How to Train an Australian Shepherd Puppy to Not Bite

Medium
2-6 Months
Behavior

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. 

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.

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.

The Ouch! Method

Most Recommended
2 Votes
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Leave It Method

Effective
1 Vote
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

The Pressure Method

Least Recommended
2 Votes
Step
1
Play
To begin, grab some of your puppy's favorite toys. Call your puppy over to you and begin to play with him.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Step
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.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Luna
Australian Shepherd
8 Months
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Question
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Luna
Australian Shepherd
8 Months

Luna bites. A lot. Still. She will bite our faces, hands, ankles, and everything in between. The problem is she has many if not all of her adult teeth, so she draws blood. Is there any way we can get her to stop biting so much? Thanks!

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
424 Dog owners recommended

Hello Marisa, First, I do suggest hiring a professional trainer who uses both positive reinforcement and fair corrections to come to your home and assess the biting. I am assuming the biting is out of excitement but without more details I can't say for sure what you should do. If the biting is in response to you doing something that she does not like, that is a respect issue and probably a learned behavior, possibly fear also - that type of biting is more related to aggression and sometimes a lack of trust. If the biting is in response to movement - because she is a herding breed, then you need to deal with her desire to control things. At her age, I am assuming based on what I know that the biting is due to excitement and she simply doesn't have good bite-inhibition - which is where she controls the pressure of her mouth. If the issue is excitement, then it's time to correct harder than you would with a young puppy at this point. I suggest teaching a 'Leave It' command and using that command when she starts to get too rough. Once she understands 'Leave It' fully, then you may also need electric collar training to give you the amount of non-physical correction with the consistency that you need. For this, I suggest hiring a trainer who is very experienced with e-collars and has excellent reviews and experience with this type of behavior. Here is a link to the 'Leave It' command. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite The 'Leave It' command is a first step because she needs to clearly understand what she is supposed to be doing instead of biting when you tell her to stop by saying 'Leave It'. Understanding gives her a chance to obey and succeed. If she doesn't obey even though she understands - which it sounds like may happen, then an electric collar e-collar is usually what I recommend to enforce your 'Leave It' command. Doing it this way disciplines her disobedience and not something more obscure that could be confusing. It may sound harsh but a high quality electric collar will have at least thirty different levels, letting you adjust the level to just what she needs in order to respond and not too high. It will also let you correct her without touching her - the touching will probably get her more wound up when she is in that state. You want something that will 'snap her out of it' and interrupt what she is doing without physically harming her. Once she stops, then you can give her something else to do instead, like 'Come', 'Sit', 'Down' or focus on a toy. She likely needs to be given direction with a command when she gets worked up like that. Do not buy a cheaply made e-collar. Poorly made (which are often less expensive too) e-collars can be dangerous due to malfunctioning. Garmin, E-collar Technologies, SportDog, and Dogtra are good brands. Find a trainer who can assess why she is biting, teach you how to properly use the electric collar, and figure out what level to set it to (called her working level - a good trainer will know what that term means. If they don't know what a working level is, then don't use that trainer). If she is biting due to herding or true aggression, then you will need to tackle that in some other ways too. Biting at this age like you described is most commonly associated with excitement and plain rudeness though. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

My puppy is almost 3 months old and she is an australian shepard as well! She has the same problem, she gets really aggressive and nips and bites on our ankles, face and tugs at our clothes.

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Question
Little Anne
Aussie
8 Weeks
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Question
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Little Anne
Aussie
8 Weeks

My little girl will not stop biting our ankles and hands. We have tried giving her a used sock to chew one, many toys, and snacking her nose. But she will not stop. When we try correcting her she begins to get very aggresive and bite more..please help

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
424 Dog owners recommended

Hello Lynsay, It is completely normal for puppies to do a form of biting called mouthing. That's how they learn, relieve boredom, and sooth themselves. It's also how they learn how to control how hard they press down with their teeth - if they learn that now, then they will actually be safer later as an adult. Puppies learn how to control how hard they press (called bite inhibition) by playing with puppies and getting feedback from people. Check out the article that I have linked below. Starting today, follow the "Bite Inhibition" method and use the yelping to help her learn. Also, start teaching her "Leave It" from the "Leave It" method found in that same article. When she gets good at the "Leave It" command and can leave clothing articles alone even when you are moving, then you can transition to having her "Leave It" when she wants to bite you. Stop giving her sock as well - that will cause confusion. When she is older and understands what "Leave It" means, then you can use the "Pressure" method to gently discipline her when she does not obey your leave it command and keep biting or start to bite. Biting article: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite It's important to teach leave it before disciplining because when you discipline her now, she either thinks that you are rough-house playing also, or she is probably getting defensive because she doesn't understand why you are doing it. You need to engage her brain and help her learn what she is supposed to be doing (controlling how hard she bites - through the Bite Inhibition method, and stopping biting completely - through the leave it method). Once she understands the rules, then when you discipline her, she will understand the correction and be able to respond correctly. Some dogs have a defense drive, and the more rough you get and pressure you apply, the more they fight back - it's a natural response, and you need to engage their brains instead of just doing something physical on it's own. Puppies are mouthy for several months. The training will help her learn by five months not to bite anymore, and how to do it gently while she is little and learning still, but do not expect the training to work overnight. This takes time. Puppies need to use their mouths. They just have to learn how to control the amount of pressure and what to bite and when (toys and other puppies during play - gently). Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Finn
Australian Shepherd
9 Weeks
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Question
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Finn
Australian Shepherd
9 Weeks

Austrian Shepards are herding dogs, so they will typically nip at your heals; however, our Aussie, Finn, has not done the typical nipping, he continues to jump up and bite us. We have tried the Ouch! method and have used clickers and treats, but neither of those seemed to help at all. What do you recommend we do now?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
424 Dog owners recommended

Hello Jessie, Check out the article that I have linked below and follow the "Leave It" method. After you have taught leave it, give him the leave it command when he tries to bite or looks like he is thinking about biting. There are two other methods in that article that you can try as well, but I suggest trying each method for at least a month because no method will stop the biting immediately for most puppies. They have to learn to control their mouths gradually during the first six-months of puppihood. Biting is natural - control is learned, but do help him learn by teaching him "leave it". You should see gradual improvement and be able to tell that he is understanding the command with practice, if it is working. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite For the jumping, take a step toward him when he jumps and cross your arms and act really boring. When he stops jumping and calms down or sits, then reward him with a treat for being calm. Jumping is an attention seeking behavior typically so the goal with jumping is to show a dog that you want them out of your space (by stepping toward them), to not give them any attention for jumping, and to give them attention when they do something nice instead (like sitting - which a dog conveniently can't do while jumping)...teach him the "Sit" command and when you first practice with the jumping, tell him to "Sit" when he stops jumping - to help him learn what to do instead of jumping. When he gets good at sitting when you tell him to, then simply remain quiet when he stops jumping and let him start guessing what to do, until he guesses that he should sit and does it. When he sits, reward him right away. This will teach him to automatically sit for attention instead of having to be told to do it first. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Charlie
Australian Shepherd
11 Weeks
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Question
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Charlie
Australian Shepherd
11 Weeks

Hi there.
We have a mixed Australian Sheppard with black lab. He is very active, jumping and nipping. We’ve used you Ouch method. However we are having to reinforce it everyday and it doesn’t seem to stick more than 24 hrs. When can I assume he’s got the training down and won’t hurt guests or strangers. I want to use a trainer but we can’t start training until he’s 14 weeks. Is this too late to train?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
424 Dog owners recommended

Hello Helen, Teaching puppies not to bite is something that takes closer to three months not days or weeks. He should be gradually improving and the biting should be getting softer and softer as you work on it. Check out the article that I have linked below and also work on the "Leave It" method. Leave It will take time to teach for him to get to the level of self control needed so use the Ouch method still while teaching it, but leave it tends to work well when they get a bit older to stop the biting completely. The article linked below was written for Shih Tzu's but the training is the same for other breeds too. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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