The Astralian Shepherd temperament is unique and is part of what makes Aussies so attractive. It is what makes this breed particularly prized as working dogs and family dogs alike, but it is also an intricate matter that must be fully understood in order to get the most out of your dog. With proper training and dedication, an Aussie can be the hardest worker and best friend you'll ever have.
In general, Australian Shepherds are intelligent, eager and hardworking dogs, with strong herding and guarding instincts with aggressive, authoritarian personalities. All of which sounds good and can make for a very loyal and entertaining companion, but if those personality traits aren't channeled correctly it can lead to some very unwanted behavior. That's why proper training is essential from the first stages of puppyhood and continuing throughout your dog's life.
Aussies can be reserved with strangers, but this should never extend to shyness or timidity. With proper socialization this should not be an issue. Socialization starting from an early age should also help ensure they don't become vicious towards people or other animals as this is not acceptable in social settings or when herding.
While intelligence is a particularly desirable part of the Australian Shepherd temperament, it can be a two-edged sword if not properly engaged. The breed's natural intelligence does make it easy to train, as an Aussie will pick up new commands fairly quickly, but at the same time it can get them into trouble as they tend to be problem-solvers. That means that anything most other breeds would see as a deterrent, like a fence, would become a challenge to an Aussie, who will instantly start looking for ways to get around this particular problem.
At the same time, traditional "drill" style training, which uses repetitive commands, can quickly become boring to an Aussie. A bored Aussie can often become destructive, so if you don't want your home chewed up, make sure your dog has plenty to keep him occupied.
You'll need to meet his quick, intelligent mind and continually stimulate and challenge your Aussie, both physically and mentally, or else you'll face some serious problems. Remember, too, that you'll need to be creative when it comes to teaching him so that he learns the proper boundaries and respects them.
Another key part of the Australian Shepherd temperament is related to their herding instinct, which can lead Aussies to be authoritative and bossy. Again, this can be a good thing when working a herd of obstinate cows or sheep but may become problematic if not properly reined in. Aussies will naturally apply this approach to anything, including other pets and children, and won't hesitate to back up their nudges in the desired direction with a nip. But there are things you can do to address your dog nipping and biting due to herding instinct.
Our official ebook Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care.
In order to counter this, you need to establish your own status as the "respected leader" from the moment an Aussie puppy comes into your home. If you allow the dog to assume that leadership role it will be difficult to get him to relinquish it. On the other hand, once you have established that you provide guidance, your Aussie will be more than happy to follow your commands and even be eager to please.
Unlike more laid-back breeds, the Australian Shepherd temperament is one of energy, enthusiasm, keen instinct and amazing intellect. This can make Aussies a challenge to work with but when handled the right way, it can lead to a wonderful dog/owner relationship both in the field and in the home. For most Aussie owners, this reward is well worth the effort of channeling that temperament through proper training.
If you are looking for a place to start with training, check out our ebook Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care. But, if you are more of a visual learner and like to see how it is done I recommend the video-based online dog training program created by professional dog trainer, "Doggy Dan". Dan will walk you through training right from the beginning, to more advanced concepts, and how to deal with specific behavior problems. You can find out more about Dan and his program on his website here.
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