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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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Time and Place Method
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.
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.
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.
Avoid provoking a chase
Avoid running around your Aussie, as that may encourage him to chase you and nip at you.
Use a leash
Keep your dog on a leash during outdoor activities to control the amount of running around that he does.
The Intervention Method
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.
Use a long leash
Keep your dog on a long leash for maximum control while also allowing her the freedom to wander a bit.
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.
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.
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.
By TJ Trevino
Published: 04/20/2018, edited: 01/08/2021