Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Intense Biting Of Flesh (Beyond A Nipping Issue)

by Matthew
(Lawrenceville, GA)

My family adopted an Aussie about 2 weeks ago from a breeder. Riley is 13 weeks now and is very playful, but 2-3 times a day, in 30 min spurts, he goes into what we call his "terror phase". It starts either when being walked on a leash or just tossing toys across the kitchen floor. He suddenly runs at you and bites legs (leg or the pant) and pulls and won't go. Recently, we has been biting flesh on arms and drawing blood on all three family members. We want to play with him, but he gets so worked up that he becomes painful to be around. We try to turn his attention from arm to toy, but he makes an effort to run back and attack an arm or leg.

He is crated only at night and spends a lot of times outside on a leash of course, but nonetheless, he isn't locked up all day. He has several toys we alternate to keep him from getting bored with any one toy. If anyone has advice for what seems to be a more aggressive bite than a nip, please let me know!

Comments for Intense Biting Of Flesh (Beyond A Nipping Issue)

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Been there.
by: Kay

I dealt with this exact issue with my Aussie puppy. The best advice I received, that worked, was the following. I cleaned out a small closet. Whenever he bit, I threw him in the closet for 10 minutes. No more, no less. If he was going crazy when it was time to let him out, I would "eh eh" him to get him to stop. When he was quiet I would let him out. I found that the 3rd time he was put in the closet for a bad behaviour, he would stop it. It was explained to me that this is similar to what would happen in the wild. When a pup was bad, he was separated from the pack. It worked very well. I used it for jumping up on tables and counters also.

Timeout and yelping
by: Rob

We've used time out successfully, usually proceeded by a strong "leave it" then the words "time out" when that hasn't worked. We've got a separate corridor in the house to lock our pup up in which is quite dark without being claustraphobic.

We've used yelping too and now at 5 months she still bites but nowhere near as hard and when I yelp and whimper she does all in her doggie powers to make it up to me.

Another one is to grab her by the scruff of the neck and give her a shake and a growl - just like a mum might do when a pup steps out of line. This one seems to short circuit the brain mode she's in quick smart. I suspect this one only works when they believe you are higher up in the pecking order.

These are all the kinds of things a nippy pup would be experiencing in a pack to bring them back into line.

You have to remember, that Aussies have been bread to nip - this is a characteristic that has been "enhanced", so at best I think that all you can aim for is bite inhibition.

Breaking the skin
by: Pam

My daughter bought an aussie pup from a breeder & after a month realized he was to much so she gave him to me (I have 3 Aussies.)
As Ista (my Aussie) got older he started to nip & bite not only people but became aggressive towards dogs who got face to face with him. Being very socialized, trained in obedience & agility plus lots of exercise we decided to do some research on the breeder. Found out she was convicted of running a puppy mill. Ista was diagnosed with "Rage Syndrome" & I was told the only cure was euthanasia. Well euthanasia was NOT an option (as Ista is a loved family member.) I started more aggressive obedience training, socializing on lead with a prong collar & lots of outside activities helped. Happily he has not bitten in years but we never let our guard down.
Good luck, keep us posted on your progress
Pam & Ista

Not just an Aussie problem
by: Anonymous

I have had many of the working breed dogs.. Cattle Dog, Kelpie, Shepherd and the various mixes..

The best advice I can offer is to let an adult female of similar breed play with the pup.. She will tell the pup off in no uncertain terms.. Don't step in to protect the pup unless being seriously injured.. It is a socialising problem rather than a breed problem.. Pups learn how hard to bite from their siblings and parents.. When they bite too hard the parents reprimand them.. You need to do the same..

Sounds silly but if pup is biting you.. Bite it back or pinch it's ear.. My current shepherd pup bite plays at 12 weeks.. When he gets too hard I pinch the ear and squeal "ouch".. if he doesn't stop I pinch his ear or feet harder and he quickly backs away..

Puppy school and obedience/social training will be your best friend..
Please Start training your pup now..

by: rochelle

our aussie did this to me for months (only me, not my husband). it would happen almost always when we would be on our way back home after a long walk. i had to get rid of countless shirts and shorts due to tears and holes from her. i found that she was simply over-stimulated and over-tired. i agree with the timeout outlined below, although i approached by removing myself from the situation (similar to when you want to get them to stop mouthing and nipping, you yelp and walk away). as soon as i saw that look in her eye, i would stop engaging or making eye contact. if she dove in, i would close myself in the kitchen, bathroom, wherever she couldn't access me, for a few minutes until she settled down. if we were outside, i held the leash tightly with a strong arm so she couldn't reach me and ignored her until she settled. good news is that by around 7 or 8 months old, the behavior completely stopped.

Obvious Answer
by: Anonymous

Your dog is crated all night and tethered during the day. Its confined 16 hours out of the day and you wonder why its got issues. No brainer here.

Time Out for bad behavior.
by: Anonymous

My Aussie did the same thing when she was a pup. Would go from just playing to being totally obnoxious and aggressive. The trainer we were taking classes from suggested just crating her for a "time out" when she started acting out like this. It worked, either that or she just outgrew the behavior. She's 1 1/2 now and doesn't do this anymore.

response to all
by: Matthew

Thanks for the comments! This is the first dog my family has had so we didn't know if it was totally normal. He is crated very little, as he goes into crate at 10:30pm, I take him out to use restroom at 4:30am then back to crate till 7:30 when I'm awake for the day. He is not in his crate all day but I have been doing the time-out for about 15min and it calms him down. This seems to be the common theme in solving the issue.

The only alarming issue is even if we redirect him, he makes a point to come back and continue, until I have to crate him. Hope it works over time!

Thanks all!

Aussie puppy behavior
by: Ann

This forum is a life saver as most of this behavior I am finding is normal Aussie puppy. Mine is now 8 months and past this stage. Has the AKC puppy star but we won't be getting our Good Citzenship anytime soon as try as I might she will not loose leash walk with me and no way we can walk past other dogs. We are now taking her to doggie day care a few times a month so that she gets more dog socialization. We are also trying to take her more places so she is exposed to different environments. She is not reliable on recall as I find her very defiant. I'll come when I'm good and ready. Good thing we have two acres fenced. She is such a joy I know we will get past all this childhood behavior as 95% of the time she is a treasure.

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