How to Train Australian Shepherds to Not Nip

Medium
5-9 Weeks
Behavior

Introduction

If you have an Australian Shepherd, you've probably been nipped more than once. Your pup may nip at your heels when you aren't moving fast enough on a walk or you have something they want, such as their food bowl or favorite toy. While you may not mind the occasional nip, your guests probably don't like it, especially if there are children around. What to you is an affectionate graze may fee like a serious bite to someone who isn't familiar with your pup. Training Australian Shepherds to not nip is an essential part of raising a well-mannered dog.

Defining Tasks

Like most shepherds, Australian Shepherds were bred to be herding dogs. Years of selective breeding has imparted deep instincts into your Shepherd. The desire to herd is as natural to your Australian Shepherd as their need for a pack. Herding dogs learn to nip and snap at the heels of livestock to keep them in a group. If your pup is doing the same to you, it is important to learn constructive methods for redirecting that energy and techniques to show your Shepherd that nipping is not allowed.

Getting Started

Keep in mind as you work with your Australian Shepherd that you may not be able to stop nipping altogether. As a herding dog, the instinct to nip is very strong. However, you can help them learn to control their instincts more effectively. For these methods, you will need a long training leash and a chew toy or rawhide bone. You can also use treats to encourage the behaviors you want to see more of.

The Redirect Method

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Step
1
Be prepared
Gather several chew toys and keep them in close range while you are working on this behavior. It doesn't hurt to watch your shepherd for a few days to figure out the times they are most likely to nip so you know the best times to have toys nearby.
Step
2
Say "no"
The first step when your Australian Shepherd nips at you is to say "no" in a calm, but firm, voice. Avoid yelling at your pup because it may excite them further.
Step
3
If they don't stop nipping...
Put one hand gently around their snout and say "no" again in the same tone of voice. Release their snout quickly. At this point, they should stop biting.
Step
4
Redirect their attention
After saying no, offer your shepherd a chew toy or rawhide bone. By giving them something to chew on, you are redirecting their energy away from you and onto a more appropriate object.
Step
5
Praise and repeat
Tell your pup they are a good dog for chewing on the toy or bone. Repeat this same series of actions every time your Australian Shepherd nips at you, so they learn when they can and cannot nip or bite.
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The Intervene Method

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Step
1
Keep a close eye on your dog
For a few days, simply watch your Australian Shepherd and determine what in their surroundings typically triggers their herding instincts. Learn to identify the signs that your pup is about to start nipping, such as dropping their head or crouching.
Step
2
Use a long lead
Put your Australian Shepherd on a a long leash, such as a six-foot training leash. Then take your dog into a controlled environment, but give them plenty of slack on the leash.
Step
3
Enlist some help
Have someone perform one of the actions you noticed triggering your pup's instinct to nip during the first step, such as running by. It is best to have another adult help you in the beginning, for safety.
Step
4
Intervene before they react
When the triggering action begins, watch your Australian Shepherd closely for signs that they are about to chase and nip. BEFORE they do, give your pup the command to 'come'. If they don't respond right away, give them a gentle tug on the leash to redirect their attention to you.
Step
5
Practice consistently
Ideally, you should practice this method about 20 minutes a day over the course of several weeks. Consistent practice is the best way to make this command stick. Over time, your Australian Shepherd will learn to control their instincts and look to you for guidance.
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The Ignore Method

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Step
1
If your pup is an ankle-biter...
You can use this method to teach them to leave you be. The goal of this technique is to encourage good behaviors from your Australian Shepherd, rather than punishing bad ones.
Step
2
Freeze
When your pup starts nipping at your ankles or pant legs while you walk, simply stop walking. Pulling your feet away or pushing your shepherd out of the way will only make them think you are playing a game.
Step
3
Ignore them until they calm down
Remain still and avoid looking at or talking to your Australian Shepherd. You want to wait until they stop nipping at you and calm down completely before you acknowledge them.
Step
4
Reward them for being calm
Once your dog has calmed down and has stopped nibbling, you can give them a treat or one of their toys as a reward for behaving well. While you are working on this behavior, it is best to keep toys or treats on you most of the time.
Step
5
Be careful about your timing
It is very important to give your dog their reward only once they have completely stopped nipping at you. Otherwise, you may accidentally reward the behavior you are trying to stop. However, if you time your rewards carefully, your Australian Shepherd should learn not to nip in no time.
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Success Stories and Training Questions

Training Questions and Answers and Success Stories

Question
Rocky
AnimalBreed object
10 Months
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Question
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Rocky
AnimalBreed object
10 Months

My dog has learned to not nip me or my family, but we have renters who live in our basement and there are often people in our yard who the dog doesn't know. What can I do to train my dog to not nip or chase strangers?

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

Thanks for the question. Rocky is right at the adolescent stage and this is when the headstrong Aussie starts to assert themselves and seek direction. Australian Shepherds do well with instruction; in fact, they thrive on having a leader that they can look up to. But, a leader is indeed needed or the Aussie will see fit to take charge. Aussies require obedience training to be happy and well behaved. Remember, they are a working dog by nature and have very keen minds. Take Rocky to Obedience Classes - and if you have already passed the Beginner level, then work toward level 2 all the way through to Advanced. You'll have the smartest and most well behaved dog on the block! The socialization of being in the classes will allow Rocky to get used to strangers. Before you know it, his nipping and desire for dominance will settle. Aussies need lots of mental stimulation (games, chew toys, puzzle toys) to make a well-rounded dog. In the meantime, when you take Rocky outside when strangers are in the yard, have him on a leash so that an unfortunate incident does not occur. Good luck!

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Question
Remi
AnimalBreed object
6 Years
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Remi
AnimalBreed object
6 Years

My dog was found as a stray at about 2yrs old. He is very well behaved and gentle. He minds well. His only bad behavior is nipping at children’s heels. He loves to play with my six year old grandson but as soon as his back is turned Remi nips at his heels so we always keep a muzzle on Remi when they play. Can you help me. I have only had him a few months and I would like to try to break him of this bad behavior.

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

Hello! Un-training this behavior is fairly complex, though not impossible. It just takes time and practice. Because it is such an instinctual behavior for these dogs, it can be difficult to break. I am including a link for you to read. There are many steps to solve this behavior. Much more than room in this box! So I hope you find the link helpful. If you have any additional questions, please feel free to send another message. https://wagwalking.com/training/not-herd-1

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Question
Ollie
AnimalBreed object
10 Weeks
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Ollie
AnimalBreed object
10 Weeks

Have had Ollie since he was 7 weeks old. Now have had him for 3 weeks now. Having issues with biting and nipping. He has bit both me and my husband, possibly playing but has drawn blood. He gets really rambunctious and starts biting constantly and I put him in his pen and leave him alone for a while. Most of the time he falls asleep. So I deducted that he's possibly tired when he does this repetitive biting and doesn't respond to "no biting". So I've tried pet protector spray and at first seemed like it was going to work then he just started nipping at the can. Then I attempted fake crying like a hurt puppy or dog. Then he seems like he comes to me like he feels bad and he stopped. But he then started nipping and biting at me when I do that. Now I grab his snout and say "no biting". That worked for a while too, then he started to nip and bit me right after I release his snout. I am very frustrated and my husband is ready to get rid of him because it seems like he is not learning to stop biting. He is a very smart puppy. He learned to fetch the first night I had him, kind of by accident really. Have taught him to sit also, He has started ignoring my commands and and I'm trying to stay positive and not give up on him! I get to tears I get so upset. I would want to keep him but am afraid he may be a dog that may actually bite people when he gets older and that is not the type of dog I want. I know they say getting them fixed may help him. Your opinion on if it helps and how early can it or should it be done. I'm so desperate at this point. I'm full of scratches from his teeth and bruises from him. Help me please!!

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

Hello! Here is some 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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