14 Ways to Stop an Australian Shepherd Puppy From Biting

Australian Shepherd puppies bite a lot, and new owners may feel a range of emotions, including frustration, worry, and fear. Discover several strategies to stop your puppy from biting.

14 Ways to Stop an Australian Shepherd Puppy From Biting
Yes, Australian Shepherd puppies bite a lot!

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Knowledge Is Power When It Comes to Learning More About Dog Breeds

While bringing a puppy into your life can be a joyous experience, it's important to make space for some rational thinking and put your mind over your heart.

Every dog breed is blessed with its unique traits and quirks, and some of these traits may be more difficult to digest than others.

Australian Shepherds, in particular, require deep research so that you can understand what to expect.

Bringing home an Australian Shepherd puppy without any prior knowledge can easily lead to an overwhelming experience.

These pups have high energy levels and have a need for constant stimulation. They are also wired with a natural instinct to nip, and if you're not prepared for it, you may find yourself feeling frustrated, defeated and at a loss for what to do.

But ultimately, knowledge is power. If you take some time to research the breed, you'll find certain traits easier to accept as you'll be able to anticipate their behavior and plan accordingly.

Ultimately, the time and effort you invest in learning as much as you can about your chosen breed will be repaid many times over in the joy and love they'll bring into your life!

A Look Into the History of the Breed

Australian Shepherds were originally bred to work on farms and ranches with the purpose of herding livestock such as sheep and cattle.

As herding dogs, Australian Shepherds are blessed with a natural herding instinct, which means they are instinctively drawn to control the movement and direction of animals. Intrigued? Discover several herding behaviors in dogs.

An Aussie's main job was to circle around sheep and cattle, nipping at their heels to guide them in specific directions.

Overall, it can be said that Australian Shepherds are versatile herders known for their stamina and ability to work in a variety of environments, including different terrains and weather conditions.

These dogs are always attentive to their surroundings, ready for their next adventure. Aussies thrive on maintaining law and order by managing the living room or farm. And at the dog park, they like assuming the fun police role.

Provide your Australian Shepherd puppy with a variety of toys (and don't forget to rotate them!)

Do Australian Shepherd Puppies Bite a Lot?

Yes, Australian Shepherd puppies have a reputation for being little "land sharks."

While it's true that all puppies bite, the biting in Australian Shepherd pups may be more intense. This is because of several traits inculcated in them through centuries of selective breeding.

For instance, with a history of herding, these dogs are very attracted to movement, so this means they'll find chasing cars, bikes, joggers, cats and children irresistible.

Aussies are also hypersensitive to lights, shadows, sounds and motions. The hypersensitivity to motions makes nipping the feet or legs or people their favorite pastime.

It's not unusual for Australian Shepherd puppy owners to struggle walking from point A to point B without having a land shark puppy attached to their legs!

It also doesn't help that these pups are very energetic. The biggest challenge, therefore, that comes with living with these pups in modern settings is teaching them how to relax and take it easy in their roles as pets versus 18-hour day workaholics on the farm.

How to Reduce an Australian Shepherd Puppy's Biting?

To reduce your puppy's biting, you will need to take a multifaceted approach, tackling the issue from various angles.

In many cases, the biting occurs as a result of teething. Teething in puppies generally takes place between the ages of two and seven months.

When a puppy's adult teeth start erupting, the process of them cutting through the gums causes discomfort, which is relieved by chewing.

When these puppies bite, it feels good, and therefore there is some good level of endo reinforcement (internal reinforcement) at play.

However, on top of this, there are chances that other reinforcers are at play when nipping, such as attention and interaction with owners and carrying out instinctive behaviors, causing the behavior to persist.

You may therefore have to implement a combination of strategies to reduce your Australian Shepherd's biting behavior.

The "Watch and Resist" game can be a great way to teach your Australian Shepherd puppy better impulse control

14 Ways to Stop Your Australian Shepherd Puppy From Biting

So here's the "meaty section" you were anxiously waiting for...but I have to point out something very important first. Puppy biting is something that won't be solved overnight. It takes time and repetition, and your puppy will need to attain sufficient impulse control to stop thinking about biting and make better decisions.

As a general guideline, never trust sources that tell you that your puppy will be potty trained in a week or that a behavior problem will be fixed in an 'x' period of time. Also, be very leery of any types of guarantees offered on the outcome of training or behavior modification.

You can guarantee something like fixing a faucet, but when it comes to animals, you can't offer any certainties. How slow or fast progress is made in teaching a puppy not to bite is highly variable since so many factors are at play.

Having said all this, I've outlined several strategies to reduce your Australian Shepherd's biting.

1. Provide Age Appropriate Toys

Make sure your Aussie has lots of age-appropriate toys of different textures. Don't forget to purchase some teething toys that can help him during the puppy teething stage (make sure they're specifically crafted for teething puppies).

Variety is the spice of life when it comes to dog toys. If your puppy seems to grow quickly bored of his toys, the secret is to randomly rotate them to keep his interest alive. In other words, keep some of his toys hidden for some time, and then randomly represent them. This way, they'll assume a pinch of novelty.

2. Invest in Food Puzzles

Using food puzzle toys works great for keeping your puppy occupied and busy for some time. This will help you regain some sanity and peace, such as when you want to watch your favorite TV show or catch up on social media.

Some of my favorite food puzzles are produced by the Kong Company. The Puppy Kong is the typical Kong toy with a hollow center specifically designed for teething puppies. You can stuff it with kibble mixed with some canned dog food, cream cheese or peanut butter (make sure it's not a sugar-free version, xylitol is potentially life-threatening to dogs). There are also delicacy pastes produced by Kong that come in a spray can and can be used to quickly stuff a Kong.

For a longer-lasting treat, you can stuff the Kong with kibble soaked in water or low-sodium broth (make sure it contains no garlic or onion) and frozen before giving it to your pup.

The Kong Wobbler is also one of my favorites. It has survived my Rottweilers' teeth and the countless dogs we have had over for boarding and training. You can fill it up with kibble, and your pup will stay busy for some time working on getting all the kibble out.

Tip: if you insert some cookies into the Kong Wobbler, they will make the kibble come out less freely, making for a longer-lasting challenge.

3. Create Your "Safe Zone"

Use barriers such as baby gates so that you can walk away from your Australian Shepherd puppy when he's in "green-monster" mode.

4. Redirect at a Moment's Notice

As soon as you notice your puppy approaching you with an intent to bite, toss him a kibble or a ball the opposite way. Rinse and repeat several times, turning it into a fun game.

The goal here is to catch him *before* he has an opportunity to bite. Once your puppy has latched on to your pants, shoes or body parts, you'll notice it may become more difficult to distract him.

On top of this, if you redirect your puppy once he has latched on and offer him a toy or treat, there are risks for the formation of what's known as a behavior chain. Behavior chains take place when an undesirable behavior is inadvertently reinforced and partakes in a sequence.

In this case, the puppy may learn that "Every time I bite, my owner gives me a treat or toy. Biting brings good things!" The biting then increases rather than decreases. You don't want this phenomenon to happen!

To prevent a behavior chain, it's best to catch your puppy before he gets to nip so that you can reinforce non-nipping behavior.

This, of course, requires attentiveness and responsiveness on your side. When dealing with nippy pups, I like to carry a portion of the pup's daily ratio of kibble mixed with treats in a pocket or treat bag so that I can readily redirect the puppy at a moment's notice.

5. Provide Legitimate Outlets

Let's face it: we can't get a puppy to totally stop biting. Biting is the natural way puppies play and interact with the world. However, what we can do is provide them with outlets for this behavior, but these outlets don't have to involve us directly.

So let's say your puppy loves to bite you when you are out in the yard. Bring along a long tug toy and drag it on the ground. Your puppy will have a blast!

Alternatively, invest in a flirt pole. A flirt pole is like a fishing pole with a toy attached to a string. Puppies find this irresistible and will go for that rather than focusing on biting your feet and legs.

When I am working with nippy puppies, I will carry a flirt pole over my shoulders, ready to use as needed. I have even used this tool to get my puppies back inside the house after spending fun time in the yard. This becomes handy for outdoorsy dogs and puppies who get lost in a big yard or haven't yet learned to respond to their recall reliably.

Once back in the house, they'll then get a handful of kibble tossed to the ground to search for, treasure hunt style!

If you're going to use a flirt pole, I highly recommend eventually training your puppy on how to leave it and drop it so as to add some structure to the game.

6. Train Alternate Behaviors

While the above exercise is great for preempting problematic nipping behavior in its tracks, it's even better if you could aim to introduce a desirable behavior that you can reinforce. Introducing the kibble toss game!

Aim to train your Australian puppy to sit, hand target or lie down, and once you have these behaviors down pat, use these cues when you see him approaching you with the intent to bite. After he sits, lies down or hand targets, reward him by tossing a kibble or a treat at a distance.

Since these behaviors are reinforced with a kibble/treat toss, you should see an increase in these behaviors over time, eventually outranking the nipping behavior.

This game offers a win-win situation because, on top of reinforcing your Aussie pup for not biting and performing an alternate, more acceptable behavior, you are also giving your pup a workout as he yo-yos back and forth between you and the tossed treats!

7. Turn Into a Lamppost

What if you're caught unprepared? Let's say you are walking in the yard, and your hands are full, and your puppy is approaching you; what should you do? In that case, try to freeze in your tracks and stop walking/moving, ignoring your puppy totally. Imagine turning into a lamppost!

Many pups will lose interest as they're really after the "resistance" we provide when moving since that allows them to play tug and latch even more.

If it's difficult to freeze due to painful nipping, it may help to wear tall Wellington boots and extra padding on the knee area. Most pups quickly grow bored of trying to nip on rubber boots, especially if they're not moving.

8. Get Your Puppy Used to Being Touched

Remember how it was discussed earlier that, in order to tackle puppy-nipping behaviors, it's important to take a multi-faceted approach? Well, here is some important information: Many pups who nip when we try to pet them are doing so because they are "touch intolerant."

This often happens when they have missed out on learning how to tolerate (and even enjoy!) being touched. By nipping, they are trying to block your hands because they're not comfortable when we want dogs instead to enjoy being touched. These puppy handling exercises should help you get started: 9 body handling exercises for puppies.

9. Teach Your Puppy to Be Gentle With Human Skin

Bite inhibition is a really important skill all puppies should master. They need to learn that human skin is extra delicate and that they hurt us when they use those needle-sharp teeth.

Here are two guides that will be helpful: how to train your puppy bite inhibition and how to teach your dog to take treats gently.

10. Train Your Puppy Some Impulse Control

Puppies benefit from learning to control their impulses and gain better frustration tolerance. If your Aussie is very young, be patient, as it takes time for them to master this. Here are ten impulse control games for dogs.

11. Train the "Watch and Resist" Games

In this game, which I invented last year when training a super nippy English setter, your puppy will learn to master his impulse control and the art of delayed gratification. I start this with puppies who have learned how to sit and stay.

What I do is I have the puppy sit and stay and watch me move my hands first very slowly at a distance from their face. I will click my clicker or verbally mark the puppy for holding his composure despite my hand movements.

If the puppy breaks the stay or tries to nip, I say something like "oops" (which comes to signal that no rewards will be given) and try again, but this time lowering criteria and making the exercise a little less challenging.

Once the puppy masters a certain level, then I raise criteria and work on making faster and closer hand movements, and then will also work on resisting the temptation to catch things like jewelry or scarves dangled near their faces or stuffed animals dragged around on a string.

12. Prevent Your Puppy From Getting Cranky

Did you know? Puppies need a lot of sleep, and if they fail to get enough, they can turn pretty cranky-yup, just like children!

When puppies get cranky, that often leads to several undesirable behaviors such as jumping, mounting, and, you guessed it, extra nipping.

It's important to take steps to prevent your puppy from getting into this cranky and moody state. Here you will find several tips to help your Australian Shepherd puppy relax and take a much-needed nap: do puppies get cranky when tired?

13. Capture the Calmness

Make it a habit of capturing your Aussie's calm behaviors by telling him in a calm tone of voice, "good boy," every time you catch him acting calmly or settling on his mat. You can even deliver a kibble or two when he's in this relaxed Zen-like state. Skip treats as these may be too interesting and may arouse him from his relaxed state.

14. Avoid Harsh Methods

Last but not least, avoid using any harsh methods to stop your Aussie puppy from biting. This means no yelling or physical power struggles such as alpha rolls, muzzle grabbing or scruff shakes.

These methods risk teaching your puppy to fear you, and from biting out of play, your puppy may start biting out of defensiveness, leading to trust issues and more problematic behaviors along the road.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2023 Adrienne Farricelli CPDT-KA, DipCBST


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