How to Train an Australian Shepherd to Not Bite

Medium
2-6 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

While it’s true that any dog can have issues with using their teeth at the wrong time, nipping and biting inappropriately can be double the issue when you have a herding breed. Herding dogs are often known for nipping at the ankles of their charges to get them moving. However, when your dog is running around with you in the backyard, it can be relatively annoying to have him constantly nipping at your heels.

Australian Shepherds, also known as Aussies, are a herding breed that can exhibit this behavior without the appropriate training. It can be frustrating, especially if your Aussie is prone to herding small children or other household pets. Nipping and biting may be something you’ll want to put a stop to entirely if it’s presenting a problem for you or your family.

Defining Tasks

Teaching any dog to not bite once they’ve formed the habit can be challenging, but it can be especially challenging for breeds who are responding to instinct. However, with the right formula, you can break a bad habit and replace it with much better ones. Biting habits of Australian shepherds should be interrupted as soon as you notice them develop, which is generally during late puppyhood, but even an adult Aussie can learn to put energy into more appropriate habits.

Getting rid of inappropriate biting can take anywhere between two to six weeks, depending on how long your dog has been exhibiting it. Consistent and daily intervention and training should make the process relatively pain-free but remember that instinct is a powerful force. You’ll have to be more appealing than the base desire to run, chase, and bite.

Getting Started

Constructive outlets for biting and mouthing are important, so looking into things like chew toys can be useful. You’ll also want a leash for control when outdoors and treats for rewarding positive behavior. Have these things on hand whenever you begin your training, so you can be certain that you have what you need to keep training on track.

The Leave It Method

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Step
1
Use a treat as a lure
Have a treat in hand and ready to keep your dog’s interest. Allow him to sniff at it, but don’t allow him to have it.
Step
2
Reward for disinterest
As soon as your dog loses interest because of his inability to get the treat, reward him with verbal praise and the treat. He will need to know that he gets rewarded when he leaves something alone.
Step
3
Use the verbal command
Use the words ‘leave it’ whenever your dog begins to ignore or look away from the treat as you practice. Use these words every time.
Step
4
Make it challenging
Start placing the treat on the ground and use your verbal command to test your Aussie’s ability to leave it alone. Practice this trick often. Remember to always reward with both verbal praise and a treat when he behaves appropriately.
Step
5
Put it in context
Use the command when you’re out and about and your dog begins to exhibit his biting behavior. Reward him whenever he obeys and keeps his teeth to himself.
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The Time and Place Method

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Step
1
Keep small children at a distance
Having small children running around your dog can make him shift into herding mode. Make sure that you keep an eye on them and consider placing them in separate play areas.
Step
2
Encourage productive play
Use toys, flirt poles, or other fun objects to allow your Aussie to use his teeth without turning them towards your ankles instead.
Step
3
Provide an alternative outlet
Offer plenty of exercise during the day if your dog does not actually herd any livestock. Going for walks, participating in sports, or going swimming can all help tire him out and make him less prone to running after you.
Step
4
Avoid provoking a chase
Avoid running around your Aussie, as that may encourage him to chase you and nip at you.
Step
5
Use a leash
Keep your dog on a leash during outdoor activities to control the amount of running around that he does.
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The Intervention Method

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Step
1
Observe the triggers
Watch for what puts your Aussie into a herding mode. It may be someone running, someone walking by, small animals, or other such triggers.
Step
2
Use a long leash
Keep your dog on a long leash for maximum control while also allowing her the freedom to wander a bit.
Step
3
Set up a trigger
Have someone help you to set up a situation that might cause your to dog begin her herding and biting behavior.
Step
4
Interrupt with a command
Get her attention by using an obedience command that your Aussie already knows. You may need to call her name to get her attention first. Have a treat in hand so she can see it.
Step
5
Reward for obedience
If she stops her chasing or biting behavior and obeys your obedience command, reward her for doing so with a treat and verbal praise. If she does not respond, use a higher value treat such as real meats or something that your dog doesn’t get to have very often.
Recommend training method?

Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers

Question
Ollie Blu
Australian Shepherd
10 Weeks
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Question
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Ollie Blu
Australian Shepherd
10 Weeks

How to stop him from biting our ankles, growling and squirming when we pick him up.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1130 Dog owners recommended

Hello Peggy, First, if you are using any methods that involve physical roughness with your hands, then I would switch to a different method, and I would work on getting puppy used to touch and handling using treat. 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. For the biting, check out the article I have linked below on puppy biting. I would practice both the Bite Inhibition method and Leave It method, since Leave It is the end goal but take a while to teach, but the Bite Inhibition method can be started right away in the while pup is still learning leave it. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I would also crate train and teach Out, so pup can learn to give space and spend some quiet time in a crate with a dog food stuffed chew toy when they are getting especially wound up or overtired - puppies will often get extra rough when overtired and need a short nap about every hour and a half at this age. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Crate training - surprise method: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Fred
Australian Shepherd
4 Months
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Question
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Fred
Australian Shepherd
4 Months

We can’t run with him, because the moment we start to walk ahead of him he starts to herd us. Sometimes he gets very frustrated/excited and bites/nips at my legs causing it to bleed even tho he doesn’t add much pressure ( very sharp teeth) I tried yelping everytime he does that but he talks back and struggles to surrender unless I put him into a different room.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1130 Dog owners recommended

Hello Victoria, I recommend practicing the Leave It method from the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Once pup is doing well with leave it, I would work on teaching heel also. Check out this article for how to teach Heel. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rolo
Australian Shepherd
4 Years
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Question
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Rolo
Australian Shepherd
4 Years

Rolo nips at new people who come into our home when they try to pet her

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1130 Dog owners recommended

Hello Audrey, I actually recommend hiring a private trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression and fear and works with a staff of trainers so you have access to a lot of different people who know how to work on counter conditioning and desensitizing pup, to be able to practice with those people in a controlled situation over and over and over again to help pup see progress. This will likely involve building pup's trust and respect for you, so that pup is more willing to listen and allow you to handle situations that make him uncomfortable. Desensitizing pup to new people, starting from a further distance. Carefully interrupting or correcting (depending on type of aggression) aggressive responses - like fixating on someone, early before pup is overly aroused, and rewarding pup for calmness, tolerance, focus on you, and ignoring the person. As pup improves, you would gradually decrease the distance based on how relaxed pup's body language was able to stay. Eventually, the person could be within a few feet while pup was on a back tie leash, and toss pup treats whenever pup reacts well. This would need to be practiced with a number of different people. Finding a training group that specializes in behavior issues, comes well recommended by their previous clients for this type of need, and has several trainers who could all practice the training with pup. Once pup could tolerate various people being close, the next step would be to get pup working for different people, by having the people give pup commands and practice things like heel and agility, while rewarding pup with treats for good responses. This all would need to be done very carefully with the proper tools and methods to avoid a bite. Finally, pup could be desensitized to touch by having those people reward pup with a treat each time they gently touch pup somewhere - like collar, shoulder, chest, ect...Having pup earn their entire meals regularly, one piece at a time - by giving one piece of food with each gentle touch, and only touching for as long as it takes pup to chew the food, before giving another and touching again. I would consider desensitizing pup to wearing a basket muzzle too, in case that's needed for safety when starting more up close training around other people. Muzzle introduction video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJTucFnmAbw&list=PLXtcKXk-QWojGYcl1NCg5UA5geEnmpx4a&index=6&t=0s Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
shelby
Australian Shepherd
5 Years
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Question
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shelby
Australian Shepherd
5 Years

She is biting people for no apparent reason. We thought is was herding, however someone can be petting her and she will nip them.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1130 Dog owners recommended

Hello Vicky, I would start by making sure there isn't an injury or illness, especially if the behavior is related often to touch or approach. If pup is healthy, then the behavior might be a learned behavior, where pup has learned to use aggression to stop or get something she wants. So if someone is petting her and she no longer wants to be petted or doesn't like touch in that area, she bites. For this type of aggression, I highly recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues like aggression and resource guarding to work in person with you. A dog in this case basically needs a complete attitude change, the use of a basket muzzle around people to stop her from being able to control things with her mouth, and a lot of new obedience and rules to practice to calmly build trust and respect. I would suspect pup also needs to be counter conditioned to things like touch also - giving pup a treat each time you touch, with the basket muzzle on, to help pup trust touch again. A third possibility is a chemical imbalance in the brain or genetic disorder. I would speak with an animal behaviorist if you believe this could be the case. This is more rare, but will often appear like a dog who is genuinely fine and happy one second then without a trigger (petting is a trigger still) it's like a switch is flipped and pup is suddenly very aggressive and dangerous. Often aggression can appear to be this type but there are actual subtle warning signs and intentional things pup is doing and protesting, so that when you ignore that subtle glare that was meant as a warning, or do something pup has decided is off limits - like pet them in that particular spot, breaking one of pup's imaginary rules they have for you, then pup reacts aggressively. This is often not the same as a chemical imbalance or genetic/brain disorder but was intentional on pup's part and more behavioral. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Timmy
Mini Australian Shepterrier
9 Weeks
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Question
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Timmy
Mini Australian Shepterrier
9 Weeks

I can’t get my puppy to stop biting me. I understand that he’s beginning to teeth, but even when I offer him toys to play with he rather bite my hair or finger. I’ve tried saying “Stop” and “ Leave it” but he continues to bite. I think he thinks it’s a game because there is no stop. It’s gotten to the point where he’s begun to bite my face. I’m wondering whether crate training him could help me. What would be the best next option for me?

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
1130 Dog owners recommended

Hello Ashley, 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/ 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/ Know that mouthiness at this age is completely normal. It's not fun but it is normal for it to take some time for a puppy to learn self-control well enough to stop. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see instant progress, any progress and moving in the right direction in this area is good, so keep working at it. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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