Training Q&A with Virginia - Belgium Shepherd/Lab Mix Nipping Problem

  • By Kathy McRoberts
  • 24 Jan, 2012

Original "Ask The Trainer" with Virginia Simpson, Unleashed Canine Obedience

We have a 1 year old Belgium Shepard / Lab mix, and overall, he is a well behaved dog. However, he will sometimes nip at our heals as we walk, or he will want to nip at our hands as we pet or play with him. He doesn't bite down, but we feel like we need to stop the nipping as soon as possible.

 Any thoughts would be great. Thanks!


Thank you for inquiry! And yes, I agree that you want to get a handle on this pretty quickly.

The Belgium Shepherds are very intelligent, can be a bit pushy by nature and can also have a tendency to engage in herding behavior which is an attempt to control those around them.  And while you have the fun loving lab mixed in there, you definitely need to make sure you give this guy a job to do. And a job can consist of teaching obedience cues which you can utilize to control this behavior, like a “Place” command where you place him on a mat and teach him to wait until released. Another job would be to teach tricks or agility. And of course providing plenty of daily exercise is paramount! Both the lab and the shepherd have very high “prey” drives and usually love a great game of fetch. This is a wonderful way to use a dog’s natural drive to provide an outlet for a lot of excess energy.

One word of caution though, I do not like to rely upon exercise to change behavior because a dog will just build up endurance. So you need to couple the exercise with plenty of strong and reliable “stay” commands. “Sit stay”, “down stay” and “place” are all “stay” commands that will teach self-control and give you the leadership you need by controlling a major resource (space). That is what your dog is attempting to control with the herding behavior, so to counteract that, you need to take control of that space. Just snap on a leash and ask for some sort of obedience command and teach your dog to settle his mind and relinquish the control to you.

Additionally, giving him something else to put in his mouth will help a lot when you don’t have time to stop and work through an obedience cue.

I hope this helps, and please let me know if you have any questions!

Thank you for contacting Unleashed Canine Obedience at Cincinnati Dog Pages!

For more information, please feel free to contact:

Virginia L. Simpson, CDT
Unleashed Canine Obedience, LLC
4955 Creek Road, Cincinnati, Ohio 45242

Cincinnati Dog Knowledge Center

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