Looking for some great tips on how to train a Blue Heeler puppy not to bite?
Stick around, I’ve got you covered.
Below, we’ll learn WHY they bite in the first place, then talk about training strategies to teach them to stop.
Let’s get started!
How to Train a Blue Heeler Puppy not to Bite
How to train a Blue Heeler puppy not to bite is a common search term among new owners of this breed.
That’s because biting is a key component of a Blue Heeler’s make up.
Bred in Australia, this herding dog is loyal, obedient, and protective.
They excel at herding livestock, and they are vigilant in the protection of their families.
It only makes sense that Blue Heeler puppies often have bite issues. After all, they were literally born to do it.
Herding requires intense intelligence, stamina, the ability to adapt, and nipping.
Nipping is one of the ways a herding dog directs animals in the direction he wants them to go.
In addition, nipping is also a way to warn off potential threats to the family that have gotten too close for the Heeler’s comfort.
When you combine these herding and protective instincts, you have a breed that is literally tailor-made to bite.
Knowing this is key because if you don’t train your puppy out of his biting habit, you’ll end up with a full-grown dog that has no problem biting.
Even if he only bites out of play, that kind of behavior can lead to accidental injury to other people or animals.
That scenario could lead to anything from paying vet bills to having your dog taken away.
That’s why we’re going to be talking about how to train a Blue Heeler puppy not to bite.
It’s absolutely vital that nipping is nipped in the bud sooner rather than later.
Why do Blue Heelers Bite so Much?
As I just mentioned, Blue Heelers are working dogs. Specifically, they are herding dogs.
Have you ever watched a dog herding sheep, goats, cattle, or other animals?
If so, you’ll notice that they use the movement of their bodies to create a constant, moving barrier between the animals and the world at large.
Using this method, they move the animals in the direction that they need to go and limit the chances that one will escape.
If an animal moves away from the group and too close to the Heeler’s perimeter, he’ll nip at its flanks or ankles to move it back toward the rest of the group.
This nipping behavior is one of the most effective parts of his herding technique, and it’s hardwired into his DNA.
In fact, Heeler is both a Blue Heeler’s name and a description of exactly how this breed works.
These tenacious herders were actually bred to bite first and ask questions later when it comes to herding.
All this means that any time he thinks you or another animal in the family should be going in a direction that you’re not, he’s likely to give your ankle or your butt a nip or your other pet’s flank a nip to steer you in the right direction.
When you couple that instinct with the fact that puppies play using primarily their mouths, you have a recipe for a very nippy little guy.
In addition to being consummate herders, Blue Heelers are also extremely protective.
They are fearless.
This combination makes for a dog that has no problem telling other animals or people to get out of its protective zone with a firm nip.
If he feels legitimately threatened, that could turn into a full-on bite.
While this behavior is instinctive and not indicative of his nature, it can still get both him and his owner into a boatload of trouble.
How to Train a Blue Heeler Puppy not to Bite
It’s so much easier to train a puppy out of a habit than it is to train an adult dog, so starting early is key if your puppy is a little biter.
There are a few ways to train a Blue Heeler puppy not to bite.
We’ll be going over them as well as some watchpoints so you don’t accidentally train your puppy incorrectly.
Interestingly, with a dog as smart as a Blue Heeler, you CAN accidentally teach him that biting is fun while trying to teach him to stop.
Teach Bite Pressure Control
This may seem counterintuitive, as you’re trying to figure out how to train a Blue Heeler puppy not to bite, but this is actually the first step in the process.
Teaching bite pressure control in the way I’ll describe doesn’t teach your puppy to bite.
It’s not in the proper context for that.
Rather, it teaches your puppy how to control the pressure of his bite, something that will serve him well throughout his entire life as a herding dog.
It’s the first step to answering the question: how do I get my Blue Heeler puppy to stop biting?
Place a treat or your puppy’s kibble between your thumb and middle finger, and allow it to protrude just beyond your fingertips.
Insert the treat directly into your puppy’s mouth, just far enough in that your fingertips are also in his mouth.
If your puppy attempts to take the treat roughly or bites down even a bit forcefully, do not let the treat go.
Rather, wait until he nibbles at the treat gently, then praise him liberally and allow him to have the treat.
Repeat this process several times over the course of several days, eventually adding the word “gentle” every time you insert the treat into his mouth.
In just a few days, your puppy will start to get the idea that gentle mouth activity means rewards.
The idea is to teach your puppy to control his bite when he’s relaxed, increasing his chances for controlling it when he gets excited.
The Vocalization Method
This is a strategy that is quite effective, and all it really requires is a little play-acting.
Using this method, you’ll pretend to be hurt by your puppy’s biting ways.
You’re basically mimicking the way puppies communicate when they play to let each other know when their play is getting a bit too rough.
There are a few steps here, but they are all done consecutively, quickly, and immediately upon getting nipped or mouthed by your pup.
- Immediately vocalize with a yelp and let your hand go limp
- As soon as your pup releases your hand pull it away quickly
- Draw in on yourself and look away from your puppy
- Ignore your pup for about a minute, never looking at him and never acknowledging any attempts to interact
- Go back to playing
With this method, you emulate what happens when a puppy is too rough with another pup.
Puppies love to play. They’re not out to hurt each other.
So when one puppy gets too rough, the other puppy yelps, stops playing, and cuts off the interaction.
You’ll be doing the same. Your pup should make the connection that biting leads to no more playtime very quickly.
Vocalization Method Watch-Out
If you Blue Heeler puppy is easily aroused or overly-attracted to movement, this method may not work for you.
In puppies like this, vocalization may enhance the instinct to bite, and pulling away your hand may trigger more biting.
If your puppy does either of these, try a different method.
This strategy for how to train a Blue Heeler not to bite is based on distracting him from his current behavior and putting him on to new behavior.
With other breeds, you can do this when they actively bite, but with herding dogs, especially Heeler’s it’s best to redirect before the behavior occurs.
When your puppy shows signs that he’s about to start biting or nipping, immediately redirect him with a treat or toy.
A redirection asks your puppy to do a task that he can’t do while nipping or biting, stopping the behavior before it starts.
A great way to do this is to take out a treat when your puppy looks like he wants to nip or bite and begin teaching him to sit.
Simply bring the treat down to just at his nose, and slowly move it toward the back of his head. He’ll sit as he tries to follow the treat. Praise him liberally and give him the treat.
Doing this both redirects his behavior and begins to teach him one of the most basic commands.
Blue Heelers are incredibly smart, bred to think on their feet and adapt their strategies as they heard over vast expanses.
Because of this, you can sometimes accidentally teach them the very thing you want to avoid.
This happens through what is known as chained behaviors.
For example, if you reward your puppy with a simple treat immediately after he stops biting, he may put together the fact that if he bites, you’ll ask him to stop.
Then, of course, he gets the treat.
This can lead to a cycle of your puppy actually outsmarting you and biting just to get the reward for not biting.
To avoid this, redirect your puppy with an interactive toy like a Kong which has a hollow center designed for filling with treats or peanut butter.
This reward is long-lasting and does an excellent job of redirecting your puppy to something that will hold his attention more readily.
This method for how to train a Blue Heeler not to bite is essentially the same as putting a child in timeout.
Puppies and children both want to interact with their family all the time.
They always want to be in the thick of everything, so a time out is an effective deterrent for unwanted activities, especially with a dog as intelligent as a Blue Heeler.
- If your puppy bites or nips, immediately lead him out of the room by the collar. Don’t yell, and don’t be rough. Simply calmly remove him from the room into another room with no toys and shut the door.
- Leave him there for 30 seconds. It’s long enough to let him know he’s misbehaved and short enough that he doesn’t forget why he’s there.
- If he bites again, repeat the process, adding an additional 30 seconds.
- Repeat the process if he bites again, adding another 30 seconds, repeating and adding an additional 30 seconds until he stops the behavior.
- When he displays gentle play, calmly reward him with quiet talking and gentle stroking to reinforce this behavior. This is done in conjunction with the time out, gently rewarding him for the behavior you want and calmly putting him in time out when he gets rough.
Time Out Watch-Out
You may have to repeat this process a few times, adding an additional 30 seconds each time.
However, the chances are good that your pup will get the idea rather quickly.
The Blue Heeler’s intelligence makes him quite easy to train.
The Obey Mindset Method
This method works for puppies who are already beginning their journey into basic commands.
The idea here is to shift your dog’s mindset from one of biting to one of obeying your commands.
Your puppy will need to have a least a basic concept of “sit”, “stay”, and “leave it” for this method.
This method is a variation of redirection, as you’ll be redirecting the behavior with commands.
- Frequently practice basic obedience commands until they are ingrained in your puppy.
- When your puppy is approaching with the intent to bite or nip, immediately give the sit and stay commands, awarding him liberally with praise and treats when he follows direction.
- If your puppy begins to bite while playing, immediately give the leave it command, awarding him liberally with praise when he complies.
- Use this method when playing with your puppy or when he’s playing with another pet, constantly being ready to give commands to redirect his behavior.
Obey Mindset Watch-Out
Remember when we talked about avoiding chain behavior?
That can occur here when commanding your puppy to “leave it” if he begins to nip at your, another person, or another animal.
Remember to only reward your puppy with praise in this situation and not a treat.
You don’t want him to get the idea that he can nip in order to “leave it” and then get a treat.
How to Stop a Blue Heeler from Biting
If you have an adult Blue Heeler, you’re well past figuring out how to train a Blue Heeler puppy not to bite.
Don’t worry, though. You can still teach your adult Heeler to stop biting.
In fact, almost all of the methods listed above are excellent for teaching your adult Blue Heeler to stop biting.
Even though your Blue Heeler is all grown up, you can still teach him to control his bite pressure in the same way that you do it with a puppy.
In fact, in this instance, it might be easier as he’s older and hopefully a little more even-keeled.
Follow the same steps until he gets the idea.
From there move on to any of the other methods listed above to stop your adult Blue Heeler from biting except for the vocalization method.
This method is only advisable for puppies because they are in the puppy play mindset stage of their lives and they have far less bite pressure than an adult dog.
The last thing you want is for your Heeler to get overly excited when you yelp and bite harder.
Tips on How to Train a Blue Heeler Puppy not to Bite
Outside of actively redirecting your puppy’s behavior in the moment, there are things you can do to help him curb his need to nip and bite in the first place.
These tips are actually great for both Blue Heeler puppies and adult dogs.
A well-excercised dog is a well-behaved dog.
Be sure your puppy – or your adult dog, for that matter – gets plenty of exercise.
This helps him work off excess energy, stimulating his body and mind and making him less likely to bite.
Remember, although adult Blue Heelers can almost always walk or roam much further than you’d want to, you should limit the amount of exercise you give to your puppy.
Excess exercise can cause problems with growth plates, so ask your vet about how much exercise is right for your pup.
This is a new sport for dogs, and it’s tailor-made for a Blue Heeler.
It involves several large inflatable exercise balls that a dog must “herd” into a net similar to a soccer net.
Triebball is perfect for giving your dog a physical and mental outlet and also allowing him to exercise his herding instinct.
You’ll begin by clicker-training your puppy to hand target.
From there, move on to targeting a sticky note on an open cabinet, asking your pup or dog to target it with enough force to close the cabinet door.
From there, place a sticky note on a large ball, asking your dog to target the ball and push it.
Add distance over time, and eventually, your dog will be “herding” the ball all over the place.
Plenty of Rest Helps with How to Train a Blue Heeler Puppy not to Bite
Blue Heelers are naturally mouthy dogs, so if your puppy isn’t getting enough sleep – and puppies need a lot of that – you might find that he’s more prone to bite or nip.
Be sure your pup gets plenty of rest by creating a space for him to be calm.
A crate or a small room with a baby gate where he can gnaw on a chew toy quietly works wonders for getting him relaxed and off to dreamland.
Try These Methods for How to Train a Blue Heeler Puppy not to Bite
Any of these methods are excellent tools for helping you train your Blue Heeler puppy or adult not to bite.
When you have options for how to train a Blue Heeler puppy not to bite, you can pick and choose which method works best for your puppy or dog.
This allows you to move forward toward the best outcome possible.
Just remember that the vocalization method isn’t for adult dogs, and remember to speak with your vet about the appropriate amount of exercise for your pup.