Dogs

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Herding dogs love to, as you may have guessed, herd. That’s a good thing if you have a flock of sheep to take care of, but it’s not so great when it comes to house guests and kids.

If your dog decides to herd guests in your home by nipping at their heels, it can cause big problems.

How can you break your herding dog’s habit and keep your friends’ and families’ ankles safe? Here are a few tips for understanding your dog’s behavior and correcting it.

Herding Is Normal

Okay, the first thing to understand that herding is a normal and natural response in many dogs.

It’s not shocking to hear of a Corgi nipping at the heels of people any more than hearing about a terrier that may bark at strangers.

We certainly have to take into account that our dogs have been selectively bred to do many “hard wired” behaviors for thousands of years. Because of this, some breeds naturally herd, and it can be tough to change a behavior that comes instinctually.

Even so, unwanted herding can cause frustration and concern, so you’ll need to take some steps as a pet parent to train the issue away. Be ready for some hard work.

Manage The Behavior

Header, Portrait of a cute mixed-breed Puppy with a Dog toy rope, copyspace

(Picture Credit: miriam-doerr/Getty Images)

The more people react to being herded — by running, yelling, etc. — the more likely the dog will be thinking of this as a fun, entertaining game!

So first, take a look at how you or others have been reacting to being herded. You may be adding fuel to the fire.

Second thing, prevention and management are key. Until a dog has learned “not” to herd in certain contexts — with people, for example — you want to avoid putting the dog in situations where they can practice this. Practice makes perfect.

Lastly, give you dog lots of appropriate outlets for herding, nipping, biting, and mouthing.

Tugging is a great game that can teach a lot of self control with a dog’s mouth. I don’t know many herding breeds that wouldn’t join you in a game of tug.

Also ask yourself: what kind of activity is this dog getting? Increasing exercise and enrichment and giving any dog, especially working breeds, more mental activity are so key to their success in a home.

What Kind Of Training Should You Do?

And of course, there’s training. What can we do?

I’d try management — putting the dog on a leash — and teaching the dog self control. Basically, if we know that this is a dog who’s hard wired to want to chase things that move, great!

Anytime you play ball or engage in an activity where the dog gets to do this, make them work! Wait for a calm response — standing, sitting, lying down — before you toss that ball to fetch and in between tosses. That way, you encourage your dog to practice self control.

Work on attention — that is, getting a dog to look back at you, away from moving objects.

This can be done by having the dog on leash and tossing objects far, far away. Then call your dog’s name and tell them, “look!” And when the dog does check in with you — and yes, you may have to wait — you praise/reward.

Then, begin to expose the dog at very low levels to the stuff that excites them, such as people moving, bikes, scooters, or a rolling ball. Make sure they are set up for success by practicing at a safe distance where they are interested, but not “losing it.”

If you can initiate lots of self control games, increase enrichment, work a few skills, and manage the dog in the meantime, you are well on your way to decreasing the herding of humans!

Does your dog herd people in your home? How have you taught your dog to stop herding humans? Let us know in the comments below!

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