Has your herding dog started nipping, and you don’t know how to stop it? Perhaps this is an old issue for you, and now is the time to stop it, but you don’t know how?
Or maybe you are about to get a herding dog and want to know how to train them? Whatever your reason might be, we have the answer for you!
When training our dogs, most of us will come across nipping. Whether it’s during playtime or when they need to be woken from a nap, those needle-like puppy teeth pierce our skin, sometimes drawing blood and making us wonder why anyone said dogs are easier than children!
We worry that our dogs will remain unruly, forever untrained, nipping away as they enter adulthood.
Well, no more! Today we are here with the answers you need. Keep reading to find out all you need to know about nipping and how to stop it for good!
What is a herding dog?
A herding dog is one of several breeds that have been used to drive, protect, and maintain herds. There are over 30 breeds recognized as herding dogs including, Border Collie, Cardigan Welsh Corgi, Norwegian Buhund, Spanish Water Dog, Icelandic Sheepdog, and German Shepherd.
What are the attributes of a herding dog?
These dogs are loyal and intelligent. They can think independently and make decisions without the farmer or rancher present, protecting the livestock. These dogs have been trained to work alone. They will also nip when necessary to keep the animals together, which can be an issue in domestic settings.
What is nipping?
Nipping usually happens when your dog is trying to be part of the pack and is common when playing with children. It’s usual puppy behavior but can be more common in these herding breeds. It will look like biting and isn’t too painful.
Why do they bite our ankles and feet?
Nipping normally happens to our ankles and feet and it’s because they are trying to herd you like they would their livestock! This can usually happen when people are running around or playing vigorously. It is your dog’s instinct to do this and can be redirected while they are puppies.
How To Stop A Herding Dog From Nipping
Nipping can occur during a few different occasions, as we touched on earlier. This means that how we stop it from happening can vary from dog to dog.
But fear not, it can be stopped, no matter the trigger! Use the following steps to understand your herding dog better and find a way to stop their nipping.
It’s worth noting that this is just general advice. If you are struggling to stop your herding dog from nipping or are encountering additional behavioral issues, it’s best to consult a vet or behavioral specialist for more information.
Not all dogs will respond to the advice given today, but it’s still worth trying so let’s take a look at what you can do.
Step 1: Watch Your Dog
When addressing your dog’s nipping problem, you will first want to watch them and their interactions. Use this time to see what triggers them and causes them to start nipping. Often, it is something that will activate their herding instinct.
Are there people running? Are there children playing or running? Is it one particular person? Is it other animals or pets? Do cars or bikes cause it?
Look not only at what causes the herding but for any signs that suggest it’s about to happen. This could be your dog crouching, having an intense stare, or dropping its head. Stalking is another sign that they are going to start herding too.
Once you have established the triggers, you can work to intervene and correct the behavior. Make a note of the triggers and any behavioral changes to help you remember what causes the herding.
Step 2: Correct The Behavior
Now that we have established the triggers, you can intervene and work to correct the behavior. There are a few different ways you can do this, which we will look at now.
Remember, they might not work for everyone; it can be a case of trial and error. Just be sure that you are consistent with any training methods you adopt.
With puppies and dogs, nothing is off-limits at play-time. But there need to be some limits. When puppies take it too far, their siblings will yelp, or their mother will walk away from them. In usual settings, this is how they learn about bite inhibition and how you can show them too!
Yelp when your dog has a finger or toe in their mouth to show you don’t like it. This works best with puppies in their first few months. Alternatively, you stop playing with your dog when they nip and ignore them for roughly twenty seconds. This should help curb the nipping.
Another option is to redirect your dog’s attention with a toy or chew instead. This works best with repetition and not only helps curb nipping, but any chewing your dog might be doing too!
As soon as they start to nip or eye up your sofa to chew, offer them a chewy or their toy. Over time they will understand it is okay to chew the toy and nothing else.
Be warned; this method takes a lot of repetition and patience; if you are willing to do the work, though, it’s incredibly rewarding!
Socializing your dog with other dogs is a fantastic way to curb this behavior too. Be sure that your puppy has had all their shots before you do this, though!
You can start as young as 16 weeks by taking your puppy to dog parks or on playdates. Allowing them to socialize with others can help them learn the right behaviors and stop nipping.
If you are an anxious dog owner, start by introducing them to well-behaved dogs that you know or by taking them to your friend’s or families’ homes to introduce them to dogs you know and trust.
A dog’s impulse control should be worked on early in their development and frequently. Teaching your dog commands like stay, leave it, and wait are vital to helping with a puppy’s impulse control and help with their nipping too! Doing this will help train them not to herd you and your family!
Herding dogs have strong impulses, and it can be difficult to teach them some control.
But don’t be discouraged. Be sure you allow plenty of time and different environments where you can work on your dog’s impulse control.
It can take some time, but it allows you to train your dog to be more obedient, and if they listen to your commands, they will listen when you tell them to stop nipping.
Don’t Forget The Love
Remember that training is taxing on you and your dog. You aren’t going to get anywhere without positivity and plenty of love for your dog.
Be sure to work at their pace and remember the treats when they have behaved correctly. The more love and affection you show your dog, the more likely they will obey you, making training that bit easier!
Don’t make it worse!
Your reaction to their behavior is vital and will determine whether you can nip the nipping in the bud or not! You will want to avoid running when your dog behaves like this or shouting and yelling.
If you are running or yelling, your dog can think it’s a game and carry on. This behavior makes it even harder to get your dog to stop nipping and can leave you with behavioral problems when they are older.
As we mentioned earlier, distractions are key, and can work to redirect their attention. But you will also want to consider some enrichment opportunities that can distract your dog, but also keep them stimulated and encourage cognitive development.
If you spend a lot of time out of the house, then your dog could be nipping as they are bored and lonely. Here you will want to consider a dog sitter or have a family member or friend pop in to keep the dog company. Remember, these dogs are sociable animals, they do not do well on their own!
There are plenty of enrichment activities you can do with your herding dog that isn’t that different from the suggestions we mentioned earlier and can be used to control your dog’s nipping too. You can try some of the following:
- Keep your dog’s favorite toy in your pocket. When they start to bite, stop moving. Pull the toy out and wave it to distract them until they latch onto it.
- Take a large and durable hanging toy and attach it to a tree. Your dog will love playing with it outside. But be sure that this is supervised at all times.
- When outside or at an enclosure, take some balls for your dog to roll or chase. Yoga balls or exercise balls are a great option and your dog can herd this around a green space for plenty of enrichment!
- If you know anyone with farm animals, take a t-shirt or stuffed animal and leave it near their farm until it smells (usually a few days) before giving it to your dog. Wrap the t-shirt around a tug toy and watch them go to town!
It’s worth setting up an enrichment schedule for your dog too. You can have a different activity every day, whether it’s food, environmental, or toy enrichment to help distract them from nipping and hone other skills like recall. When taking on any new activities be sure that your dog is supervised at all times and any potential hazards are removed.
You can use the distractions we suggested earlier too and incorporate them into this plan such as a visit to the dog park one day, puzzle toys filled with food another day, and rubber toys the next to keep them busy. With just a little imagination, you can keep your dog entertained for hours and should help to curb the nipping.
Remember, nipping is part of how your dog would behave in its natural herding environment, they don’t know that it is wrong. Have some patience, and use these great alternatives to curb that behavior.
And there you have it, some excellent strategies that can stop your herding dog from nipping! Remember to observe your dog assess their triggers, intervene to distract them, and train them not to nip.
It can take a little while, so don’t be discouraged! Before you know it, your herding dog will be obeying you as it should. Just remember to bring the love too!