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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello all,

I am new to this forum and I’m seeking some guidance and support regarding an issue I'm having with my brother's dog.

My brother has a herding dog. His name is Buddy. He’s a super cute red heeler that is a full grown adult. A year ago, when I first met him, he followed me down the steps while ramming his snout into the back of my foot. I thought that was odd but figured he was just trying to play with me. Maybe a minute later while standing in the kitchen, he walked over to me, opened his mouth wide, turned his head side ways, and wrapped his mouth/teeth around my lower leg just above my ankle... it hurt like hell. It felt like a bite but no skin was broken. I was immediately scared and yelled out OOUUCH! Again, it hurt like hell. Buddy backed up a couple steps but then started approaching my lower leg as if to try and do it again. I immediately ran into the bathroom and waited for my brother to get home and take him outside.

I told my brother what happened when he got home and he had me give Buddy a treat. As I tried to pet his head, he snapped at me... came pretty close to talking a bite out of my hand.

The next day, I was walking upstairs from being in the basement and Buddy was there at the door entrance to the first floor. As my foot landed, he lunged fast as hell at my foot. I figured he was trying to be protective since my brother was standing right there with him. Scared me once again.

I'm really uncomfortable around this dog and have asked my brother to crate or muzzle him while around me. I find Buddy to be unpredictable and I'm afraid those "nips" were a warning sign. Buddy has also "nipped" my husband's heel as he was walking. Not cool.

Am I overreacting about what I perceive to be nipping or mouthing that hurts like hell? When Buddy wrapped his mouth around the bottom of my leg, he didn't draw blood but it really did hurt. Is what he did considered "nipping"? Should I be concerned?

My brother is upset about having to put a muzzle on Buddy if he wants him out of the crate to roam free while I'm there. I feel like it is causing friction and my family minimizes my concerns completely. They feel like it's no big deal that Buddy nips me. I'm finding myself afraid of this dog and I've never been afraid of a dog before. What are the chances that Buddy will become more aggressive? How does one get an adult red heeler to stop using his teeth on people? Any information is greatly appreciated!
 

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The clue is in the breed (and the name). Heelers herd by nipping the heels of the stock. So, while it may not get worse, it's still an unacceptable behaviour. You are not being unreasonable at all.

It's always difficult when a dog belongs to someone else. Because this isn't just about training the dog, it's about getting your brother on board. And that's a whole other kettle of badgers.

Could you agree to only meet away from your brother's home, without the dog?

If that isn't practical, can you persuade your brother that used properly, a muzzle is only another piece of kit, like a collar, leash or harness? This video might help.

 

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Some great advice already, as usual. Another few things from someone who has worked with quite a few herding breeds.

A lot of the nipping comes from how you carry yourself as well as the dog's natural instinct. I have a friend whose dog is currently going through this faze at the moment. She nips a lot of our friends because they are afraid of her as a result and unconsciously move differently, in a way that actually is closer to that of a prey animal (understandable). This makes you even more of a target for the dog. Walking with purpose and confidence and turning to face the dog when it gravitates behind you to nip, can help discourage this behavior. My friend's dog has yet to nip me using this approach. It may not work as your brother's dog has already formed the habit with you, but something to keep in mind.

Another way is to distract the dog. You could try throwing treats away from yourself whenever you see the dog approach you, or even a ball/favorite toy. A nice big ball are often favorites of herding breeds as they can push them around similar to livestock, so tossing one away from yourself (if the dog is interested in it) can divert the attention from you.

Don't worry, those nips definitely do hurt. Red heelers are intended to move 800kg animals, they definitely pack a punch even if they don't leave noticeable marks. He's not being aggressive though, just expressing his genetics. It can be curbed though, with some cooperation from the family. Best of luck!
 

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It seems to me that this is a human problem as much as it is a dog problem. Yes, Buddy is a herding dog. Yes, it is in his blood to want to herd and nip. However, a herding dog that won't stop worrying at the livestock is not an asset. A herding dog should be trained on both when to herd and also when not to herd. It sounds like your brother is not providing that sort of guidance to his dog.
Training this dog is not your job. It's his dog, not yours. I don't think you are unreasonable in expecting to be able to visit a family member's household without being harassed by the resident dog. There are several ways your brother could stop the dog from nipping you: training the dog, crating the dog, keeping the dog behind a gate and requesting that you not enter areas where the dog is loose, keeping the dog on a leash, etc. Which of these methods he chooses is up to him. Again, it's his dog and his house. However, I do not think you are overreacting in objecting to being painfully nipped. Quite the contrary, I think your brother's willingness to disregard a reasonably expressed boundary is actually somewhat abusive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Wow, just wow! I am so appreciative of all of these responses. You have no idea. With the holidays approaching, I have had major anxiety over what to do in this situation. I’m feeling so much relief after all of your guidance. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!
 

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You're definitely not unreasonable in expecting your brother to control his dog so it doesn't cause you pain.

Having owned a dog whose instincts ran similarly with some strangers, I considered it a bare minimum to never leave the dog unattended with new people, nor would I have ever expected them to stop the dog from nipping on their own. Instead, he was trained to come when called and was expected not to leave my side until introductions were done (at which point he was no longer inclined to nip at their heels). Hopefully your brother can find an equally functional technique for his dog. If he doesn't like muzzles and doesn't want to keep the dog leashed at his side, he's going to have to put the effort into training or forego your company.
 
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