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Guide To Australian Shepherd Training & Care
Guide To Australian Shepherd Training and Care

Unpredictable Behavior From My Australian Shepherd Towards Children


(Elverson, PA)


Our Australian Shepherd is 1 1/2 years old, he has been socialized around other dogs and young children since he was a young puppy. (We've had him since he was 8 weeks old) He has had very bad separation anxiety since a very young age. He used to tear up our apartment going as far as chewing up one of our window sills. He loves people and gets so excited to meet them.

We have a very large family who some have smaller dogs and several with large dogs. He has never had issues with the smaller dogs, and even with a larger dog who he has known and interacted with since the first day we brought him home.

We first noticed his aggressiveness when we got a cat, intended as a new friend for him. He would bark and growl pretty nasty at him. After isolating the cat for a few days, they became the best of friends, the dog has never since even growled at him. (Even if the cat goes to eat his food) We then had an incident where we were with family at thanksgiving when a young cousin (1 year old) wanted to pet him. I got down on his level with food in my hand to let him feed him, (Our Aussie has never been food aggressive) when the dog lunged at him. The young boy was not hurt, only scratched by our dog's nails.

We then began to notice his aggression towards new family dogs who were bigger than him. Not necessarily biting and trying to harm, but lunging with lots of growling and barking. This has happened with multiple new dogs that he has met.

Last night we had an incident with a nephew (3 years old) who has been around our dog since he was born. They have always played and got along. When they first arrived at out house (moved in about a month ago) our dog was being submissive, and appeared genuinely happy to see our nephew. We were sitting at dinner (with the dog under our nephews chair), when our nephew got down, we assume that our nephew startled him, and the dog reacted, he didn't attack him, he barked and growled, as he has in the past. His teeth hit our nephew's face, with no signs of an actual intentional bite. Right away the dog cowered knowing what he had done and backed off.

We are concerned for the future, when we want to start a family, that our dog could potentially be aggressive towards our children. Our thoughts are that he has been socialized since very young with children and dogs, and has never been consistent in his aggressive behaviors. We are wondering/hoping that we will be able to train him to be less aggressive towards children and other dogs. We are also getting him fixed within the next month and are hoping that may take away some if not all of the aggression.

Any thoughts, suggestions,or tips would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you!

Comments for Unpredictable Behavior From My Australian Shepherd Towards Children

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Defining aggression
by: Anonymous

It sounds to me like your dog is not being aggressive, that is such an easy label, but may not be what’s going on with him. I would say he is being defensive or maybe protective. My dog at the same age acted the same way when new family members came into the house where our grandson lives. Quite unlike him. But he did make friends with the new kids. It could be that your dog is feeling overwhelmed if there are always people coming and going. They are herders and can get stressed if they don’t feel they have any control over their situation.
If you have not had him in a crate pit to now, I suggest getting him a crate as his safe place. Lots of utube vids on crate training. Then when there is a lot of activity put him in his crate in a quiet place - but not shut away completely in another room. If he is getting so defensive he needs to protect his space, especially from little ones, he will appreciate the safety of his crate.

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