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Biting Other Dog's Leg

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Hello! I am new to this forum. Almost three months ago a nine-year-old male Border Collie mix joined our family. We also have a 4 1/2-year-old female Black Lab. We have been figuring out his quirks and, overall, the blending of the family has gone better than we could have hoped. However, when the two play together, the BC bites the Lab's leg - it sometimes appears he is trying to pull her leg out from under her and even try to tip her over with his head; I am guessing this is what a BC would do while herding, if he thinks it's called for. A loud, firm "NO!" or "No bite!" following his name seems to do the trick most of the time . . . Is there anything else we should be doing to hopefully get him to stop doing this? Thank you for any and all advice!

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Welcome! And congratulations for bringing an older dog into your caring household!


The behavior you describe has absolutely nothing to do with "herding". It's a form of dog play and if it is obnoxious to the other dog or to you, discouraging it by reprimand (as you are doing) or by ending the play (if the reprimand doesn't work), is a good approach. If play is heading in directions you don't wish, redirect the dog(s) into play that is more suitable to both the dogs, your situation, and your comfort zone. You can reward his stopping the behavior when you tell him to stop by treating or interacting with him yourself. Use your own interactions with the dog to replace the play you don't want, playing fetch or "find it" games or teaching basic obedience or tricks.


Remember always that telling a dog "No!" is just the first step - the next and equally important step is to give that dog something else to do or be occupied with in place of the undesirable behavior.


Many people fall into the trap of assuming that certain behaviors are "herding" behaviors and that somehow that makes it "okay" or something you can't control or modify. Sure, there are things the dogs do that are related to how they are "wired" (like trying to control other animals with their eye or body location) but those behaviors are really just modifications of normal predatory behaviors. If they are undesirable behaviors in your household, then discourage them as you have done, preferably before they become habits, which are much harder to eliminate. Substitute suitable behaviors and activities for those you don't want to see.


This is a good forum for information and advice about the dogs. Don't forget to use the "search" function to help yourself find topics that have already been covered, and don't be afraid to ask questions.

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Hi, Sue, thanks for your reply, your kind words and also the tips! I will definitely be checking out some of the previous conversations on other topics! It sounds as if my husband has been on the right track, then, because he positively interacts with him after we stop the biting. The biggest thing we are worried about with the biting is that he will injure the Lab . . . she does seem to hold her own and is figuring out what to expect from him, and they are about equal as to who initiates play. It has only been not quite three months and it was several weeks before they even started playing together; I am thinking time will be our friend here as we continue to work with him. Thanks again!! - Dawn

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Dogs don't that often hurt each other. I think when they do, it's largely accidental or not deliberate. I'm not saying it doesn't happen but generally, unless a dog is too tolerant (and that doesn't happen that often with adults as they are usually more tolerant with pups), they set the levels of their own play by their own ways of communication. In other words, if your Lab does not like or tolerate the play, she would most likely let him know with a clear communication - growl, snap, withdrawal, or some other response that he should recognize as "I don't like this and you need to stop or scale back on it". This is, of course, assuming it's truly "play" and not any sort of aggression. Since she is initiating the play as often as he is, and since she is not adversely reacting or responding to this behavior that concerns you, I would not worry about it but I would be aware of what's happening and if there are any changes in the play that might indicate that she is bothered by it or it is escalating to a point that causes real concern.


My dogs (Megan and Celt, and now Megan and Dan) can get into some pretty intense play, with lots of scary sounds - but it's all play, it's all posturing, and they are the ones that halt it when it begins to get a bit too intense. Dogs that are well-adjusted to each other (and I think especially dog/bitch pairs versus same-sex pairs) and who are well-socialized in canine language and interactions, usually monitor their own activities pretty well.


Now, when you reprimand, you don't want to reward *immediately* so the dog gets the idea that unwanted behavior is rewarded. ("Bobbie, stop barking, here's a cookie!" "Oh, boy, I bark and get a cookie! Woof, woof, woof!") Reprimand and give the dog the chance to respond. Praise the good response. Then, if the dog keeps giving you the desired response, reward. If not, step up the reprimand - for instance, go from verbal to body movement on your part to even physically having to remove or reposition the offending dog. Whatever level of reprimand on your part results in the desired behavior, then that's the level to use - but, if you have to go to body movement, always use the verbal first. Then the dog will learn to connect the verbal with the body movement following and, hopefully, soon enough the verbal will be sufficient in itself.


He hasn't been in your household a long time yet, and you may still see some issues that need to be worked out between the two of them but I'm not hearing from your posts that there are any serious issues going on.


Dogs will be dogs!


PS - Nipping at a leg or legs is normal dog play. Oftentimes, you will see the other dog withdraw the leg in response and even go down on the shoulder a bit to "protect" the leg. It's all part of the play that is like kids playing (in my day) cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers.

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You know, I do kind of wonder if she is more tolerant than some other dogs might be in this regard - she (Li'l Girl) doesn't snap at him (Hairry) or otherwise react negatively when he starts to bite; she just kinds of holds still and stops playing. I guess that would be a form of the "withdrawal" you were talking about. The "vibe" my husband gets is that she is not comfortable with it. He stops, and they go back to playing. We've also talked about aggression and neither of us thinks that's what's going on. (In fact, in all my years of having/working with dogs, I can't remember when I had/dealt with one who was so affection-loving! I think "love sponge" is the term!) Also, the people at the shelter told us that the person who surrendered him said he was "crate-trained", which I think can mean different things to different people - we don't know how much time he may have spent in a crate (all day while his people were at work??) and how it may affect the way he interacts with other dogs. (They said he was a victim of a divorce, and the spouse who had him did not have a place to go where s/he could have a dog). So anyway, we will contniue to monitor these two! Thanks again for your comments and advice!!

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