Oliver: Herding Dog: Aggression
How to Stop a Dog from Herding
There are some breeds of dogs, known as herding dogs, that have been bred to herd livestock, such as sheep. The dogs circle around the farm animals and move them in a desired direction.While this type of behavior is very helpful on a farm, when these breeds of dogs are kept as family dogs they sometimes still exhibit this kind of behavior. Herding behavior can be very irritating when it is directed at your and can even lead to a dog nipping or biting at the heels of humans in order to herd them. In order to stop herding behavior your dog will need to be trained to stop the herding and temptations for herding should be avoided if possible.
Training Your Dog Not to Herd
Begin training your dog.You will need to have control over your dog's behavior in order to keep it from herding. Training your dog to stop herding requires you to have very strong control over the dog's behaviors.
- Teaching your dog to sit, stay, look, and lie down is the first phase of training. Once it has these basic commands down, you can move on to more advanced training.
- If your dog only herds every once in awhile, basic training should be sufficient to eliminate the bad behavior. You should be able to direct the dog to stop and sit if it begins herding behavior, or get it to look at something else to distract it.
Work on advanced training.Once your dog has the basics down, you can move on to more advanced training. This training is about getting the dog's attention at any moment and getting it to perform a variety of behaviors on command.
- In many cases, people who are doing advanced training with their dogs use clicker training. This is a process in which you get the dog to respond to the sound of a clicker when you want it to dog something. If the dog responds appropriately, then it gets positive reinforcement, such as a treat, to reinforce the behavior.
Reinforce your dog's training.In dogs that have a very strong herding instinct, training them to stop herding will be difficult and long term work. This means that you need to commit to continued training and reinforcing that training consistently over time.
- Many dog breeds that instinctively herd also thrive more when they are consistently trained. This means that a commitment to training the dog will both eliminate behavior that you don't like and it will give the dog something to focus its energy on.
Stop the behavior before it occurs.Once you have seen the herding behavior repeatedly, you should be able to figure out when it is about to happen. Perhaps your dog barks right before it is about to herd or it sniffs at the heels before it nips. Maybe its body language simply changes.Whatever the sign, figure out how to spot it and then intervene immediately when you see it happen.
- If you can do this then you have the opportunity to redirect your dog's attention before it starts to herd.
- Try redirecting your dog's attention with the "look" command or with its favorite toy. Don't give it a treat, however, as this could simply reinforce the herding behavior.
Be consistent.You can't allow the herding behavior some times and then get mad at your dog for doing it other times. This will only confuse the dog and it will not eliminate the undesired behavior.
- Some dog owners may think of the herding as a cute party trick that is funny once in awhile. However, encouraging the dog to herd sometimes and punishing it for the behavior other times will only create mistrust and confusion in your dog.
Consider professional training.If you are unable to train your dog well enough to eliminate the herding behavior, then you may want to bring in a professional to help you out. A professional dog trainer should be able to find a way to change the dog's behavior through positive reinforcement and repetition. They may teach the dog to respond to a clicker, and they should show you how to use it with the dog as well.
- The key to success with a professional dog trainer is that you follow the trainer's instructions even when they are not around.
Redirecting Your Dog's Energy
Exercise your dog.Getting your dog's energy out before it has a chance to herd will minimize its desire to do it. Play a game of catch or go for a run with the dog every day, whatever will tire it out.
- Just letting your dog out into its yard will not motivate it to exercise. It will usually need to have some sort of interaction from you to get its heart rate up.In fact, for strong herding dogs, a short walk will not be enough daily exercise. It needs to run on a daily basis to get its energy out.
- To give your dog enough exercise try committing to exercising with it on a regular basis. This could include going on a jog or run with it. It could also include a different activity that gives both you and your dog some physical activity, such as swimming.
Train your dog to do a different activity.If your dog really wants to herd, you can usually redirect the dog towards a similar activity that is not as annoying. The activity could include agility work, time trials, disc catching, or other competitive dog activities. These all require the repetition and physical exertion that enables them to replace herding in a dog's life.
- Training your dog to do a new activity is simply an extension of the basic training you have done with it. Find an activity that your dog enjoys, such as catching a frisbee, and develop that skill through training.
- Training your dog to do one of these activities does not mean that it has to compete. Just the practice will be enough to redirect your dog from herding if you do it enough.
Give your dog a job in the house.If your dog continually tries to herd you and your family, then it may be willing to take on a different job in the house. Because herding dogs are so trainable, which is what makes them great at the job of herding, they can be trained to do different things. Consider working to train your dog to do small tasks around the house instead of herding you. These could include:
- Turning lights on and off
- Bringing you specific items
- Finding items that you often misplace
- Herding dogs can have a very strong herding instinct. Always keep your dog on a leash when you're walking it outside so it doesn't run off.
- Always supervise your herding dog around children. Herding dogs can sometimes try to herd small children.
Video: How to train a dog to stop biting, nipping, and mouthing
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