Also found that she was too wild and had to avoid any tugging games until she was older and had more "manners"…it DOES eventually happen! My inlaws' male Scottie had a rep of "untying shoelaces" of visitors but that was the extent of it and they didn't do training of any kind. Love the vid of Angus btw, but that is clearly more of a game to him. 🙂

  10. Thanks for the advice about the spray bottle. May need to try that with my sister, 7 mo old Ainsley. Unlike me, she has taken a real liking to the taste of ankle.

  11. Thanks to all who responded. Great advice! We're trying to find the right combination which will work with Malcolm.

    I've never seen such a fearless and dominant personality in a pup. We tried the spray bottle and he loved it. Thought he was taking a shower… tried the scruff of the neck technique and that really seemed to make him mad. In fact, he would come at me after I did that.

    The only thing that seems to be working (somewhat) is to stop playing with him immediately when he starts biting hands or feet. It really seems to bother him when we ignore him. We'll see how it goes.

    Thanks again!

    1. We too tried the spray bottle – it didn’t work. I have been reading the other comments and we have been doing most of them but he keeps going. He is constantly biting my ankles and toes while I am in the kitchen preparing a meal – I know that sometimes it is because he needs to go out but when he does it right after going outside then I am at a loss. He is also starting to snap at us. That is the worst!!

  12. I’m not sure where to post my question, but this looks like a promising spot. I have two young scotties, half siblings. My male brindle, Echo, is now 15 months old. Chloe, my wheaten female, is 9 months. They spar at least once a day, and sometimes 2-3-4 times a day. My husband thinks they do it because they’re jealous and want most of my attention for themselves. I am diligent about being fair to both of them (kisses, treats, holding, petting). I know scotties have that prickly part of their personality as well as need to be ferocious. But, should I be concerned about this? Try to stop it? I do shout and try to break them up when they’re really going at it. They each tease each other, steal toys, and know how to start a session by grabbing the other dog’s collar. They’ve been able to nick each other under the eye a couple times. I know the female should/will dominate, and she is ferocious, but Echo is not wanting to give up his dominance either. He initially backed down from her, but now knows that he is taller and has long legs and can reach out and put her down by the neck. She immediately squirms loose and goes at it again. The only time Echo truly leaves her alone is when she hovers over something (rawhide or frog) and growls low and seriously. They also have many hours of running outside together, looking out the windows together, chasing critters, watching hummingbirds, walking together. So, they are not always hostiles. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  13. For play biting and rough play, when they bite you, yip like another dog would yip, or yell Owww like a dog would. Do it loud! It takes awhile, but in the end it’s worth it because your puppy learns that you feel pain too and he needs to be more gentle or you will certainly yip. It sounds kooky but this worked for both Scotties that I raised from puppies. Sometimes you have to be very loud and direct it at them.

  14. I adopted a Scottish Terrior mix from the local animal shelter. Shadow is the name I gave him due to his black coat, white vest and a slight gray hue/stripe on the top of his head, and he is very hard to see at night or within the shadows. Our Vet and myself concur that he is more than 80% Scottie, the another percentage of another type of terrior due to the fact that Shadow possesses Terrior traits. He is quite fond if not fanantical about feet play. He is not aggressive and is not destrucive of our shoes nor our feet. Shadow does have very sharp teeth for he is 1yr 5mos. old and still has his puppy traits. Shadow does not bite hard when we are playng, he seems to know his limitations of our skin texture, he has been this way since we brought him home when he was just 10 mos. old.
    I talked with a professional trainer that mainly trains recue dogs and has extensive knowledge of Scottie. The breed has been bred and possesses a natural instinct to hunt small rodents. This breed must have a job or duty to preform, or lots of attention in orde to be trained. As far as the feet situation goes, get used to it, they cannot be broken of this trait for feet move such as rodents and are a practice field as well as a game to th Scottie.

  15. Hi, we have a 12 week old black Scottish terrier. She likes to bite people’s ankles, hands, wrists, legs, arms, knees, toes, fingers and feet and no matter what we do she does not stop biting. None of us can walk anywhere without her biting us and we end up with scratches and bite marks and sometimes they draw blood. I have a scratch on my hand that started bleeding and it wasn’t that deep but it was really painful. What do you suggest we do to stop our dog from biting?

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