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Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Territorial Aggression, Socialization, Biting

by Katie
(Olathe, KS, USA)

My Aussie is a red-tri who turned 1 in February. I have 2 major problems with him. I have asked vets and various trainers and gotten conflicting advice. Would really like to hear from an experienced Aussie owner or expert.

1. I have a hyperactive 5 year old son. Sometimes, when my son is making weird noises, play kicking the air, etc, Ranger flies across the room and knocks him down or nips his face. I think Ranger is trying to treat my son as a puppy needing discipline, but this needs to stop. Today he bit him on the face—not a skin break, more like a hard pinch.

2. We exposed Ranger to all types of people as a puppy. He has not generalized this exposure. He is perfectly happy when someone he met as a puppy comes to the house. Anyone else—he acts like a vicious dog—growling and barking like crazy. When I walk him, he barks and growls at all strangers. When he gets out of the house (if son above leaves front door open), he acts like he will attack anyone who is out in the neighborhood. I've been using a Gentle Leader on walks and am getting this under control. When company comes, we keep him on a leash the whole time.

Interestingly, he is different at the dog park. He happily and gently plays with the other dogs and ignores the people. Since he is so pretty, lots of people pet him and he doesn't react, just runs off in search of a playmate. They always say, "He is the sweetest dog!" Little do they know he acts like Cujo when someone comes to visit!

Please help us. I am committed to this dog, but need this behavior to get under control!

Comments for Territorial Aggression, Socialization, Biting

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aggression issues
by: Michele

I have a red merge female that acts the same way with strangers. I noticed she was kind of funny with strangers at about 6 months. I socialized the heck out of her and took her to numerous obedience classes. My suggestion is see a behaviors that can help u someone that specializes in aggression. Make sure they are positive. U definitely don't need someone using negative reinforcement for an already bad situation. I don't have a behaviors close to me so I have been trying to keep her out of situations where a bite could occur.

by: Gayle-- Big Run Aussies

It would be good for your son and the dog to have your son train the puppy, then the pup will know that the boy is over him in pack order. You could start by having your son feed him. Make the dog sit and then your son can give the dog his food either in the bowl or by hand. Actually, your son could hold the bowl in his lap and hand feed the dog. Tricks are another fun way for the dog and boy to learn who controls the food. There are plenty of books about trick training, but my favorite right now is "101 Dog Tricks" by Kyra Sundance.
Loads of fun for a busy boy and dog. And you are right: the dog is trying to correct your son.
Aussies are known for protecting their home and their flock who lives with them. That is one reason why we love them. They would do anything to keep us safe. My girls are protective at home, each one in her own degree. Bryn loves everyone who walks in the door. Sera is standoffish at first and Molly will nip to try to herd them out the door. Mind you, these are all therapy dogs who visit elderly people in nursing homes and are loved by all for their sweet temperaments. It would benefit your dog and visitors to keep him on leash for a greeting and have yummy treats [REAL meat or cheese] for visitors to give him at the door. He will soon know that visitors are good.
Hang in there. The age between 1-2 years is difficult and can be compared to teenage years. Most dogs that are in shelters are in that age group and you can see from 1st hand experience why that is. Taking your dog to a training class would also be beneficial for the whole family. Find a trainer who would permit your son to accompany you and do some of the training with your help, of course. Good luck. Feel free to contact me privately at

Aggression,Socialization, Biting
by: Anne

Aussies need a job to do
His job.. Protector and disciplinarian at your house.
Redirect his job as playing frisbee, obedience or herding. Have you ever taken him to an obedience Class?
He needs more exercise and activity. He is not aggressive per say because he is just fine at the dog park. At the dog park, he is keeping his mind and body active. BUT at home he has a job to do.
I had an aussie just like that. He was not "aggressive" just "protective and he did all the things you talked about but never bit anyone except a girl at my house that was unruly and she scared it was a reaction for him.
Your son may be Hyper but he also needs to learn self-control and so does the dog.
You hit the nail on the head, when you said he was treating your son like a puppy.

Take control and discipline your dog in a firm calm manner. He needs to be corrected for it

Hope that helps

Anne Calmes
Gold Ring Aussies
Louisiana, USA

by: Kalyne

Great advice and support! I like the idea of my son helping with training.
We are on our 3rd session of obedience training. He is not as good as I expected because he is so dang excited. He really wants to play with the other dogs. The trainer seems worried that he is dog-aggressive but I think he is just immature and very very excited. (I have trained and shown in obedience, but always shelties. They had the opposite problem!)
Dog park and frequent walks are great for Ranger. It's been in the hundreds here, though, so we have cut way back on outside activity...

Mine is the same way
by: Anonymous

I have an Australian Shepherd tricolor. Male 5 years old. And he is a perfectly behaved dog outside of my home. I can take him to Petsmart where people can pet him, I can take him to the groomer and they say he's perfect, but in the home he is a vicious attack dog if anybody comes in the house. So he's kenneled and least. And just last week he broke off the leash and did in fact bite. So now I have to release him to A Humane Society with a no-kill policy. I'm absolutely heartbroken and devastated.

You're Not Alone
by: Tony B

Here I thought we were the only ones! My 18 month old tri-color Kodi is the same way! He is the sweetest dog you could ask for, loves and plays gentle with all dogs and people, even if you come in the house for the very first time (with me or my fiancé there of course) and a great example at the dog park both with people and dogs, NEVER seen an ounce of aggression there. However if you are a dog or person walking by our front window, or even a car door shutting, he's pawing at that window barking viciously, any noise really will set him off. Even heard a neighbor say to his wife, "That's the dog that barks all the time," as we walked by. Not the best feeling. He's also territorial walking around the house, especially at night, if he sees a person walking, he has to bark menacingly while running towards them until he's 2 feet away, then wags his tail and wants them to pet him!??!! Of course by then they're scared and want nothing to do with him...idiot lol. Finally with other dogs, again he's everybody's pal at the dog park, even loves the husky next door (but will bark aggressively if he sees him from the window) but other dogs he has charged, and even nipped one he used to play with as a puppy when it walked by our house (figured he wanted to play) but he bared teeth, was not a playful bite and I've never seen it before or since. Long story, well, long.... you are definitely not alone, and it's nice to know this seems to be a breed issue more than just an individual problem. I will agree with the thread he has seemed to improve with obedience training, especially with emphasis on the leave it command!

Sounds so familiar
by: Anonymous

My Aussie is almost 8 years old. He's a beautiful blue merle, brilliant we'll trained, and very athletic. His work=fetch and it is an obsession. I was a stay home mom when we got him as a puppy and he was ultra socialized. Play dates at our house, trips to the park, camping, and he loved people. Slowly that started to change and he became more and more reserved with strangers. Now he nips at people who visit that he's met many times. Recently he bit my daughter's boyfriend and my son and we couldn't even identify a trigger. At this point he really just likes me and my husband. We have 3 children (9, 11 and 17) so we have other families and kids over all the time, and now he's stuck locked away in our room when we have guests. I have tried Rimadyl and Trazadone. We have made the painful decision to put him down. We really believe it is a genetic trait for him. It's sad because in so many ways he is perfect. But we cannot have an aggressive dog and I've looked unsuccessfully at rehoming him.

To 8 yr old blue merle
by: Anonymous

There was a post that identified pain as the reason the Aussie was aggressive. The dog was older and had some arthritis and when given the right meds, the aggression disappeared.

Aggression in home
by: Alison

That is the exact description of my 1 year old Aussie. He's been socialised and is fine away from the home however a different dog inside the home. Would love to know how you are getting on with your boy?

Sad ending
by: Kalyne

I’m sorry to say we had to put him to sleep. He got out the front door and attacked a little girl, unprovoked. She was across the street coloring on the sidewalk and didn’t see him coming. He grabbed her shirt and was shaking, dragging her, and growling. It was horrifying. This was a few years ago and we are still very sad about the whole situation.

Angels a female version of Taz
by: Amber

Angel is a tri-color mini aussie and is my pride and joy. Recently however; she has changed. I mean she was the sweet well rounded baby girl and now its turned 180. I tried obedience classes. She flunked those twice even. We moved from Montana to here in Kentucky last year. She gets walks on a daily basis. She gets socialization. She turned 1 last November mind you. She seems to feed off of my boyfriends moods. I work so I dont get to see her thru the day. He stays with her during the day. Now she sits at the window barks and growls at anyone. Last night I was taking her out and she went literally after a couple and their baby walking on the sidewalk. I don't want to put her to sleep or rehome her but if she does attack someone I will have to put her to sleep. She's perfect at the groomers, parks and walks. Please help!

I wish I would have trusted my instincts ...
by: Anonymous

I encountered very much of the same things with my Aussie as I have read here. If I had known about the Volhard Aptitude Test for puppies (and rescue dogs) I would have never brought him home. Please do research on this tried and true aptitude test (google Volhard Puppy Aptitude test to go to the Volhard site). I tried click and treat training but he 'flunked' out of the class because all he did was bark during the sessions. I got a personal trainer and for 4 months we worked several times a week on behavior and even though he was always over excitable he was doing very well in his training, even passed the AKC Canine Good Citizen test with flying colors. I made sure to not only daily physically exercise him with lots of ball playing, hikes, beach runs, dog parks (more than once a day) he also excelled in Nose Work, a very top-rated mental stimulation exercise we did in a structured class and at home every day. But it wasn't enough! At 18-19 months his personality changed and without any warning or signs he started being very aggressive to anyone that he had met before (and was fine with until his personality changed) on my street, and bit my neighbor in the butt leaving an apple sized bruise (but did not break the skin). After an incident in a park where he was on leash and lunged at a little girl (only mouthed but still the police were called and I was written up, even though the little girl came screaming up to him without her mother's permission) I decided I needed to rehome him to a woman who said she understood the breed. Only weeks after she took him home he was in a park off leash and ran down a little boy on a bike and dragged the boy and shook and ripped the boy's pant leg viciously. I don't know what has happened to the dog at this point. Perhaps he was put down.
I go over and over in my mind if I could have done something different but I have come to the conclusion that I gave it my all and while I still grieve over the loss of a dog that I thought he would be given all the loving attention and training and 'boundaries' that I gave him, in the end there was nothing I could do about his DNA, his personality. There just is too much liability to keep a dog who is extremely unpredictable. I will never get another Aussie or herding dog again because of this kind of behavior. It's too risky.

Aussie. Almost two.
by: Anonymous

We adopted a Aussie.
The vet says he's reactive, I say she's a vet and not a behaviorist.

The behaviorist thinks he's fine but is coming out again.

He does not charge but he does growl as people enter the house or on walks. I'm mostly concerned about the amount of kids that run through our home.

We've been doing lots of positive reinforcement (the kids and myself) and I'm seeing much promise...should I be concerned though.


Chases herds and nips at strangers
by: Anonymous

I have a beautiful red merle (was supposed to be an Aussiedoodle but looks to be 95% Aussie) who is just now 14 months old. At 4 months I noticed that he started barking and barking at my sister who visited our house now no one can visit. When I take him on a walk I have to watch him very very closely because he will lunge and nip at a stranger unprovoked and out of the blue so fast I can't stop it. I have walked him regularly through Home Depot trying even more to socialize him. One day he was on a long leader leash outside our house and when my back was turned he bit a runner on the leg. Didn't break the skin and fortunately it was a nice man. He has since nipped my day care person in the arm after being taken there for a year. He also nipped at the Humane Society doctor after he handed him off to me. He has been socialized, trained and worked with over and over but seems to be getting worse. I am beside myself as this dog has bonded with me more than any other I've had. Daughter has an Aussie and he is a perfect gentlemen in every way. I thought he might grow out of it at 2 years after his teenage years. So I hope I can hang in there for 2 years. I'm not sure how you train an instinct out of a dog? I don't know what to do. Will work once again with a trainer who says she works with reactive dogs. This is my second Aussie. Last one attacked dogs loved people. Stuck with her for 17 years.

by: Anonymous

I have an Aussie who turned 3 in November 2019. I remember when she was around the age of your dog (1) she seemed very territorial of her person. (i.e. commonly called velcro dogs, often pick a favorite person of household) She would growl often when other people she wasn’t familiar with came near that person. She also tended to nip at people who seemed chaotic or that she saw as a threat. And also at strangers on the street she would growl. But eventually, she grew out of this. She growls sometimes when approached just until she gets close enough to a person to sniff them and then she is able to relax.
So what I’m saying is that this may just be a puppy phase, your dog may just not have the hang of socializing just yet.

Ozzy bit my friend's finger... hard and drew blood
by: Anonymous

My tricolor Mini Australian Shepherd is fearful/aggressive to any person or dog that he hasn't accepted as part of his pack.
Friday evening, two of my gal friends (who hadn't been to my home before) came into the house with me. I had already warned and prepped them that Ozzy was anxious and fearful; so be sure to give him space. We hadn't gotten fully into the entrance when one of my friends reached down to either pet Ozzy or to allow Ozzy to smell her hand. He bit her finger and drew blood on the top and bottom. It happened so super quickly that I hadn't even seen it happen. Broke my heart. Ozzy is already fearful/aggressive to any dog or person he hasn't accepted... I am worried it is getting worse. Today other friends of mine were here (he already loves and accepts them) but they have now have a 7 month old grey/wolf hound. Ozzy was so aggressive that I went and bought a muzzle. But, he was still absolutely vicious. So my boy had to be tied out in the back yard while his family and accepted friends had fun inside. I need to stop this behavior asap. I can't let anyone else be hurt and I can't have my dog so afraid and anxious all the time either (I cannot take him to off leash parks because he gets aggressive is another dog approaches to play)
Sigh... glad I found this site and am looking into many others, along with looking into a behaviorist familiar with the issues some of this breed face. I want him to be with us always and his behavior makes it very difficult. 😕

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