Ask an Expert - Herding Hassles
Ask Teoti Anderson
Q: Our puppy is a herding dog and he nips at our heels as we walk around the house. How can we get him to stop this? —Nibbled in Nashville
A: Corgis nipping at a child’s heels. Shetland Sheepdogs corralling toddlers in a corner. German Shepherds chasing the cousins. This is a common issue with herding breeds. Your dog is genetically programmed to chase sheep, ducks, cattle, or other animals. If they aren’t handy, well, the family will do just fine! This doesn’t mean you have to settle for this behaviour, but it should help you understand your puppy’s motivation. He’s just following his DNA.
There are a few things you can do to help your heels.
Give your puppy more suitable outlets for his energy. Herding breeds are active. Play fetch, give him food-stuffed toys, set up puppy playdates with other suitable, safe puppies. A tired puppy is less likely to chase.
Teach your dog to walk with you, rather than chase you. Have treats that your dog really likes. Cue him to sit next to you. Take one step, click with a clicker (or mark with a verbal “Yes”) and give him a treat. Take another step, click and treat. Work up to several steps at a time. Gradually work up to you taking more steps and walking faster. This will make it more rewarding for your dog to walk next to you.
Teach your dog to chase something else. There are some great lure toys on the market, such as those consisting of a stick with a long cord and fuzzy toy attached. Walk and drag the lure beside you, encouraging your dog to chase that instead. Your dog will be getting great exercise, and leave your heels alone in the process!
Teoti Anderson, CPDT, owns Pawsitive Results (getpawsitiveresults.com), and is the past president of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers. She is the author of Your Outta Control Puppy, Super Simple Guide to Housetraining, Quick and Easy Crate Training, and Puppy Care and Training.