Puppy Biting Reason #4: Herding Instincts


Many types of dogs were purposely bred over centuries to help herd sheep and cattle.

Puppies from this category don’t necessarily “bite” per se – so most techniques that focus on how to train your puppy not to bite aren’t very useful.

Rather – herding puppy dogs “nip.”

This nipping is a type of herding tactic used to move animals along and keep them in line.  It’s much gentler than a bite – kind of the doggie equivalent of “pinching.”

If you have a nipper – you know it immediately.

Anytime you’re not:

  • Moving fast enough for him…
  • Going where he wants you to go…
  • Doing what he wants you to do…

… your herding puppy will give you a quick little pinch with his teeth – usually on your feet, ankles, or rear end.

It hurts a bit.  But more than anything else, it’s just plain annoying.

Nipping Isn’t Dangerous But It’s Very Difficult to Stop

Although not nearly as dangerous as biting, nipping is arguably harder to control.

After all, over centuries of selective breeding, professional trainers have taken the dog’s natural biting instinct and refined it to make it even more ingrained.

You’re not simply fighting nature.  You’re fighting nature + careful and selective breeding by expert trainers over many generations.

Below is a partial list of “herding breeds” famous for nipping (for a more complete list, click here):

  • Australian Shepherd
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Collie
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • Pembroke Welsh Corgi

Although the puppy nipping instinct is usually strongest in offspring with 2 herding parents, many mixed dog breeds nip as well if one of the parents (or grandparents) was a herding dog.

To prevent biting and nipping in herding puppies, you usually have to employ more aggressive training strategies.  Because remember – you’re asking this puppy to do the exact opposite of what it was explicitly designed to do.

It would be like training a Golden Retriever not to retrieve thrown objects.  Doable – but very difficult.

What NOT to do is a bit simpler.  For example, you should avoid:

  • Yelling or running as these activities reinforce the notion that you’re playing a game.  You’re only encouraging more of the same behavior
  • Hitting or slapping.  It’s a no-brainer – you should never ever hit your puppy dog.  But it’s worth repeating

Because training a herding puppy to not bite or nip is more difficult than with other dog breeds, we recommend using professional teaching guides that have been prepared by expert trainers.

To review some of these resources, click here.

To learn some other reasons why puppies bite (and how to stop it from happening) use the links down below: