Why Do Border Collies Nip? 10 Easy Tips to Stop It

Why Do Border Collies Nip? Photo of a Border Collie nipping a sheep's neck.

It’s common for Border Collies to nip at their owners and other animals. But why do they do it?

In short, they enjoy nipping at whatever may be walking in front of them.

There are a few other reasons that might account for this behavior. Still, the most likely reason is that this breed was bred to herd sheep and cattle by nipping them in order to move them from one place to another.

This article will explore the herding behaviors of Border Collies and how to keep them from nipping you.

Do Border Collies nip ankles?

Ankles are a common spot for Border Collies to nip. It’s part of the herding behavior that they were bred with.

It’s not uncommon for Border Collies to nip at the ankles of other animals and humans as well. It’s part of their instinctual behavior to herd.

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What Causes This Behavior?

This behavior is often tied to the herding behaviors that have been bred into this breed for centuries.

As a result, they are likely to nip at whatever is moving in front of them with the goal of moving it forward.

For Border Collies, this behavior can be quite rewarding. It’s part of what makes them so good at their main job of herding.

As a result, if you work with your dog to encourage these behaviors, they might perform the behavior more often.

Herding Instincts

Herding instincts are strong in this breed. In fact, if not properly trained and supervised, they’re likely to even nip at the ankles of small children who are moving around them quickly.

This breed can also often be found nipping at the heels of anything that is nearby. This may include animals, humans, or cars that pass by them when they’re outside.


To a Border Collie, playtime is often indistinguishable from work time, and therefore, they nip at whatever might be nearby as if it were something to herd.

If you allow this behavior to continue, it can often lead them to nip at your ankles as they run around or even nip at your hands if you’re trying to pull away during playtime. 

Testing and Exploring

Border Collies are also likely to nip at things that are nearby as they explore their environment.

They may also nip to test their boundaries with people, animals, or inanimate objects.

They nip in order to test whether it will move and what its reaction might be so that they can navigate their environment more safely.


While teething is a common behavior in puppies, it’s also often mistaken for nipping. If your Border Collie is teething, they may chew on or nip at the hands and feet of anyone nearby to ease their discomfort, and it can be not easy to correct once it begins.

Showing their feelings

Border collies are also likely to nip at people or animals when trying to show how they feel. This can result in a few different emotions popping up, and it’s important to be sensitive to these feelings throughout their lives.

Nipping can also be a sign that your Border Collie feels anxious or fearful about something. In these cases, they may nip as a warning to the thing that is causing them fear, and it may become more frequent if they feel like you’re not helping them feel secure.

Lack of Socialization

Socialization is an important part of a Border Collie’s life. When a Border collie lacks socialization, it’s not uncommon for them to nip at strangers or visitors in order to get them away from the house.

They’ve been bred to be protective over their homes, territories, and owners, so they may often try to herd people away from these locations out of instinct.

Differences Between Nipping and Biting

Nipping can seem like biting, but there are critical differences between the two.

Biting is when a dog uses their teeth to cause harm intentionally.

Nipping is when a dog’s teeth touch something and create an uncomfortable feeling to encourage movement.

When your Border Collie nips you or another animal, they are likely doing it on accident. While it can be uncomfortable, this is not intended to cause harm on any level.

Adult Border Collies Nipping: Do Border collies Grow Out Of Nipping?

It is not uncommon for Border Collies to nip or nibble when they are puppies, and many people assume this will go away as the dog reaches adulthood. The truth is that it doesn’t always go away.

In fact, there are plenty of grown-up dogs who still nip at their owners and other animals. This can be a frustrating habit to live with in both pets and humans alike.

The good news is that there are some things you can do to break your dog’s nipping habits before they get out of hand.

How to Stop Border Collies from Nipping

In most cases, nipping from your Border Collie is more of a habit than a sign of aggression.

Although, if you don’t do anything to break the habit, your dog may begin to nip more frequently and even cause harm.

You will start to see them, nipping at other dogs, nipping at strangers, and even nipping at your face as they try to herd you.

Stopping a herding dog from nipping is no easy task. But, fortunately, there are different ways of addressing the nipping behavior, such as:

1 – Teach what “no” means

The next time they nip at you or another person, say “no” and ignore them for a few minutes. If you’re consistent with this training, your dog should begin to associate nipping with less attention, and they may stop the behavior.

2 – Alternative Activities

Most Border Collies nip when they get bored or lack stimulation. Use mental stimulation to keep them busy instead of just putting them outside to run around and tire themselves out.

3 – Long Walks

Providing plenty of exercise for your dog will help to reduce their anxiety and energy levels. Walks should be exhausting enough that the only thing they want to do when you get back is rest, not chase other animals or n

4 – Time Out

When things get too much for you and you don’t know what to do anymore, use a time out.

5 – Positive Reinforcement

Border Collies respond well to positive reinforcement and lots of praise. When your dog stops nipping at you for a little while, be sure to give them plenty of pats and affection so that they know their behavior is appreciated.

6 – Don’t reward bad behavior

Just because your dog stops nipping for a few seconds does not mean they should be rewarded with a treat or affection. If you do, they’ll quickly learn that their nip-like nibbling is okay and will continue to do it in the future.

7 – Use a taste deterrent spray

While this may not be your first choice to stop nipping, it is an option.

This type of spray contains a foul taste that will discourage your dog from nipping at you again. It may take a little bit of time to work, but eventually, they should learn what to avoid.

8 – Ignore and go away

When your Border Collie nips you or starts getting too rowdy, just walk away from them and turn around so that they can’t follow you.

9 – Use a Chewing toy

If you find your dog nipping at your feet while you’re walking, simply give them a toy to chew on instead. When they stop chewing the toy, ask them to ‘sit’ and then take the toy away until next time.

Soon, your dog will associate these cues with the unavailability of the toy, and they’ll stop nipping.

10 – Yelp and move away

You can also try yelping and moving away from your dog. This usually startles them and breaks their focus, which is enough to get them to stop nipping.

What you choose to do will depend on the severity of your dog’s nipping, age, and temperament. Not all methods work with every dog. So it might be a good idea for you to try out different techniques and see which ones work best with your pet.

Final Thoughts

Nipping at humans and other animals is a Border Collie’s way of moving things around. If you want to keep your dog from nipping, it’s best not to give them any reason to do so.

Avoid taunting them or teasing them to get them to nip because it could become a problem down the line.

If they happen to try and nip you, don’t scream at them; just go limp until they stop touching your legs with their mouth.

Your goal is to teach them that nipping does not equal playtime, attention, or affection. It will take a lot of patience on your part, but if you stick with it long enough, your herding dog should eventually stop nipping for good.

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Andre Neves

Hi, I'm Andre and I'm the owner of Sula the Border Collie. I love writing about this amazing dog breed here. I joined the Council to be able to reach and educate more people on the joy of having a pet dog.