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Hello!
We have an Australian shepherd who is about to turn 1 yrs old in a few weeks and the past couple months he's been getting really crazy in our backyard for some reason.

I realize he probably thinks the backyard is HIS territory, can run free, do what he wants, so when we step back there all rules are off! His energy level just heightens and so if I were to just walk outside, not even pay him any attention, he would start barking and then if I walk he would start trying to chew and bite our shoes. Pretty hard too! He'll growl, bark, bite the shoe. I don't think any of it is a bad aggressiveness, it just can be a bit much to someone who can't handle it. And we don't want that. We want the backyard to be fun playful time!
I'm pretty sure all the ] barking is because he wants us to chase him and play, but the bite of the shoe and he'll jump, that part I don't understand. It's just too much.

Any ideas on why he's behaving like this and how we can change things? Thanks!
 

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He's young with a healthy strong body and wants to use it. Dogs play with their teeth. Unless taught otherwise they will use them on humans too. He's a herding breed and was bred to use teeth on legs to move livestock if they don't move with eye or body pressure.

You don't want to be a sheep! Take charge of the game. Use his words [sit, down, come, stay] and direct play. If he doesn't know those words then get into a good positive reinforcement class and learn how to teach him those words. Rather than be the sheep learn to play fetch and tug with him.

One game that keeps teeth away from you is the flirt pole. It's a giant sturdy version of the cat toy. Tie a rope to a PVC pole or broomstick with a lure at the end. Or you can simply buy them. Or use an actual whip, my 7' one is a horse lunge whip with a lure tied to the end. Bounce and swing the lure away from him as you stand in the middle of a good sized lawn. Lure can be an old sock, plastic bag, old toy. Be careful as this is strenuous. Let him get the lure often and try to figure out how to keep him from making tight and dangerous turns.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
He's young with a healthy strong body and wants to use it. Dogs play with their teeth. Unless taught otherwise they will use them on humans too. He's a herding breed and was bred to use teeth on legs to move livestock if they don't move with eye or body pressure.

You don't want to be a sheep! Take charge of the game. Use his words [sit, down, come, stay] and direct play. If he doesn't know those words then get into a good positive reinforcement class and learn how to teach him those words. Rather than be the sheep learn to play fetch and tug with him.

One game that keeps teeth away from you is the flirt pole. It's a giant sturdy version of the cat toy. Tie a rope to a PVC pole or broomstick with a lure at the end. Or you can simply buy them. Or use an actual whip, my 7' one is a horse lunge whip with a lure tied to the end. Bounce and swing the lure away from him as you stand in the middle of a good sized lawn. Lure can be an old sock, plastic bag, old toy. Be careful as this is strenuous. Let him get the lure often and try to figure out how to keep him from making tight and dangerous turns.
What part of that is helping stop the behavior? He knows those words but seems to ignore all of it once he's out there.

But I will try that flirt pole! I think he would love it.
 

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I LOVE flirt poles and use them regularly. But I think flirt pole alone might not solve your problems. In fact, on it's own it may or may not make your problems worse. Flirt poles make dogs VERY highly aroused and if your dog does not already have good impulse control, it can teach him to 'act out' more to make the toy appear. Or, it could teach him that your presence in the yard only means high-octane-fun-times.

I would recommend walking your dog into your yard on leash. The leash is there simply to prevent him from zooming around and getting super riled up, playing hard to get or nipping at your feet. Step into the yard and reward for any calm behavior. For example, if you walk out there and your dog is being totally boring, standing patiently, looking at you with soft eyes, etc. Praise and reward with treats (assuming your dog likes food). Do this for a few minutes, then go inside and take the leash off and step outside to repeat all of this off leash. If he immediately goes into crazy mode when the leash is gone, then the leash (or a long line) needs to stay on a little longer.

Basically, you are re-framing what that space means to your dog. Of course you can't expect any obedience when your dog is wound up. But with a little bit of easy training, your dog can learn that 'good' behaviors apply outside as well.

AFTER he is calm, the flirt pole would be a great idea to burn energy. I personally like for dogs to have a solid 'drop' and 'wait' behavior so that I can control the game rather than having a dog that is crazily bounding up and snapping at the toy. If you are seeing more unwanted behaviors after adding flirt pole to your routine, that's a sign of needing to work on more impulse control exercises.

Best of luck!
 

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Thanks Canyx. I use the flirt pole to train control. The lure isn't fun if they cannot run off with it or I'm not tugging on the other end. I'll walk up the line and wait. Dog soon learns to drop it and wait for it to start bouncing around. At first I've got a hand in the collar same as getting through the first couple weeks of meal time manners but dogs get it quick.

I use the words to direct to a toy. Dog is jumping at the toy? Toy behind back and SIT. Dogs sits and toy presented for tug or tossing. My dogs get something great happening any time one of their words is used. Outside, dinner, leash on, a treat, a toy and so on.

misterdex, look into using doggy zen and Karen Overall's Relaxation Protocol. The first helps with impulse control and the second helps teach calm. At least it's a terrific way to teach a solid sit or down stay. I love how it's written out for you which takes all the pressure off you.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
I LOVE flirt poles and use them regularly. But I think flirt pole alone might not solve your problems. In fact, on it's own it may or may not make your problems worse. Flirt poles make dogs VERY highly aroused and if your dog does not already have good impulse control, it can teach him to 'act out' more to make the toy appear. Or, it could teach him that your presence in the yard only means high-octane-fun-times.

I would recommend walking your dog into your yard on leash. The leash is there simply to prevent him from zooming around and getting super riled up, playing hard to get or nipping at your feet. Step into the yard and reward for any calm behavior. For example, if you walk out there and your dog is being totally boring, standing patiently, looking at you with soft eyes, etc. Praise and reward with treats (assuming your dog likes food). Do this for a few minutes, then go inside and take the leash off and step outside to repeat all of this off leash. If he immediately goes into crazy mode when the leash is gone, then the leash (or a long line) needs to stay on a little longer.

Basically, you are re-framing what that space means to your dog. Of course you can't expect any obedience when your dog is wound up. But with a little bit of easy training, your dog can learn that 'good' behaviors apply outside as well.

AFTER he is calm, the flirt pole would be a great idea to burn energy. I personally like for dogs to have a solid 'drop' and 'wait' behavior so that I can control the game rather than having a dog that is crazily bounding up and snapping at the toy. If you are seeing more unwanted behaviors after adding flirt pole to your routine, that's a sign of needing to work on more impulse control exercises.

Best of luck!
Well when we attempt the leash in the backyard, he goes into crazy mode with it on as well. Well, at least after a minute or so, after he realizes "hey wait, i'm supposed to be able to roam free back here!". So I guess we need to maximize that small window of when he is calm.

So in my head, when I try to train and give treats as a reward, he gobbles it up and enjoys it but in my head I feel like he's not making an correlation at all to the positive action he's doing and this reward. And he's just saying sweet, free food lol. Is this just normal and after a while he'll connect the dots that this action gets this reward?

Also, one last thing. We work from home and so we let him outside in the backyard by himself often. He'll get bored and ring the bells to go outside so we let him, and that'll keep him busy and let us work. Is this a bad thing? I'm starting to think he should be on more of a schedule and something more structured for now. Any idea if this would effect how is behavior is?

Thanks for all the help!
 

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Get into a class. I am a good trainer and still need classes. Ginger would not hold a stay, she went into a class and soon had a stay. Bucky is now in class and his behavior around other dogs has improved many times over as has his sit/down discrimination. Having others see your work with the dog really helps.

Of course they want food, do you work simply for the pleasure of getting a job well done? No, you want the money as well. He's very young and unsure he is doing the right thing so needs that confirmation more than he will as a mature dog. I move the reward to what dog wants as soon as dog can do the behavior with a cue word. Ask for a sit and wait before you open the door and teach him to only go with a release word. Dogs love this, even the bratty ones like my Bucky.

Wish I could let the dogs out as much as they liked but they are yappy and there's a noise ordinance here never mind I cannot stand the racket.
 

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When you say "good boy" and give him treats, you are reinforcing (ie, increasing the chance of that behavior) whatever just happened within the last 3 seconds or so. So if he crazy, then calm for 5 seconds and you treat him, and he's crazy again... He WILL be more calm more often if you are consistent with this. Calm behavior pays. Crazy does not. Doesn't mean crazy will go away in a day, or even in a week.

I would also recommend getting into a good positive reinforcement based training class. The advice being given is the very basics of mark and reward training. You mark good behavior and you reward it. Markers and rewards come in many forms. If this is unfamiliar terminology, I would suggest looking up "mark and reward training" and/or getting into a class.
 

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Taking a positive reinforcement-based class is an excellent idea.

Like Canyx said, he is only remembering what happened in the last few seconds so you need to be quick with your reward/praise. I suggest learning (properly) how to use a clicker for training. They are a great tool when used correctly. They are able to mark the good behaviour at the exact moment it's happening, making it easier for your puppy to know which behaviour is being rewarded.
 

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More structure is good. I had a lot going on at the same time I got my current puppy. He was in an outdoor kennel and even tho there are toys and so forth, he did not know what to do with himself so it was like WOO HOO.. WHATEVER GOES!!!

At the suggestion of my trainer I started to crate more. On days where I work 8-9 hours, he is crated. I get home and get him out.. after he pees and poops I put him in his kennel and he eats. He gets kennel time for no more than two hours. Then I go an work with him. Training for 15-20 minutes tires his brain. Then we play for awhile. If he poops and pees, he gets to go back in the kennel. If not, back in the crate he goes for a half hour. Then back out.. if he poops and pees he gets the kennel again for an hour. And so we rotate.

On my long days I bring him to work (insulated crate in the parking garage) and we have a walk at lunch and afternoon break (training thrown in).

The added structure has totally changed my puppy (at 9 months old). He seems to prefer the structured time and is far happier over all.

I do give him "free time" in the yard with a Jolly Ball. Again.. I limit it to about 45 minutes. I highly recommend structured time (limited) in the yard, the use of a crate and limiting free time. I also recommend a Jolly ball for him to "herd" when he is in the yard.
 
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