Behavior Issues, 6 Month Old Australian Shepherd

by Karen
(Hendersonville, NC, USA)

I love our little Folly girl. Now 6 months and 22 lbs. She was spayed about 3 weeks ago. So we've had the normal puppy issues (chewing, biting, etc.) pretty well contained, but are having a few other bigger issues...

She's food obsessed and while we try to put her outside when we eat, if it's raining or something, or you're just trying to snack, she drives us crazy and will steal food, children's food, other dog's treats etc. "leave it" is not sinking in with her! I've discussed her food amounts she's receiving with the vet and she's getting the upper end of the required amount. Also, she will "get in her place" but won't stay.

Also, while our older dogs (both age 11), Beagle and Jack Russell are tolerating her (usually), suddenly she's becoming more aggressive with them. She won't let them on the couch or on a certain chair, dog bed, etc. She nips the JRT (I know the herding instinct), but my little dog is already a nervous dog, and they'll full on fight occasionally. Do I let them work this out? Obviously, the Aussie could hurt her now that she's getting so big.

The other issue is the jumping and biting at our clothing. We seem to be getting a handle on this, but she'll still do it especially with the kids (age 11 and 17). Just wondering if this is going to be an ongoing fight.

I know it sounds like I'm complaining, but she's such a smart dog and wants to please me (does much better with me than my husband or kids), but she needs to understand that they can be the boss too. My husband is frustrated and wants me to get rid of her. I think it's just been a while since we had a puppy so he forgets this part of the process.

We've made great progress on several things by incorporating training learned on this site and she gets at least 2 30 minute intense exercise sessions a day, one in the yard with balls and frisbees and one 3 mile walk or hike.

I try to take Folly as many places as possible, but her behavior is making it difficult to handle her when out and about now that she's larger and stronger.

I'd appreciate any advice or encouragement!

Comments for Behavior Issues, 6 Month Old Australian Shepherd

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by: Anonymous

My own aussie use to steal food when she was younger. She is one of those aussies that is bit more of alpha female till you get mad at her then she turns soft. Anyway, is your aussie crate trained? Also how much work are you giving her? First thing I would do is make sure she knows what bed is when you are working on food issues. So when you say "go to bed" It means now and not later and you stay there till I call you. Start with that first. For her garbing at your clothing, I dont know if you have heard of something called bitter apple. Its a spray that is super bad tasting. When she goes to bite at your clothing, or has it in her mouth spray her with the bitter apple. Make sure to try to get it into her mouth. After a few times of this she will hate the taste of it and should stop. It sounds like a lot of problems are is she is board. Have you tried teaching her tricks. I am trick dog trainer and am writing a book now on trick training.

Force Free Certified Professional Dog trainer
by: My Buddy Dog Training

Please contact a Force free trainer help correct some obsessive behaviors. The food is Resource Guarding and the other behaviors as well. With some simple guidelines like hand feeding and teaching some rewarding games like Drop it, Take it plus some mental stimulation it will get better! Your dog is also in her "terrible teens" this is where your dog will forget everything it has learned.

by: Anonymous

Suggestions: Contact the dogs' breeder and see if they have suggestions. re: goes to her place but won't stay... you need to work on building duration of the behavior. Find a clicker training class/instructor to help you with that.

Biting/jumping, you can put a plastic water bottle inside your shirt. Every time the pup jumps/bites... you hit yourself on the bottle. Don't say anything, it will startle the dog and they will start to back off/keep their distance.

Aussies definitely bond with the person they see as the leader. It sounds as if you may have some resource guarding going on. You need to buy the book "Mine" by Jean Donaldson.

If you aren't already enrolled in obedience classes, please do. Group classes are important learning experiences for you and your dog.

I need sleep!!
by: Bev

We have a 4 month old Aussie and she will NOT sleep at night. She has tons of room to run and she has other dogs to play with, but she wakes us up at least 2-3 times a night. We give her lots of attention. We both work and we are gone from our home about 8 hours a day and spend all weekend with her. She is in a crate and does well in it until night time. I see all the good comments about Aussies on here. I don't know what we are doing wrong, but we are exhausted from lack of sleep. PLEASE any suggestions will be appreciated!

Re:Sleep at night
by: Anna

Hi Bev,

I have a few ideas! Could you please clarify where you have your puppy during the day while you are at work? One comment sounded like she was crated during the day, and another sounded like she was free to run and play, so just trying to fully understand here :)

If she's crated while you are at work, and doing well on house training, consider purchasing a playpen or setting up a puppy proof room where she can be loose during the day.

Also perhaps some mentally stimulating toys would be good for her such as one of the puzzle balls which you put kibble in so that they have to work for their food and use up some energy in the process.

We found with our puppy that since he wanted to play right before bed, we had to move up the evening exercise time by about 30 mins so that he had the chance to settle down and realize how tired he was.

Also, try putting a blanket over the crate or purchasing a crate cover. Our little guy needs to have the blanket over his crate to create a cave like atmosphere which reduces stimulation. Best of luck!

Aussie 6 months
by: Anonymous

We were having a lot of the same things you're describing happening with our 6 month old Aussie. It was affecting our older dog and our whole family really negatively and I too wondered if I just did not recall puppy years with other dogs, or if I had become older and intolerant of normal puppy behavior. Since our puppy is so smart, she is such a joy in so many ways, but her intelligence also seemed to create challenges I don't remember from other less intense breeds we've had. I am with her all day and she gets plenty of exercise, and daily runs at the park with other dogs, acts fine, even amazingly wonderfully, but when my family comes home at the end of the day it became complete chaos--way into the evenings. We attend weekly puppy classes, but some of these issues continued particularly in the evenings when the house became busy with kids and people coming and going from the house. I began to dread the end of the school day because it caused my family so much unhappiness with the behaviors the original poster stated. I started to tether her to me when someone would come over to the house, and in the evenings when my kids came home from school...this was on a long loose leash with a light prong collar. Very quickly she was calm and almost seemed to feel more at ease knowing where she was supposed to be, and how she was supposed to be acting by my side. I never had to pull on the leash or reprimand her, she just seemed calmer when near me--in fact she behaved so well that people who stopped by the house were in awe and I was very proud of her. (I googled info about tethering online to understand it a bit more before trying it.) My kids also could tether her to themselves, and this allowed them to do homework and enjoy her without lots of reprimanding or frustrations. When I had a meeting with at the house or in my office, she laid down next to me and chewed on her toy, and seemed content and relaxed. Another thing we tried--that a friend's vet told her to do--is put several coins in an empty can and give it a shake when there is a lot of barking--this is a lot better than kids yelling different words and commands at the dog to be quiet, or getting angry in my opinion, although I at first thought it sounded mean. When she barks excessively at the door or in the yard, I say, "quiet," and give the can one shake. She immediately looks at me and will come running to me. We found this also works when she is outside (we have a fenced in property) and she will get very distracted or stubborn and not come back inside--shake the can and call "come" and in she runs--not fearfully at all, but happily...very strange that this works, but it does. Worked wonders too with our older dog that has been barking like crazy for years! Our Aussie seems now past the stage of doing these things, but I still tether her in moments she seems anxious. She comes to work with me daily, is great in the car, and lovely to take anywhere--when I keep her focus on me or an activity, and close to me--just like one might be with a toddler--she is content and happy and we are having days and weeks go by without the issues we were having before. We had to alter some of our behavior to all get on the same page too.

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