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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Heya ☺
A bit about my situation and sorry for the long text, just trying to give as much detail as possible.

One months ago we adopted a 5 (now 6) month old blue heeler cross.
He is a quick learner and understands most basic commands such as sit, lay down, stay, place and so on. Indoor training is almost always pretty easy with him and he usually is the sweetest most responsive guy, he loves snuggles, is friendly with other people and dogs and hasn’t shown any reactions to cats, moving cars etc. - however a few things have become a bit difficult.
He’s still nipping a lot as he’s still teething - and he bites, jumps and growls when he wants to play. At home I’m usually able to redirect the biting quickly with tossing a treat, settling him down or using a toy instead. When he starts grabbing my arm, leg or any of my clothes I usually freeze until he stops, however this has gotten me quite a few bruises already, as he’s not very gentle. Outdoors I struggle significantly more often as he’s obviously more distracted and doesn’t listen as well yet. One time I ran across the street with him and running seems to trigger him. He jumped, barked and growled and bit my heel and arms in the middle of the road and I obviously couldn’t stop running as we had to get across. On the other side the only thing settling him down was food, which I luckily had on me. However recently I realised that he’ll do this in the most random situations: We are walking nicely and he’ll heel on my side (he generally walks well on lead besides when he’s too stubborn to continue walking and just stops altogether 😂) and a second later he’s jumping at me, growling and biting, no warning given. I again just freeze and ignore him until he stops, once he sits I’ll reward for calming down. I wait up to a few minutes before I continue walking to make sure he’s properly calmed down which usually does the job. (At this stage I never leave the house without treats) I never scream or use any physical force. I might say firmly „no“ or „leave it“ and sometimes hold his collar firmly, but not roughly or in a fast movement, away from me to prevent getting any more bruises. When I hold the collar I don’t look at him or move. I’ve been practicing grabbing it and rewarding and he doesn’t have a problem with me touching it usually.
Today I was training recall with a long leash in a quiet park with few distractions. He listens pretty well, however every time I called his name he comes running at me and then starts biting and jumping. (Makes it hard to praise and reward for recall when there’s a little biting monster on my arm 😅) So I had to stop training as it seemed to trigger him too much.
I’d like to say so far I’ve been pretty stable and tried to stay calm and do the right thing, so I won’t project those feelings on him. When walking outside I don’t have the opportunity to leave the situation and walk away to signalise end of play and I don’t always have a toy on hand to redirect the biting. So freezing and treats are really the only thing that helps. He also seems quite stressed out after a situation like that and starts licking the ground excessively, could it be that he’s frustrated or overstimulated outside in general?
Am I having the right approach and do I just need to continue being consistent and keep training for a few months? What else can I do from preventing to get bitten in the first place? I’m guessing it’s just normal herding and playing behaviour, however sometimes it really comes by surprise and it scared people on the street that walk past us outside cause they think he’s aggressiv. It’s also not something he always does, some days he won’t do it at all (besides gentle mouthing which we’re also working on) and other days it’s worse. I’ve noticed the mouthing is worse when he’s overly tired or just woke up and he wants attention. He gets fed twice a day, walked at least twice a day for around 20-30 min and I do quite a lot of training with him. (Around 2-3 10 minute sessions a day and whenever the situations requires an additional quick 5 minute training) I have treats all around the house to reward positive behaviour when I catch it, for positive reinforcement. He has enough toys and cardboard boxes to shred and we give him a Kong toy every few days as a treat and mental stimulation.
I’ve also watched so many videos that have been recommended on here and YouTube, which is where I got all those methods from. I’m just feeling a bit frustrated as this is the only concerning issue I don’t seem to get out of him, otherwise I dare say he’s a (almost) perfect little guy. We love him dearly, and I don’t want this behaviour to drag into adulthood.
So looking for a bit of advice on what to do better or maybe just words that with patience and time, I won’t have to run around with lots of bruises anymore 😅
(Ps. I can’t go to a trainer as I’m currently in lockdown on Australia)

Thanks a lot!!
 

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I think you have the perfect storm of an adolescent dog, who is one month into adoption so starting to feel more at ease, and a heeler (which I have little knowledge of, but I understand herds by nipping at heels). So, I'd say keep doing what you are doing, try to recognise when he is getting tired or over stimulated so you can prevent it rather than stop it.

I'd work on training a calm settle do that when he is starting to get wound up, you could ask for that as an alternative (and more desirable) behaviour.

I suggest also some impulse control training. This video will help.

 

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Hang in there, it does get better, easier, in time! Sounds like you are on the right track with your pup and doing a fantastic job.
My BC/Aussie mix came to me 3 months ago at 6 months old, and your experience with your pup parallels my experience with him. He had a lot of anxiety and insecurity on walks early on, and it didn't take much to tip the scale and set him off, but as he became more comfortable, more familiar with his new world, and settled into his new life, the episodes of 'frantic' behavior slowly diminished and most days we can have some pretty enjoyable walks. He does find training times very exciting, (he is very food motivated) but when I see him starting to 'wind up' I slow things down - toss some treats on the ground (cue him to 'find it') for him to find to help him refocus his mind and calm down.
What I found helped a lot, was ensuring that he had a 'nap time' during the day, just like an over tired toddler, he was more likely to 'misbehave' if he didn't get enough rest. Also what helped was teaching the 'settle' cue, first at home, then out on walks, and/or giving him a few moments of 'free time' to just 'relax' and sniff and explore his world.

Today I was training recall with a long leash in a quiet park with few distractions. He listens pretty well, however every time I called his name he comes running at me and then starts biting and jumping. (Makes it hard to praise and reward for recall when there’s a little biting monster on my arm 😅) So I had to stop training as it seemed to trigger him too much.
Something that may help with this is 1) turning your back as/just before he gets to you, (most dogs understand (or will learn fairly quickly) that 'turning away' is a sign that the other one does not want to engage in play) 2) teaching him to sit when he approaches you (start at home when he is calmer, with no distractions, call him to you (lots of praise for coming) and as he arrives ask for a sit and reward him with treats for sitting.

Right now, I would suspect your pup is still settling in, coping with all the changes in his life as best he can, (with my boy it took a good 3 months to see a noticeably calmer, more comfortable/confident pup on walks who still has the occasional 'hard time') your patience, compassion and understanding will pay off long run.
Something I try to keep in mind 'my dog/pup is not giving me a hard time, he is having a hard time' and that I have a young dog who looks very much like an adult dog but is still very much a puppy (so I may be expecting more than he is able to give, at this time) and (take a deep breath and 'believe') these things take time.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Hang in there, it does get better, easier, in time! Sounds like you are on the right track with your pup and doing a fantastic job.
My BC/Aussie mix came to me 3 months ago at 6 months old, and your experience with your pup parallels my experience with him. He had a lot of anxiety and insecurity on walks early on, and it didn't take much to tip the scale and set him off, but as he became more comfortable, more familiar with his new world, and settled into his new life, the episodes of 'frantic' behavior slowly diminished and most days we can have some pretty enjoyable walks. He does find training times very exciting, (he is very food motivated) but when I see him starting to 'wind up' I slow things down - toss some treats on the ground (cue him to 'find it') for him to find to help him refocus his mind and calm down.
What I found helped a lot, was ensuring that he had a 'nap time' during the day, just like an over tired toddler, he was more likely to 'misbehave' if he didn't get enough rest. Also what helped was teaching the 'settle' cue, first at home, then out on walks, and/or giving him a few moments of 'free time' to just 'relax' and sniff and explore his world.



Something that may help with this is 1) turning your back as/just before he gets to you, (most dogs understand (or will learn fairly quickly) that 'turning away' is a sign that the other one does not want to engage in play) 2) teaching him to sit when he approaches you (start at home when he is calmer, with no distractions, call him to you (lots of praise for coming) and as he arrives ask for a sit and reward him with treats for sitting.

Right now, I would suspect your pup is still settling in, coping with all the changes in his life as best he can, (with my boy it took a good 3 months to see a noticeably calmer, more comfortable/confident pup on walks who still has the occasional 'hard time') your patience, compassion and understanding will pay off long run.
Something I try to keep in mind 'my dog/pup is not giving me a hard time, he is having a hard time' and that I have a young dog who looks very much like an adult dog but is still very much a puppy (so I may be expecting more than he is able to give, at this time) and (take a deep breath and 'believe') these things take time.
Thanks a lot for you response! That was exactly what I needed to hear ☺ I definitely think I might be a bit too hard on my little boy. He’s only been with us for so short, and already doing such a great Job in general. I’ll keep training and doing what I do, and take on your advice. I guess hearing a similar experience from you makes me confident it won’t become a long term issue and rather something we can work out together in the next few months/year. I’ve definitely noticed that after 20min in a walk he easily gets frustrated, either doesn’t wanna walk anymore or lashes out. Or when we walk past the dog park and but it’s not on our agenda. We’ve tried to ignore the park on our normal walking routine as much as possible. Only go near there when we actually want to go there. I might shorten the walking sessions and go more frequently until he gets a bit more confident outside.
Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I think you have the perfect storm of an adolescent dog, who is one month into adoption so starting to feel more at ease, and a heeler (which I have little knowledge of, but I understand herds by nipping at heels). So, I'd say keep doing what you are doing, try to recognise when he is getting tired or over stimulated so you can prevent it rather than stop it.

I'd work on training a calm settle do that when he is starting to get wound up, you could ask for that as an alternative (and more desirable) behaviour.

I suggest also some impulse control training. This video will help.

Thanks for your advice! That’s definitely something I will consider from now an. Definitely think he’s just warming up now that he is feeling more confident with us and also becoming and adolescent. So time and patience it is (and maybe a few more bruises 😅)
 
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