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
Mack and Zita
Australian Shepherd
16 Months
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Question
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Mack and Zita
Australian Shepherd
16 Months

I have male and female Aussies. Siblings. They are 16 months. More than once they have acted territorial when a person is in a yard. Someone that they already have met and seem fine with. They jump and nip at them. Because they are jumping they do not nip their heels though I think they are hearding the person to a different part of the yard. They bark a lot during these encounters and it terrifies the person. They have not bit but the nipping and jumping is scary and has left scratches from nails and The canine teeth. It has only happened when they are together And they are feeding off one another.
How do I break this behavior?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
66 Dog owners recommended

Hello, my suggestion is to have a trainer come to the home. Consult someone who is used to dealing with aggression, biting, and jumping. Having the problem times two is a difficult situation. The fact that they are terrifying people, not to mention causing injury, calls for a professional in person. In the meantime, start reinforcing the commands they learned in puppy school. Practice and practice the Down, Off, Sit, Stay, and Recall commands. I would hesitate to let them greet people in the yard, in case you get a complaint - or even worse - someone gets hurt. In the meantime, you can try working with your dogs using the methods here: https://wagwalking.com/training/not-attack-strangers. Consistency is key. Also here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-doberman-to-listen-to-you. All the best!

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Question
Hank
Aussie Siberian
2 Months
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Hank
Aussie Siberian
2 Months

We have had our Aussie for 2 weeks and he won't stop biting. We have 4 kids ages 12 and under and he isnt eating his food. He will eat his treats. We use treats to teach him to sit and lay down. Is there something i can do to stop him from biting and also get him to eat his dog food?

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
66 Dog owners recommended

Hello, Hank has the lineage of two very busy and energetic breeds. Make sure that he is getting a lot of exercise (runs, fetch, ball, long walks) to help expend the energy and divert the biting habit. It is not too early to start his obedience training as well. For the biting, there are suggestions here: https://wagwalking.com/training/not-bite-your-hands. Provide a diversion such as a tugging toy while at the same time, being sure to tell him no when he bites. He may be teething, too. Buy him lots of teething toys with different textures to chew on and soothe the gums. As for the food, there are a lot of good articles here: https://www.purina.com/articles/dog/feeding/why-wont-my-dog-eat-dry-dog-food. As well, try the Mealtime Routine Method here: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-puppy-to-eat-dog-food. I would give fewer treats for now as well. If Hank continues to refuse to eat, take him to the vet for a checkup and to rule out a medical issue. (He could be sensitive to the food, too. The vet can recommmed a food.) Good luck!

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Question
Oz
Aussiedoodle
6 Years
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Question
1 found helpful
Oz
Aussiedoodle
6 Years

My dog is six and barks at anyone who is not a relative when they enter the door. He also occasionally tries to herd people out the door by nipping their legs. What can I do to make my dog more comfortable with other people in our home? We’re getting ready to move to an apartment and I want to train him for better behavior. He doesn’t do these things outside the home and often licks people after awhile.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
620 Dog owners recommended

Hello Kate, I suggest recruiting a bunch of friends and family members that your dog does not know to come over to your home, one or two people at a time. Check out the video linked below and have them practice feeding him treats while he is calm (do not reward while he is barking). Notice the use of a back tie leash to prevent him from getting too close to guests and nipping while practicing this. Kids: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIJoEJfTS-E Adults: https://youtu.be/mgmRRYK1Z6A Also, check out the article linked below for general ways to improve respect and trust - which can help herding breeds listen more in the presence of distractions (moving people they want to control). https://www.solidk9training.com/sk9-blog/2016/09/08/the-ten-commandments-of-dog-training-and-ownership-do-2 Also, teach a solid Place command and practice having him stay on Place while people move around and enter and leave your home. This exercise not only keeps him from biting while he is on Place but it also builds his impulse control and teaches him to listen and focus on you in the presence of things he wants to herd and control. Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=omg5DVPWIWo Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Lana
Australian Shepherd
5 Years
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Lana
Australian Shepherd
5 Years

Well,I am a kid and often Lana is getting into stuff and when she does she bites or chases us and then bites. Also often are other Australian Shepard archer is instigating Lana and they get into bad fights. We have been walking her lately and I have been (herding) her when we do but are problem is that she has an aggressive additute tordes us we have 3 kids including me and 2 parents. Please help us make her a sweet dog like are other one.

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
620 Dog owners recommended

Hello Berkeley, It sounds like Luna and your family would really benefit from hiring a trainer who specializes in behavior issues and aggression or at least joining a class to gain some initial obedience and management tools. A trainer can demonstrate what methods and exercises you could work on with her to improve things, so that you are not guessing and having to sift through all the information on training out there. It's great that you are doing research - that's where my interest in dog training began in middle school at first actually, but when dealing with aggressive tendencies an overall program to gain her respect safely is likely needed. Things like having her work for everything she gets in life by performing a command like Sit first. So telling her to "Sit" before you feed her, then simply waiting her out until she does before giving her food (assuming she knows Sit - if not, start by teaching her basic commands with lure-reward training). Having her "Down" before opening the door to take her outside, having her "Touch" or "Watch me" before petting her, ect...The goal here is to simply be more persistent than she is. You don't have to use force, you have to wait for her to "give in" and obey to get what she wants. Practicing a lot of obedience commands and having her work for everything she gets in life can be some less confrontational ways to build respect. Perhaps share this message with your parents and let them take the lead on training her for safety reasons, and your entire family can work together in the areas where it's safe to do so, so that her overall attitude is more respectful toward everyone since everyone is consistent with her. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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Question
Maidu
Australian Shepherd
6 Months
-1 found helpful
Question
-1 found helpful
Maidu
Australian Shepherd
6 Months

Hello,
We have had Maidu since he was 10 weeks. He bit my daughter in the face a few weeks ago. She is 16 not hard but it was purposeful not playful. He seems to adore her so it was startling, and seemed out of the blue.She was handing him his bone he had dropped on the ground, something she had done before. He seems to love people and a little shy at first but non aggressive with dogs, but not a fan of kids. He growled at a little boy who came running at him at the beach. We don't have little kids around us. All of our friends have grown kids. The first 10 weeks of his life he was handled by the owners little children daily. Really concerned. He gets 30 minutes of exercise in the morning fetch or frisbee until he has a really good pant going. Around 4:30 he gets the same plus a 1 hour walk, and attention the rest of the night. He jumps and nips us in the morning before he goes out to play and anytime we come home. Love him to pieces but I want to ensure I'm doing everything I can so that he is not a biter. How do you get a dog to not be afraid of little kids when you don't know any. I thought of a muzzle and taking him to the park where he could be touched by children and realize they are are not scary without risking any children being bit. Is that a bad idea? Please help. I'll do whatever it takes.

Darlene Stott
Darlene Stott
Dog Trainer and Groomer
66 Dog owners recommended

Thank you for the question. My first thought is that when he bit your daughter, it was a misguided protection of his bone, as if he was not ready to give it up and thought it was being taken away. As Caitlin mentions, this is a great guide: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite. I do not think that you should try Maidu at the park with kids you do know because you can never be sure of their reaction or attitude toward dogs - they could make the situation worse. If you see someone with children, you could observe them in action with dogs and then discuss the problem with the parents, and see if they agree to a meeting.Otherwise, I would speak with a trainer and see how they can help you. Socialization and a good handle of commands (your super smart pup will pick things up quickly and thrive on training) will help Maidu to obey and know his place with you. Being a herding breed by nature, the nipping will take time to remedy. Take a look at this: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-nip Good luck and enjoy training!

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Question
Sydney
Australian Shepherd
2 Years
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Question
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Sydney
Australian Shepherd
2 Years

Sydney gets very skittish when a new person comes up to him while on leash. Nips at there hand if they try and pet him. We just recently got him from a family a few days ago. He is fine with dogs at the dog park and avoids people there. Is there a way to correct this quickly? He is very sweet towards myself and wife and 2 year old son

Caitlin Crittenden
Caitlin Crittenden
Dog Trainer
620 Dog owners recommended

Hello Sean, It sound like fear of strangers is the problem in general. When pup is on leash, they feel trapped so that leads to biting. The fact that pup chooses to avoid people when not on leash is better than them going up to someone aggressively. The underlying fear of strangers needs to be addressed and until then it will be your job to deter people from coming up to them while on leash - they aren't ready for that yet. Fear can also take time to overcome. Sometimes it's quick, but expect to spend some time and dedication on this. Recruit friends and family pup doesn't know to walk past them while on leash. Watch pup's body language and have the person stay far enough away that pup stays relaxed. As the person passes pup and pup is reacting well (don't reward while aggressive or acting fearful), then have the person toss several treats gently toward pup's paws and continue walking. Have lots of different people do this in lots of different place - without approaching pup after. You want pup to begin to associate the people with something fun happening and take the pressure of petting away at first before pup is ready for that part. As pup improves, have the people gradually decrease the distance between them and pup. Once pup can handle people walking right by and dropping treats, practice the protocol from the video linked below, keeping pup's leash short enough that if pup were to lunge while practicing this, they won't be able to get to someone to bite. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIJoEJfTS-E Finally, during all of this, practice desensitizing pup to handling and touch using their food. As often as you can, feed pup their meals one piece at a time. Gently touch pup in an area while feeding a piece of food. Touch their should - feed a piece. Touch their back - feed a piece. Touch an ear - feed a piece. Touch their collar - feed a piece. Touch their paw - feed a piece. Touch their belly - feed a piece. ect... Do it gently and start with areas pup is most comfortable and work up to the other areas as pup improves. When pup enjoys your touches, add in other people pup knows touching, like family members. When pup can handle that add in gentle strangers once pup has completed the other training and is more comfortable with strangers. Don't rush these things but do practice very often and with lots of different people. Watch pup's reaction and go at a pace where pup can stay relaxed - the goal isn't just for pup to act good but actually feel better about people - so pup staying relaxed and happy around people is what you want to reward, which will mean going at the pace or distance pup an handle. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

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