Published: January 21, 2020  

Last updated: May 24, 2021  

Running children can resemble a herd of livestock to herding dogs such as the Australian Cattle Dog. These dogs have a natural instinct to herd sheep and cattle.

So what do you do when you have chosen to adopt a herding dog and have a household of young children? 

Each week of 2020, I will be choosing a question from a Rescue Dogs 101 community member. 

[Q&A] #AskingForMyDog

This week’s question is from Deanna. 

“We just found out the Chi puppy we are rescuing, also is Australian Cattle Dog mixed. We already have another chihuahua, so we are familiar with this breed.

However, we are a family of 6, two of our children are under 5. As I have been reading on the personality traits of the Australian Cattle Dog, they mention they herd, by way of nipping ankles! Ouch! 

Any training tips for getting ahead of this and avoid my children getting ankle bites?” 

What an interesting mix of breeds for sure!

Let’s start with learning some basic information about both breeds:

AKC Australian Cattle Dog

According to the AKC standards for the Australian Cattle Dog, he is “A very active, high-energy dog, the Australian Cattle Dog needs more than just a quick walk and playtime in the yard. ACDs really need a job to remain happy and healthy.” 

The breed standards warn that the Australian Cattle Dog may be stubborn and reserved with strangers. 

AKC Chihuahua

The AKC website states the Chihuahua is a tiny dog with a huge personality. Which I find is true with a lot of small dogs.

His temperament is charming, graceful, sassy, independent and alert. 

Australian Cattle Dog – Chihuahua Mix

So what do you get when you cross these two breeds? That’s a great question.

Most rescues and shelters really do not know what the breeds make up any dog. It’s simply a guessing game, based on the appearance of each dog. 

We look at the size, coat, ears, body type… all clues on what breed a mutt may be. But here’s the thing… it’s impossible to truly know the actual breed of a mutt. 

That is until the invention of doggy DNA tests! But DNA test results can take 2-4 weeks to receive and aren’t guaranteed to be 100% accurate. 

What I’m trying to warn you is even if the shelter thinks your dog is an Australian Cattle Dog – Chihuahua Mix, in reality, he maybe neither.

In fact, our Ginger is part Australian Cattle Dog, among 4 other breeds. We thought she was a German Shepherd mix when we adopted her. While she does have obvious herding tendencies, it is always aimed toward other dogs, not children.


When rescuing a dog, you have to be willing to adopt a mutt and not care about what breed(s) he is. Unless you are adopting a pure breed dog, it’s always a guess.

Even if a shelter somehow knows the parents of a mixed breed dog, you won’t know which characteristics were inherited by the puppies. 

When you mix two breeds that are so vastly different, will the dog be high-energy or a couch potato? You will only know when the puppy becomes an adult and you get to know the dog over several months.

Predictability is why many prefer to get a dog from a reputable breeder. When two pure breed Australian Cattle Dogs have puppies, you know what you are getting.

How do you stop a herding dog from nipping?

Now to your initial question, how to “avoid my children getting ankle bites?”

1. Exercise the dog 

Start by ensuring your new dog gets enough exercise based on his energy level. If he has inherited the cattle dog high level working energy, you may be surprised and how much it will take to tire this dog. 

2. Educate your children

Your entire family should learn your dog’s body language. This will preempt any bad behavior, including ankle nipping.

Read more about how dogs talk to us here >

Never leave the kids alone with the dog. Even the most well-behaved children and dogs can result in a scary situation. It’s a great idea to keep a newly adopted dog on a leash, even inside the house.

Read why do family dogs bite kids >

3. Don’t encourage

Nipping ankles can become a fun game if the dog is encouraged. This encouragement comes in many forms… your kids running, screaming, waving their hands, simply any attention is fun for the dog. 

4. Stop

As soon as the dog shows any sign of wanting to nip, stop moving. Tell your kids to stand like a tree. This will ensure they are not reinforcing the behavior. Remember, any attention is encouragement. 

If the dog stops the nipping behavior, praise her verbally and/or with a short play session. 

5. The Place Command

This one command can change your life. I’m not exaggerating. By training your dog to go to his place, the kids can continue to run and play without the dog in the middle of it all. 

Read more on how to teach the place command >

In conclusion

I hope that helps you and your family, Deanna. Good luck and congratulations on your new family addition.

Do you have a herding breed dog and children? Please leave a comment below and let us know how you have been able to train your dog not to herd or ankle nip your children.

Raising a rescue dog can be challenging at times, but as a community, we can make a little easier. 

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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