How to Train Your Cattle Dog to Not Bite

Medium
2-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

Developed in Australia, the Cattle dog has proven itself a worthy canine companion. They are loyal, obedient and protective. They are fantastic for herding livestock, making them a staple part of farms all over the world. However, your Cattle dog has developed a taste for biting. It started off as gentle nibbling, that was entertaining, but it has quickly got more serious. You don’t want him biting neighbors, guests, or other pets, for that matter. 

Training him not to bite is essential. If he bites another dog you could be liable for hefty vet bills. If he starts biting humans he may have to be put down. If he bites the livestock he’s supposed to herd then he could cost you a serious amount of money. Not to mention the fact you have young children around. It’s simply a worry you do not need on your plate right now.

Defining Tasks

Training any dog not to bite when they are in the habit of it is a challenge. Cattle dogs, in particular, are very protective, so if that is the underlying cause it will not be easy. Fortunately, all is not lost. With the right training, you can stamp out this behavior. You’ll need to use a number of deterrence measures to show him this behavior will not be tolerated. You’ll also need to channel his aggression into something more productive. 

If he’s a puppy this should be a relatively new habit. This means you may see results in just a couple of weeks. If he’s older and been biting for many years then you will need longer. It could take up to six weeks to fully to do the job. Succeed with this training though and you’ll never have to worry about guests coming over again!

Getting Started

Before you get to work you’ll need to collect a few bits. You’ll need a generous supply of treats or his favorite food broken into small chunks. You’ll also need a couple of toys and food puzzles. A deterrence collar, a water spray bottle, and a muzzle will also be needed.

Try to set aside 10 minutes each day for training over the next few weeks. The more consistent you are with training, the quicker you will see results.

The only other things you need are patience and an optimistic attitude. With all those boxes ticked, you’re ready to get to work!

The Deterrence Method

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Step
1
NO
Keep a close eye on him and react whenever he bites. Rush over and give a firm ‘NO’. You don’t want to terrify him, but you need him to know you mean business. You must react within a few seconds of the bite, otherwise he won’t associate the action with your reaction.
Step
2
Water spray bottle
If the ‘NO’ doesn’t deter him, upgrade to the water bottle. Carry one with you at all times and give him a quick spray near the face if he bites. He will soon start to associate biting with negative consequences.
Step
3
Deterrence collar
You can get remote controlled deterrence collars that emit an unpleasant spray of citronella. Whenever you see him bite, hit the button. This will soon make him think twice.
Step
4
Consistency
It is vital you react every single time. If you let him bite even a couple of times without consequences then you’ll set back the end result. You need to ensure everyone in the house is on board with the training.
Step
5
Reward
While you deter him with the above measures you can also reward him for gentle play. Encourage him to play quietly and give him the odd treat when he is calm. The combination of the positive and negative reinforcement will soon show him what is and isn’t allowed.
Recommend training method?

The Time Out Method

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0 Votes
Step
1
Lead him away
As soon as he bites, take him by the collar and lead him out of the room. Don’t shout at him, you don’t want to scare him. Simply remove him and take him to a room where there are no toys and shut the door.
Step
2
Time out
Leave him in there for 30 seconds. This is his time out period to let him know he has misbehaved. When the 30 seconds is up, you can open the door and allow him to rejoin you.
Step
3
Lengthen the sentence
If he returns and bites again, then follow the same procedure. Take him back into the room, but this time leave him there for an extra 30 seconds. Once that is up you can bring him back again. Continue adding 30 seconds to his sentence until he gets the message.
Step
4
Reward
While using the time out method, you can also reward him for gentle play too. Try and talk quietly and stroke him whilst you are playing. This will help him keep calm. If he does stay calm, you can give him the occasional treat to reinforce the behavior.
Step
5
Muzzle
Until this method has worked, it’s important you don’t put other people and pets in harm's way. That means when you are out on walks you fit him with a muzzle. This will protect others and yourself. When the biting subsides, you can remove the muzzle in public.
Recommend training method?

The Environment Method

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1 Vote
Step
1
Exercise
Many Cattle dogs bite out of boredom. They are full of energy so if they don’t get enough exercise they can act out. So, make sure they get a long walk every day. Try throwing a ball for him as you walk. The short sprinting will quickly tire him out.
Step
2
Privacy
Make sure he has his own space he can escape to. This is particularly important if you have young children. Just like humans, dogs need their privacy. So, if he retreats to his bed, make sure he’s allowed to stay there.
Step
3
Food puzzles
Give him the odd food puzzle to play with. This is most effective in puppies, who may be biting because they are teething. They can keep him distracted for hours and satisfy that urge to bite down.
Step
4
Play time
Spend a few minutes each day playing tug of war. You are channeling his aggression in a safe way. Plus, you are showing him what is allowed to be bitten and what isn’t. Make sure he gets a treat at the end of play.
Step
5
Know when to stop
Don’t get him too worked up. Cattle dogs often get into a heightened state of excitement and then bite. If you can see him on that path, turn around and give him a few minutes to calm down.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Obi
Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
2 Years
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Question
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Obi
Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
2 Years

We got our cattle dog from a shelter. We have had him for three weeks. He is already very protective of me and my son and growls when ever someone he doesn't know comes close to us. He has even nipped at a couple people. These people are our extended family members or friends. How do we train him to stop this?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
147 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lisa, The first thing I would suggest is working on his respect for you and your son. Bellow I have linked an article that can help you to build his respect for you. Working on the training from the three methods in that article should help him to build his respect for you. Have your son participate in "The Obedience Method" and "The Working Method" with you. Make sure that your son is not being too physical with your dog though. The idea is to build his respect by addressing his mind by pinning him to the floor or being overly harsh with him physically. Here is that article: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you The second thing that I would recommend is extensive socialization. Take him with you to places and get him around a lot of people. Have people give him treats when you tell him to "Say Hi", and work on his obedience around other people, so that he will generally get used to the presence of other people and become bored and relaxed around them. If you believe that he would bite someone, then get him used to wearing a basket muzzle before taking him out, and have him wear that while you are out just in case. Also instruct people to interact with him calmly and to toss him treats from a distance, rather than overwhelming him by getting into his space. You can also purchase a vest that says "In Training" to indicate to people that he should not be petted unless you give someone permission. That way you can control the interactions and have the person who wants to greet him toss him treats rather than rush over to him. Third, I would strongly recommend hiring a local trainer with experience in aggression, high drive working and protection breeds, and fear and reactivity. Obi likely needs a lot of structure and needs to have his aggression interrupted and to learn that it is not acceptable, but he also needs to have the underlying lack of socialization, fear, rude, controlling behavior, or negative association with people addressed. For this reason I would recommend using a trainer who uses Positive Reinforcement and fair discipline and boundaries implementation, opposed to just one or the other. Many of these types of trainers call themselves balanced trainers, but anyone can call themselves anything, so ask questions to find out what a trainer's philosophy, goals, experience, and methods in training are. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Tilly
Australian Cattle
6 Months
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Question
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Tilly
Australian Cattle
6 Months

Tilly bites at my oldest son who is 6, she will bite his arms and legs I think she associates him as rough play as since we got tilly at 8 weeks old my son has found it necessary to hug her tightly to make her growl so since then she has been like this with him. We have tried to tell my son not to do this, sometimes he listens!! What can we do to stop this.

Thanks Kelly

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
147 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kelly, The issue will not improve until your son stops being rough with him. Your son's roughness has likely caused an aggressive fear response in Tilly. She does not trust him to be near her so she takes matters into her own paws so to speak. You need to show your dog that she can trust him again by having him respect her space. You need to practice handling exercises to help her get over her fear of being touched. You need to work on building her respect and trust for the members of your family. To do handling exercises with her gently touch an area of her body, like her ear, and give her a treat at the same time. Practice this with each ear, each paw, her tail, her muzzle, her back, her belly, her legs, and everywhere else. Be gentle and give her a treat for every gentle touch. You want to build her trust. Start by doing this exercise yourself. Once she will tolerate all of your touches, then have your son practice it with her while you control the interaction. If you believe she will bite him at that point in the training, then you need to get her comfortable wearing a soft, silicone, basket muzzle ahead of time. Once she is used to wearing the muzzle, then your son can practice the exercise with her while she is wearing the muzzle, and he can poke the treats through the muzzle holes to reward her. He needs to be extremely gentle and go slow. To get Tilly used to wearing a muzzle feed her pieces of her dinner every time that she sniffs the muzzle, touches it, lets you hold it on her, and eventually, let's you put it on her. Gradually work up to her wearing it and once she is wearing it, feed her treats every minute while she has it on until you take it off again. Expect this process to take a couple of weeks. Practice until she seems completely relaxed and happy while she is wearing the muzzle before moving onto your son doing handling exercises with her. Finally, work on building her respect and trust for you by following at least one of the methods from the article that I have linked below. Focus on the "Obedience" method or the "Consistency" method the most. You also need to advocate for her by keeping your son away from her when she wants to rest, and by not letting him be too rough with her. She needs to feel like you will handle situations so that she does not have to. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Because your dog is at a critical age and aggression is already a problem, I would very highly recommend finding a professional trainer in your area with experience with aggression and high drive breeds to come to your home and help you. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Molly
Labrador Retriever
7 Months
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Question
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Molly
Labrador Retriever
7 Months

Our dog is mixed with blue heeler.Our dog has begun to jump at us and bite us like she might be trying to herd us, I think. the biting hurts and it takes awhile to get her to stop doing this behavior. we would appreciate any advice on how to get her to stop this behavior. We have had to carry a stick with us in our backyard to try to give her to get her to stop this behabior, redirecting. does not always work. can't ignore for fear of being bit.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
147 Dog owners recommended

Hello Wendy, First, teach Molly the "Leave It" command and practice it until she can obey you with clothing during training sessions. Check out the article that I have linked below to teach it, and follow the "Leave It" method from that article. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite That will teach her what to do instead of biting and practicing it will increase her self-control. After she can obey that command, then when she tries to bite you, tell her to "Leave It" and firmly step toward her with your arms crossed across your chest. Be calm and firm with her. If you move around a bunch or make a lot of noise or back away she will want to bite you more. Don't be afraid to step into her. If she comes at you again when you first step toward her, then step into her again. Repeat that until she calms down. When she backs away to avoid being stepped on, stand perfectly still and be serious but calm until she gives up and walks away. Have every member of the family do this and stand in front of any kids who can't do it themselves and give the leave it command and stepping for them. Try that for a couple of weeks and if you do not see any improvement, then fit a prong collar on her with a one foot leash on it and hire a trainer to show you how to correct her with a prong collar for the jumping. Expect the training to take a couple of months before the jumping completely stops, but you should see some improvement within the first two weeks if she is responding to the stepping toward her. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Link
Australian cattle dog
2 Years
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Question
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Link
Australian cattle dog
2 Years

My dog is very friendly and a loving dog. He has had two random incidents recently. Where he bit a mexican worker at our farm. And then recently again another worker that he gets along with very well, he try to bite his shoe.... This is a very random events, but I can't have this happening, since he doesn't try to do this often what could be going on and how to I work this out of him if it is a random event?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
147 Dog owners recommended

Hello Cody, There are several things that could be going on. I would need more details to accurately answer your question. If both people were Mexican, then it might be a socialization issue...he is not used to people who look like that because he was not around people who looked like that as a puppy and did not have enough positive experiences with them. Many people mistake this for racism but it's really a dog just not being familiar with something and so they are suspicious of it. This can happen with a dog that's never around other dogs or children too, for example. If that's the case, then you need to have as many Mexicans, especially men if both bites were men, toss him treats whenever he is calm and create a lot of really fun, positive interactions -- Do this carefully to keep the people safe though. If his response is consistently aggressive, then you will need to get him used to wearing a soft silicone basket muzzle - one that he can still open his mouth while wearing, and feed him the treats through the muzzle's holes to keep everyone safe. You can also practice this with him on a leash or behind a very tall, secure baby gate, and have the volunteers toss treats to him that way. This needs to be done one person at a time, with a lot of different people, so that he will generalize it to lots people of that ethnicity and not just the couple that he gets to know. Because both men were workers, it could also be what they are doing is causing him anxiety and frustration, and he has learned to distrust workers because loud, scary, or suspicious (in his mind) things happen whenever they are around. If that's the case, then he needs to get used to workers, the tools they use, and the noises they make by pairing all of those things, one thing at a time, with very positive experiences like treats, games, silliness, and fun. I also suggest giving him a safe and calm place to be, away from the workers and the noise, then they are there and you cannot practice the training with him. The commotion is probably causing his anxiety and frustration to build over time. When he cannot or will not get away from the commotion, eventually he has had enough and he will snap at small incidences because his anxiety and frustration are already so high - he is essentially already on edge and easily triggered. Help him by keeping him calm when the workers are there. Give him a safe, quieter space, with something fun to do, like chew on food stuffed chew toys or work on puzzle toys, Kong wobble toys, or something else that is fun and stimulates his mind to keep him occupied mentally. You can also have training sessions to just generally practice fun tricks with him in the calm area. This may also help him associate the workers' appearance with something fun to do with you. If the aggression continues or becomes general to other people too, then I suggest hiring a professional trainer who comes highly recommended and has a lot of experience and a good track record dealing with aggression, fear, and reactivity to work with you in person. Sometimes certain types of aggression can be hard to address without the right resources, by yourself. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Mackenzie
Australian cattle dog
1 Year
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Question
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Mackenzie
Australian cattle dog
1 Year

I got my dog as a rescue a couple months ago, and she's been great overall. However when she plays with other dogs, all she does is nip at their faces. When she's calm she licks their faces, but once she gets excited, or they start to run she chases them and nips and bits their jaws. I call her back when she starts to do this (and she comes back), but that stops her playing completely. I want her to be able to run and play but without all the nipping at the dogs faces! She doesn't nip me/herd me or any person. Just dogs. Thanks for your help!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
147 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kristin, Unfortunately, it sounds like you are dealing with a herding instinct - which is not something you can completely change. If she is nipping them in the face without causing them to yelp then she is likely just a rough player. Many herding dogs will display herding instincts around other dogs even though they do not do it with people. I suggest teaching her an 'Out' command and telling her 'Out' when she starts to get too rough. This will also likely stop her from playing but it will be a clear consequence related to the nipping if your timing is good, it will keep her from learning to ignore your 'Come' command overtime, and she might learn to control her own actions overtime using it - she might always need your intervention though. It will depend on her own level of drive during play. Her play may be completely innocent play mouthing if she never harms the other dogs while doing it and they do not seem to mind. If she is causing issues and doing it harder, she might be a dog that shouldn't play with other groups of dogs off-leash at this age - some dogs simply shouldn't play with other dogs past one-year of age because they have control issues, or they should only play with specific dogs and not large groups of dogs (especially dogs they do not know). For some dogs the continued play can actually cause new bad behaviors to develop because of that dog's particular temperament. This tends to be dogs that get so worked up that they end up causing a fight eventually. the more fights they get in - the more prone to fights they are, and it becomes a dominance battle and a lack of self-control issue and not really about play. Play involves a give-and-take and some dogs never give - which leads to fights. If the biting seems more serious, I suggest not letting her play off-leash with large groups of dogs anymore because it will likely only get worse and turn into other even more serious issues - like aggression. Instead, go on walks with other dog owners, join an obedience club and participate in structured activities with her and other dogs. Practice a canine sport like freestyle, agility, herding, tracking, fly-ball, dock jumping, or Frisbee. Work on her Canine Good Citizenship, tricks, or task work. There are a lot of things you can do with her around other dogs to maintain her socialization without having off-leash play. Dogs over one-year of age do not have to play with other dogs to maintain socialization. Look at Seeing eye dogs - they are extremely well socialized and playful as puppies but they learn to simply co-exist calmly with other dogs at one-and-two-years of age. If she does okay with one particular dog, have just the two of them play together in a fenced-in yard without the other dogs there. If her playing rough does not seem serious, practice the 'Out' with her whenever she starts to get too wound up. She might learn to control herself overtime through your intervention or she may always need your help calming back down - some dogs permanently need help, but either way it will help her avoid getting into fights by calming her back down when she starts to get too rough. When she is calm again, tell her to 'Go Play!' and encourage her back. With practice she should learn that the 'Go Play' command means it's alright to play again and may go back to playing immediately. To teach her an 'Out' command, 1. First call her over to you, then toss a treat several feet away from yourself while pointing to the area where you are tossing the treat with the finger of your treat tossing hand and saying 'Out' at the same time. 2. Repeat this until she will go over to the area where you point when you say 'Out' before you have tossed a treat. 3. When she will do that, then whenever you tell her "Out" and she does not go to where you are pointing, walk toward her and herd her out of the area with your body. Your attitude should be calm and patient but very firm and business-like when you do this. 4. When you get to where you were pointing to, then stop and wait until she either goes away or stops trying to go back to the area where you were standing before. 5. When she is no longer trying to get past you, then slowly walk backwards to where you were before. If she follows you, then tell her "Out" again and quickly walk toward her until she is back to where she was a moment ago. 6. Repeat this until she will stay several feet away from where you were when you told her 'Out' originally. 7. When you are ready for her to come back, then tell her 'OK' in an up beat tone of voice. 8. Practice this training until she will consistently leave the area when you tell her 'Out'. 9. When she will consistently leave, then practice the training with other areas that you would like for her to leave, such as the kitchen when you are preparing food, a person's space when she is being pushy, an area with a plant that she is trying to dig up, or somewhere with something in your home that she should not be bothering. By the way, it's wonderful that she will come off of playing with other dogs when called. Keep up the good work and try not to get discouraged if she needs extra help from you in this area. It is not uncommon. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rocky
Blue Heeler
7 Months
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Question
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Rocky
Blue Heeler
7 Months

He will never quit biting! How do we stop?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
147 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kamari, Check out the article that I have linked below and first teach him the "Leave It" command from the "Leave It" method. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Also, check out the video below and work on more structure and resetting his environment and mindset, and teaching him more self-control. Dogs need help learning impulse control and that can be taught in other areas of life too so that the dog has more control over himself once he understands that he is supposed to leave you alone, to be able to control himself and do it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_0Y6QzI4_k If the biting is more severe, and not just rough puppy mouthing, then you need to hire a professional trainer who comes highly recommended, has a lot of experience with aggression, and knows how to handle multiple types of aggression (not just fear-based aggression - which this probably isn't). Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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