There is no question that all dogs are driven by instinct. Instincts are natural behaviors they’re more likely to engage in, even without being trained to do so. Instincts have been bred into dogs over many generations and even hundreds of years, since the breed was new. But even within all dogs as a species, there are some instincts that spread across all breeds. Like the instinct to learn through their senses of smell, sight, and hearing. Some breeds have higher instincts to hunt, chase, or herd. Border Collies, rated the most intelligent dog breed, are very trainable and need a higher level of engaging training to keep them happy and busy.
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The Root of the Behavior
Border Collies are widely acknowledged as the most intelligent dog breed. They are capable of amazing tricks and feats. There are plenty of online videos showing Border Collies distinguishing hundreds of toys with perfect accuracy, performing advanced agility routines, doing yoga with their owners, and so much more. They have an amazing energy and desire to learn that is unique and distinguishing for the breed. But unprepared owners can find their Border Collies becoming neurotic, compulsive, and even bad-mannered. Border Collies were bred for herding. It’s instinctual. Even Border Collies who have never been on a ranch or farm, the instinct to herd may drive them to herd cats, puppies, children, or even other encountered pets or animals. If they’re not properly socialized and trained from a young age, Border Collies may even resort to aggressive behaviors. Dogs herd by a combination of barking, body movement, and nipping to direct the herded animal to the proper direction. Sometimes, even without training, instinct kicks in and your Border Collie may try to nip your heels or use their body to nudge and guide you around the house or outside.
But even without that instinct to
herd, Border Collies may also nip just because they’re bored, playing, afraid,
trying to dominate, or just for your attention. The truth of the matter is, ANY
dog can bite. Some people who don’t know any better may think that you can
avoid dealing with aggression if you buy the right breed of dog or the right
gender. Females can be as aggressive as males. Puppies may not exhibit aggressive
behaviors until sexual maturity. No dog breed is “safe” from aggression
problems. And fad breeds, which rise sharply in popularity usually due to a
featured role in a movie, or a celebrity’s new dog, can be part of the problem
because of “backyard breeders” who aren’t monitoring health and behavior
problems in dogs before breeding them. Aggression is one problem that has to be
dealt with early and quickly, before your dog harms you, your family, or a
Encouraging the Behavior
Nipping, regardless of the reason, should be resolved before your pup reaches anywhere near adulthood. In fact, nipping, even if it’s not painful, can be a precursor to more aggressive behaviors later on in life. Border Collies are extremely trainable and enjoy learning, so there’s no reason why you can’t discourage nipping early on before it becomes a problem later in your dog’s life. To start, Border Collies need plenty of attention and exercise. An exhausted dog is a dog who won’t get into trouble. Start a walking routine with your dog, in addition to their daily potty walks or regular playtime. Many Border Collies enjoy fetching, and you can play with tennis balls, Frisbees, or regular toys, depending on how your dog responds to the options.
Socialization is also critical at an early age. Take your dog with you to the park, in the car, around the block, on trips, anywhere you can possibly think of that will allow animals. When they’re young and not yet vaccinated, you can invite visitors over, especially children and other pets, as long as they’re current on vaccinations. It’s easy for a puppy to pick up illnesses from unvaccinated dogs, even if you think you’re being careful. Cats, dogs, bunnies, and other kinds of pets (chicken and ducks too, if you can) are great to bring around your dog during puppyhood, since they’ll be more likely to respond well to the same situation later, and less likely to react with fear or aggression.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Nipping is no laughing matter. While it might seem harmless, nipping can lead to biting and other aggressive problems down the road. Discourage your puppy from nipping by yelping or saying “ow” in a loud, high-pitched tone. This mimics another dog’s reaction to pain, and your dog should ease up and learn how to be gentle. If the nipping or herding persists, you should contact a qualified, experienced trainer for additional guidance on how to discourage aggression before the behavior escalates. And even if your Border Collie is still a young pup, you should work on discouraging nipping. You can undergo training with a professional, yelp when they nip, or apply peanut butter or mashed banana to your hands to encourage licking rather than biting.
Puppies might be adorable, but they’re a lot of work, regardless of what breed you have. Discouraging nipping and teaching gentleness and restraint is crucial from the very beginning of your dog’s training career. Even if you have an older dog who nips, don’t be afraid to work on it with a qualified trainer or just by yourself at home. After all, contrary to what they say, you can teach an old dog new tricks. You just have to be persistent and patient.