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My Pet World: Future grandma (rightly) worries about nipping dog

Cathy M. Rosenthal, Tribune Content Agency on

Dear Cathy,

I am heartbroken for my daughter and her fiancé. About a year ago, they adopted a seven-week-old Australian blue heeler. The dog has always been a nipper. Very early on they got a trainer to help stop this bad behavior to no avail. They paid a small fortune to have the dog live with a trainer for five weeks. It helped a little, but the dog does not like a collar and will bite/nip when that is put on him. They recently had a dog walker quit because the dog had bitten him three times. He sent pictures of his bloody hand.

Is there any hope that this dog will stop doing this? I don’t think this dog should be anywhere near children and I worry about future grandchildren. What are their options? I have been nipped a few times as well. – M.D. Amityville, New York

Dear M.D.

Nipping and biting are fairly common practices for Australian blue heelers. They are herding dogs, which means they nip and bite the flanks of other animals to “herd” them in a particular direction. Even so, you can’t have a dog who nips and bites people, so there are things your family can do to limit this behavior.

First, the dog should learn to control his bite pressure. They can teach him this by offering a treat between their fingers. If the dog gets too rough or mouthy, they need to hold onto the treat and not give it to him. The dog only receives the treat when he offers a soft mouth on their fingers. He will want the treat and will learn quickly what he has to do to get it.


Second, they can act like a hurt puppy whenever he nips them. During puppy play if a puppy gets hurt, he yelps, stops the play and turns away. This is how puppies learn how to moderate the pressure of their nips and bites.

Your daughter and fiancé should also spend a lot of time training the dog, especially the “leave it” command. That way, if the dog looks like he is about to nip someone, they can tell him to “leave it,” and redirect his behavior to a toy or game.

Australian Blue Heelers also need a tremendous amount of exercise, so frequent and long walks or games that expend a lot of energy are a must.

Finally, look for triggers and work to reduce them. For example, if the dog nips when the collar is put on, leave the collar on him. (Unless it’s a training collar that must be removed.)


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