Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Will Be Babysitting My First Grandchild But My Aussies Are Nervous/Nippy/Barking Around Children

by Michelle


Hi Anton, I REALLY need your help with my 2 Aussie's, they did not grow-up/socialize with kids and are very nervous/nippy/barking bad around young kids!

They are 4 & 5 years old, and soon I'll be babysitting my first grandchild. I do not know what to do, and I DO NOT want to give them away: I love them like they are my own children. I DO own your Aussie Lovers Guide Book, but not sure about this issue...

I have paid A LOT of $ for 2 separate "trainers", (not specializing in Aussie's), but trainers nonetheless. One of the trainers uses shock collar discipline—which I'm not fond of, and the other trainer told me to have strangers throw treats at the dogs when they came into our house. Friends and family do not always remember to do that! And besides, I feel it's not THEIR responsibility to "train" my girls.

Note from Anton: The above is a question I received via email but I wanted to share it with you here as many Aussie owners are facing similar behavior issues.

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Getting To The Underlying Problem
by: Anton

It is good if dogs can be socialized with a wide variety of people and other dogs. While it would have been best to have been able to do it all along it's not too late. However, as is the case with so many behavior issues in dogs, it's not always easy to just deal with this problem or that problem in isolation.

I'm not convinced of the need for the use of shock collars in the vast majority of cases let alone as one of the first things a trainer would use (At least in the higher shock settings). There may be cases where highly trained professional dog trainers may need to use shock collars but I would prefer to avoid them. At lower settings they are more akin to a tingle than a shock and many models have a vibrate or beep mode. In this way these collars can just be used to get a dog's attention when they are at a distance as when training for recall or for hunting dogs. However, using a shock collar to punish a dog should NEVER be done. It will do more harm than good and can permanently damage your relationship with your dog. Shock collars in the hands of amateurs (and some "professionals") can be a dangerous thing.

Having strangers toss treats may be worth a try as it might help your dog associate strangers (or children as the case may be) with good things. But, as you say, it can be hit and miss, it's not everyone else's responsibility to train your dogs, and it doesn't get at the underlying problem.

What's the underlying problem? It's actually surprising how many dog behavior problems come down to the direct relationship we have with our dogs. From barking, to invading personal space, to aggression with strangers. So often it is related to whether or not, and to what degree, your dogs see you in the leadership role. Things can seem fine for the most part when no one else is around. Maybe they have a few irritating behaviors like pushing their way out the door ahead of you, demanding you pet or play with them, or continuing to bark after you've told them to stop. While we may let some of these warning signs slide the true degree of the problem can show up when, for example, a stranger, or a type of person they are not used to (like a child) shows up at your house. Too many Aussie owners have had to deal with their dog biting a person or another dog before seeing the extent of the problem.

All of the smaller behavior issues and the aggression often relate directly to pack leadership issues. If your dogs don't look to you as the leader and have the level of respect (and I do mean respect—not fear) they should have they will push ahead of you at the door, demand you pet and play with them on their terms, invade your space, continue barking to protect their (not your) territory, and they will deal with any strangers that are on their turf rather than look to you for guidance.

Rather than going overboard and using shock collars or taking half measures by tossing treats at the problem I recommend a program that is offered online by a professional dog trainer out of New Zealand. He goes by "Doggy Dan" and his program starts with the fundamental core of dog training—your relationship with your dog. His approach teaches how to get your dog to want to listen to you instead of trying to make your dog listen to you. Understanding how your dogs think and what it takes to be seen as the respected pack leader is key. So many dog owners think they are automatically the leader. They buy the food. They pay the vet bills. They give the commands... but their dogs don't listen. They might have convinced themselves that they are the pack leader, but they haven't convinced their dog. Doggy Dan shows you how to do that. The good thing is that once this core problem has been fixed other behavior problems can evaporate (or not arise in the first place).

Compared to a one-on-one consultation with a dog trainer his online video program (that is very well organized and takes you through step-by-step) is very reasonable. You can check out everything (full access) for 3 full days for only $1. That gives you a chance to really check it out and decide if you like what you see. After that I think it's only $37 a month. You can cancel at any time too.

You can find more information about his program and sign up here...

Best of luck. I hope you are able to get things under control.

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Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care