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 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.
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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.
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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.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Eva
Cattle dog
10 Weeks
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Question
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Eva
Cattle dog
10 Weeks

Potty training and biting.

Alisha Smith
Alisha S., Dog Trainer
134 Dog owners recommended

Hello! I am sending you information on potty training and crate training if you decide to use a crate to help with potty training. You will want to spend a few weeks practicing the advice, and you should see a quick turnaround. I am also going to send you info on biting. Potty training: Know Your Pup. As you spend time with your puppy, learn your puppy’s love language. Just as some people prefer gifts, touch, or time spent together, puppies can be the same way. Some puppies love praise or pets, while others prefer treats. As you get to know your puppy, consider what reward your puppy loves the most. Create a Daily Schedule. It is best to have a routine for your puppy. A schedule helps them understand when to eat, play, and “go to the bathroom.” Your puppy should go out frequently and the routine should be the same every time. When? Start the day by taking your puppy outside, and repeating based on age and ability. They should also go out after napping, chewing, playing, and within 10 to 15 minutes of eating. Although some puppies can sleep for seven hours, it is important to set an alarm and take your pup out during the night. When you do, don’t make a fuss about it. Quietly take them outside with minimal stimulation and light. Praise them if they go to the bathroom and gently return them to their bed or crate. You don’t want them to get stimulated and ready to play in the middle of the night! As you get to know your puppy, you will become aware of their individual habits. Click here to learn more about house training schedules for puppies. Where? Take your puppy to a specific area to urinate or defecate. Be consistent. You can create an area by using urine-soaked paper or bowel movements to help create an aroma to stimulate your puppy. How? Take your puppy out on a leash so they can focus on the desired activity. This will help prevent them from wandering off to play. Once your puppy is in the selected area, use your verbal cue, such as “Hurry Up,” “Poopies,” “Go tinkle,” or any phrase your puppy responds to. What? Know the signs that your puppy has to go to the bathroom. Every animal may have a different “I gotta go” gesture, which often include restlessness, sniffing around, circling, scratching at the door, barking, and, eventually, squatting. At the first sign that your pup has to go, calmly and quickly take them outside to their bathroom spot. Deal with Accidents. Accidents are a normal part of house training a puppy. What to Do If you see your puppy in the process of urinating or defecating inappropriately, calmly and quickly interrupt them in the act. Tell them to stop (either by a jarring sound or command), and immediately take them to an appropriate location for elimination. After your puppy goes to the bathroom, lavishly praise them and offer a treat. Thoroughly clean up accidents, so your puppy is not attracted to this area again. Create a consistent feeding and watering schedule. Depending on the age of your puppy, they will eat three to four times a day. A consistent feeding routine can create a regular bathroom schedule. Take away water about 2 hours before bedtime. Learn more about ideal dog schedules here. What NOT to Do Don’t punish your puppy when they have an accident. At that point, it is too late. When a puppy has an accident in the house and they walk away, within seconds they have already forgotten about what they did. Taking them to the scene of the crime and yelling and/or rubbing their nose in it does not help and, in fact, can harm your puppy! Supervise. The best thing you can do is to prevent accidents and the best way to do this is to supervise your puppy at all times. You can tether your puppy to your waist with a five or six-foot leash and carefully observe them for signs that they need to go to the bathroom. If you can’t supervise, then crate or confine your puppy. The more accidents your puppy has in the house, the more confusing it will be for them and this can delay house training. Reward, Reward, Reward. It is important to give your puppy a reward for their good behavior. This can be for commands such as sitting and coming to you, or for appropriately eliminating outside. In a puppy, a reward can be a couple kibbles of puppy food or a treat, such as a small piece of meat. The treat should be exciting for them and only available as a result of good behavior. Crate training can take days or weeks, depending on your dog's age, temperament and past experiences. It's important to keep two things in mind while crate training: The crate should always be associated with something pleasant and training should take place in a series of small steps. Don't go too fast. Step 1: Introduce your dog to the crate Place the crate in an area of your house where the family spends a lot of time, such as the family room. Put a soft blanket or towel in the crate. Take the door off and let the dog explore the crate at their leisure. Some dogs will be naturally curious and start sleeping in the crate right away. If yours isn't one of them: Bring them over to the crate and talk to them in a happy tone of voice. Make sure the crate door is open and secured so that it won't hit your dog and frighten them. Encourage your dog to enter the crate by dropping some small food treats nearby, then just inside the door, and finally, all the way inside the crate. If they refuse to go all the way in at first, that's OK; don't force them to enter. Continue tossing treats into the crate until your dog will walk calmly all the way into the crate to get the food. If they aren’t interested in treats, try tossing a favorite toy in the crate. This step may take a few minutes or as long as several days. Step 2: Feed your dog meals in the crate After introducing your dog to the crate, begin feeding them their regular meals near the crate. This will create a pleasant association with the crate. If your dog is readily entering the crate when you begin Step 2, place the food dish all the way at the back of the crate. If they remain reluctant to enter, put the dish only as far inside as they will readily go without becoming fearful or anxious. Each time you feed them, place the dish a little further back in the crate. Once your dog is standing comfortably in the crate to eat their meal, you can close the door while they’re eating. The first time you do this, open the door as soon as they finish their meal. With each successive feeding, leave the door closed a few minutes longer, until they’re staying in the crate for 10 minutes or so after eating. If they begin to whine to be let out, you may have increased the length of time too quickly. Next time, try leaving them in the crate for a shorter time period. If they do whine or cry in the crate, don’t let them out until they stop. Otherwise, they'll learn that the way to get out of the crate is to whine, so they'll keep doing it. Step 3: Practice with longer crating periods After your dog is eating their regular meals in the crate with no sign of fear or anxiety, you can confine them there for short time periods while you're home. Call them over to the crate and give them a treat. Give them a command to enter, such as "crate." Encourage them by pointing to the inside of the crate with a treat in your hand. After your dog enters the crate, praise them, give them the treat and close the door. Sit quietly near the crate for five to 10 minutes and then go into another room for a few minutes. Return, sit quietly again for a short time and then let them out. Repeat this process several times a day, gradually increasing the length of time you leave them in the crate and the length of time you're out of sight. Once your dog will stay quietly in the crate for about 30 minutes with you mostly out of sight, you can begin leaving them crated when you're gone for short time periods and/or letting them sleep there at night. This may take several days or weeks. Step 4, Part A: Crate your dog when you leave After your dog can spend about 30 minutes in the crate without becoming anxious or afraid, you can begin leaving them crated for short periods when you leave the house. Put them in the crate using your regular command and a treat. You might also want to leave them with a few safe toys in the crate. Vary the moment during your "getting ready to leave" routine that you put your dog in the crate. Although they shouldn't be crated for a long time before you leave, you can crate them anywhere from five to 20 minutes prior to leaving. Don't make your departures emotional and prolonged—they should be matter-of-fact. Praise your dog briefly, give them a treat for entering the crate and then leave quietly. When you return home, don't reward your dog for excited behavior by responding to them in an enthusiastic way. Keep arrivals low-key to avoid increasing their anxiety over when you will return. Continue to crate your dog for short periods from time to time when you're home so they don't associate crating with being left alone. Step 4, Part B: Crate your dog at night Put your dog in the crate using your regular command and a treat. Initially, it may be a good idea to put the crate in your bedroom or nearby in a hallway, especially if you have a puppy. Puppies often need to go outside to eliminate during the night and you'll want to be able to hear your puppy when they whine to be let outside. Older dogs should also initially be kept nearby so they don't associate the crate with social isolation. Once your dog is sleeping comfortably through the night with the crate near you, you can begin to gradually move it to the location you prefer, although time spent with your dog—even sleep time—is a chance to strengthen the bond between you and your pet. Potential problems Whining: If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether they’re whining to be let out of the crate, or whether they need to be let outside to eliminate. If you've followed the training procedures outlined above, then your dog hasn't been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from their crate. If that is the case, try to ignore the whining. If your dog is just testing you, they'll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at them or pounding on the crate will only make things worse. If the whining continues after you've ignored them for several minutes, use the phrase they associate with going outside to eliminate. If they respond and become excited, take them outside. This should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you're convinced that your dog doesn't need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore them until they stop whining. Don't give in; if you do, you'll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what they want. If you've progressed gradually through the training steps and haven't done too much too fast, you'll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again. Separation anxiety: Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won't solve the problem. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but they may get injured in an attempt to escape. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counterconditioning and desensitization procedures. Nipping: Puppies may nip for a number of reasons. Nipping can be a means of energy release, getting attention, interacting and exploring their environment or it could be a habit that helps with teething. Whatever the cause, nipping can still be painful for the receiver, and it’s an action that pet parents want to curb. Some ways to stop biting before it becomes a real problem include: Using teething toys. Distracting with and redirecting your dog’s biting to safe and durable chew toys is one way to keep them from focusing their mouthy energies to an approved location and teach them what biting habits are acceptable. Making sure your dog is getting the proper amount of exercise. Exercise is huge. Different dogs have different exercise needs based on their breed and size, so check with your veterinarian to make sure that yours is getting the exercise they need. Dogs—and especially puppies—use their playtime to get out extra energy. With too much pent-up energy, your pup may resort to play biting. Having them expel their energy in positive ways - including both physical and mental exercise - will help mitigate extra nips. Being consistent. Training your dog takes patience, practice and consistency. With the right training techniques and commitment, your dog will learn what is preferred behavior. While sometimes it may be easier to let a little nipping activity go, be sure to remain consistent in your cues and redirection. That way, boundaries are clear to your dog. Using positive reinforcement. To establish preferred behaviors, use positive reinforcement when your dog exhibits the correct behavior. For instance, praise and treat your puppy when they listen to your cue to stop unwanted biting as well as when they choose an appropriate teething toy on their own. Saying “Ouch!” The next time your puppy becomes too exuberant and nips you, say “OUCH!” in a very shocked tone and immediately stop playing with them. Your puppy should learn - just as they did with their littermates - that their form of play has become unwanted. When they stop, ensure that you follow up with positive reinforcement by offering praise, treat and/or resuming play. Letting every interaction with your puppy be a learning opportunity. While there are moments of dedicated training time, every interaction with your dog can be used as a potential teaching moment.

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hank
Australian Cattle Dog
5 Months
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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
708 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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Lady
Australian Cattle Dog
1 Year
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Lady
Australian Cattle Dog
1 Year

Hi, Lady is a rescue I got about two months ago. She’s very smart, potty trained, knows sit, down, roll over and is working on Leave It. Lady will however sometimes bite people around her when we get too excited or there is too much activity or the voice level around us rises. She’s left marks on about three people now and I would like to know what measures I could be taking to help her train not to do this. The bites don’t happen frequently and it’s hard to tell when she is going to do it, because some days she does really well in big groups and will be around a person for hours and then the next day in the same situations she struggles. Would definitely appreciate any advice or tips you have!

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Nav
Australian Cattle Dog
8 Months
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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.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
708 Dog owners recommended

Hello Pedro, As a Cattle dog, pup's biting may be partially related to him trying to control movement and behavior when highly aroused. When highly aroused pup may have a hard time managing his instincts to control movement. I suggest working on impulse control building commands. Pup also may need more mental stimulation - which teaching commands and having pup work more for what they get - via doing a command before you give them something, like sit before tossing a ball, wait before eating, Sit before going on a walk, heeling during the walk with periodic Down-Stays, "Attention" and freezing in the middle of games before continuing, ect... Thresholds: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_-w28C2g68M Out - which means leave the area: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Leave It method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel For the biting of other people, the above commands can help manage that some, I would also desensitize him to touch and handling, and instruct guests how to interact with him differently. Have guests give him commands and toss treats instead of petting as the norm - to build his trust and respect for people, condition calmness, and move away from his expectation that it's going to be a bad interaction for him (to him being touched by strangers feels bad right now). At the same time, work on desensitizing him to touch so that he can handle the touches more easily when they happen unexpectedly. Use pup daily meal kibble to do this. Gently touch an area of pup'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. When they enjoy you doing it and are 100% comfortable, have others that pup knows and trusts practice this, adding in one person at a time. Gradually move to people pup knows less well as pup is visibly staying happy and relaxed with each touch and each new person. Progress through this slowly, staying at the current step until pup is 100% comfortable with that. Practice this with a basket muzzle on if you feel pup could bite during it. - treats can be passed through the muzzle's holes and the muzzle introduced with treats gradually so that wearing one isn't a negative experience. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Goose
Cattle dog and terrier
4 Years
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Goose
Cattle dog and terrier
4 Years

My dog Goose is a great dog, but when he gets really excited and around other people and dogs he tends to bite. I have no idea how to approach this problem and any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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