Training a Herding Dog to Stop Nipping and Chasing the Kids

By: Sam Kanouse

Published Date: August 16, 2017

how to stop a herding dog from nipping

Gambini is a one-year-old Australian Shepherd who lives in Omaha with two-year-old Cocker Spaniel, Abby. Their guardians set up a dog behavior training session to learn how to stop a herding dog from nipping Abby and their human roommates.

After arriving I chatted with the guardians and learned that the dogs didn’t have any rules in place. When dogs don’t have many rules it can lead to them thinking that they can take on the leadership position in the house.

I suggested a few simple rules to start working on. For example: no dogs on the furniture, having them sit before going outside, maintaining a distance of at least seven feet from anyone who is eating, and waiting for a release word before coming out of their crates.

How to Stop a Herding Dog from Nipping

One of the primary concerns about Gambini’s behavior was his tendency to nip and chase the kids, the other dog Abby, and their cat.

Initially the family was worried about Gambini being aggressive, but after spending some time observing him, I noticed that he was mainly playing and occasionally just displaying his herding instincts.

Herding breeds nip for a number of reasons, the most common one being that it is their DNA. Herding dogs may nip at heels or other pets, reflecting their instinct to herd. This behavior, often triggered by movement, is especially noticeable around young children.

Some herding dogs might also nip as a way to get attention, out of boredom, and for most puppies, as a way of playing or teething.

Because of these instincts it might seem like training a herding dog is more difficult than other breeds, but that’s not necessarily the case. A herding dog, like Gambini, just needs a little extra training and attention.

Although Gambini wants to herd the people and animals in the house, this wasn’t a job that his family wanted him to do. So I taught his guardians how to disagree with his behavior using our escalating consequences (non-verbal communication cues) and training him to gain self control using counterconditioning.

Training a Herding Dog

One of the most effective ways to train herding and working dogs is to use counterconditioning.

This is a method of modifying dog behavior that involves pairing a stimulus that elicits a negative emotional response in a dog with something that triggers a positive emotional response. The aim is to teach the dog to exhibit a different behavior in response to the stimulus.

This is an effective tool for training a herding dog because they enjoy learning, being stimulated, and having a job or role within their families. And like most dogs they are very treat motivated and eager to please their guardians.

I demonstrated how to use counterconditioning to teach a herding dog self-control in the video below.

In the video shown, Gambini quickly learned to exercise self-control, particularly when tempted to chase his human roommates. It’s crucial to maintain a comfortable distance for your herding dog, ensuring they remain calm and focused enough to ignore family members’ activities and accept treats. If your dog becomes too excited, relocate them further from the action.

Tips to Teach a Herding Dog Self-Control

I want to emphasize to the guardians that they can use counterconditioning to help Gambini gain self control for other behavioral problems. They can use this method to help him stop chasing the cat or Abby when she is outside in the yard.

Another important time to help Gambini gain self control is when he is coming out of his crate. When both dogs are in their crates work on opening the door slowly and closing it if they attempt to exit before their release word. If they have high energy in their crates they will bring that into the house, potentially leading to unwanted behaviors.

By the end of the session both dogs were gaining self control, respecting invisible boundaries that we set and stopped chasing the kids and cat. To keep up this good behavior the guardians will want to be consistent in their training and follow through using the escalating consequences. Remember to use our Petting with a Purpose technique to reward good behavior.

We wrapped up this session with Gambini and Abby’s Roadmap to Success video, which you can watch below.

Want to learn how to stop a herding dog from nipping? Click Here to Stop it Today
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This post was written by: Sam Kanouse