6 Reasons Your Australian Shepherd Is Biting & What To Do

All dogs may go through a phase of biting, especially when they are puppies. 

Some dogs may be more prone to biting than others. If you have trouble with your Australian shepherd biting, you will have to get to the root cause of the biting before you can fix the behavior. 

Australian shepherds make fantastic family dogs as they are loyal, playful and energetic.  

Australian shepherds were bred to be herding dogs, which means that nipping at livestock to get them to move in a specific direction is a trait that is ingrained in them. This may mean that your Australian shepherd is biting you to get you to move like cattle or sheep! 

Why Is Your Australian Shepherd Biting? 

There are many reasons why your Australian shepherd may be biting. Some reasons have to do with the breed of dog, and others with the age of the dog. Other reasons may be environmental triggers.  

Herding Instinct 

One of the most common reasons that your Australian shepherd would be biting you has to do with their herding instincts. 

It in the nature of the Australian shepherd to want to herd. Even if your Australian shepherd has never seen a cow or sheep, they still have that instinct. 

Your Australian shepherd may try to herd you or your family members, and they may do this by biting at your ankles to get you to move in a certain direction. 

This is an undesirable trait because it can make walking or playing with your dog very stressful and frustrating.  

Teething 

If your Australian shepherd is a puppy and is teething, they are likely to bite on just about everything. 

This is a common trait with all puppies and the puppy is not biting you to harm you but is rather learning all about chewing and biting.  

Guarding Behavior 

Australian shepherds are very loyal and protective dogs. If they feel that someone or something is threatening their owner, they may go ahead and bite that person (or another dog) to protect their owner.  

This behavior is seen as aggressive by others and may land you in a bad situation. It is nice to think that our dogs will protect us, but this is not a desirable behavior as it can lead to problems with other people.  

In some cases, like if you were in real danger or being attacked, you would be very thankful for your Australian shepherd’s guarding behavior but on a daily basis it is not a desirable behavior.  

Fear 

When your Australian is fearful of something, they may nip you to try to tell you that they’re nervous.  

This can seem aggressive but depending on the situation, your Australian shepherd may just be crying out for help. 

Anger 

If your Australian shepherd is angry, they may bite.  

Different things can cause your Australian shepherd to be angry and this usually depends on the individual dog. 

Some Australian shepherds for example can become angry and anxious around new people. If an unfamiliar child was chasing the dog or backing it into a corner to force the dog into being pet, the dog could become angry and stressed and lash out by biting.  

How Do You Get Your Australian Shepherd to Stop Biting? 

In most cases, your Australian shepherd can be trained to not bite you or other people.  

The approach to training them to stop biting may be a bit different based on the cause of the biting. 

Biting Caused By Teething 

Biting while teething is pretty standard puppy behavior, but it is important to teach your puppy that they should not bite you. 

When your puppy begins to bite you, even gently, tell them “no!” in a firm voice.  

You can also turn away from your puppy and tuck your hands under your armpits so that your hands cannot be bitten.  

Once your puppy settles down and is no longer trying to bite, offer them a chew toy. This will help them learn that biting is okay if they’re biting on a toy, but that they can’t bite you.  

Biting Caused By Herding Instincts 

If your dog is trying to herd you when you are walking with them, stop walking the moment your Australian shepherd bites at your ankle. 

Once you have stopped walking, make sure that you are also not moving your feet. The more you move while your Australian shepherd bites your ankles, the more likely they are to continue.  

By stopping, you are telling your dog that you are not going to be herded by them.  

Most often, your dog will get the hint and stop biting at you. If they continue to bite, tell them “no!” firmly and tell them to sit down. 

Once your dog sits and no longer shows an intention of biting at you, you can continue walking.  

Biting Caused By Fear Or Anger 

Different dogs can have different things that make them angry or fearful. 

It can be difficult to train dogs to not bite in response to these triggers because you may not know exactly what bothers them. 

As mentioned above, an example of an Australian shepherd reacting with anger could be biting a child who is backing the dog into a corner and forcing the dog to be pet or played with. 

Australian shepherds can be fearful around unfamiliar people, so being forced to be pet by an unfamiliar child could be very stressful for the dog and could cause the dog to bite. 

A good way to reduce the risk of biting due to being fearful of new or unfamiliar people is to socialize your Australian shepherd early and often.  

Make sure to introduce your Australian shepherd to new people as often as possible. If your dog only interacts with familiar people all the time, they will not build the skills they need to interact with other people and dogs, and this may result in a lot of fear and anxiety with unfamiliar people.  

It is important to also talk to the people in your life about how to appropriately interact with your dog. If you know that your dog is fearful around new people, explain to guests or people that you meet that your dog is nervous, and to be patient with your dog. This will help to keep everyone safe.  

Why is Your Australian Shepherd Biting Strangers? 

If your Australian shepherd is biting strangers, it likely is due to them trying to protect themselves or protect you. 

Self-protective Measures 

As mentioned previously, Australian shepherds can be nervous around new people. 

This nervousness can mean that Australian shepherds may bite if they feel threatened. Usually, if an Australian shepherd is nervous, they will try to back away or cower from the person. 

If the person insists on petting or playing with the nervous dog, the dog may then bite as a way to protect itself from a perceived threat. 

The best course of action to avoid this behavior is, as mentioned above, to socialize your dog early and often to get them feeling comfortable around new people before this becomes an issue.  

If you are already dealing with this issue and it is at a point where you cannot prevent it, your best bet is to seek help from a vet or dog behavior therapist that specializes in these issues. 

Having a dog that is prone to biting strangers is incredibly stressful for everyone involved – you may not even want to walk your dog anymore because you fear that your dog will become aggressive if you meet another person.  

Guarding Behavior 

Another reason why your Australian shepherd might bite a stranger is that they are guarding you against threats. 

As mentioned previously, this behavior could actually be useful if you were being attacked but on a daily basis, it is not necessary. 

Our dogs spend most of our time with us, and they love us and want to protect us. Your dog may see all outsiders as a threat to your safety which will cause them to want to bark excessively or even bite a stranger when they get too close. 

How Do You Get Your Australian Shepherd to Stop Biting Strangers? 

It is always best to try to prevent biting behaviors before they happen.  

As mentioned previously, it is important to socialize your puppy as soon as you can and with a variety of new people. 

Of course, this does not always mean that your dog will not bite later in life. If you are experiencing challenges with your dog biting strangers, then you may want to try the following steps. 

Keep Your Australian Shepherd On A Leash 

You should always walk your dog on a leash unless you’re at the dog park, but you can even try having your Australian shepherd leashed in the house. 

If you are planning on having company that is unfamiliar to your Australian shepherd, be prepared to have your dog on a leash the whole time.  

By having your dog on a leash in the house with company, you can keep them close to you and control where they are in the house. 

You may want to tell your company to avoid interacting with the dog unless the dog initiates positive contact such as walking up to your guest (you should still maintain hold on the leash) and sniffing them. 

If your dog is then calm in the presence of this stranger, make sure to reward them with a treat. 

Reward Your Australian Shepherd For Good Behavior 

When walking your Australian shepherd, always have treats in your pocket. 

When you walk by another person, keep your dog at a good distance from the other person and reward your dog if they refrain from barking or trying to pull toward the stranger. 

If you do this often enough, your dog will start to associate being near strangers with rewards and will hopefully become naturally less aggressive toward strangers. 

It is important to keep this distance when you are training your dog not to be aggressive with strangers because there is the risk of biting when getting too close to others.  

Take Your Dog To A Training Class 

A good way to introduce your dog to new people in a controlled setting is to take part in a dog training class. 

You will have the benefit of having a trained professional to help you address your concerns about your dog. 

If you plan to sign up for a dog training class, you should tell the trainer ahead of time that your dog shows aggression toward other people. The trainer may suggest a special class or decide to start with one-on-one training.  

Use A Harness For Walks 

If you find that your dog pulls toward strangers while on walks, consider using a harness rather than a typical collar. 

The harness gives you more control over your dog without pulling on their neck or causing choking. It is a better way to hold your dog back rather than a collar which can cause a lot of discomfort.  

Seek Help From Your Vet 

If you are unable to resolve your Australian shepherd’s aggression toward strangers, you should seek help from your vet.  

Your vet will be able to further advise you and connect you with other professionals that can help you manage and correct your dog’s behavior.  

Want To Train Your Australian Shepherd With Peace Of Mind?

If you haven’t trained your Australian Shepherd properly, then this is the perfect time to start. Whatever bad behavior your shepherd has, whether it’s barking at night or other bad behaviors, using the right training program is the key to having an obedient and happy pup.

The training program I love and highly recommend is Brain Training For Dogs.

With Brain Training For Dogs you’ll save yourself a ton of time and effort. Instead of banging your head against the wall trying to figure out why your dog won’t listen, you’ll follow a path that has been tried, tested, and most importantly, that’s given proven results. Not to mention the fact, you’ll be able to fit the course around your schedule, not fit your schedule around a trainer or obedience class.

So instead of worrying about whether they’re going to be well-behaved or not, you’ll only have to worry about how much fun you’ll have with them!

And in most cases it’s still going to be:

  • Cheaper than hiring a professional.
  • Cheaper than replacing everything they might break.
  • And definitely cheaper than a lawsuit against you, if they decide to bite someone.

Just imagine how great it will feel to finally be able to trust your Australian Shepherd completely and never worry whether they’ll be naughty or not. Instead, you’ll have the peace of mind that you have a well-behaved pup, and the boundaries you set for them, will always be there, EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT. 

And the best part is it also has a 60-day money-back guarantee! So there’s no reason not to give Brain Training For Dogs a try!

So if you’re tired of your dog’s bad behavior, or how they react around other people and pooches, then give it a try! You’ll be amazed by the results!

(You can also check out a full review here, to learn exactly what the course has to offer!)

What Should You Avoid Doing? 

When training your dog not to bite or be aggressive, the best course of action is to be firm but gentle. 

Don’t Yell At Your Dog 

If you find that your Australian shepherd is biting you during play or as a herding tendency, avoid yelling at them to stop. 

You can tell them “no” in a firm, clear voice, but do not yell or shriek. Yelling may actually encourage your dog to continue these behaviours, as they may think that you are trying to play with them. 

Don’t Hit Your Dog 

Hitting your dog is something you should never do. 

If your dog is biting you, hitting them can make them fearful of you and may actually cause more aggression. If your dog feels threatened by you, they may actually feel the need to bite you more to protect themselves. 

The same thing goes for if your dog is biting other people, avoid hitting your dog as it just causes further aggression. 

Don’t Force Your Dog Into Uncomfortable Situations 

If you know that your dog has specific triggers, you of course want to expose your dog to those triggers to help to overcome them, but you don’t want to force your dog into uncomfortable situations that will cause them stress. 

For example, if you know that your dog is uncomfortable around new people, you don’t want to force them into a room with new people and force them to be pet. This is just going to cause your dog to be stressed, and the aggression may escalate. 

Make sure to slowly introduce your dog to things that make them upset or aggressive, and you may even want to partner with a dog trainer or dog behavior specialist.  

FAQ 

Are Australian Shepherds Biters? 

As mentioned previously, Australian shepherds were bred to be herding dogs. This makes them more likely than other breeds to want to nip at your heels, or herd children or other animals. 

This does not necessarily mean that Australian shepherds are more likely to bite you aggressively. They see herding as a job that needs to be done, not as a means of being aggressive. 

It is worth it to note that Australian shepherds tend to be shyer with new people than other breeds, which can translate to being more aggressive with new people out of fear. This could lead to biting. 

In general, Australian shepherds are not biters provided they are properly trained and socialized. 

Are Australian Shepherds Good with Strangers? 

Australian shepherds are known for being shy with strangers.  

However, each dog is an individual and some may be less shy than others. Some dogs may have absolutely no reservations about greeting strangers where others will be very nervous or aggressive with new people. 

This usually comes down to how a dog is socialized but can also just be related to a dog’s individual personality.  

Final Thoughts 

Australian shepherds make great family pets, and many people will not have issues with their Australian shepherds when it comes to biting.  

If you get a puppy, it is important to socialize them with new people, train them not to herd you and bite your ankles and reinforce the idea of biting and chewing on acceptable objects such as chew toys. 

If you are experiencing aggression from your Australian shepherd, it is important to try to get to the root cause of that aggression. More often than not, the aggression is due to fear of new people or new situations. 

If you are struggling with controlling your dog, it is a good idea to speak to your vet or to a dog trainer or dog behavior specialist. Dealing with an aggressive dog can be stressful and it is worth it to get some expert advice so that you and your dog can have the best life possible! 

Sources