Biting Dog: The Case of the Biting Border Collie

By Daniel Stevens and Martin Olliver

Finn was a happy, healthy, and super fit Border Collie. He was a rescue dog, brought into the home of two avid runners at about two years of age. As the shelter told them, most of Finn's "quirks" (which is a nice way to say behavioral problems) would go away provided he had quality exercise, which is vital for Finn's breed. And they were right. For the most part.

Finn had a habit of snapping at the hands and feet of strangers when they came to visit, and he was starting to display the same behavior in public. Finn was not clamping down as would a biting dog, he would only snap and recoil quickly and was yet to break skin. But this was a serious problem, and could escalate if not dealt with urgently and appropriately.

The owners were told to stage safe scenarios where this behavior could be displayed and corrected on the spot. This involved two pieces of equipment:

  1. A Gentle Leader® head harness or a check collar / lead (we suggest you try them in that order if you have not started training with one or the other already)
  2. A muzzle. This is necessary in the short term (especially given that one of us is posing as the "stranger" in this case!)

With the muzzled dog settled in a "sit" command, the stranger is introduced to the scene. He may start with his hands concealed behind him or in his pockets. When he exposes one of them, the owner delivers a short sharp correction to the lead, and a verbal "AH!" as well. Timing is everything. When the dog returns to a settled sit, praise him. You may have to manually correct his body position at first, but eventually he will respond to the lead correction and then only to a verbal command. This could take many repetitions and anywhere between a couple weeks to a couple months to break the habit completely. But it is well worth the effort.

In this case Finn got the point fairly quickly, and understood that the behavior was wrong. His owners were firm as they were instructed to be, and no dog trainers lost fingers in the process!

About The Authors

Daniel Stevens is the renowned dog trainer and author of Secrets to Dog Training: STOP Dog Behavior Problems!, one of the leading dog training guides on the market today selling over 25,743 copies (and counting). He currently heads the Kingdom of Pets dog training team.

Martin Olliver has over 12 years experience in dog training and is a proud member of the Kingdom of Pets team. He is the author of the newly released Ultimate Guide to House Training.

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