Dogs can be weird and using another dog’s paw as a bone definitely falls into that category.
But is there really more to it or is it just a fun quirk between dogs?
This largely depends on your dog and the circumstances and while most reasons are harmless, it could indicate an underlying problem that needs to be addressed.
In short, dogs can bite each other on the legs during play, due to little play experience, lack of bite inhibition, teething, grooming, affection and aggression.
As you can see, the reasons vary widely, so let’s look at them all and find out why your dog is biting another dog’s legs.
8 reasons why dogs bite each other’s legs
There can be many reasons for your dog biting, but I can reassure you that it is usually just a sign that your dog is having fun while playing or showing his affection to another dog.
You can determine the specific cause by observing your dog, the other dog and its environment.
Just by looking at the other dog you can immediately tell if it is something positive or negative.
If the other dog is comfortable and enjoying the interaction, your dog probably has the best intentions and it’s just a normal way of dog communication.
The most common reason why dogs bite each other’s legs is play.
Dogs can only play with their paws or their mouths and it is normal for two dogs to mouth each other during a play session.
Some dogs tend to mouth a lot more than others and it may be their preferred play style.
When dogs meet, there are usually two types: the wrestlers and the hunters.
There are many more play styles and some dogs just love to go for those bouncy limbs (you’re lucky if that doesn’t involve lovingly chewing on your limbs).
When we got a foster dog, we quickly noticed that his play style was super focused on the legs and made it a whole game to chase them.
My Rottweiler Amalia is usually a wrestler, so she was used to a lot of body contact and they mastered the weirdest play scenarios and often just fell over each other.
Play bites do not leave marks and you should monitor for signs of discomfort.
It can also be used to start a play session, similar to a play bow.
2. Little playing experience
If your dog hasn’t experienced much play in his life, he may not know how to interact with other dogs.
Positive dog interactions are an important part of socialization and are necessary to properly prepare your dog for all kinds of situations.
Different dogs have different play styles and your dog may have no idea how to deal with this.
Exposure to controlled play sessions with many different dogs should curb this problem.
It is very important that interactions with dogs are as positive as possible, so that your dog does not run away afraid or insecure.
Your dog doesn’t have to be able to play with every dog, just like people aren’t always compatible with each other.
However, any behavior that really bothers or annoys other dogs needs to be worked on.
3. Lack of bite inhibition
Bite inhibition is something that dogs must learn at an early age.
As puppies they have very sharp teeth and when they bite their littermates and especially their mother, they get feedback.
A bitten puppy will whine and stop playing and the mother can put a rambunctious puppy in its place.
In this way they learn to adjust the strength of their jaws, which ultimately leads to good bite inhibition.
A dog taken from its family too early or who has had little contact with dogs may generally never have had the opportunity to learn this valuable lesson.
When you bring your puppy home, your job is to continue to teach your puppy what is right and what is wrong.
Human skin or clothing cannot be bitten under any circumstances and depending on the dog this can last several weeks or even months.
If you’re not sure how to do that, read my guide to puppy biting for more tips.
This also works if you have an adult dog, it just takes more time and training.
I always recommend taking your dog to puppy socialization classes, where he will continue to learn such lessons during play sessions with other puppies.
Just like babies, puppies, teeth and when those teeth want to come out, it hurts and can be uncomfortable.
They get their baby teeth around 3 weeks of age and have a completely pearly white at 6 to 8 weeks.
Most begin to lose these teeth at about three and a half months of age, and the adult molars grow in at five to seven months of age.
So don’t be alarmed if you find a tooth on the carpet, that’s completely normal.
In fact, you should feel blessed because baby teeth are usually just swallowed.
During this time, puppies in the home may become more assertive or destructive.
This is only temporary and should go away with time.
Keep your bite inhibition training up to date and offer your puppy a variety of chew toys to help relieve pain.
Some puppies prefer soft, others harder. Many like their chew toys chilled or even frozen.
Don’t worry about biting the legs too much during this time, as this will likely disappear once the adult teeth have fully grown.
It is completely normal for dogs to groom each other and it is part of their social communication.
This is usually not limited to the legs and your dog may groom another dog’s ears, face or paws.
Dogs are first introduced to care through their mothers and it is an important developmental stage during puppyhood.
While dogs primarily groom themselves, this attention can also be extended to their canine friends.
Licking, nibbling and grooming release endorphins, which can help combat anxiety and stress.
So it’s definitely a win-win situation!
Gently biting another dog’s legs can also be a sign of affection.
When my dog and her Saarlooswolfdog friend lay together on the couch, they loved giving each other slobbery kisses and gentle nibbles.
When two dogs are very close to each other, biting their legs or other body parts is a way to show that they are comfortable and trust each other.
Aggression in dogs comes in many shapes and forms and can cause a dog to snap or snap at another dog’s legs.
It can be easily distinguished from play by looking at the dog’s body position.
A dog that is playing has a relaxed body position, eyes and an open mouth.
The tail will be low and relaxed or wagging.
There are many jumping movements and you occasionally see a play arc.
Aggression, on the other hand, brings a lot of tension.
There may be signs such as raised hackles, a stiff tail, curled lips, a forward leaning posture and an intense gaze.
A dog that is aggressive may also wag its tail (although not as widely), so it is important to always look at the whole picture rather than a specific body part.
Vocalization is usually part of aggressive expressions and you may hear vicious growling, snarling and barking.
Anxiety is usually the cause of aggressive behavior and can occur when your dog feels intimidated or scared.
There is also possessive aggression or resource guarding, which often happens when one dog approaches another while it is playing with a toy.
It can also happen during mealtime or around another object that is of value to your dog.
Territorial aggression can occur when a dog enters another dog’s territory.
This usually happens at home, but dogs that are really territorial may quickly claim areas outside where they have spent some time, such as picnic areas or park benches.
If things really get out of hand, a dog fight could ensue.
During a dog fight, there is certainly a possibility of one dog biting the legs or other body parts of another dog.
Dog fights don’t have to end in wounds and most are resolved with very loud vocalizations.
However, all dog fighting should be broken up before anything serious happens and the dogs should be separated from each other.
Dogs are constantly communicating that there are many signals leading to a dog fight, so it is very important to pay attention to the situation and pause the meeting if things get too heated.
If a fight is happening between two dogs in your own household, consider reading this article.
Should You Stop Leg Biting Between Dogs?
Whether you should stop leg biting between dogs largely depends on the reasons.
If it only happens during play and your dog knows the other dog well, there is no need to discourage him.
Unless the familiar dog is bothered by it.
However, if you are meeting a strange dog for the first time, it is better not to allow excessive leg biting as this can lead to conflict.
Not every dog accepts this behavior and may even experience it as intimidating.
When dogs first meet they don’t know much about each other and while some dogs are more outgoing and open, others may be intimidated by their personalities and react with fear.
There is nothing wrong with mutual care between dogs, on the contrary.
As I mentioned above, a lack of bite inhibition and socialization needs to be worked on to solve the problem.
Possible aggression is something you should take very seriously and consider getting help from a professional trainer who has experience with aggressive dogs.
Disclaimer: This blog post does not and does not intend to replace veterinary attention. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows signs of illness, call your vet.