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Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

How to Handle a High Energy Dog Like an Australian Shepherd

By Anton Hout, author of The Guide to Aussie Training & Care

Australian Shepherd owners know that this is an incredibly intelligent and focused breed, which is what makes us fall in love with them in the first place. Unfortunately, those same traits contribute to making the Aussie a high energy dog. If that excess energy isn't properly channeled it can wind up being detrimental both to your dog and you. So being a responsible Aussie owner means figuring out how to handle all that energy properly.

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The first thing to remember about high energy breeds is that this isn't a fault or something to be punished. Some breeds, particularly herding, sporting, hound, and terrier breeds, are bred to work and that means they need to have a purpose. If they don't have that need fulfilled during the regular course of the day they'll continue looking for ways to work off that excess energy.

That can mean either turning to destructive behavior, like chewing or creating a mess, or simply pushing for more attention from you, regardless of how tired you may be. In order to avoid any behavioral problems and make life easier for you and your high energy dog, you need to find creative ways to help him work off the energy.

How to Handle a High Energy Dog Like an Australian Shepherd - Photo: Australian Shepherd running on grass with dog toy.

Jennewein Photo /

Your High Energy Dog Needs Mental Stimulation as Much as Physical Exercise

The next thing to remember is that having excess energy doesn't necessarily mean that your dog isn't getting enough physical exercise. In fact, for highly intelligent breeds like the Australian Shepherd, mental stimulation can be just as important as physical stimulation. Aussies are problem solvers, they're used to figuring out the best way to get a herd safely from point A to point B, so they need to flex those brain muscles regularly as well as simply getting out and moving around.

So how can you help to give your high energy dog the extra stimulation he needs without exhausting yourself in the process? It's an easier answer than you might think. You can begin by taking him for regular walks around the neighborhood rather than just letting him out to run around the yard. This lets him explore and investigate a wider variety of scents, which is important to engage all of his senses and keep him sharp. For most of you, this is already a part of your daily routine, but you can take it to the next level with nosework.

Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

Nosework Is a Great Way to Keep Your High Energy Aussie Stimulated

Another way to use his senses for mental exercise is through nosework. As the name suggests, this is a type of activity that teaches dogs to hunt different scents and pair them with a food treat for motivation. You can begin by hiding the scents in boxes or containers, move on to larger areas such as a whole room and eventually move outside to widen the search area even further.

For high energy dogs that are particularly keen on nosework, you can even ratchet up the excitement by engaging in classes or competing in nosework trials. This can be particularly effective for Aussies, who love nothing more than pleasing their owners. In most cases, you'll find it easy to get your Aussie interested in competing and gaining your praise.

Take Obedience Training to the Next Level Through Activities Like Dog Sports and Herding

Of course, not all mental and physical training has to involve scents. Simple obedience training can be just as effective, as it too involves completing tasks and receiving rewards. Learning obedience commands helps to give your dog something to focus on and provides a channel for their energy. As with nosework, you can take that obedience training from the basics to more advanced levels in dog sports like agility training in order to keep your dog engaged.

How to Handle a High Energy Dog Like an Australian Shepherd - Photo: Red merle Australian Shepherd herding sheep.

Екатерина Кобальнова /

For Australian Shepherds, one of the most important and effective activities is herding. That's what they were bred for and even if they aren't living on a working farm, they still have that natural instinct to control livestock. If you don't have immediate access to livestock, you can find training facilities in most areas where they can work with sheep to get their herding "fix".

More Options for Channeling Your Dog's Energy

Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care Ebook

Start with our official ebook Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care. It was created by Aussie lovers for Aussie lovers. You can read this practical guide on any computer, tablet, or smartphone.

On a more basic level, there are many ways you can help to stimulate mental activity in your high energy dog.

Puzzle toys and brain games, which usually involve getting your dog to search for a hidden treat by figuring out how to manipulate the toy to get to the treat, are a great place to start and there are many different options available so you should be able to find something that piques your dog's interest.

You can also play cognitive games with your dog, such as hiding a treat and then reacting in an excited manner when your dog gets close to it or putting a treat in the bottom of a stack of plastic storage containers and letting your dog figure out how to get to it.

You can also help to fulfill your dog's sense of purpose by using a doggy backpack when you go on your walk. This is a simple method, but it can be surprisingly effective when he feels as if he's providing an important service.

Remember to Have Fun and Change Things Up

No matter what method you choose to help channel your high energy dog, it's important to remember to have fun and change things up regularly as he may get bored easily once he's figured out a puzzle or accomplished a particular goal. This is especially true for Australian Shepherds, whose intellect can allow them to meet mental challenges easily, thus leading to boredom and its negative side effects.

Just like you, your Aussie wants to feel needed and useful. Without properly channeling this, he'll be left with energy to spare and that can become an issue for both of you. In order to keep him healthy and both of you happy, you need to make sure that he's getting both regular physical and mental exercise to keep him at his best.

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Australian Shepherd owners know they are high energy dogs. To avoid any behavioral problems and make life easier for you and your Aussie, you need to find creative ways to help him work off the energy. #australianshepherd #aussie #dogtraining #puppytraining #aussielovers icon

Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care

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