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How to Train an Australian Shepherd Puppy to Not Bite

How to Train an Australian Shepherd Puppy to Not Bite
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon2-6 Months
Behavior training category iconBehavior

Introduction

Imagine playing with your adorable Aussie puppy. You are having a great time tossing toys around and enticing her with a favorite tug toy. You end the play session after thirty minutes, and then go get ready to go out for the evening. As you are washing your hands and getting dressed up you notice your hands. They look like you stuck them into a briar patch and then struggled to pull them back out again. They are covered in red scratches, look a bit puffy, and in a couple of places, there is even a bit of broken skin. You sigh and continue to get ready, wondering what to do about your puppy's biting.

If that scenario sounds familiar then you are not alone. Almost all puppies bite when they are young. It's called mouthing, and when your pup plays with another pup, if he bites too hard, the other puppy will let out a yelp and stop playing with your puppy. This teaches your puppy to be gentle and to control the pressure of his bite. Your puppy, like most puppies after eight weeks of age, probably does not live with a litter of puppies anymore though, so it becomes your job to teach him how to control his mouth. 

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Defining Tasks

Training your Australian Shepherd not to bite you is important because biting hurts and can be annoying. It might also scare children and those who not used to it. One of the most important reasons to teach your puppy not to bite, though, is the fact that your puppy will not stay a puppy forever. Around five months of age, your puppy's jaws will begin to strengthen and he will have more adult teeth. At that point, the biting is no longer just annoying but can be dangerous if your pup bites hard.

If your pup is young still then you can help your puppy to learn to control the pressure of his mouth by taking him to play with other puppies. Make sure that the interactions are supervised though, that any attempts to bully each other are stopped, and that all of the puppies are having fun and not becoming frightened or too pushy. Puppies are great at giving one another feedback and helping to teach one another self-control. Although your puppy might learn how to be gentler with his mouth while playing with other puppies, he will still need for you to train him not to bite you.

If your puppy is young then using the 'Ouch! Method' can teach him to not only stop biting but also to be more aware of how he is using his mouth, and to have more control over the force of his bite. This might make him safer as an adult dog, in the event of a bite due to injury, fear, or the unexpected. This method is only appropriate for young puppies, though, because it can take time and you want your puppy to reach the point where he is not biting at all, or is extremely gentle with his mouth, by the time that he reaches five months of age.

If your puppy is young then you can work on the 'Ouch! Method' at the same time as the 'Leave It Method'. Doing both methods together can help your puppy to learn great self-control. You can go through the steps of the 'Ouch! Method' and then when you get to there point where you want to teach your puppy to not bite you at all, you can use the 'Leave It' command that you have been practicing with other objects while doing the 'Leave It Method'.

The simplest of all the methods is the 'Pressure Method'. If your puppy is sensitive or not very mouthy then this method is probably all that you will need in order to teach him not to bite. It is a relatively easy method to follow. It will require you to come into contact with your puppy's mouth though, so if your puppy is older and has his adult teeth and adult jaw strength, then the 'Leave It Method' might be a better choice. To save yourself from being scratched you can also perform this method while wearing a thick, leather type glove. You will need to keep the glove with you though, for unexpected bites.

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Getting Started

To get started, if you are using the 'Leave It' method, then you will need small treats that your puppy loves. You will also need a glove or a sock, and other items that your pup loves to bite, to attach to yourself during the training. You will also need some of your puppy's favorite toys. If you are using the 'Ouch! Method' then you will need confidence, perseverance, patience, calmness, and the ability to say "Ouch!" in a loud and high pitched voice that sounds like a dog's yelp. If you are using the 'Pressure Method', you will need some of your puppy's favorite toys, a firm resolve, a confident attitude, patience, and persistence. If your hands are sensitive then you will also need a glove to practice this.

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The Leave It Method

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1

Grab treats

To begin, grab some treats and place them where you can grab them during the training but your puppy cannot reach. Call your puppy over to you.

2

Add command

When your puppy comes over, place several treats inside your hand and close your fingers around them. Allow your puppy to sniff your hand and tell him to "Leave it". When he stops sniffing your hand and trying to get the treats out, praise him and give him a treat from a different location. Do not let him have the treats in your hand at any point during the training. Always reward him with a treat from somewhere else.

3

Repeat

Practice 'leave it' until your puppy will leave your hand alone as soon as you tell him to. When he will do that then place the treats on the floor and cover them with your hand. Practice with the treats on the floor until he has mastered that too. Continue to make 'leave it' harder as he improves. To make it harder, cover the treats with your foot instead of your hand, stand farther away from the treats while they are on the ground, and eventually tossing the treats onto the floor while telling your pup to 'leave it'. Be ready to block your pup or cover the treats though, in case he tries to get them.

4

Add a glove

When your pup has mastered 'leave it' with treats then grab a glove or a sock and place it on your hand. Show your pup the glove or the sock on your hand and practice 'leave it' with the sock or the glove. Praise and reward him with a treat when he leaves your hand, wearing the glove or the sock, alone.

5

Entice your pup

When your pup will leave the glove or the sock on your hand alone, then find other objects that your puppy likes to play with and bite, such as ribbons, clothing articles, or paper wads. Attach those articles to yourself, where your puppy can reach, and practice 'leave it' with those articles too. Do this until he will leave those articles alone also when told to.

6

Redirect

After your puppy can leave the tempting objects attached to you alone, whenever your puppy begins to bite you freeze to remove any excitement from the situation, and tell him "leave it". When he does so then offer him one of his own toys, so that he will learn to grab his own toys when he gets excited, instead of biting you.

The Ouch! Method

Effective

5 Votes

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Effective

5 Votes

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1

Say "Ouch!"

To begin, whenever your puppy bites you hard enough to cause pain, say "Ouch!" in a loud, high pitched voice, that mimics a yelp. When you do so, immediately stop playing with your puppy, stand up, cross your arms, and ignore him for five minutes.

2

Call your puppy back

After five minutes, if he has left you alone, then call him over and resume playing with him. If he knows how to sit then tell him to sit when you call him over, before you resume playing with him again.

3

Repeat

Practice yelping by saying "Ouch!" in a loud and high pitched voice whenever he bites you hard enough to cause pain. Do this for a couple of weeks, until he bites less hard.

4

Require less pressure

When your puppy begins to control the force of his bite after a couple of weeks of practicing, then say "Ouch!" and ignore him if he applies any pressure when he bites you. When you ignore him this time, leave the room for five minutes to make the point more strongly. Return at the end of the five minutes, and call him over to you, so that you are the one to initiate the interaction again.

5

Repeat "Ouch!"

Practice saying "Ouch!" in a loud and high pitched voice and leaving the room for five minutes whenever your puppy applies pressure when he bites you. Do this for at least a couple of weeks, until your puppy no longer applies pressure when he bites you, but uses his mouth more gently instead.

6

Require no pressure

When your puppy does not apply pressure when he bites you, then say "Ouch!" whenever he presses his teeth into you at all, or does anything other than barely touching you with his mouth. When you say "Ouch!" ignore him for ten minutes this time. When you return, call him back over to you and tell him to sit if he knows how to, before resuming playing again.

7

Repeat again

Practice saying "Ouch!" whenever your buddy puts his mouth on you in any way that is not extremely gentle. Also practice ignoring him or leaving the room for ten minutes if he is not gentle. If you stay in the room during the ten minutes, while you are ignoring him, and he tries to bite your leg or bark at you while you are ignoring him then leave the room.

8

Require no biting

When your puppy has learned to be very gentle with his mouth then you can teach him to stop biting you completely. To teach him to no longer bite at all, whenever he tries to put his mouth on you, say "Ouch!" in a high pitched, loud voice, and ignore him for ten minutes, like you did in the past. Do this is to teach him that even touching you with his mouth hurts you, and that biting ends all of his fun.

The Pressure Method

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5 Votes

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Least Recommended

5 Votes

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1

Play

To begin, grab some of your puppy's favorite toys. Call your puppy over to you and begin to play with him.

2

Add pressure

Whenever your puppy bites your hand, tell him "Aha!" while pressing your flat hand into the back of his mouth, so that you are pressing onto the area where his jaws meet each other. Do this until he tries to spit your hand out.

3

Repeat

If your puppy tries to grab your hand again as soon as you remove it, then repeat pressing your hand into the back of his mouth until he tries to spit it out again. Repeat this until he leaves your hand alone.

4

Give a toy

When your puppy leaves your hand alone then praise him and hand him one of his own toys to bite on.

5

Practice

Practice pressing your hand into the back of your puppy's mouth and telling him "Aha" whenever he bites you. Continue to praise him and offer him one of his own toys whenever he stops trying to bite you. If your puppy tries to bite an area of your body besides your hand, then block that area with your hand, tell him "Aha!", and then press your hand into his mouth if he bites your hand while you are blocking him. When he stops trying to get to the other part of your body to bite you, then praise him and give him a toy to bite instead.

By Caitlin Crittenden

Published: 04/11/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Abbie

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Mini Aussiepoo

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12 Weeks

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Can be very aggressive with me, growling and ready to bite when I want to pick her up. It’s a complete departure from her usual personality. She’s just started this.

May 19, 2022

Abbie's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello Eileen, I would start by desensitizing pup to touch and handling. To work on getting pup used to touch and handling, use pup's 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 their collar and give a treat. Touch their tail gently and give a treat. Touch their belly, their other paws, their chest, shoulder, muzzle and every other area very gently and give a treat each time. Keep these times calm and fun for pup. Once pup likes the touches, then practice putting your hand under pup's chest and giving a treat, then putting it under pup's chest and adding pressure, like you might be about to lift pup, and giving a treat, then putting it under pup's chest and lifting just an inch off the ground then setting pup right back down and giving a treat. As pup begins to like the touches and lifts, gradually lift pup a little higher and hold off the ground for just a couple of seconds longer while giving a treat to teach pup to enjoy this process. Avoid chasing after pup, carrying pup around all the time, and lifting without supporting - those practices can teach a dog to dislike being held. Make touches and lifts calm and fun, supporting pup well when you do have to do it, and respecting pup's space when not training. If you are lifting pup a lot right now to enforce rules, like pup won't get off the couch, come, or go into their crate - so you are carrying them. For those types of situations, keep a drag leash on pup when you are home and calmly pick up the end of the drag leash when pup obeys and lead pup to what they were told to be doing - instead of having to chase or pick up pup. This helps holding stay enjoying for pup, it's better for training pup to obey because they pup is having to actually walk there themselves and make that choice to listen a bit more - with your help with the leash. Don't keep the drag leash on pup if you aren't there to supervise pup though, because you don't want it getting caught and entangling pup. Finally, I would work on gradually teaching pup the following commands over the next few months, to help build respect, trust, and listening. 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 Off- section on The Off command: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-train-dog-stay-off-couch/ Listening methods - all three - including Working method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 20, 2022

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Jax

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Australian Shepherd (Standard, Toy or Miniature)

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8 Weeks

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We understand that he is a very young puppy, but when he bites, he bites hard. And he’s been going for the face and you can tell he’s determined to bite because when he snaps in front of your face you hear his teeth coming together and it is loud. How do we stop the biting and nipping at the face ?

April 28, 2022

Jax's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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1133 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sabrina, Check out the article linked below. Starting today, use the "Bite Inhibition" method. BUT at the same time, begin teaching "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method. As soon as pup is good as the Leave It game, start telling pup to "Leave It" when he attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if he makes a good choice. If he disobeys your leave it command, use the Pressure method to gently discipline pup for biting when you told him not to. The order or all of this is very important - the Bite Inhibition method can be used for the next couple of weeks while pup is learning leave it, but leave it will teach pup to stop the biting entirely. The pressure method teaches pup that you mean what you say without being overly harsh - but because you have taught pup to leave it first, pup clearly understands that you are not just roughhousing (which is what pup probably thinks most of the time right now), so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I would also work on teaching the Out command, and then use the section from the article on How to Use Out to Deal with Pushiness, to enforce it when pup doesn't listen, especially around other animals or kids. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Another important part of this is puppy learning bite inhibition. Puppies have to learn while young how to control the pressure of their mouths - this is typically done through play with other puppies. See if there is a puppy class in your area that comes well recommended and has time for moderated off-leash puppy play. If you can't join a class, look for a free puppy play group, or recruit some friends with puppies to come over if you can and create your own group. You are looking for puppies under 6 months of age - since young puppies play differently than adult dogs. Moderate the puppies' play and whenever one pup seems overwhelmed or they are all getting too excited, interrupt their play, let everyone calm down, then let the most timid pup go first to see if they still want to play - if they do, then you can let the other puppies go too when they are waiting for permission. Finding a good puppy class - no class will be ideal but here's what to shoot for: https://www.petful.com/behaviors/puppy-classes-when-to-start/ When pup gets especially wound up, he probably needs a nap too. At this age puppies will sometimes get really hyper when they are overtired or haven't had any mental stimulation through something like training. When you spot that and think pup could be tired, place pup in their crate or an exercise pen with a food stuffed Kong for a bit to help him calm down and rest. Finally, check out the PDF e-book downloads found on this website, written by one of the founders of the association of professional dog trainers, and a pioneer in starting puppy kindergarten classes in the USA. Click on the pictures of the puppies to download the PDF books: https://www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads/ Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 3, 2022


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