How to Train Australian Shepherds to Not Nip

How to Train Australian Shepherds to Not Nip
Medium difficulty iconMedium
Time icon5-9 Weeks
Behavior training category iconBehavior

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.

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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.

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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.

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The Redirect Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Intervene Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Ignore Method

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

By Christina Gunning

Published: 04/20/2018, edited: 01/08/2021

Training Questions

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Training Questions and Answers

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Bear

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aussie-rott

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1 yr

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Question

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how do I desensitize him from children. He tends to nip the younger ones. I have had them give him treats, but he still wants to nip them.

Aug. 14, 2022

Bear's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello, The biting may partially be due to a herding instinct with pup's breed combination. When nipping is due to herding, you will also want to work on commands that you can give pup when the kids are around and need to monitor their interactions long term also, since instincts are not something you can get rid of - they are something you manage. With that said desensitization is still important, and if the nipping is due to pup being overly excited or nervous or aggressive around the kids, then desensitization is really important. Commands to help with management: 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 Quiet method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bark Place command: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O75dyWITP1s Down-Stay: https://www.thelabradorsite.com/train-your-labrador-to-lie-down-and-stay/ Heel- Turns method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-poodle-to-heel Come - Reel in method: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-whippet-to-recall For the training that needs to involve kids, such as desensitization or working on obedience commands around the kids to gain reliability once pup has been taught those initial commands, I highly recommend hiring a professional trainer who is very experienced with this type of behavior and the methods and tools needed to address is safely and effectively. First, using measures like crating and desensitizing her to the muzzle are important first steps - the kids are first priority and need to be kept safe, and being allowed to act aggressive toward them will make the behavior in her worse, so don't feel bad about doing those things. Those are responsible first steps. Check out the videos linked below on desensitizing aggressive dogs to kids. Notice the safety measures always taken though and be sure to implement similar measures - crates, back tie leash, lines for the kids not to cross, constant adult supervision anytime there is an interaction between the kids and dog, and a basket muzzle. You can work on teaching pup to respect the kids and be more comfortable around them via desensitizing and their respect for you and your rules. It's always important to supervise kids and dogs even once things improve though. If pup is just excited around the kids and nipping due to herding instincts, you will still want to desensitize to things like kids running, toys, and other kid body language, but something there won't be to underlying aggression to address - It will be a matter of teaching pup self-control and to care less when kids are excited. Explanation of why dogs often bite kids (the dog in this video who is closer to the kids doesn't have aggression issues - which is why you don't see the extra precautions taken, like in the rest of the videos I have linked - extra safety measures will be needed when practicing with a known biter - such as a muzzle, back tie leash, crate, and greater distance between pup and kid): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7_0ZqiJ1zE&t=122s Use of crate, Place and tether leash: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9n0_27XY3z4 Later stage, up close desensitization - even though kids are close, there is still a line and pup is still on a back-tie leash so that pup can't actually get to kids to bite if they tried...This is a later stage exercise for pup once they can do well with the other above scenarios: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIJoEJfTS-E

Aug. 15, 2022

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floppy

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Australian Shepherd

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8 Months

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jumps up on 3 year old grandson and knocks him down and then drags him around the yard by his clothes. also nips and chews up everything in sight.

May 17, 2022

floppy's Owner

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Caitlin Crittenden - Dog Trainer

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Hello, Check out the Leash method from the article I have linked below. https://wagwalking.com/training/train-australian-shepherds-to-not-jump For the biting, I would teach Leave It from the Leave It method below: https://wagwalking.com/training/train-a-shih-tzu-puppy-to-not-bite I would also teach Out - which means move away, and especially pay attention to the section on using Out to Deal with Pushiness once you have taught pup what the Out command means using the section on How to Teach Out. https://www.petful.com/behaviors/how-to-teach-a-dog-the-out-command/ When your grandson is around I would utilize a long training leash to enforce pup's commands, so that if the dog does over to the boy to bother him, you say Out, and pup doesn't immediately move away from your grandson, you can reel pup in with the long leash and show pup that obeying isn't optional. When pup obeys willingly, reward with a treat if pup is being mannerly toward you also and not jumping or biting you when they come. Don't leave the child and the dog unattended, keep pup crated or in another room when your grandson is around if you aren't in that room too, so pup isn't getting away with bad habits - which can make those habits worse, and isn't putting the child in danger. Depending on whether pup's roughness is at all aggressive, in anyway harming the boy, or has the potential to be a real bite with pieced skin, you may also need to desensitize pup to wearing a basket muzzle ahead of time using food rewards. Best of luck training, Caitlin Crittenden

May 18, 2022


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