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Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

9 Year Old Australian Shepherd Nipped Someone She's Known Since Puppy

by Barbie
(San Diego)

Kai the Nipper

Kai the Nipper

We have high herding 9 year old female Aussie who 95% of the time is a total sweetie with visitors. On very rare occasions, unexpectedly and without warning she feels the need to nip. This nipping has happened, off leash at dog park or at our house. The nip is usually on the person's heel or knee and doesn't break the skin. We've had times where people have played with her for hours and then later just stand up to use the bathroom and she's nipped them.

We've spent thousands on training to break her of this. But, in 9 years we haven't had much luck because we never know when she's going to strike because it seems so random. However, it seems this behavior is becoming more frequent in the last year. (Mind you we got her an Aussie little brother). And today, after knowing our house cleaner since she was a puppy, she nipped her on the back of the heel. This was after she got plenty of exercise this morning. (We think she's in good health as we take her in every 6 months for check ups).

Obviously, from this point forward she will be put in the kennel when house cleaner and guests come over. (She's lost her off-leash privileges so we just walk her).

Does anyone have any advice on how to help this very unpredictable behavior? We're pretty frustrated and know at 9 it would be hard to break her of this... :(

Comments for 9 Year Old Australian Shepherd Nipped Someone She's Known Since Puppy

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what I've done
by: Anonymous

My aussie has nipped a few times without warning but not to the extent yours has and not for at least a couple of years now.

When it did happen, I took her by her collar and held her face up close to mine and very firmly said,"NO! NO!

I don't know if that has stopped her or if she just hasn't had the urge but I do keep an eye on her when strangers are around.

It is troubling that she is doing it with those she knows for you.

Maybe, if you can get those she nips to use the above method or any discipline you choose, it would help.

12 yr old occasional nipper
by: Anonymous

with my own girl, 12 year old who occasionally nips, i do the following:

1) I grab her nose and look deep in the eyes and give her a strong, growling "no bite", just as i did as a puppy.

2). I recognize it is in her nature and as age fades us, so it does she. Even old people forget not to do certain things.

3). I don't overly punish and certainly don't separate her from her family/pack or routine. I think that cruel.

4). That being said, a repeat nip or any show of aggression (growl, bark or teeth bearing) is met with a smack on the nose and a reasonable time out to reinforce. I normally only see repeata when we are training a herding puppy for someone else. It is also in her nature to try and teach a puppy how to be a herding dog. We counter the undesirable traits.

Don't overly kennel or punish. Could hurt her spirit and certainly makes one lonely and more prone to act out to prove worth-dog style.

same problem
by: Anonymous

I have a neutered male that also started this behavior. I have had Aussies for 25 years and this is a first. He is very submissive dog, the one that does not bark when people come. I have had friends here for hours and they stand up and the nip has become a bite. They said he graps first, then bites down. After he does it he acts like he is so sorry..nothing agressive about it but you just bit someone. I have been sick about it because I love the dog but can't tolerate this. I am a trainer and can't fiqure it out. Has to be a herding eye reaction.
I have tried shock collars, we have sit up the situation and of course he does not bite then..When he does its always quick and dirty. My final thing I have tried is when I know people are coming I put a muzzle on him. I also have installed a driveway alert to help me know that someone is coming so I can crate him quickly. The nipping started at age 5 and the biting at age 6. He is now 7 years old and like I said the least agressive dog here.????

Just Keep them Safe
by: Anonymous

I have a deaf aussie who actually bit someone, not once but twice recently. The person who was bitten actually caused this to happen by trying to take a toy away from my dog. He was a stranger to my dog. I consulted with many trainers, but one said something that stuck in my mind...she said that I must take care of this dog and do whatever it takes to protect him. He is deaf, and he has finally found a home where he is not afraid - so if I am having guess over that he does not know, just keep him separate from them, in another room or outside. I can do this...and he is fine with that, so that is what I will do to keep him safe.

by: Gayle

I think what you are doing is the right thing. She is probably not going to change at her age and it is your job to protect her from uncomfortable situations. She does not need you to yell at her, but she needs to feel safe.
Somehow, in her little herding dog brain, she decides when someone needs to be controled. There may be some "old dog" problem going on, too. Some things are very difficult to determine with blood tests, or even exams.
She is a cutie, by the way.

You're fighting deep instincts...
by: Marlin

I'm not an expert but I have had various breeds of dogs. My latest is an Aussie that we have had for six years. He was a shelter rescue that two other families had given up in his first 18 months of life.

We have similar behavior from him. The nipping is herding instinct. It's near impossible to train out of an animal what has been bred into them. If you're desperate you use a shock collar but I wouldn't That's a lot trauma to put a dog through to break an instinct.

I own a shock collar and I have had success with it for minor behavioral problems. For example, one dog insisted on urinating on the same ornamental shrub. No amount of coaxing would change the behavior permanently but only 2-3 experiences of the shock collar did the trick.

The best that you can do is manage your Aussie. We keep ours behind a stand-up folding portable fence when we have guests. It gives him room to move around but keeps protection between him and guests.

He is ferocious if he perceives a threat and I don't want to take that out him. Homes all around us have been burglarized but ours has never been touched. A true thief will know how to take out the dog if they perceive value in the house but I believe that amateurs are afraid of him.

As for your housekeeper (I think that was person whom you said was nipped) keep in mind that dogs have a sense that we don't. I would have a heightened sense of caution with anyone that the dog doesn't like, regardless of how long you've known them.

Bad people can be skilled at deceiving others and getting themselves into a position of advantage. That's how pedophiles get access to our children.

Keep in mind, too, that at nine years old, your dog's temperament may be changing. We've had two Springer Spaniels at two different times. They are typically excellent family pets and great with children.

We had children with our first Springer and she was great. With the second Springer our children were young adults and she didn't have much tolerance for small children that she didn't see on a frequent basis. As she aged, her threshold of tolerance for small children lessened even more.

Good to hear that you give you dog daily walks. All dogs but especially high energy dogs like Aussies really need that.

I wanted to get few a domestic rabbits so that the dog had something to herd but by wife adamantly opposes me on that. I'm not being silly. The rabbits would help keep the grass down and fertilized while occupying the dog.

Good luck and much patience with your girl. She is a treasure.

by: Anne

This fairly common in the herding breed. It is not aggression.

What they're bred to do
by: Anonymous

I'm sorry this is happening. Unfortunately I don't really have much advice. As pet owners we want our dogs to behave and be our companions. Even though your dog's parents or grandparents probably were just pets, the breed was designed to assist in herding sheep and other livestock and uses heel nipping as a tactic to move the animals.
I think getting your dog a friend of the same/similar breed has reintroduced them to their old behaviors.
Good luck on the training and hopefully with time and patience you'll be able to help your dog overcome this urge and get their off-leash privileges back :)

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