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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.
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.
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 Environment Change Method
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Deterrence Method
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Time Out Method
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
By James Barra
Published: 04/25/2018, edited: 01/08/2021