How to Stop Your Dog’s Herding
By Jason Wright
September 14, 2021
Is Your Dog Nipping At Your Ankles?
Does your dog tend to herd you, your kids, or even other pets? This can be extremely frustrating at times due to the constant nips at your ankles and the tripping hazard your dog presents. Fortunately, there are options available to you. As with all training advice offered on our site, you need to be aware that only a trained professional can assess the route causes of your dog’s behaviour and provide you with the necessary care and instructions to change its behaviour. We encourage you to contact us to speak to a professional about your dog’s herding problems.
Common Problems When Your Dog Tends to Herd
Of course, each dog is different and so is its environment. As such, the problems you face may be completely different than the ones outlined here. Again, therefore it is important to connect with a professional to better understand your specific circumstance. Below are a few problems that may be caused by a dog’s herding tendency.
- Nipping at your ankles or other body parts
- Tripping People
- Poor Recall Due to Distraction
Underlying Issues Associated with Your Dog’s Herding
First, it is important for you to understand that your dog isn’t necessarily suffering from behavioural issues. Herding has become a natural instinct that humans have bred into our canine friends. Keeping that in mind, your dog doesn’t have any issues in relation to its herding. You need to redirect you dog’s herding tendencies / energy.
Congratulations! You have chosen a beautiful, high-energy dog who is probably keen on following commands – you’ve just got some work to do.
Training Your Dog to Stop Herding
Unfortunately, you are fighting against thousands of years of evolution and selective breeding instilled into your dog to do exactly what you are trying to get them to stop doing. That said, with enough training, patience and determination, your dog can be an attentive and obedient companion who does not try to herd you or anyone else.
Do not react to their herding behaviour in a positive or overly negative way. Stay calm and rely on your basic commands. Part of your basic command repertoire should be sit, down, stay in place and recall. When your dog starts its herding behaviour, recall it (if it is not close by) and tell it to sit or [lay] down. Follow this with some positive reinforcement such as a treat or praise.
Watch your dog carefully and learn what it does before it starts to herd. Some breeds of dog tend to have their own tells. For instance, your dog may start to circle the person it is looking to herd, get the zoomies (bursts of energy – running around and turning in circles) or your dog may approach your kids, while they are running, with its head low to the ground in a stalking manner. When you identify what your dog does prior to herding, again – rely on your basic commands outlined above.
If you know your kids are going to be running around or other triggering scenarios may happen (hint – it is often quick movement which triggers), put your dog in a different room or outside. Better yet, engage your dog with exercise or advanced training!
Tire Your Dog Out
We have all heard it before and that’s because it’s true – a mentally tired dog is a good dog. If your dog is practicing excessive herding, you could be the problem. By that we mean you are not mentally and physically exercising your dog enough. Herding breeds tend to be ones with a lot of energy and need a lot of stimulation to get rid of that energy
Tug or training are great and simple ways to engage your dog in play while giving you an opportunity to reinforce positive behaviour. In between bouts of play require that your dog calms itself – such as sitting or laying down – before you engage them again. This will help your dog with impulse control. Add a command for them to look at you before you begin play again such as look or here. When they do lock eyes with you, begin play again as positive reinforcement. This can come in handy when they herd in the future, and you want them to disengage.
Advanced Training / Stimulating Games
If your dog is still having trouble and still seems to have a bundle of energy you may want to consider more advanced engagement methods. This could include agility training and/or obstacle courses amongst other things. Not only are you having your dog exert its energy physically, but you are also stimulating them mentally which can compound their energy depletion. If your dog is tired, it will probably want to sleep rather than herd anything.
With everything you do with your dog, the most important thing you can do is be consistent. A behaviour you do not want your dog to do cannot be funny or accepted - ever. You accepting the behaviour, even once, can be extremely confusing to your dog and is not fair. Commit to your dog and its training.
The iTK9 Way
If your dog is herding you and those around you in a negative way, it may be time to get help. At iTK9 we have trained professionals who can discuss your issues and let you know the best course of action. Our programs cover basic commands and train in multiple environments to ensure your dog is obedient wherever they are. We will send you home with the proper resources you need to keep working with your dog moving forward. It doesn’t hurt to reach out however herding behaviour can lead to nipping which can have serious consequences. Reach out today and talk to a professional dog trainer.