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Ask AKC: Curbing Chasing

American Kennel Club, Inc. (c) 2011

Dear Lisa: We have a 3-month-old Shetland Sheepdog. His bark is very piercing and when we say "no barking," which he understands, he gets very angry and acts like to he wants to attack us (goes wild). We can't pick him up without him wanting to chew on us or our clothing. Is there something else you can suggest we try? Also, he barks at cars and wants to chase them while we are out for his daily walk. I praise him when he does not try to chase and bark, but the next time a car comes by he is barking and trying his best to run after it again. Help! --Curbing Car Barking
I would be more worried about your puppy's nipping behavior than with the barking, although both should be controlled. A 3-month-old puppy should not be nipping at his owner. You need to take immediate charge of this situation. The next time he attempts a nip, gently grab his muzzle and tell him "no" and hold on to him until he calms down. Usually just putting your hand on their collar or nose is enough, since Shelties are sensitive and will get the message without being hard handed or forceful. If you attempt to slap or tap him he might get hand shy. If you don't stop this behavior now, it will be a problem as the pup grows up. The last thing you want is for him to think that biting is acceptable and it gets him the attention he is seeking.

Shelties are a herding breed. They need a job to do to be mentally challenged as well as physically active. As for barking at and chasing cars, it appears that he is already putting that good herding instinct to work. When you are out walking the pup, you want to reinforce his good behavior by setting the rules of this "chasing game." Start at home and get your puppy to chase things. Put him on a stay command and then toss a toy. Teach him that he can only chase or herd on your command. That way you will be the one who runs the chase game.

Also, when out walking, carry a bag of tasty treats, like chicken or steak or hot dogs. When a car approaches, make the pup sit and pay attention to you. You can then feed him the treat as the car approaches and then reward him again after it passes. Be very consistent and soon, every time a car approaches rather than wanting to bark and chase the car, he will be looking to you for a treat. Plus, at home you are teaching him to only chase on your command so unless you tell him to chase the car, he won't. Finally, I would sign up for puppy kindergarten classes and once he graduates move on to basic obedience. Then you may want to consider having him try the noncompetitive herding Instinct test. Learn more about AKC herding events here. The more you train him to follow your cue, the less he will make up his own rules.

 

If you have a question, send it to Lisa at AskLisa@AKC.org and she may select it for a future column. Due to the high volume of questions she cannot offer individual responses.