How to Train an Australian Cattle Dog to Not Bite

Medium
1-3 Months
Behavior

Introduction

Olivia is a tenacious little canine, always looking for a playmate. She enjoys long walks, cuddles on the couch and anything remotely edible. However, your Australian Cattle Dog also seems to enjoy biting. It may have started with gentle nibbles when you were playing, but now it has become an aggressive and persistent habit. It means you’re on edge whenever a guest reaches down to stroke your pup. It also means even you, as their owner, don’t want to get in between them and their food. 

So it’s got to a stage now where training your Australian Cattle dog to not bite is essential. You know it’s just a matter of time before someone or another pet is seriously injured. If that does happen, you could be landed with steep vet bills and Olivia may even have to be put down. Fortunately, training her not to bite will give you a well-behaved, controllable canine.

Defining Tasks

Training your Australian Cattle Dog to not bite won’t necessarily be easy, but it is definitely achievable. Firstly, you will need to introduce a number of deterrence measures to remove the temptation. You will also need to look for triggers so you can tackle them head-on. At the same time, you will need to use positive reinforcements to encourage them to play gently. 

If your Australian Cattle Dog is just a puppy, then the habit should be relatively new and you could break it in just a few weeks. But if your dog is older and the habit has developed over a number of years, then you may need months. Stick to your new training regime and you’ll no longer need to worry when you see a new dog approaching on the horizon. It also means you can start them back on the path of being a calm, friendly dog.

Getting Started

Before you get to work, you’ll need to tick off a few things on your checklist. A water spray bottle, muzzle, and a deterrence collar will be needed for one of the methods. You will also need a decent supply of treats or the pup's favorite food for positive reinforcements. 

Toys, a body harness, and food puzzles will also be required for one of the methods. Set aside around 15 minutes each day for training. Try and train when you both won’t be distracted.  

Apart from all that, you just need patience and enthusiasm, then training can commence!

The Deterrence Method

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Step
1
‘NO’
The first step to take when your Australian Cattle dog bites is to issue a firm ‘NO’. This will clearly let them know this is the wrong behavior. However, be careful not to shout too loudly as you don’t want to antagonize them further.
Step
2
Water spray
If the ‘NO’ doesn’t seem to have the desired effect, upgrade to the water bottle. Give a quick spray near the face whenever your dog nips or bites. This will further get across your disapproval, while also getting them to associate biting with negative consequences.
Step
3
Deterrence collar
If the dog is still biting, then consider using a deterrence collar. They can be bought both online and in shops, for a relatively low price. You simply hit a button whenever they bite and an unpleasant spray of citronella will be emitted.
Step
4
Muzzle
Until your Australian Cattle Dog’s biting is under control, you may want to fit them in a muzzle, especially when you are out in public. This will prevent any accidents or biting taking place until training yields results.
Step
5
Body harness
Australian Cattle Dogs can be fairly strong. So you may want to fit them in a body harness when you’re out the house. This will give you much greater control to pull them away from a situation if they turn aggressive, preventing any biting taking place.
Recommend training method?

The Environment Change Method

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Step
1
Exercise
Your dog may be biting because they are brimming with excitement and energy. Australian Cattle Dogs do need a generous walk each day. So start taking them for a long walk and throwing things for them to fetch as you go. If they’re tired and sleeping, they won’t get worked up and start biting so easily.
Step
2
Food puzzles
Start leaving your dog food puzzles to get through, especially when you leave the house. Not only should this keep them entertained, but if they are a puppy and the biting is to relieve teething pain, then chewing the toys will help.
Step
3
Privacy
Make sure they have a secure space they can escape to, such as a bed or crate. The biting may be because they are being pestered by young children and feel like they have nowhere to run to.
Step
4
Tug of war
Spend a few minutes each day playing tug of war with a favorite toy. This game is great for blowing off steam and giving your Australian Cattle Dog a safe avenue to release some of that tension.
Step
5
House rules
Sit everyone in the house down so you can agree on how to react when your dog bites. There is simply no use in you acting stern if someone else giggles or laughs it off. This will only confuse your Australian Cattle dog. So make sure you all respond in the same calm, but disapproving manner.
Recommend training method?

The Time Out Method

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Step
1
Setting up
Make sure you have an easily accessible room that you can swiftly take the dog to whenever they bite. It needs to have no toys in it or other things they enjoy playing with. This will be their 'time out' space.
Step
2
Removal
As soon as your dog does bite, calmly take them by the collar and lead them to the time out space. Then close the door and leave them there for 30-seconds. Don’t speak to them or get them worked up.
Step
3
Release
Once the 30 seconds is up, open the door and let them return to whatever it is they were doing. However, keep a close eye on them so you can swiftly react again if the biting returns.
Step
4
Increase the duration
If your Australian Cattle Dog does bite again, lead them back to the time out space. But this time add an extra 30 seconds onto their sentence. Continue to do this each time they re-offend.
Step
5
Gentle play
While you use the above technique to react to their biting, you can also use positive reinforcements for good behavior. So spend a few minutes each evening playing gently and lying with each other. You can stroke them and whisper, rewarding them with odd treats and praise as you go. This combination of positive and negative reinforcements can promptly yield results.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Nav
Australian Cattle Dog
8 Months
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Question
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Nav
Australian Cattle Dog
8 Months

He nips at us sometimes, i feel like he’s playing though. When he does it too hard we yell no and he stops. He has bit 2 people that have tried to pet him. He is a skittish dog so i feel that contributes to it. He can be aggressive to other dogs at first. He usually warms up to them after awhile. I play tug of war with him and rough play with him. He puts his mouth around my arm but doesn’t bite down. When he starts getting more aggressive i tell him no.

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Zephyr
Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
5 Years
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Question
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Zephyr
Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
5 Years

I've had my cattle dog, Zephyr, since he was 5 weeks old. He's always gotten anxious when people leave, but he's decided to taking up biting at my room mate's feet when he leaves for work in the morning. My dog really likes my room mate and gets excited when he's home, but he primarily stays in his room with the door shut. Today he actually caused pain versus just being a tripping hazard to him, and I don't know what to do. When I leave, we have a whole deal where i give him affection and talk to him and he gives it back without barking before I shut the door. What do you think causes my dog to be so obsessed with biting at his feet when he leaves?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
614 Dog owners recommended

Hello Taylor, As a herding breed, Cattle dogs will use nipping and bite holds to control the movement of livestock - especially stubborn livestock that won't go where the dog wants. It sounds like Zephyr might be trying to control your roommate's movement and prevent him from leaving. The bite may have progressed to a firmer bite because Zephyr decided that your roommate was being stubborn and needed a more forceful approach to stop him from leaving. Zephyr likely does not respect your roommate - this is fairly common with dogs and family children that the dog views as equal to them. Work on teaching Zephyr a "Leave It" or an "Out" command. When he tries to follow your roommate to the door - before biting him, tell him to "Leave It" (which means leave something alone) or "Out" (which means leave the area). If he disobeys, correct him by getting between him and your roommate and firmly walking toward him until he is at least ten feet away from the roommate. Block him from getting past you to your roommate until he acts submissive, leaves the area completely or lays down. If he is very stubborn you can also keep a drag leash on him in the morning, which you can grab to keep him from slipping past you as needed - focus primarily on enforcing the command with your presence and body language though because you want him to choose to obey because of your consistency and not just force him to stay back with the leash. Choosing obedience requires submission and respect, being forced to stay back while he strains against the leash does not require a mental change from him. There are a number of ways to address this, but using Out and Leave It are some of the gentlest. You can also have your roommate work on teaching him respect through obedience work, consistency, and structured focused heel work, but you enforcing Zephyr leaving your roommate alone is easier for your roommate and it still asks for respect from him - what you are communicating is that your dog should leave your roommate alone because of his respect for you and your rules. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Moonya
Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
11 Years
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Question
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Moonya
Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler)
11 Years

Hello, I’ve had my dog Moonya since she was.. I think a year old! She is a rescue and we got her at a Shelter and she’s been with us since that... She’s made us cost a few thousands from biting dogs and even breaking a dogs leg.. As she’s getting older my family and I want to give her a good social happy life before she dies.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
614 Dog owners recommended

Hello August, At this age most dogs don't really enjoy playing rough and interacting with other dogs the same way they used to, they mostly just enjoy calm coexistence. Because your dog has a strong history of dog aggression and is older I do NOT recommend trying to get her around other dogs again at this point. It will increase stress, be dangerous if not done very carefully, and not necessarily make her life anymore pleasant in the long run. The only reason I would recommend pursuing this is for the sake of the people she lives with if you need her to be able to be around other dogs for your own sake. If you do pursue this, because of her dangerous bite history you need to hire a trainer who specializes in aggression to work with you. I do NOT recommend working in this on your own because of the potential danger to other animals, your pup, and any people involved who aggression could be redirected toward. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
hank
Australian Cattle Dog
5 Months
0 found helpful
Question
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hank
Australian Cattle Dog
5 Months

Sometimes when I try to take something away from my puppy he growls and shows his teeth. Are there anyways to train him to not do this?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
614 Dog owners recommended

Hello Keely, What you are describing is called resource guarding. I suggest building pups trust and respect for you calmly, while also desensitizing them to giving you things and being approached while eating or chewing. Work on teaching pup Drop It. Use a boring long toy, that you can hold onto while pup chews - not a bone at first. Tell pup "Take It" and let them chew one end while you hold the other. With your free hand, hold a treat against pup's nose and say "Drop It". When they drop the toy because of the treat, praise them and offer the treat. Practice this until you can say "Drop It" wait seven seconds to see if pup will obey without the treat there, then praise and immediately give a treat that was hidden behind your back. Expect this to take several days practice before pup can do it without seeing the treat. If pup doesn't drop the toy, practice with the treat for longer or simply keep the toy still and boring until pup drops it because they are bored, then reward to show them that dropping it is better. - This helps build trust because pup probably expects you to take everything they have now and have become defensive. Once pup knows this well and they trust you again, when pup gets something they shouldn't have, you can command drop it, offer a treat or toy substitute if they obey, and can keep a drag leash on pup while they are free and you are there to supervise (don't leave one on when away for safety reasons) and gently enforce your drop it command by picking up the end of the drag leash and moving pup away from the area and having them stay still - so they get bored, until they drop the item. 99% of the training should be proactive - where pup is frequently practicing drop it with treats and toys that are better than what they had at first, so that when you need the command in real life pup is used to obeying and it's not a fight that could make things worse. Also, work on getting puppy used to touch and handling to build general tolerance. Avoid methods that involve using your legs or hands roughly or can make things worse. Use puppy's daily meal kibble to do this. Gently touch an area of puppy's body while feeding a piece of food. Touch an ear and give a treat. Touch a paw and give a treat. Hold his collar and give a treat. Touch his tail gently and give a treat. Touch his belly, his other paws, his chest, shoulder, muzzle and every other area very gently and give a treat each time. Keep these times calm and fun for pup. Work on hand feeding, and also practice feeding him his meals in sections. Feed 1/4 of his meal, practice making him wait before digging in by holding onto the bowl, pulling it back whenever he tries to dive in (without letting go of it first), and calmly saying Wait, then after a few repetitions of this, when he hesitates and doesn't dive in while your hand is still on it, let go of the bowl and say "Okay!" in an excited tone of voice, and let him begin eating as a reward for waiting. As he eats, when he isn't growling, toss treats next to his bowl as you walk past him. Practice this from a few feet away until he begins to look forward to you approaching. As he improves, decrease the distance that you pass from. When he finishes the first serving, toss a treat behind him and pick up the bowl while he is distracted eating the treat. Gve the next portion, have him practice waiting again, then do the treat tosses while he east again. Practice this until he has all of his meal kibble portions at that mealtime. Do this at every meal as often as you can. As he becomes relaxed and begins to like you approaching him during meals, get closer and closer, so that you are eventually placing treats into his bowl while he eats. Ease into this so that he stays relaxed during the process. When pup does great with your presence right by the bowl, you can give a gentle pet and feed a treat as you do so. Pet and feed a treat, then give space and go back to tossing the treats to avoid stressing him too much. Expect this progression to take weeks, not hours or days. Do NOT stick your hand in pup's food, take the food away while he is eating or chewing something like a bone, or pet him while he is eating without making the experience fun for him also - via giving better rewards in exchange each time. Messing with a dog while they are eating or chewing a toy as the normal without the right protocols and rewards to prevent stress around mealtimes, can actually cause food aggression, rather than prevent it. There are times when you will need to take things, but proactively train to build trust so that those times are not an issue for pup, keeping a drag leash on pup at this age while home, to calmly enforce boundaries. The goal is to build pup's trust with you when it comes to meals - so he doesn't feel the need to guard it, but learns that your approach and taking things like bones, results in something even better happening - like a treat or new bone. Only give treats when pup responds well - not while he is growling. If pup is growling still while you are doing all of this, you are probably being too rough or moving too fast, and there needs to be more space between you and pup while practicing at that point in the training. Check out this free PDF e-book download for other puppy raising tips as well: www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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