Over Excited Outside - Jumps, Nips, Bites Boots, Tears Clothing

by Mimi
(Seattle)

I have an Aussie puppy 5 months old and we go out for long walks 3 times a day. Sometimes I have a long lead for when we play "fetch" with a frisbee or a ball. She will chase and fetch several times before she becomes super excited and hyped up - and then she turns on me. The frisbee and ball then become less interesting to her than biting on my clothes or boots. She'll jump up repeatedly, bite at my boots, grab the ends of my jacket or clothing and thrash around if she can. When I try to put my hand out to tell her off or settle, she will bite my hand and jump up even more. She will jump up and bite at my clothes, gloves and boots (the primary caregiver) more than anyone else. In fact it hardly happens to anyone else. She does not bite my hand at home - just outside.

She will sometimes listen to "sit" and sometimes "settle" for brief rest, but will get right back to it when she gets excited again. It is terribly difficult while outside to get her full attention and she'll get hyper while were halfway out on our walks. Sometimes that means dragging her home clamped down on my pant-leg or fighting her off me as we shuffle home for another 30 minutes. I've taken to wearing gloves and I fear it's only made it worse - but it's snowing outside.

I could really use some help here. If it's a leadership thing, please be specific as I am doing all the be firm, pack leader stuff already. If it's an escalation thing, how do we get her to exercise enough without being excited?

Thanks for your help!


Aussie Behavior Problems? Australian Shepherd Lover's Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Comments for Over Excited Outside - Jumps, Nips, Bites Boots, Tears Clothing

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jumping, biting NEW
by: Gayle-- Big Run Aussies

It would be good to get the pup into a puppy class ASAP. Of course, it should be one familiar with herding breeds. Aussies can be jumpers and nippers. You can do "settle" by picking up her front legs from behind and wrapping your arms around her while she calms. You can also teach her "puppy push-ups" -- sit, down, stand -- in rapid succession. I had to do that with one of my dogs through his entire life and he was a very calm Aussie under most circumstances, just excitable at certain times, like mornings. You might also want to bring treats along on your walks to practice focus. You can practice the "watch" command in which she would only get a treat if she focuses on your face with eye contact. Make sure you use really good treats like real meat or cheese. Good luck. Things will get better, believe me. If you have any more questions, please contact me at bgrnaussie@sbcglobal.net

Been there! NEW
by: Anonymous

Hi Mimi. Everything you described above is exactly what I have experienced with my Aussie! When she was between 5 and 7 months I received some very bad bites during our walks when she turned on me. I wasn't sure if it was a dominance thing, teething, or flat out aggression! It was very painful and embarrassing. When she became overstimulated she would attack. One time, a guy on a bike had to distract her to get her focus off of attacking me! My only concern was walking her home and getting home safely! I understand your frustration. Now at the age of one, she is a lot more predictable and better behaved. It was not a matter of training, it was a matter of off-leash running. Start mixing up your walks with a few days of off-leash running at the Dog Park. 30 minutes of running with other dogs (HARD) really does the trick! She is better behaved on our walks, as long as she has an outlet for that destructive, overstimulated energy that you describe. This breed needs a lot of running, and you will notice they are a lot easier to deal with and live with:) The nipping has improved a lot lately do to the Dog Park:) Hang in there and it will get better! Aussies get out of their minds if they haven't had many opportunities to run hard and get that energy taken care of! Long walks on a leash are important, but MORE important is running time.

So Helpful! NEW
by: Mimi

Thank you thank you thank you! :) Your understanding & empathy have been a tremendous relief! It feels much better knowing this is something from which we can recover! I think you are correct that walking and fetching are not like running and chasing. So that will be my next task to find a place where she can do that. We've had formal puppy playtime but she may still be too young for the dog park. I've heard it's tough for smaller dogs & pups like mine under 6 mos. I get now that it's really important. Thank you!

And Gayle, we are in obedience classes too which I hope will stick some day! I have done some of these things you've suggested & I think they all help but ever so slightly; that "settle" hold (when I can get near her), the treats (which feel so counter intuitive to treat her but food DOES distract her from nipping) & the eye contact (when I can get it!). The tough part is that she is such a tornado, getting her attention is a challenge! She is so smart that I know this is her go go puppy impulse taking over. Thank you so much for your support! In case of updates my contact info =
n o r t h w e s t b u g at yahoo - that's northwestbug without the spaces ;)

Been there!:) Part 2
by: Anonymous

Mimi - Glad to have helped. Trust me, there were times when we thought "We have a liability on our hands!" with this dog! No one wants to feel like they own an aggressive/dangerous dog! The dog park has turned our lives around. I can not say enough good things about it. I have met a couple of Australian Shepherd owners and a Border Collie owner at the dog park that bring their dogs there daily! The running sessions really help settle them down... otherwise you get a nippy or destructive dog to deal with. Cesar Milan said "A tired dog is a happy dog"... and that is the honest truth! Hang in there, it does get better!

dog park
by: jcrply

To those of you who have had experience with dog parks: I have taken my dog just twice to run with the other dogs (once at about 6 months and again at about 8 months). Both times she wanted to run, run, run and other dogs would chase after her and knock her down, roll her over and be too aggressive and I had to rescue her - seriously! It was different dogs the two times that I took her. It's as if they thought she was their prey or something - when all she wanted to do was run and play. She's very gentle but runs at top speed. I recently took her a third time (10 months old) and since the small dog area was empty, I put her in there and she ran with the other dogs along the fence separating the two areas. That way she could run like crazy but was out of their reach and could not be attacked. Has anyone else had this problem? Any ideas? I would really like to be able to take her to the dog park regularly.

About Dog Parks
by: Mimi

At my puppy school, they've warned us that "dogs about 6 months of age were the target for the most aggression in the park, more than any other age group". So we're going to wait until we're better trained to go. Puppies get lots of playtime opportunities at schools (although you have to pay for it). The school has an excellent article re: (Seattle) Dog Parks on their blog that may be of interest:
http://ahimsadogtraining.com/blog/seattle-dog-parks

In looking for other studies on dog parks I came across this article that says aggression at dog parks is infrequent so I guess it depends on the dog park. "Results indicate that aggression in limited-control dog parks may be relatively rare and probably presents only a limited risk to dogs and their caregivers" http://3d.f9bed1.client.atlantech.net/assets/library/173_jaws060102.pdf

I'll probably wait until she is a bit older before I take her to an official dog park and Seattle has some major ones. She is still learning social behaviours and there is yet another study that proposes that because Aussies don't have tails, they may have a more difficult time socially "being read" by other dogs. Not sure if that is true but just in case, I'll wait until she's got better recall and attention before I take her.

Hope that helps!

dog parks
by: jcrply

Thanks Mimi for the info about dog parks. You mentioned playtime at puppy classes. I have had my dog in several puppy classes, but they are always on leashes and not in contact with the other dogs. I wish they could have some off-leash playtime.

Can't change instincts, just redirect them
by: Anonymous

Hey Mimi, I recently adopted a 3yr old half Aussie/ half Border Collie. She is a great dog. Obviously she is highly intelligent, athletic, and incredibly loyal. She's a bit insecure around other dogs and strangers.

I have noticed however, that when playing outside she will turn a corner in which she completely transforms from submissive and wanting to please to treating me like a 1000lb steer... We will be playing fetch of frisbee and sometimes (not often) she'll start sprinting in large circles around me then come in growling and nipping. Your description is spot on of the nipping/ biting/ growling tornado. The first time it happened I attempted to ignore her which did nothing to stop it. I next (ignorantly) tried to calm her by holding her down, which got her more fired up. I then, talked to a trainer w/ experience w/ aussies and bc's and she laughed, and ensured me that "You can't change a dog's instincts, just redirect them". She then advised me to have a tug rope on hand during off leash sessions and when she comes in to "herd the steer" get the rope in her mouth. The next time it happened I of course didn't have the rope, but did have a leash. She grabbed it, pulled, I grabbed her harness, clipped the leash to it, and she instantly calmed down as if I had flipped a switch. I didn't use one stern word, just praised her when she calmed.

I hope that helps. It is a bummer when one's dog seems to lose it, but great to know that the behavior can be redirected.

try the fishing pole game!
by: bluelight

Hi there..

I have two dogs - half German Shepherd and half Australian Shepherd. The female is almost totally Aussie in her temperament and intelligence. My husband and I employed a professional dog trainer to work with them. They are now 6.5 months old and we are surviving the teenage years and getting two great dogs but it required a lot of work and discipline!

Aussies need two things: heavy mental and physical exercise. Fetch can often be boring, as it is "too easy".

Heavy physical exercise, which includes lots of getting out and about but as others have mentioned, heavy running as well, can be difficult to get in as much as they need. Our dog trainer introduced us to game made for dogs that looks like a fishing pole with a little fake animal tied on to the end. You can then stand there and twirl the little fake animal (or whatever it is) around in a circle. The dogs love it!! Make sure to switch directions to ensure equal muscle training. Start off small, just 5 mins and work up to 15. Make sure to train that the dog should sit and wait until you tell him/her that is ok to play as well as when you are finished, that the game is over. Because they will be extremely excited. This also helps enforce your leader role, and helps them learn to control themselves. If you get a nice long pole, you can enjoy watching them run full out while keeping them close to you. Make sure to let them have some success once in a while, and work on training them to release it by trading them treats. Make sure to tell them "good dog!" when they do so -- it is not easy for them to let go. Do not ever try to forcibly remove it from their mouths - biting instinct can take over.

Mental exercise is just as important - Aussies are extremely smart, and like to use their brains. Instead of playing just fetch, try getting them to sit and stay while you hide the ball somewhere where they will then need to find it. Train this first with using treats and the command "search treat!" or "find treat!" then move up to other things, so they learn the vocabulary of multiple objects. This works great in the woods. Puzzle games are good too, where they have to figure out how to get the treats hidden in them. And of course, agility training.

A lot of aggressiveness and destructiveness is simply that this breed needs a great deal of mental and physical stimulation. Interestingly, I have noticed that without mental stimulation, my girl is still not really tired if I have run her around hard. After her brain has had to work a bit, she goes right to sleep.

Good luck!

Overly excited pup biting outside
by: Anonymous

My dog does the same thing when outside ever since I got her at 3.5 months. She is now 9 months. If I let her loose outside she is so excited and starts jumping and biting. I know she is only playing but it hurts. She's also started jumping on my son. Ripped his coat, gloves and accidentally bit his arm while doing this. I'm hoping I can get her into dog training but with the kids having 5 days of sport activities not sure when that will be and I'm hoping the classes do help.

puppy jumping and biting when over-excited
by: Anonymous

Our 6-months old Alaskan Malamute puppy used to do exactly the same somewhere during the 5th month of his life, and in the beginning we had no idea what to do. But then we managed to stop it like this: every time he was jumping on me or my husband we would throw a leash very high over his neck (making a kind of choke collar) and would start walking very fast. He would rebel but the fact that the leash was so high wouldn't let him reach us and he'd calm down very fast. In the end he got the pattern "he jumps = we are not happy = he gets leashed in a restrictive way = we go home" and stopped doing it. I have no idea how old the post is but if not too old hope it helps. We wish you all the best with your puppy!

Love the tips
by: Jenn

I am so happy to read the suggestions on this problem. We have an 8 mo old border collie/great pry mix and he is exhibiting a lot of the behaviours mentioned. Fetch and frisbee are of no interest to him and he very quickly turns it into a game of herding, jumping and nipping at my husband or I. I usually try to disengage pretty quickly and so he doesn't do it to me as much. My husband ends up turning that negative play into a game in an attempt to tire him out but I'm sure that is just reinforcing that the game is ok with us. We are working on more mental stimulation (hiding treats, etc..) and have to make time to get back to the dog park where he can play off leash and get all his energy out. One thing that tires him out really nicely is a game of hide and seek with our 11 month old kitten. They play really well together and if we keep them in a closed room with lots of hiding spots for the kitty, they can play together for an hour or more. Another thing I'm looking into is dog scooters where the dog pulls you on a kickbike. I know this shouldn't be started too early and we would have to get him used to light pulling and the commands first, but I can really imagine him having a blast doing it when he's big enough. Take care, Jenn and Polar

Problem with female, not male
by: Anonymous

I have 2 Aussies, Abby & Andy, 6 mo old. Abby jumps up, bites my clothing, hands, in the morning when she is excited. Andy sees the problem and comes over, throws her down and keeps her away from me. After the initial greeting, she then lays down after he "scolds" her or chases her around the yard (I have 3 fenced acres around our home place so they are safe from coyotes). I find that Andy has become my protector, but I want Abby to be same way. She is just excited in the morning and wants attention. I purchased training collars and it worked immediately on Andy so he doesn't jump on me, Abby won't jump at all if she has her collar on - she obeys me and stays down until the collar comes off. These collars are wonderful - try them when you take them to the park because they listen when the collars are on.

4 Month old puppy
by: Anonymous

Hey all,
I have read all your comments and I still have no idea what to do. I have had my pup for 1.5 months. When I go outside every now and then she seems to just flick a switch and her hind goes down and she is like a bullet running around and around me and that turns into biting at my clothing and me. I have tried ignoring her, throwing her ball over and over again and when I throw 1 I have another one to go if she does not bring back the first one, I have tried different toys to distract her. NOTHING seems to work. When I try to calm her she goes off. I have tried time out in the bathroom (cause am aware do not put her in time out where she sleeps). Dog school will be great as we start in 3 days but this I do not think will help when I am home. She even does all of this inside and tonight she jumped up on my elderly mother who was in her arm chair minding her own business.
I do not know what to do! I have gone from a prior well trained dog and am aware that it will take time for my pup to learn, she sits, drops and comes. But every now and then she seems to go psycho. Is it in the breed? The rescue place said they think sharpei cross staff? I am at a point that going outside to do little things is a task in itself now, just to put on the hose, put rubbish in the bin. And at all times I show I am the leader, I say NO in a confident loud manner when required and when she bites and it hurts I let out a big yelp and she does not seem to care.
Any other advise would be greatly appreciated. I want to be able to enjoy time with my pup and not be worried that she may turn on me down the track.

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