Why is my dog biting his leg

Sara Farell
Sara Farell

There are a few potential reasons why your dog might be biting his leg. One possibility is that he is trying to get a bone out of his mouth. If your dog is constantly biting his leg, it might be a sign that he is not getting enough exercise. If your dog is biting his leg excessively, it might be a sign that he is feeling anxious or stressed. If your dog is biting his leg excessively, it might also be a sign that he is having some type of seizure. If you notice any of these signs and your dog is biting his leg excessively, it is important to take him to a veterinarian to rule out any underlying issues.

In fact, of all the canine-behavior issues I see, owner-directed aggression can be the most emotionally taxing for pet owners. 

But don’t worry: There are some things you can do to help your dog's sudden aggression. 

Below, we'll explain everything you need to know, including not only some of the reasons this can happen, but also what you should do about it. 

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Being Aggressive or Just Grumpy?

To distinguish between grumpiness and aggression, we must first define aggression.

Aggression is defined as a threat or harmful behavior directed at another person (whether a dog, a human, or another pet). 

Some common threats and harmful behaviors that dogs may exhibit include::

  • Hard stares
  • Growling
  • Barking
  • Snarling
  • Lunging
  • Snapping
  • Biting

Dogs, on the other hand, can easily feel overwhelmed, tired, lonely, or unwell — they can simply feel grumpy, for lack of a better term.

Grumpiness is simply another word for being less tolerant than usual. Any dog who is harassed or pushed beyond his tolerance level may exhibit aggressive behavior.

Grumpiness should not be dismissed, and these signals should be heeded. A grumpy reaction could indicate that there is something more going on, possibly even medically.

In such cases, dogs may exhibit behaviors such as:

  • Warning growl
  • Removing themselves
  • Warning nip or air snap
  • Yelp or bark

In most cases, "grumpiness" does not result in bites unless you continue to provoke your dog. However, the more they are provoked, the more likely it is that they will bite in the future.

Why is my dog biting his leg

Addressing Your Dog’s Sudden Aggression: What Should You Do?

You must always heed your dog's warnings, whether he is growling at you because he is aggressive or simply telling you off.

Your dog has every right to refuse cuddling, having his hair brushed, or sharing his food.

Finally, we must determine the source of his aggressive behavior. What kind of dog aggression is he displaying, and how can we help him?

To determine the underlying cause of his aggressive behavior, owners frequently require professional assistance from a qualified behavior consultant, positive trainer, or veterinary behaviorist. 

In fact, aggression is one of the most common reasons people seek professional assistance. 

Unfortunately, the dog training industry is unregulated, and not all trainers are equal in terms of qualification or education.

So do your research and select a reputable dog trainer or behavior consultant who has a strong evidence-based ethos and is certified by an organization with a positive-based code of ethics. Also, don't be afraid to ask questions.

It is especially important to seek professional advice if your dog has bitten you or someone else, especially if the bite was severe enough to necessitate medical treatment. 

Regardless of whether you try to treat your dog's sudden aggression issues with professional help (recommended) or on your own (not a good idea), the basic strategy will be the same. 

All dog behavior problems are addressed by addressing one or more of three related components.:

  • excluding medical conditions or evaluating medical interventions.
  • Training (behavior modification).
  • Implementing management solutions.

We'll go over each of these three aspects in more detail below.

1. Medical Solutions 

If your dog's aggression appears unusual and out of character, you should consult with your veterinarian. 

Your veterinarian can perform a thorough examination to rule out any underlying medical issues. Many people overlook this step, but pain or feeling ill is a common cause of the sudden onset of aggressive behavior.

Even if there are no medical issues causing the sudden aggression, behavioral medications (available through your veterinarian) may be an option for treatment. 

However, as a word of caution, behavioral medications should only be used in conjunction with behavior training. Otherwise, we are only treating the symptoms rather than addressing the root cause of the aggression. 

However, alleviating the symptoms may be beneficial to the training process because it will allow him to feel more relaxed and less anxious, allowing him to learn new coping strategies.  

My dog, for example, is on canine anxiety medication because she has "stranger danger" issues (in addition to generalized anxiety). 

We've made tremendous progress by implementing behavioral changes to address her underlying issues. This two-pronged approach of behavior medication and behavioral training can help you socialize an aggressive dog more safely.

As a result, we'll soon be able to wean her off of these meds, knowing that we've helped her develop better coping strategies and more positive associations with her triggers.

2. Training Solutions 

Once you've determined that your dog is in good health (or that any health issues causing the aggression have been addressed), you can begin using aggressive dog training procedures to help your dog overcome his aggressive reactions. 

We must address the emotional underpinnings of the aggressive reaction because it is an emotional response. This usually entails one or more of the techniques listed below.:


Desensitization entails gradually, consistently, and repeatedly exposing your dog to his trigger at a safe distance or intensity. This is frequently done in "baby steps" until the end goal is reached. 

If, for example, walking near your dog's food bowl triggers him, you can try sitting or standing far enough away from him that he doesn't respond at all. Then, gradually, you can get closer to his bowl during meal times. 

I never recommend "poking the bear," or in this case, sticking your hand in his bowl while he is eating. However, you may be able to walk by your dog while he is eating for days, weeks, or months without eliciting a reaction.


This is a broad term that essentially means altering your dog's underlying emotional response. Instead of thinking a given stimulus is bad or scary, your dog will learn that it is harmless and thus not scary. 

For instance, if sitting close to your dog causes anxiety and aggression, try tossing treats to him every time you sit on the couch with him. Start far enough away that he doesn't react negatively — this could even mean starting on the floor. 

The goal is for your dog to associate sitting next to her with her favorite things (such as cheese, peanut butter, or delicious sausage!). As your proximity begins to foretell good things, the associations she forms with you sitting near her will change over time.

Teaching Him Alternative Behaviors

Sometimes we need to give our dogs a different way to cope. 

If your dog reacts aggressively when you get up to walk to the kitchen, you can teach him that standing up means "go to your bed" (and get a piece of meat in exchange). 

Teaching him to do something instead of reacting aggressively will provide him with clear direction, a predictable outcome, and the assurance that he is about to partake in something tasty and positive.  

Relaxation Protocol

One of the first things I teach new clients is how to calm anxious dogs. This will assist the pup in coping with his overall environment and in settling down. Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol is one tool that can assist with this, but there are others.

Why is my dog biting his leg

When you think about it, all of these training solutions complement one another. 

We can both counter condition and desensitize a dog when we counter condition him. Similarly, when we request a different behavior, we are desensitizing him, and the reward he receives for the new behavior is an example of counterconditioning.

3. Management Solutions

Management is critical to assisting your dog in overcoming his difficulties.  

Management aids in the prevention of aggressive reactions, and in some cases, it may be all that is required to address the situation. 

For example, if your dog is aggressive when his food bowl is down, try feeding him in a separate area and picking up and putting away the bowl once he is finished eating.

Management tools can also help you stay safe. 

If your dog is triggered by scary situations while out on a walk and redirects his aggression onto you, you could condition him to wear a muzzle (another example of a management solution).  

If your dog is triggered by strangers or other dogs, this may not only be a good solution to keep everyone safe, but it may also cause strangers to avoid you, causing your dog less anxiety.

What Not to Do in the Event of Sudden Dog Aggression

A common misunderstanding about aggression is that our dogs are attempting to dominate us. This then leads to people attempting to gain an advantage through the use of force, intimidation, and punishment. 

But here’s the thing:

  1. Your dog is not attempting to assert dominance. Your dog is not attempting to advance in rank by displaying aggressive behavior. Consider aggression to be a defense mechanism, an emotional reaction to something frightening or anxiety-inducing. 
  2. If you punish your dog for growling or acting aggressively, you risk exacerbating the aggression. Punishment frequently causes stress and anxiety, which increases the likelihood of aggression. 
  3. If you punish your dog for growling, the next time they may bite without warning. Growling, once again, is a warning, which is a good thing. 

Finally, if your dog is acting aggressively, you should avoid punishment or correction. Instead, try some of the previously discussed strategies. 

Why is my dog biting his leg

What Makes a Dog Aggressive Towards His Owner?

Every action is motivated by something. Fear or anxiety can cause aggression in many cases, whether we realize it or not. 

Fear and anxiety are the most common reasons I am called for aggression-related cases, and many of these dogs have acted aggressively at least once in their lives.

When a dog is anxious or fearful, their parasympathetic nervous system (which operates involuntarily) often kicks in, dumping hormones into the poodle's bloodstream. This surge of hormones sets off the dog's fight or flight response. 

Furthermore, in our society, dogs are subjected to numerous restrictions; leashes, barriers, and the threat of repercussions can all increase anxiety and trigger an aggressive response because he has no option but to flee.

Fear and aggression are not the only reasons for a dog to act aggressively toward you, but they are among the most common. 

Some of the other common reasons for a dog to attack his owner include: 

Resource Guarding (AKA possession aggression)

The root cause of resource guarding is also anxiety — he is concerned about people coming into contact with his valuable possessions. Food, toys, beds, and even people can be considered valuable possessions. 

Sometimes resource guarding causes aggression.  


There are numerous reasons why your dog may act aggressively as a result of pain or illness. It is a good idea to consult your veterinarian and have a full wellness exam performed, especially if the aggression is new or a sudden change in their normal behavior. 

Redirected Aggression

This is frequently an aggressive reaction that is directed at the nearest person or animal. For example, if you try to break up a fight between two dogs, the aggression will almost certainly be directed at you. 

Similarly, if your dog is lunging and barking at the end of his leash at a bystander, he may turn and direct his rage at you.


In the dog-training world, we have a saying:: “Never punish the growl”. 

To begin with, punishing a dog for reacting aggressively is analogous to punishing someone who has just been mugged for acting upset. Second, punishing the growl may mean that instead of warning you the next time, he will just go straight to the bite.

Third, punishment and aversive training tools, such as shock collars, have been shown to increase aggression in dogs. 

Trigger Stacking 

What is trigger stacking? It is the cumulative effect of multiple triggers.  

Imagine this: You're watching the new IT sequel. There is a loud banging sound and the creak of a door down the hall. Because you were already scared, the noise and squeaky door most likely caused you to jump higher and your heart to beat faster. 

Similarly, your dog may be able to handle one or two of his triggers calmly, but when the third one occurs, he loses his ability to remain calm.

Canine Cognitive Dysfunction (doggie dementia) causes dogs to become suddenly aggressive. Some senior dogs with dog sundowners syndrome may become more irritable in the evening. Aggression, like in humans, is a common symptom of CCD and is caused in part by their confusion and memory loss.

Physical Disability 

Dogs with hearing or vision problems may react defensively if startled. If your dog is getting older and his senses begin to deteriorate, it may appear that this happens overnight. 

Consider consulting a veterinarian or conducting some at-home tests to determine whether your dog is blind or deaf.

Rage Syndrome

Despite the fact that this term was coined in the 1970s, Rage Syndrome is now classified as idiopathic aggression (idiopathic simply means that the cause is unknown). 

This usually appears between the ages of 1-3 years and is more common in certain breeds, implying a genetic component. 

The most vulnerable breeds appear to be Cocker and Springer Spaniels, Dobermans, German Shepherds, and Lhasa Apsos. Nonetheless, "Rage Syndrome" or idiopathic aggression is uncommon.

A behavior consultant or veterinary behaviorist can assist you in determining the root cause of the problem. 

Why is my dog biting his leg

Whatever the cause, keep in mind that aggression is a byproduct of an emotional response, not a conscious choice.

What are some of the most common things that cause people to become aggressive?

Aggression rarely just happens. Something in your dog's environment or something he feels triggers the fight or flight response. 

Triggers can vary greatly depending on your dog and his specific situation.

Some of the more common triggers I see are as follows::

  • Being touched, moved, or lifted.
  • The darkness can amplify movement or sound-related triggers.
  • Getting up from the couch or moving around the house. This could be a specific person or anyone who moves.
  • Getting closer.
  • When on leash, approaching strangers or other dogs.
  • Having someone visit the house.

There are numerous scenarios and triggers, and each one may have a unique root cause.  

Juno, my dog, is "people selective.". This means she has preferences for certain people and dislikes others. 

People she dislikes either appear unusual to her, do something unusual, or attempt to approach her. 

Her reaction stems from general anxiety and fear of unusual or novel stimuli. I can better control her environment because I am aware of her specific triggers, and we can work on positive and controlled socialization.

I recommend creating a list of all of your dog's triggers. I also require that people keep a journal. We don't always know what the trigger is (or all of them) until we begin logging the events as they occur. However, by journaling, you may begin to notice a pattern emerge. 

Canine Aggression Is Frequently Surprising

One of the issues with sudden canine aggression is that it occurs, well, suddenly. After all, if your dog is normally irritable, you would not consider sudden displays of aggression to be unusual. 

These dogs who exhibit sudden aggression are frequently happy and easygoing. They are usually friendly dogs, not the Cujo-type canines we might expect.

But that doesn't mean these dogs aren't leaking information, because many of them are indicating a problem. Indeed, one common misconception about sudden aggressive behavior is that it occurs "out of nowhere.".” 

However, our dogs give us plenty of warnings. These warnings, however, may be subtle and frequently go unnoticed or unheeded.

Some of these signs will be discussed further below.

What Are Some Signs That Your Dog Might Turn Aggressive?

Dogs communicate with their bodies. We simply do not learn their language very often. 

We bring our own human biases to the table and frequently misinterpret our dogs' body signals, assuming they are synonymous with human behavior, which could mean we are missing out on what they are actually saying. 

The video below depicts a number of early warning signs. 

Aggression is like a ladder. Avoidance behaviors, calming signals, and subtle signs of stress such as yawning and lip licking are at the bottom of the ladder. 

As we progress up the ladder, the warning signs become more obvious, such as stiffening of the body, freezing, or a hard stare. It may be too late once we reach the top rungs of the ladder. We see lunging, snapping, growling, and/or biting here.

The more you learn about dog body language, the easier it will be to manage your dog's aggression by identifying early warning signs. You can prevent a problem from occurring.

Why is my dog hostile to my husband but not to me?

There are several reasons why your dog may be more aggressive toward one family member than another. 

It's possible that your dog feels safer with you, that you're more predictable, or that you're not doing anything to elicit the aggression. Other family members may be unknowingly inducing an aggressive response, causing them to become a trigger themselves.

Your dog may also be protecting your resources. When other people are near his prized human, he may become anxious.

When my husband came to bed, my former dog, Stewie, used to growl. This was due to my husband's inability to read Stewie's body language as well as mine, and he frequently provoked him by getting too close. 

By paying close attention to Stewie's signals, I was able to avoid this type of reaction. He learned over time that my behavior was predictable safe (I never solicited his cuddles) and my husband's behavior was predictable unsafe (he would try to force him to cuddle). 

Stewie's growl and avoidance were all that happened, and eventually he would just get up and leave the room when my husband went to bed. However, it could have easily gone in a different, more aggressive direction.

How Can You Keep Your Dog From Becoming Aggressive Toward You?

Take the time to learn what is normal and abnormal for your specific dog. Our main goal is to avoid getting bitten in the first place. These bites often appear without warning or when we least expect them, but there are some things you can do to avoid getting bitten.:

  • Be considerate. When it comes to our pets, we frequently forget about the concept of consent and autonomy and put them in situations that they perceive as unfavorable.
  • Have your dog examined by a veterinarian once a year. As he gets older, you should take him to the vet every six months for routine blood work. 
  • Take note of any subtle changes in his behavior or daily routine. Try to pinpoint what happened just before this change in behavior.
  • Maintain your dog's mental stimulation. This includes giving him a lot of enrichment, such as walking games and puzzle toys, allowing him to sniff a lot during walks, and playing other types of brain games.
  • Avoid punishment. If your dog regards you as frightening, they will not seek you out for comfort when they are worried or anxious, which can be harmful to your bond.
  • Be consistent. A consistent routine is important if your dog is anxious. When you act predictably, your anxious pouch may feel more at ease.


Aggression is an emotional reaction with complex underpinnings, not a conscious decision. Everyone involved may find it difficult and emotional. However, it is frequently avoidable by following the advice given above or consulting with a certified trainer. 

What's the deal with my dog biting its leg?

It is completely natural and normal for dogs to chew on their legs, feet, ears, and tails on occasion. . This behavior is similar to scratching an itch in that it provides relief.

How do I stop my dog from chewing on his legs?

Redirect your pet's attention away from their own skin by providing them with a Kong toy, Nylabone, or other dental chew . Use physical deterrents such as no-lick strips, E-collars, and booties to keep your pet from licking or chewing specific areas of the body.

Why does my dog lick and bite his legs?

Soreness or boredom Dogs will lick their feet or joints when they are stiff and sore, just as we would rub a sore spot. Boredom and stress can also cause your dog to lick and bite their front paws in frustration, which can develop into a habit.

dog biting leg

Sara Farell Twitter

Social media ninja. Subtly charming troublemaker. Wannabe entrepreneur. Reader. Typical travel fanatic. Internet trailblazer. Extreme communicator.

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