Help, My Dog Herds My Family!

by | Nov 27, 2020 | Articles | 0 comments

Whether you have a heeler, a corgi, a shepherd, or a collie in your family, you’ve most likely struggled with the woes of a talented sheep dog out of their element. They may chase your kids when they move too quickly, or they may nip at your ankles when you’re carrying a basket full of laundry. 

Herding your family members may come naturally to your little shepherd, but it’s a habit that can be broken in a way that makes your bond even stronger.

Why Dogs Herd Family Members

Your dog’s innate herding instincts might be triggered by movements. While you can ask your kids to be careful about running around while your dog is still learning their manners, it’s impossible to avoid moving in ways that trigger your dog’s herding instincts. 

Keep in mind that your reaction to your dog’s herding habit will influence future behaviour. If you shout or try to swat them away, they’ll likely feel overstimulated by the negative attention. They may feel even more driven to nip and chase. 

While ignoring your dog’s annoying herding behaviour will not necessarily make them stop, it’s much more effective to react calmly rather than feed into their playful, overexcited mood. 

Teaching Alternate Behaviours

Herding dogs are incredibly clever. If you consistently walk away from them when they’re acting inappropriately, they may herd your family less often. 

Nipping should mean that the fun stops, and if needed, can also mean that your dog loses their freedom. You may need to confine them to a gated-off area or a crate. It’s essential that your dog’s crate or a safe room is not associated with punishment. When confining your overactive herding dog, it’s best to leave them with a Kong, chew, or puzzle toy to help them calm down and cool off.

For even better, faster results, teach your dog an appropriate way to play with you and your family. One way to do this is to encourage them to grab a toy and give it to you when they’re feeling playful. It’ll take some repetitions and some patience, but your dog can learn the right way to get that much-wanted attention.

When your dog self-redirects to a toy, they’ll be unable to grab pant legs at the same time. This is what’s known as an incompatible behaviour. You can use incompatible behaviours to solve many behavioural issues. Instead of just saying, “no!” always tell your dog what to do instead. 

Honing Your Dog’s Herding Instincts

Games that engage your dog’s love of herding can help them feel less of a need to herd you and your family around the house. 

Treibball is a fun dog sport in which your dog learns cues to herd large rubber balls. You may be able to find local treibball training classes near you. But you do not need formal training or lots of equipment to start. You can use just one rubber ball at home, and work on simple cues like having your dog roll the ball towards you. 

Hide and seek is another activity that herding dogs love. It’s also a great game for dogs and kids to play together. Have your dog sit and stay in one part of your home, and hide (or have a family member hide) elsewhere. It can help to have the hider hold a handful of treats to encourage the dog to seek. For an advanced game, have multiple family members hide and ask your dog to go find them by name.

Enrichment activities and advanced tricks are excellent for all intelligent dog breeds. 

Training Help For Herding Dogs

Herding dogs respond exceptionally well to positive reinforcement based training. They love to learn, and while they may have a knack for getting into mischief, they’re also eager to please. Working with a trainer who uses science-based techniques can open up the lines of communication so you can help your smart dog reach their true potential.

Working with a positive trainer is now easier than ever. Healthy Houndz Dog Training offers virtual, in-home training via Zoom that works with your schedule. Book a Discovery call today.