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 and Success Stories

Question
Neska
Australian Shepherd
2 Years
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Question
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Neska
Australian Shepherd
2 Years

We have 4 female dogs in the home of different ages, 11 and 12 yr old Aussie/ border collie mixes. And a 7 month old Great Pyrenees. The 2 yr old Aussie has started to become aggressive with the older dogs. It’s not about food, but I feel it’s about position or attention. We have removed her after the altercations and made her submit (lay down), then ignore until we ask her to come back. I can catch her before at times when she does the stare. The Great Pyrenees seems to want to stop her when it starts at times because she will stand over her and Neska will not attack her. I don’t want the Great Pyrenees to learn this attack behavior.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
709 Dog owners recommended

Hello Amy, It does sound like their may be some competing going on, based on the standing over her behavior - which is a show of dominance. There could also be a lack of impulse control on Neska's part. I would work on adding a lot of structure to the dogs' routine, especially Neska. I would also follow the methods from the article I have linked below for Neska, especially the Working method. How are the other dog's responding and interacting with her? It's possible the other dog(s) are also starting things with intimidating looks/posturing/guarding behavior that needs to be addressed, and Neska lacks impulse control and is getting triggered by the other dogs' behavior too. If that's going on, you will want to work on building the other dogs' respect for you too, and doing things like the working method and giving more structure and rules in the home for those dogs also. Working method - all methods are worth a read too though. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you I would crate train all dogs who may be causing issues, teach all dogs a 1 hour Place command, and start making the dogs who are causing issues work for what they get in life. Make any dog who gets pushy, blocks another dog's access to somewhere or is in any way bullying leave the room. Crate Training: https://wagwalking.com/training/like-a-crate/ Place: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s 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 I would also consider having any dogs fighting were a basket muzzle when they are loose together, desensitizing them to the basket muzzles using their daily meal kibble ahead of time. As well as, hiring a professional trainer who specializes in behavior issues to oversee things and guide the training. They will be able to ask more questions, observe the dogs together, and adjust the training as you go, depending on how the dogs' are responding - things I am not able to do in my response to you here. They can also show you how to keep things safer between the dogs right now through management while things are tense. Muzzle introduction video - Expect this to take a couple of weeks, not one session for a dog who hasn't worn a muzzle before. Use a silicone basket muzzle for comfort. 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
Blue
Australian Shepherd
2 Years
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Blue
Australian Shepherd
2 Years

He has bitten our granddaughter two times in the last 6 months. She is 3. Tonight he bit her in the hand when she tried to hug him. He is not an aggressive dog. Very playful

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
709 Dog owners recommended

Hello, I suggest finding a professional trainer in your area who specializes in behavior issues like fear and aggression. I would work with them to desensitize pup to being touched and to the presence of kids using food rewards and having the kid toss pup treats for good responses - with safety measure like a back tie leash and the kid being kept far enough away from pup to remain safe and not stress pup too much. Hugging is a very intimidating, challenging gesture for someone to make towards a dog in general - many dogs can feel trapped or like the child is trying to dominate them. Kids are often unpredictable, sometimes rough, loud, scary, and harder to respect for many dogs. Dogs who didn't grow up around little kids can have an especially hard time with them. All that doesn't mean a bite is ever okay, it simply explains why kids are more often bitten. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Rocky
Australian Shepherd or Mini or Toy Australian Shepherd
3 Years
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Rocky
Australian Shepherd or Mini or Toy Australian Shepherd
3 Years

We adopted him a year ago. He has bitten me and my wife a couple of times. He gets agitated when wet, when he hears thunder, and when he’s in a prone posture, like on his back. We have learned to be careful and he generally likes a lot of contact and affection. The last two bites were unprovoked as far as I can tell and he wasn’t going to stop. He kept coming. I love him but I’m not sure if I can handle the worry of him snapping like that. At the moment I have a couple of deep holes in my fingers.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
709 Dog owners recommended

Hello Mike, I recommend hiring a professional trainer who specializes in aggression and fear to work with you in person, and to evaluate pup. This may be fear related - which would involve desensitizing pup to their fears through counter conditioning. This might be related to a lack of respect for you, and more structure and boundaries and less confrontational ways to increase trust and respect, like obedience and having pup work for everything they get in life and new rules around the home, being started to build respect. This could also be a genetic or neurological issue. Or likely a combination of a couple of things. The best way to figure out what's going on and address it correctly is for someone highly experienced with aggression to be able to observe pup and ask you a lot of questions about their history, then make a training plan and adjust it as you go based on how pup responds. You can also check out a couple of trainers who specialize in aggression online, such as Thomas from the canine Educator to learn more about aggression, but I would recommend an in person evaluation. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Ranger
Australian Shepherd (Standard, Toy or Miniature)
4 Months
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Ranger
Australian Shepherd (Standard, Toy or Miniature)
4 Months

Bites hard when told no. Attacks aggressive and will not back down, in fact becomes more aggressive when correction (attempt to correct). Has shown this behavior from when we purchased him at 7 weeks old from the breeder. Also, bites at heels when he wants to play or have us pay attention to him.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
709 Dog owners recommended

Hello James, 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 she attempts to bite or is tempted to bite. Reward pup if she makes a good choice. If she disobeys your leave it command, use the Out command from the second article linked below to make her leave the area as a consequence. 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 Out 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 playing, and hits up against pup's defense drive less, so it is more effective. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite Out - which means leave the area, is also a good command for you to use. As a herding breed who is likely using their mouth to try to control your movement, this will be an important command. Check out the section on Using Out to Deal with Pushy Behavior for how to calmly enforce that command once it's taught. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ Work on getting puppy used to touch and handling. 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. I would also keep a drag leash on pup while you are home to supervise (to make sure it doesn't catch on anything). When pup is not obeying, simply pick up the end of the leash and enforce your command (like Out or leave it), making pup move away and keeping the leash tight enough they can't bite you (but not strangling pup), until pup finally wears themselves out and stops...They may take pup 15 minutes of fighting the leash and you while you simply stand frozen holding pup away from you until they relax some - have the leash tight enough that pup can't wander away or come toward you, but loose enough that if pup relaxes and stands still, there isn't tension on the leash. This isn't a punishment mainly, but to help pup calm back down. When pup is really having a hard time, I recommend crating them or placing them into an exercise pen with a dog food stuffed chew toy because many puppies will get especially mouthy when over-tired and need some down time - sort of like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum when overtired. Finally, check out the free PDF E-book AFTER You Get Your Puppy, which can be downloaded at the link below. www.lifedogtraining.com/freedownloads Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Skye
Australian Shepherd
2 Months
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Question
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Skye
Australian Shepherd
2 Months

She likes biting my fingers and sometimes my clothes.

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

Hello! Here is information on nipping/biting. 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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