By Bonnie Mccready
You have seen Australian Shepherds leaping through hoops in agility programs, or herding sheep in the sheepdog trials. You may even have a few friends with Aussies and they are wonderful family pets playing so gently with their children.
The Australian Shepherd breed is gorgeous. You decide to research the breed and find yourself inundated with information overload. Herding dog, high energy, wary of strangers. What does it all mean? Here is where I plan to help. First off if you decided to buy or rescue an Australian Shepherd you are bringing in one of the happiest dogs you will ever own.
Aussies are always happy they never stop smiling. But your dream of the perfect agility champion slash playmate for your children may be months or even years down the road. For now what you are going to need to dream about are dog and lint brushes—your Aussie pup may not seem like it now but he or she will shed like leaves in autumn.
Australian Shepherd owners have one of the smartest dogs there are. The best advice is to understand their high energy needs, like that of Doonbug here.
You are also going to want to invest in pull toys—Aussies need to be kept busy. These are the things your darling bundle of fur is going to need. As a first time Australian Shepherd owner myself I found that it took a solid month before my Doonbug was settled in enough to have a productive training session. Why?
In the top 20 smartest dog breeds you will find Aussies ranks number 16. Is this because an Aussies is unintelligent. Not at all, Aussies are very smart. Once I learned how to maintain Doonbug's attention I had Doonbug shutting doors for me on command in two days. Dog intelligence is measured by how trainable the breed as a whole can be.
So why are Aussies number 16 instead of say five or higher? Because Aussies are high energy. This excess energy gets in the way of training. My first training session with Doonbug was a disaster. I couldn't get him to sit if I offered a sirloin steak as a treat. (I know this cause I tried.) My Doonbug was quite literally bouncing off the walls. I also found that this high octane racing around the house is normal behavior as well. If you find your Aussie engaging in similar antics don't do what I did, which is panic.
Though alarming when they begin running about all they need is a good walk followed by a ten minute break in their crate. Australian Shepherds do this is because they are herding dogs, bred to run through acres of land rounding up cattle without tiring. If you don't have a farm with cattle to herd, you will need to walk your Aussies daily sometimes more than once. Doonbug takes two walks a day to really calm down.
You also want to keep in mind that as a herding breed no matter how calm your puppy your dog will strive to be dominant, it's in their breeding. Not surprising when you really think about it. How else could they get a cow many times their size to obey?
To make any training sessions stick don't train after your dog has been in it's crate for any length of time or after he eats. Do train when your dog has had his walk and is hungry. I also find making training a part of your everyday goings on helps. For example making your puppy sit before you feed or wait even when the door is open to walk through on command. These little things reaffirm both your sit and stay commands and maintain your leadership status.
When it comes to being wary of strangers most of that can and will be broken by socializing your puppy through puppy play dates and meeting people during your daily walks. Which won't be hard, if you have an Aussie, you already know they are quite the crowd pleaser.
If you are willing to put in the time, exercise and care you will achieve your dream Aussie. Because as all Australian Shepherd owners know, it isn't always easy owning an Aussie but it is always rewarding.