Nipping Border Collies


My son has been bitten, although nipped would be more like it, numerous times. We have had to separate the two for now, unless my wife or myself supervise. We don't want our son to get afraid of the dog - which at times he has been. If our Border Collie continues to bite and scare our son, we will be forced to find another home for the dog. Please don't misunderstand me though... it is not what we want. We love this dog, and are quite aware of his need to release energy. I have resorted to constantly and/or chronically saying "no bite" with force to get the point across to him. My hands are pocked-marked which I truly understand is part of the business of having a puppy with sharp teeth. We have not given up hope, and I have seen improvement in him which is encouraging. For now, my son has been a real trooper. We are encouraging him not to be afraid. At what point will the puppy will out grow this tendency?


"Mouthyness" is a simple and easily controlled behavior - growling, scruff shakes, and just plain general puppy socialization will solve this. But if you are speaking of nipping when the child is active (not simply petting the dog), then this is an altogether different beast. Border Collies are bred to herd and herd they will. This behavior is absolutely normal for a Border Collie. And, I'm afraid, your pup will never outgrow this tendency. It is an instinctive behavior and like any other instinctive behavior, it can't be eliminated. It can be modified or dealt with but it won't go away. Even one of my own dogs, the sweetest dog on the planet, will nip and herd a running person, especially a child. She is perfectly trained (well, almost perfect) and is in complete control at an instant on command, but she still nips and barks at a running person if not supervised.

Rescue is full of dogs just like this. We have all heard it time and time again, about how you love the dog and yet can't deal with this problematic behavior, and it breaks our heart to have to take these dogs into rescue. It is not your fault nor should you be blamed. We do understand that you truly love and care for the dog. It doesn't make you a bad person by having to give up your dog. Border Collies are simply not for everyone. Fortunately, there are ways of dealing with the behavior. Education is the first step. Learn as much about Border Collies, their herding instinct, etc. as possible. Attend a trial or two and see these dogs at work. The second thing to do is to work on obedience. A well-behaved dog can be controlled when in these situations but they must be worked with extensively. Lastly, talk to a local rescuer, Border Collie expert, or behavior intervention specialist to help you deal with the nipping. The children can be taught how to work with this (a dead stop is the first thing) and the dog can be redirected to other pursuits. Just always remember, a Border Collie's instinct to herd never goes away, especially if it is strong from the start. However, this may all be irrelevant if you are simply talking about a "mouthy" pup.

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