Q: When my kids run, my dog runs after them and nips at their heels. How can I stop this behavior?
A: Dogs think this is a fun game, and when kids scream and try to get away, dogs think it's even more fun. That can lead them to escalate, nipping harder or more frequently or jumping up to grab a sleeve.
Early intervention is important. To put a stop to the nipping, you need to prevent it while teaching a new action for your dog to perform instead, such as walking at your heel, a down-stay, a spin or a rollover.
Keep your dog indoors if the kids are playing outside. That can be a good time to start teaching the alternative behavior, since it won't be distracted by them. Work on a leash, indoors or outdoors, in a low-distraction area. If heeling is the behavior you're teaching, start at a slow pace, gradually increasing it to a fast walk and then a slow jog or even a run if your vet is OK with that type of activity for your dog.
As your dog gets good at the alternative behavior, gradually add distractions such as someone walking by or the sound of the kids outdoors. Then up the ante with distractions such as a person jogging by or jumping up and down. When those distractions don't break its focus, move to an area where he would normally chase, such as the backyard, and practice there.
During training, reward your dog with treats, toys and praise for performing the new behavior and staying at your side. Anytime your dog becomes overstimulated and tries to run and nip, freeze in place. Drop your training back to a point where it was successful and work back up.
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