Border Collie puppies are notoriously mouthy, and often nip and bite at their owners. Although some behaviors appear aggressive, they may actually be quite normal. There can be aggression in Border Collie puppies, but this is rare. First things first, let’s determine if your puppy is truly aggressive, or if they’re just being a puppy.
Border Collie puppies can certainly be a handful. They’re a working dog breed and so are spirited and active. When we’re first teaching them the behaviors we wish for them to exhibit, it can be challenging. Especially when they’re determined to do things their way!
If you’re Border Collie pup is growling, snapping, biting, and is displaying signs of aggression, it’s not the end of the world. You can train your puppy to be the dog you had hoped for. It will just take calm patience on your behalf and proper techniques, but the effort will be well worth it in the long run.
Border Collie Puppy Aggression
True aggression in puppies is actually quite rare, especially in Border Collies. It’s more likely what you’re currently experiencing is normal puppy behavior, which can be remedied through correct leadership.
If you think this might be the case, and your pup is just very bitey then be sure to read our post on the subject here.
A truly aggressive puppy is one that is terrified or is in a state of fear. Such puppies have usually had a very damaging experience, such as abuse. True aggression can also present itself through fear-based unethical training techniques, such as yelling and hitting.
An act of true aggression will be a statement to say I need space and I need you to get away from me.
Signs Your Puppy is Aggressive
The three puppy behaviors listed here are displays of true aggression. Watch for fear-based behaviors prior to these acts of aggression.
- Snapping bites
- Baring teeth
- Aggressive outbursts of barking and biting
Signs of Fear: Behaviors Leading to Aggression
- Backing into walls and corners
- Ears pinned back
- Tail between legs
- Stiff body posture
These signs will start to paint a picture of a truly aggressive puppy. If your puppy is growling in play, mouthing, biting, playing tug-of-war with your jeans, or growling, then this is normal puppy behavior.
If you’d like a comprehensive guide to fear-based or anxiety-based aggression, be sure to read our post on this subject here.
These behaviors are especially prevalent in Border Collies, who have been bred to specifically herd live-stock. Herding requires nipping and sometimes biting to get sheep to respond to their will, and so these behaviors will be present in Border Collie puppies.
This trait can often reveal itself in your puppy through herding people through nudging, chasing, nipping, and barking. Especially children, who they see as possible herding targets.
If you’re having difficulties with your Border Collie barking a lot, then be sure to read our post on Border Collie Barking: How to put a stop to it.
If your puppy is just a little crazy and hyper around the house, read our post on how long it’s going to take until your Border Collie puppy will calm down and how you can help them to relax.
Does your puppy guard their food or toys, or do they growl at you when you pat their head? Do they lash out when touch them when eating? Then allow me to blow your mind: they are not displaying dominance. The long-held belief that dogs are trying to be the Alpha is a myth.
In reality, if you attempt to dominate your puppy and show them who’s boss, then you will only instill a sense of anxiety in them, which will express itself through unwanted behaviors and insecurities.
Instead, you should strive to create a great relationship with your Border Collie. If you dominate them then you may stop the unwanted behavior, but it will be from a place of fear which will create anxiety.
Rather, the best approach is to face the problems in a positive way. Through doing this, your puppy will learn what behavior is rewarded, and not only will they cease unwanted behaviors, but will do so without the anxiety and problems associated with it (barking, chewing, howling, biting).
When it comes to having a well-behaved dog, this is the key to success: Slow and steady wins the race. Reward wanted behaviors, ignore the unwanted behaviors.
You should be striving for an inter-species relationship with your Border Collie puppy, one of mutual respect.
The more aggressive interactions you have with your puppy, the more the interactions will present themselves. It feels counter-intuitive, like you should tell them off if they growl when you come near their food, but this will be sure to make the situation worse.
If your puppy growls when you come near their food when they’re eating, don’t go near them when they’re eating. Have them eat away from a thoroughfare of people. Better yet, feed them in a crate.
For a full understanding of Border Collie resource guarding, please read our post on Border Collie Resource Guarding.
Another option is to stand a meter away from them while they eat. Say their name to them in a calming voice. Tell them what a good dog they are. Next meal take a step closer without eliciting their growl response. Once again praise them. You can even throw a piece of cheese to them. Repeat the process getting ever closer to them until they are comfortable having you close to them as they eat.
If they have a particular toy that they’re protective of, then it’s time for it to go away for a little while.
If they growl when you pet their head, then don’t pet their head. Likewise, if they don’t like their feet touched. Instead, reward positive interactions and touching through holding them and giving treats. Show them that handling them is a positive thing.
There is no scientific backed data that says you should pass through a door before your dog, or eat before them, or not allow them on furniture at your level.
Puppies and dogs that display aggression to get what they want are not being dominant but are revealing anxiety-based behaviors. If you quell unwanted aggression with yelling and dominance, you will only create a relationship of fearful pet and tyrant owner.
This relationship will be sure to fail, and many Border Collies have ended up in the kennel because of owners thinking they have acquired a bad dog. There are no bad dogs, only ill-conceived training methods and a lack of patience and understanding.
This is the position statement concerning Alpha training by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior:
Border Collie Puppy Growling
Puppy growling is an important method of communication for your puppy. It’s their way to express themselves and tell you what they’re thinking.
Sometimes it’s a playful growl when they’re in the midst of playing a game of tug-of-war with you. Sometimes it’s to tell you they don’t like what is happening at that moment.
If your puppy is growling and it’s not through play, then stop whatever it is you’re doing and give them space. Or if they’re growling because you’re trying to cut their nails, then look at a different technique, such as using a professional or a vet to do this job.
Important: Do not try and suppress your Border Collie puppy from growling. If you were even successful in stopping their growl, it will only take away their warning system. Remove their warning and their next form of communication will be a bite.
Have you read our guide on how to discipline a puppy?
Border Collie Puppy Biting
Puppy biting is completely normal, and it will lessen as they age. As they grow out of their puppy stage, the biting will likely stop altogether. If your puppy is ruining your clothes when play biting, then unfortunately this is just part of being a Border Collie puppy owner.
In this video you can see some techniques to control your puppy’s biting:
If you watch a Border Collie puppy in their litter, they will engage their siblings and mother through biting, jumping, rolling, and chasing.
Play biting is the way they learn, using their mouth to explore the world around them. Puppies are like children learning with their hands, touching everything in sight. Except they’re learning through their natural canine instincts.
Anything that moves will be chased and nipped. In the litter Border Collie puppies will nip and bite and if they’ve bitten too hard, they’ll hear about it from whoever they’ve nipped.
Now you have your Border Collie puppy in your home away from their litter, you have replaced their play friends and so they’ll be nipping anything that moves on you. Your hands and feet and legs have replaced tails and moving pups.
You will most likely also receive playful growls which are also to be expected.
Just like when their siblings and mother teach them when they’ve gone too far, it’s now your job to do the same.
Follow these steps to stop your puppy biting you:
- Don’t play games that encourage aggression, such as face slaps, muzzle grabbing, or rough pushing.
- If they bite you replicate the response of their litter and mother. If your puppy bites you, yelp loud and high and withdraw your hand. If you don’t have a high yelp in you, try a loud “Bah!”
- Remove whatever toy you were playing with and ignore them for a short period before returning to play. This tells them that their bite has ruined all the fun.
- Everyone in the household needs to be doing the same thing. You want consistent rules so as not to confuse them of what is right and wrong.
- If they are constantly trying to bite your hands, replace your hand with an appropriate toy to chew on.
- Praise play without biting.
Aggression, Diet, and Supplements
Surprisingly a diet can cause hyperactivity which leads to more biting and unwanted behaviors. Ensure your puppy is on a low additive diet. Just like kids on red Kool-Aid, you want them having a quality intake of fuel to give them energy, not junk.
We recommend Blue Buffalo Life Protection Puppy food, as it’s nutritious and has no artificial flavors or preservatives.
If you want additional support in controlling your puppy’s behavior, supplements can help. They aren’t the cure, but they are a good piece to use in the overall puzzle. FurrLandia have a high quality hemp calming supplement with excellent reviews.
Another consideration is the Purina Pro Calming Treats. Although more expensive, the reviews are overwhelmingly positive, so they must work well.
Cure Your Border Collie’s Aggression
Here is a list of additional things you can do to curb your puppy’s aggression, whether it’s playful normal behavior or otherwise. Border Collie’s are beautiful dogs, but they require appropriate training to ensure they’re as best as they can be.
Follow what you can on this list to ensure your Border Collie pup becomes the best dog you’ve ever had.
Don’t let children play running games with your Border Collie – it will only illicit their natural breed response and chase and bite, as if they were sheep.
Avoid rough play such as face slapping or muzzle grabbing – this will encourage unwanted biting and rough play.
Use redirection – Change your hand to a toy when being bitten.
Give them space – All puppies need their own space from time to time. Especially in a house with children.
Crate train them – A crate is a great place for them to have their own space and gives them a sanctuary of solitude.
Teach your Border Collie puppy to drop it – Teach them this skill so if they’re biting your pants you can tell them to drop it. Be sure to always have treats in your pocket so when they respond you can reward them.
Use clicker training – Border Collies respond extremely well to clicker training.
Offer treats when handling – this can remove fears of being touched or handled.
Use stimulation toys – Border Collies have a sharp mind that needs to be exercised. Puzzle and enrichment toys can help them with excess energy and subdue unwanted behaviors.
Puppy school – Great for socialization and understanding correct behaviors.
Socialization – If you know friends or family with vaccinated dogs, be sure to spend time with them so your puppy learns from other dogs what is appropriate behavior.
Obedience classes – This is vital for Border Collie puppies and BC’s of all ages. Not because they’re disobedient but because they’ll be much happier dogs being able to have a more complex communication with their owners.
Exercise them often – Being herding dogs they need the additional exercise. Even puppies can have more exercise than the usual recommended time limit associated with other breeds.
Avoidance – If your puppy is yet to learn their manners, then avoid interacting them with children or strangers until you have some level of control.
Play fetch – Get them to wait and not run until you give them the go-ahead. Fetch will tap into their herding instincts and burn off energy.
Number 1 rule – Ignore unwanted behaviors and encourage good behaviors.
Having a puppy can be a trying time, and when they show aggressive behavior it can be very concerning. You start wondering if you’ve gotten a puppy with a bad personality. The good news is this isn’t the case.
Border Collie puppies are hard work, always on the go, often biting and mouthing. But this stage will pass as they grow older. Just remember not to berate them or unwanted behaviors will only increase.
Keep them happy through positive reinforcement of wanted behaviors and be obvious in ignoring the unwanted ones.
Border Collie’s are gorgeous dogs and with the proper training can be the best dog you’ve ever owned.
Finally, if you think your puppy could do with some additional help, be sure to look up a good dog behaviorist or trainer.
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