Australian Shepherds are excellent companions provided that their humans can create the proper home for them. Committing yourself to owning an Australian Shepherd will require patience and dedication in your part but when you raise the dog well you will be rewarded with a fruitful, fulfilling relationship.
Raising an Australian Shepherd requires careful consideration of the breed’s character and the dog’s individual personality. This e-book will teach you all that you need to know about training your Australian Shepherd.
Australian Shepherd: Personality
The Australian Shepherd by nature is a herding dog and they may want to herd many things including your children, the neighbors, bicycles, squirrels, and even other dogs. When they are herding this is evident by their nipping behavior and in some cases nipping can turn into biting. Proper training of your Australian Shepherd can correct this behavior early on. They love to chase things including cars so it is common for untrained Aussie shepherds to end up hurt on the road. Their instinct is very strong, so pet owners need to work on keeping their dogs safe by way of a fenced yard and obedience training.
Australian Shepherds are generally very energetic dogs who require regular exercise. Unlike other dogs, Australian Shepherds are not content with just walking on a leash. They need loads of off-leash exercises such as playing fetch, Frisbee, and running exercises. On the other hand, some Aussies also have a more laid-back personality that would be more content with regular walks around your neighborhood. Owners are encouraged to choose dogs that suit their lifestyle and temperament.
These dogs are extremely intelligent, dog owners must invest time and effort to train them otherwise the dog may end up training themselves. When left to themselves, Aussies can be destructive as they need to find outlets for their energy by breaking personal property, chasing cars on the road, or scoping out what the trash bin has to offer. However, they are easy to train and will want to please their owner.
Temperaments of Australian Shepherds can vary greatly. Some Aussie breeds have been trained to herd livestock and naturally require a busier lifestyle, one with more rigid exercise and that will keep them busy. Other breeds are mellower as they have been designed more for companionship and are therefore more laid back.
Despite these, the Australian Shepherd by nature is a very sociable dog who will want to be by their owner’s side at all times. Keeping them chained or in a cage will cause great frustration which can lead to problematic behavior later on. The most important thing to remember when choosing an Australian shepherd is to be honest about your preferences.
In a nutshell, this is how the personality of Australian Shepherds can be described:
- These are dogs with strong, guardian instincts, recognized for their impeccable ability to make excellent watchdogs.
- They can be attached to their family but can be reserved when it comes to meeting strangers. They do not easily accept strangers as their own friends because they can be selective with social interactions. Aussies are very affectionate with their family but are generally disinterested in the affection that comes from a stranger.
- They can be authoritative and aggressive, as these are dogs that will want to take action. Aussies do not back down from a challenge easily and have strong problem-solving skills.
Australian Shepherd: Health and Care
Before you purchase your Australian Shepherd, it is helpful to be aware of the problems that come with this breed. Like many other pure breeds, the Aussie is prone to its own health problems that are inherent and inevitable but the best way to minimize them is by talking to a reputed Australian Shepherd breeder. Common problems suffered by Aussies later on life include cataracts, epilepsy, auto immune disorders, double merle, hip dysplasia, and MDR1. These are all genetic disorders and as soon as you notice any of these in your dog the best thing to do first is to seek the proper veterinary care. This is followed by informing the parents breeder of the dog’s health issues so that they can take this information into consideration for future breeding.
Australian Shepherd has a medium coat. Dogs that have this coat can be identified by their short but inch thick coats, and this coat is easy to groom and isn't prone to matting or tangles. But, a medium coat is easy to be smell. So if you want to keep your dog healthy and clean, your Australian Shepherd will need to be bathed monthly by using a shampoo for odor and brushed weekly.
Training Your Australian Shepherd
It is never too early to start training your Australian Shepherd, in fact the earlier the better. As we’ve mentioned earlier they are such intelligent dogs that they may end up training themselves when left to their own. This can lead to them having bad habits which is why it is important to keep these dogs busy and occupied.
With Australian Shepherds, positive training methods are always encouraged. Force based training will only sabotage your efforts because it will ruin the bond that you are trying to create in the first place. Besides, you will notice that dogs will learn better when they are not afraid of making a mistake and trying again. Put yourself in his shoes; if you were back at school and a teacher kept on scolding you for every mistake you did, would you want to try again? Obviously the answer would be no, so we want to try to make training as enjoyable as possible.
The first 20 weeks in any canine’s life is the most crucial to begin training. These weeks are a valuable learning experience and they will practically soak up anything you teach them. During this period it is important that they have positive experiences and learn how to socialize properly as it will be crucial to their stability and development as an adult dog.
By nature, dogs will repeat any behavior that is rewarded. This concept is called positive reinforcement and it will work very well as you train your Australian Shepherd. Whenever he does something good or responds the way that you want, provide your puppy with a reward such as handing him a tasty treat or hugging him. You will find that it will be much easier to get them to repeat certain behaviors when you reward them. A treat is also one of the most powerful rewards so during the training period always have some treats in handy. Be prepared to acknowledge his good behavior at any time.
Similarly when the dog does something negative such as digging from a trash can remember that the puppy does not know that this is something wrong. He is only doing it because it makes him feel good and for him at the time that is all that matters. Thankfully, Australian Shepherds have a penchant for pleasing their owners. Now you can begin learning how to correct undesirable behavior. Your puppy knows nothing about human behavior, but we have some tips that will help in training your Aussie below.
- Your Australian Shepherd puppy needs to acknowledge that you are now the alpha male in his new home.
- You will need to find ways to teach him in a way that he will understand. Word association is commonly used in dog training, and it is just as effective for training your Aussie. A word should refer to a command or behavior that you want your puppy to do each time you say it. Saying this command along with having a tasty treat and praising him verbally will communicate to the dog that he is doing a good job and will therefore motivate him to repeat these actions when he hears the command. For example when teaching a dog how to “sit”, always use the same term over and over again. Once he gets it right, congratulate him by adding “Good boy!”, together with a pet and handing over a treat.
- When it comes to successfully training your Aussie, timing is also an important element. In order to reward or discipline them you will need to catch them in the act because their learning is limited to the present tense. Upon doing something, trainers have a small window of three to five seconds to communicate this to the puppy otherwise they will have no idea what they are doing right or wrong. The bottom line in effectively training your Aussie puppy is that you need to remain consistent and observe proper timing.
- Use only one-word commands and keep them simple, such as sit, stay, down, outside. When you say things like “sit or down”, your puppy will take this in as a three worded command that he will not understand. Additionally, when emphasizing a command try to say it only once.
- We cannot stress how important it is during the training stage to always reward your puppy each time he does something good or stops doing something bad. This is the only way your Aussie will know that he is being a good dog.
- If more than 5 seconds has passed since your dog did something destructive, save your energy and do not bother correcting him. Best to wait another time when you catch him red-handed because he will not know what he is being reprimanded for anyway.
- When correcting your dog, never do this after you have asked him to come to you. He will associate the punishment is for approaching you. Instead, you should be the one who goes to the dog to correct him while you catch him doing something wrong.
- Under any circumstances, never ever hit your dog or strike him with an object even if it’s just a newspaper. This attempt to train your dog using physical force will only result in confusion and fear. Later on, this could also result in a development of aggressive behavior.
- Each time you verbally praise or correct your dog, use a positive and uplifting tone. Even if you are correcting him, your voice should be happy but firm. If you use a small, whiny voice for communicating “no” to him he will not be convinced. Aussies are sensitive to voice levels, so this is something that you should take into consideration at all phases of the training. Additionally, it is best to avoid family arguments in front of your dog because he will think that he did something wrong.
- When your dog successfully learns a trick, reinforce this by repeating it several times throughout the day.
In order to have a fulfilling relationship with your Australian Shepherd, it’s best to work with their intrinsic nature and work with things that are important to the dog. We have listed down the four most important things to an Australian Shepherd to guide you in building a happy, healthy life with them.
As herders, Aussies are naturally very sensitive about space issues and territory. It is not uncommon to see Aussies bark when overtly friendly dogs such as retrievers invade personal space. Similarly when you feel like your dog is invading your own private space, they know what they are doing so do not let them get away with it.
You can use this information to control your space. Aussies are very observant of bodily movements so if you feel that she is too close to the baby or to new guests just use your body to block her. You do not need to use any force or negative reinforcement, it is just simply about learning to use your body to communicate that they need to back down.
You can also reinforce this by restricting cuddling to the couch area or on the bed. Your Aussie will eventually learn about space but this does not mean that both of you cannot be close. Your dog will need to learn that they need to be invited to your personal space.
Once you take your Aussie home, they will remain alert and energized all throughout their lives. It is important that you keep them busy straight away but it is best to know when too much activity is bad for them. When Aussies are always hyper they can become vocal, to the detriment of their owners.
When it comes to the Aussie Shepherd, you have to learn how to work both his mind and body. Since they are natural herders it is best to come up with activities that will satiate this intrinsic nature of theirs. If you have a big family, teach your pup to round up everyone in the morning and usher them to the breakfast table. When you are walking the dog, spread your pack out on purpose so that you can give him the happiness of getting everyone back together.
If you live alone, teach your dog to “herd” its toys by giving each of them a name while instructing her to put them together or returning them to its box. Spread her things around the house on purpose so she will learn how to put things back together. Feel free to ask your dog to look for things which you accidentally misplaced, such as the car keys or other personal belongings. Your intelligent Aussie will sniff it out in no time!
Going back to the principle that Aussies need to be constantly busy, what this means for you, the owner, is that it is crucial to involve her in as many activities as you can throughout the day.
This breed can be easily bored with routine play times so whenever you can take her with you to errands even if it is something so simple as checking your mail outside. Bring her wherever you go as you can easily find a way to practice commands on them that they would enjoy doing. As an example if you want to check for mail command her to go to the mailbox rather than have your dog simply following your lead.
Remember that your dog wants to feel useful, so treat them like a partner in your daily activities. Taking them outside to play is not alone, you should be involved in the game too.
Similarly you should also have commands that will let your Aussie know when your engagement is through. Aussies always have energy so tiring them out is physically impossible. It is your call as the owner to let him know when it’s time to rest.
You can choose a command such as “Done” which will signify to him that work is finished. This can be accompanied by a tasty treat which will also teach him that it is perfectly ok no to be doing anything at all. He will learn that it is rewarding to be in rest periods too.
However, be consistent with all your commands especially when you are resting. Remember that your dog is an observant one, and he will notice if you are up and about despite telling him that work is through. This will only lead to confusion and for this particularly energetic breed this might sabotage your training efforts.
Training your Australian Shepherd will require lots of patience and time, but it is certainly one of the most rewarding breeds to have around the home.