So, you have decided on a Border Collie. They are intelligent, loyal, energetic, and full of personality! But there is a hitch. Over the years Collies have gained a little bit of a reputation for chewing and nipping as puppies. Despite this, they are still amazing companions. Once these behaviours are corrected, you can reap all the benefits of this amazing breed. So how do you teach your Border Collie puppy not to bite and chew? Well let’s find out!
Over the course of this article, we are going to look into why your Border Collie puppy is biting and chewing, how to effectively correct them, and different tools which may help you on your journey with your new best friend.
Why do Border Collie puppies bite and chew?
Firstly, we are going to look into the reasons why your Border Collie puppy may be biting and chewing. Determining the cause behind these behaviours is the number one step for correcting them. This is because of the wide variety of reasons a puppy may be biting.
The most obvious reason for a Border Collie biting and chewing is playing. As is expected of any puppy, many will nip and chew when playing. For animals like dogs, play is often reminiscent of hunting which naturally involves a lot of biting and nipping. It’s also how they explore the world around them. When they are young everything is new and exciting! So as you can imagine they want to taste, feel and smell everything.
Another reason your puppy may begin chewing is teething. This typically affects Border Collie puppies until they are six to eight months old.
Similarly to young children, Border Collie puppies may begin to chew more often due to the discomfort of their adult teeth coming through. If you suspect your puppy is teething then it may be best to dedicate an area which can be ‘puppy-proofed’. The last thing you want is your furry friend nibbling on the TV wires when your back is turned!
It is also possible that your Border Collie puppy is biting for defensive reasons. Perhaps because they are guarding resources such as food, their favourite toy or even a certain spot. It is also possible your puppy is overstimulated and acting out because of that.
These are probably the more concerning causes for your puppy to be biting and definitely should be corrected as early as possible while it’s not too habitual.
But don’t fret! As I mentioned earlier. The first step to stopping your Border Collie from biting and chewing is identifying why they are doing it to begin with. Once you have an idea of what the cause is, it will give you a better idea on which methods in the next section will help you.
How to stop your Border Collie biting and chewing
The first step to training your Border Collie puppy not to bite or chew is working out what motivates them. Is it toys? Maybe food? Or perhaps praise is all your pup desires.
Whatever the reason we can use this motivator to reward desired behaviour (positive reinforcement, think of Pavlov’s dogs). For example; a bit of ham, a tennis ball, 30 seconds of praise.
Biting and chewing caused by teething
First we are going to look at some ways to help your teething puppy. Similar to humans, when a puppy reaches a certain age they lose their ‘baby teeth’ and during this time it can be uncomfortable for them.
As a way to combat discomfort, puppies will often begin to chew on anything available. Ideally this would be their own toys, but this is not always the case and if we can save your shoes then we will!
When training a teething puppy it can be beneficial to start with toys. But which ones?
Well as your Border Collie is only young, it may be best to start with softer chew toys. This is because they are still building strength in their jaw and a softer chew will allow them to gnaw away to their heart’s content without any risk of harm.
One type of toy that we highly recommend are ‘Kong’s’. They are a fun, practical toy.
You may find kongs exceptionally helpful while your puppy is teething (especially if you have a food orientated puppy) as ‘Kongs’ are hollow which allow for treats to be stored, keeping your Border Collie puppy occupied and away from chewing furniture.
Another great aspect of Kong toys is that they are freezable. Allowing you to add an extra soothing quality to numb your puppy’s gums.
Some simple and healthy treats which you can use include; Kong’s own brand stuffing, peanut butter, yoghurt (plain and low fat) and many more.
We also find these nylabones from Amazon work a treat. They’re inexpensive, last for ages and are super cute!
Border Collie puppy biting caused by playing
Border Collies are known for their intelligence and endless amounts of energy. Essentially, this means you and your puppy are in for a whole lot of playtime.
But you may notice during these play sessions your Border Collie puppy might get a bit nippy. This is actually normal!
When puppies are playing with their brothers and sisters, it is often a re-enactment of hunting. It is in their nature to want to grab anything that moves suddenly, and this can reflect in how they play with people. You may find that your furry friend loves to attack your fingers or nip at your ankles as you move about.
This sort of behaviour can be cute and funny while they are young and small, but as they begin to grow up it can become problematic, particularly if you have small children.
But how do you correct it?
One effective (but admittedly strange and odd) method is making a high-pitched yelping sound whenever your puppy nips at you.
As soon as you make this sound, you then stop playing with them for a short while after.
This may sound strange, but what you are doing is recreating what would happen with your Border Collies siblings.
When puppies get too rough and hurt one another, one will then yelp and then refuse to play any more. After a few times, they eventually learn that being rough equals no more play. And this method still works even after you bring your puppy home.
Another way you can help teach your Border Collie puppy to stop biting during play is redirecting their attention towards toys. If you find that when petting your Border Collie puppy they begin to nip you, try taking a small break (similarly to above) and give your pup a ‘time-out’. Then when you come back switch out your arm for a toy.
Eventually your dog will learn that playtime ends if they bite.
If you find your puppy is still extremely boisterous even when playing with toys, you could consider switching out rough games (such as tug) for something less confrontational (like frisbee or throwing a ball) this will teach your puppy to enjoy a less aggressive style of play.
Stopping defensive biting
It is possible that your Border Collie puppy is biting defensively (even if something bad isn’t happening). It could be because they dislike being touched in a certain place, or stroked a certain way.
Another cause could also be because they are ‘guarding’ something, such as their food or toys. This kind of biting is probably one of the most important to correct as sometimes it can be unpredictable.
But not to worry, with regular time, work and patience, these behaviours can be fixed and turned into something constructive!
Let’s start with resource guarding. When people think of resource guarding, one of the most common examples that comes to mind is food. We have all seen the videos on the internet of people trying to take their dog’s bowl away only to be met with some snarls and a nip (even when the bowl is empty). But it can also happen with toys, or even a comfy spot on the sofa.
While it will take a bit of extra effort, these situations are fairly simple to correct. Just remove the item they are guarding from the equation.
So if your dog is guarding their bowl, put it away after they finish eating. No bowl to guard all day, allows them to focus on other things.
If it is a toy which your Border Collie puppy is guarding then rotate which ones they are allowed out on a regular basis. This prevents them growing overly attached to any one toy and guarding it.
That said, when we experienced resource guarding issues with our Collie Izzy, we actually ended up doing the complete opposite. We found that rotating the toys didn’t really correct any behaviour, so we ended up making all toys available all the time. This ended up reducing the “value” of any one particular toy for Izzy and she stopped being so protective of them. I think though, that it’s probably best to start off rotating toys to start off with as that is the more normal approach to things!
You may also find it beneficial to spend some time to really perfect your puppy’s ‘drop’ command too. By associating ‘drop’ with something positive, it will make them more inclined to listen to you. There’s a video we link to at the bottom of this article that might help with this.
If you notice that there is a particular spot, that your Collie is more prone to defend by biting, a really simple tip is to just make sure that they do not spend too much time there, if any at all.
We know you’ll feel awful kicking your pooch off the sofa if they start trying to bite (we would too!), but eventually they will learn that acting out only gets a consequence.
If they are only allowed on the sofa when they behave, then they will either adjust their behaviour, and Border Collies will learn this with ease.
Often when people talk about Border Collie puppies biting, or chewing, (or having any behavioural issues at all) the first advice many people will offer is exercise and more mental stimulation. And to a degree this is true: your Border Collie puppy may well develop destructive habits like biting and chewing because they are bored and need something to do. Here’s an article about exercise requirements for your Collie, if it’s of help!
But they can also get overly excitable, snappy and grumpy from too much stimulation. You know your pup best, so if you’ve been for a walk, and given your Border Collie plenty of stimulation with toys, training and socialising it may be worth trying a ‘time-out’ and see if that helps them to calm down and relax.
This is why we recommend having a ‘puppy-proofed’ area, whether it is a room, or a play-pen in a quiet area of the house, or even a crate. A calm area for your puppy to go when they are overly excited, or biting.
An area like this is also great because it allows you to teach your pup that there may not always have human companions around. Solo time is good as it helps prevent separation anxiety which could lead to your Border Collie puppy chewing much more as they grow up.
When do Border Collie puppies stop biting?
For many Border Collie puppies who are biting and chewing, because they are teething, this behaviour will often fix itself (with a little help from you) at around six to eight months, once all their adult teeth have grown in. But in other cases, such as playing or if biting is defensive, then it will take patience and work on the owner’s part to ensure that a more preferable behaviour is learned instead.
Ultimately, this is a difficult question as there are many variables, each dog is different and so is each owner. The amount of time and training you give your new friend can drastically affect how long they will bite and chew for.
Things you can buy to help prevent your Border Collie biting and nipping
There are many toys on the market to help prevent your Border Collie from biting, nipping and chewing. As mentioned previously in the article, toys like the ‘Kong’ are great for keeping your puppy occupied, and any variation of ‘puzzle’ toys (although our personal preference are the Nina Ottosson puzzle toy range).
They help keep your dog focussed and offer amazing mental stimulation too.
Along with these you may also want to buy some fillings for these toys, but many of us already have dog friendly treats in the fridge that would be perfect (such as; peanut butter, carrots, etc. Just check that anything you give your Border Collie isn’t too high in sodium, sugar and fats!)
No-chew spray also works wonders for us for static items like table legs and the bottom of doors. Simply spray the stuff on and leave it and it will leave a nasty bitter taste for any wandering Collie mouth!
Another beneficial item worth considering is some sort of pen or crate. Crate training your Border Collie from the outset has so many benefits, and they are great “safe spaces” for when your puppy is overstimulated, or on a ‘time-out’ for biting. Puppy play pens also allow you to have a safe zone to leave your pup if you need to do chores or cook dinner!
Or alternatively, if you have a room which is ‘puppy-proofed’ you may prefer buying a stair gate/baby gate to keep that room separate, rather than a pen. Just remember to get a tall one as Border Collies are very agile!
To summarise, there are many reasons your Border Collie puppy may bite, nip and chew when you bring them home. But once you have figured out why they are biting and understand the steps you can take to correct the behaviour you will be on the right track to having the perfect pooch!
The key things to remember as you take the amazing journey of owning a Border Collie, are patience and consistency. Training your puppy to not do something will take time, just like house training. But, if you practice regularly and keep up with the positive reinforcements you have decided on (eg. treats for good behaviour, time-out for bad behaviour) your puppy will learn what you want from them in no time.
Good luck and have fun with your furry best friend! As promised, below is a video about perfecting the drop-it command. Enjoy!