Mouthing is a typical trait for dogs, especially on herding dogs like Australian Shepherds. In most cases, this behavior is totally harmless. However, injuries can be made when your dog becomes aggressive. Owners can use several methods to discourage their pups from mouthing or biting.
Australian shepherds are known for their active lifestyle and high energy. After all, this breed is a herding dog, willing to get rough and active during playtime and duty. Due to their herding instinct, most Aussie pups can’t help themselves and starts mouthing their owners when given a chance.
How To Tell If The Biting Is Due To Playfulness Or Aggression?
A mouthing or a bite is usually an act of playfulness on the part of the Aussie pup. When this is the case, the dog would often have a relaxed body and less tension in its face. Jaw pressure from a playful mouthing is less painful or no pain at all. In this case, it all depends on whether the experience is unpleasant to you.
However, some dogs can get aggressive in their mouthing. These instances are often caused by the pup getting a bit more excited. Aggressive mouthing can also happen when the dog is not appropriately trained. Signs of aggression include a stiff body and some wrinkles appearing in your dog’s muzzles.
Aggressive mouthing can turn a simple playtime into an unintended accident. Your dog might not know that it’s hurting you because they don’t have the concept of pain receptors in human’s soft skin. There are instances wherein the dog could not leave the habit behind, which prompts the owner to seek professional vet help.
Why Is Your Australian Shepherd Mouthing?
Mouthing is a natural trait that dogs possess and develop during their younger years. They need to learn how to use their mouths to explore the world and have acquired skills that they need when they’re older. Hence, the mouthing might be caused by a trigger in the environment or situation.
The Ingrained Herding Instinct
As a herding dog, Australian Shepherds are likely to nibble on your fingers, ankles, or foot. With their herding instinct, Aussie pups are one of the breeds notorious for mouthing. This characteristic is often manifested when the pup enters its “herding mode,” wherein these dogs usually take the assertive attitude.
You might be wondering why Aussies’ herding instinct prompts them to mouth. When herding, the dogs need to keep their sheep and other animals in the right decision. This is done by snapping or nipping at them to go back to the line. It is usually triggered when a group of sheep suddenly goes away or faces the wrong direction.
Another factor to consider as to why a dog will start mouthing is its guarding instinct. A part of the Australian Shepherd’s instinct is to keep its flock safe and away from predators. If an animal which they deem dangerous gets too close to the herd, the Aussies will snap and nip at these predators to keep their herd safe.
When your Australian Shepherd perceives someone as a threat to you or your family members, the dog will likely go to the defensive mode. It will try to bite this person as a warning. However, this behavior can be very annoying, especially if your dog is being super protective. It can be a good or bad thing, depending on the context and the current situation.
Lack Of Training Or Socialization
Training is an essential part of a dog’s life. Good training and socialization skills can determine whether or not a dog can be a pain in the neck to deal with. While your Australian Shepherd is a pup, teaching it how to do basic commands can ensure that it will not be prone to mouthing incidents.
This can also be said about its social behavior. Puppies with proper socialization training early on are less likely to nip or mouth. A pup can learn to control its nipping and biting by learning with other dogs. It will learn how to stop applying pressure if its playmate gets hurt or yelped while playing.
When in fear or stressed, an Australian Shepherd may try to nip the person who causes it to feel that way. Mouthing is usually a warning, and the dog might get into aggressive mode from its defensive mode. If a dog nips the owner out of fear, it can be an aggressive way to ask for help or call some attention.
Injuries Or Illnesses
Puppies and dogs are quite sensitive to pain. They will likely flinch or nip at a person if they are in pain or are suffering from illnesses. If your pup or dog suddenly started mouthing in your hand, it might be signaling that something’s quite not right in its body.
And last but not least, your dog might just be very happy and excited to play with you. The hyperactivity and added tension in your dog’s bite might mislead you that it’s getting pretty aggressive. But in reality, your dog might just be happy to spend some time with you.
You can check if your dog’s behavior is aggressive or not by watching its body language. If it’s in a defensive stance, you might want to back away slowly. Don’t try to run away because your Australian Shepherd will just try to “herd” you by biting at you aggressively.
How To Stop Your Australian Shepherd Mouthing?
There are several methods that you can use to administer training and stop your Australian Shepherd from mouthing. Use the best method that you can safely administer at your own home with your dog. Be consistent, and reward your dog every time it successfully manifests your desired behavior.
The “Leave It” Method
This method has the name “leave it” because it can help your dog identify the command. First, if your dog starts nipping at you, get a treat and tease it to your dog to catch its interest. Let it sniff at the treat and say “leave it” to establish that those two words are important commands.
When the dog starts to get disinterested or ignore you, praise it with verbal affirmation and let it get the treat. Keep practicing on this until the dog’s behavior is consistent.
The Bite Inhibition Method
To use this method, you need to set the mood and get your pup into mouthing mode. Keep on playing with your dog until it mouths you hard enough that it really hurts. Let your puppy know that you’re hurt by letting your hand go limp and release a high-pitched yelp.
If it works properly, your dog will start becoming gentle with its nipping or even try to stop mouthing. If it stops mouthing, you can encourage this behavior by praising your pup or giving a tasty treat.
The “Attention Intervention” Method
As mentioned before, herding dogs are likely to start mouthing when their herding instincts are triggered. Spend some time with your dog, and observe its behavior. Watch out on what’s triggering your dog is going to its herd mode. Once you pinpoint the trigger, you can call for the pup’s attention every time the trigger starts.
Keep doing this until your pup completely stops its mouthing behavior. Most breeds usually outgrow their mouthing or biting tendencies as they get older. The Australian Shepherd is not an exception.
The Socialization Method
This method is effective if the dog is young and hasn’t experienced socialization with other dogs yet. For this method, you need to make sure that there are other dogs or puppies. Just let them play and get rough with each other.
A moment will eventually appear where your puppy will hurt the other dogs due to its inexperience in controlling its jaw’s strength. Much like the bite inhibition method, your dog will likely learn to be careful about its bites.
The Non-Contact Method
And lastly, you can use the non-contact method, which facilitates playtime without touching your puppy. Instead of playing with your puppy or dog by petting and other physical means, you can instead encourage non-contact forms of play.
This category includes playing games like fetch and tug-of-war. The method is only effective if you can start early. If fetch or tug-of-war is not doable, you can use stuffed toys or other toys.
Training Your Australian Shepherd
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 Aussie 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?
Just like other bad behaviors in dogs, aggressive mouthing might or might not be carried into adulthood. Hence, it is quite important to avoid encouraging bad behavior. When it comes to mouthing, here are some things that you should avoid doing while your pet is mouthing. This is an important step to lessen up the chance that your dog will do it again.
Not Giving Them Chew Toys
Dogs are curious creatures, but they use your mouth to test their curiosity. If you want to redirect their mouthing behavior, you must also redirect their attention to you. Hence, giving them something else to chew would be a great option. It will also encourage them to nip at you.
Ignore Your Pup
Even if your puppy is getting troublesome, make it a habit never to ignore them completely. At least, don’t do so without making your pup understand the action that it needs to change or the action that causes you to ignore it. Otherwise, you’ll just let your pup get confused and sad.
Avoid Provoking Gestures
Don’t try to trigger your dog’s biting instinct by making sudden gestures that might cause provocation. For example, if you decide to wake up your sleeping puppy unceremoniously, it will likely take the biting stance and try to bite you immediately. Don’t use exaggerated gestures as well, as it might provoke your dog and trigger its instinct to bite you.
Don’t Avoid Play Time
Avoiding playtime with your dog will not address its aggressive mouthing problem. In fact, it doesn’t solve anything at all. Instead, you should continue interacting with your dog and use it as a chance for training.
Dogs tend to learn quickly, especially herding breeds like Australian Shepherd. Focus on the positive reinforcement of good behavior, and try other options than avoiding your dog entirely.
Avoid Exaggerated Movements
Exaggerated movements like patting at the side of your pup’s face can signal aggression. Examples of this are waving your hand erratically to intimidate the puppy. In return, your dog will likely react aggressively as well. Make your interaction with your pup gentle and laidback. If the puppy is getting aggressive during playtime, you might have to take a break or do other activities.
Don’t Pull Away When Your Pup Mouth.
And last but not least, don’t try to pull your hand away when the puppy is nipping on you. This can cause the pup to grab your hand or bite harder. Instead, stop moving your hand and let it limp, which makes it very uninteresting to your pup.
Will Your Australian Shepherd Outgrow Mouthing?
Yes, puppies tend to overgrow their mouthing tendencies and forget this behavior. It is only a temporary phase, and that your pup will likely forget about it with proper training. The majority of the puppies will outgrow this behavior pretty early on.
What Age Do Aussies Stop Mouthing?
The majority of dog breeds will outgrow play-biting or mouthing in about three to five months. With proper training, this can even be shorter. Just give your pup the time it needs, and avoid punishing it for acting on its nature.
Mouthing is a normal trait for our canine companions. It’s similar to the experience of closing and clapping your hands for the first time. Your pup will likely outgrow this behavior in a few months.
Take note that aggressive mouthing is another story. It might be better if you ask for help from a vet or a canine behavior expert. Avoid taking actions that might encourage mouthing, and utilize chew toys to break this habit on your fur baby.