I’m not an expert, and am only sharing my experience and advice from my own perspectives, so what I’m doing may or may not work with your dog…but I”m hoping that it will help. I’ve owned 3 dogs previous to the one we just got, and I’ve been around lots of other dogs, cats, and animals in my half-century.
On April 14, 2020, we received a 1 yr old Red Heeler, named Copper. He likes to nip at our heels when we walk or run, and seems to deliberately make attempts to trip us up. He also likes to nip at our hands, constantly. He doesn’t bite to hurt, but very playfully nips and nibbles. Overall, I get that to him, this is playful and fun. I’ve read that is in the breed.
One thing that I’ve read to help stop the nipping at hands, and something that I’ve been working with Copper on, is whenever he gets in that hand-nipping playfulness, gently stick in his mouth the appropriate chew toys, rawhide, or whatever that you want him to chew on, every time he starts to nip at my hands. This way, he learns what he can / can’t chew on. Then, give them plenty of positive praise and reward when chewing on the appropriate thing.
I do keep him on a leash so he doesn’t pounce or nip at my grand kids when they are running from him. I’ll slow him down enough so he is just running behind, or along side them, so he keeps pace with them. He is very playful and excitable, so I give him lots of positive praise and responses when he behaves the way I want him to. And firmly tell him STOP or NO, when I see him do things that are undesirable.
Another friend of mine had a Border Collie, and he said that if he didn’t take his dog for a walk daily that his dog would start to chew on everything. But when he took her on walks, she did great around the house. So what I’ve been doing with Copper is taking him out on walks, and frequent long walks, around several blocks, along the river or up the local canyon trails, to allow him to burn off all that energy before it builds up. I’m seeing that when he is cooped up and doesn’t burn that energy off, he does get into stuff, even ripping small chunks out of his memory foam mattress when we took the cover off to wash. Like Sandy said in her comment, “A tired dog is a good dog.” There is a lot of truth in that. Get your dog wound up, worn out, and burn that energy out.
The positive praise, redirecting his attention to appropriate chew toys, firmly commanding him to stop, and especially burning off that energy, seems to be working with Copper. I also talk to him a lot like he was human and explain what I’m doing to him. He is learning from the repetition to recognize words and commands. He also knows to run away from me now when I tell him it’s time for a bath, haha.
Copper came from a neglectful and possibly abusive home. When we got him, he didn’t even react to a tennis ball or squeaky toy. His jaws were weak and he could barely chew the rawhide. He had mange and smelled of the uncleaned dog kennel. Their other dog was a Pit Bull that was missing half his hair around his neck/chest and back due to mange. Now with the mange gone, we are in the process of getting under control the yeast infection that causes his skin to be red and itchy. Three weeks later and Copper is playing fetch, house trained, and is really a great dog. I attribute that to the intelligence of his breed and researching lots online or watching YouTube videos. I don’t recall ever seeing a dog that picks up on things quite so rapidly before though.
All the best to you and good luck to you and your heeler.