The Border Collie is arguably one of the most beautiful dog breeds around.
Also highly intelligent, these working dogs make excellent companions for those who spend time outdoors. Border Collies were bred to herd sheep and other flocking animals, for which their intelligence and stamina is well suited.
However, some Border Collies can also display some undesirable traits if you’re not a sheepherder — namely, nipping or biting. So why do some Border Collies nip so much, and how can you get them to stop?
Why Border Collies Nip
Border Collies were bred to herd with a mixture of barking, body movement and nipping to direct their charges in the right direction. When a Border Collie nips, they may be trying to herd you in the direction they want you to go. To them, this is natural behavior — it’s what they were born to do.
“When a Border Collie is moving a herd, he or she will commonly nip [at] the heels and hindquarters of animals to get things going,” explains Kevin Winslet in The Complete Guide to Border Collies. “This habit can still be present in a Border Collie even if he or she has never been anywhere near a farm.”
Other more traditional reasons a Border Collie may bite or nip include:
- For attention
It’s up to you to observe your Border Collie’s behavior and other factors to determine what their motivation is for nipping. Understanding their exact reason for nipping can help you teach them to stop.
It’s normal for puppies to bite or nip. This is how they explore their new world. In these first weeks, their most important teachers are their mothers and litter mates.
In Border Collie, Wendy Bedwell Wilson explains: “Between 4 and 12 weeks old, pups learn bite inhibition from their mother. They learn the amount of mouth pressure they can use without causing pain or harm as they play with their brothers and sisters.”
It’s important to ensure your puppy isn’t removed from their family too early for this precise reason.
When your Border Collie puppy is ready to join your human family, no-bite training should begin immediately. It’s tempting to give your puppy a pass on nips because they’re cute, but when they get bigger and older, those nips aren’t going to be cute anymore.
“Your Border Collie should know not to bite by the time he is 18 weeks old,” says Wilson. “When your puppy nips at you or bites you or even just mouths you, say ‘Sparky, no bite.’ Stop playing with him and walk away. Do not allow your dog to nip at your heels or chase your feet. This will teach him that biting and nipping result in the withdrawal of your attention.”
Border Collies are highly energetic dogs and need a great deal of exercise. If they’re not getting enough exercise or are bored, they may nip or bite you in an effort to get you to play. They have energy to burn and need you to help them expend it safely.
“Consider starting a walking program for you and your Border Collie,” suggests Winslet. “Activities such as playing fetch, Frisbee, romping with the kids, as well as hiking and even swimming are all activities that most Border Collies enjoy.”
Watch this 3-month-old Border Collie pup show off his training:
Border Collies who are not well socialized may display problem behaviors, such as biting or nipping. Start socialization early to get your Border accustomed to all types of people and other animals. “Between the ages of 12 and 20 weeks your puppy is most receptive to learning how to handle new sounds, smells and sights,” says Wilson.
These early weeks are when socialization such as the following examples will have the most impact:
- Take your Border Collie with you in the car.
- Allow well-behaved children to interact with them.
- Introduce them to new people of all ages, races and genders.
Once your puppy has been fully vaccinated, begin introducing them to other pets and having them attend “puppy play dates.” Supervise all interactions with your Border Collie to ensure that they are positive ones.
Parenting a Border Collie is a wonderful experience. These dogs are amazing companions, and with the right amount of positive training, socialization and exercise, they can be taught that nipping isn’t permitted in their households.