10 Things You Should Know Before Owning an Australian Shepherd
They are cute, cuddly fur balls, but is an Australian Shepherd right for your family? There are many great things about Australian Shepherds, and they are popular family dogs. They are affectionate, easy to train, and they are medium size, so they are ideal for both home and apartment life.
Though you might think that an Australian Shepherd is from Australia, it is actually a breed that was created in the U.S. Aussies were originally bred to herd livestock for farmers and ranchers in the west, and there are still ranches and farms today that use these dogs to control their livestock.
There are a number of theories on what other breeds were used to make the Australian Shepherd. It is likely that you can trace these dogs back to other shepherds and collies, which were imported in the 1840s with sheep from Australia. Breeders of Aussies worked hard to enhance the herding ability of the breed, and they ultimately created the hardworking, versatile and intelligent dog we have today.
The Aussie went through a boom in popularity in the years following World War II, which also showed a new interest in horseback riding. Crowds that attended horse shows and rodeos fell in love with the dogs they saw working with the cowboys, and they wanted one of their own.
The dog was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1993, and today, it is loved by the families who bring them in. However, before you run out and get an Australian Shepherd, there are 10 things you should know:
10. Australian Shepherds Are Dominant and Controlling
One of the things that you must know about Aussies is that they like to be in control. These are dominant dogs who were bred to specifically control cattle and sheep. If there are no cattle or sheep around, they will start to herd you, your kids, other dogs, cat, or anything they can. Because of this dominant personality, owners of Aussies must establish themselves as the pack leader as soon as possible, or the dog will soon be running the household and calling the shots.
If not trained correctly, an Aussie may start to correct the behavior of other dogs or even people, and this could lead to behavior that may be seen as aggressive. Though these dogs are not often being aggressive to be mean or hurt another dog or their human, dogs often express their controlling nature with teeth. Again, they are not usually biting to hurt, they are biting to correct a behavior that they don’t like, and when they see themselves as the “top dog,” this behavior is the rule instead of the exception.
Luckily, there are things you can do with your Aussie to keep its behavior under control. For instance, you can reward the dog with praise when they show non-aggressive or non-dominant behavior. You may think that punishing the dog will stop the behavior, but instead, it only suppresses the behavior. Rewarding the dog for good behavior will extinguish the bad behavior. Distracting your Aussie when it starts to show bad behavior is also a good way to not only control any aggression, but also to show it that you are in charge.
9. Australian Shepherds Require Training…and a Lot of It
Any dog is a commitment, but if you are going to get an Aussie, you must be prepared to start training the dog on day 1. Of course, there are many sources out there that offer general dog training tips, but there are also tips that are specific to Aussies.
The first thing you should know when it comes to training your Aussie is that they require a lot of socialization as puppies. Aussies are very intelligent dogs, and he or she should have no issue picking up on basic obedience commands such as come, sit, down and stay.
It is also necessary to remain vigilant when allowing your Aussie to be off the leash. Remember, these are herding animals, so when they get off the leash, their instincts to herd will quickly come to the surface. Since this is the case with this breed, you also want to make sure that they are trained with a command that will allow them to come to you when called, no matter what.
One common theme that Aussie owners share about their dogs is that they can be destructive when they are puppies, and they love to chew. Thought they will look adorable when chewing on their toys and bones, they stop becoming cute when they start chewing on your expensive leather shoes. You can usually stop this behavior by keeping things, such as shoes, out of reach of the dog until they are trained, and redirect the dog to chew on toys when chewing on something they shouldn’t.
8. Australian Shepherd Have A Lot of Energy and Require Exercise
If you are going to get an Australian Shepherd, you have to remember that this breed was created to run and heard, and this is still part of the dog’s temperament, today. What does this mean for you? It means that you must make accommodations to meet their exercise needs.
Your new Aussie will require exercise each day, and this exercise must be rigorous. If you have a home with a large yard, you will likely find that some time throwing the ball, and watching your dog jump through the air to catch it is a great form of exercise. If the dog doesn’t get the exercise they require, you will likely notice that your dog’s demeanor will change. The dog will become bored, antsy and frustrated, and this could lead to aggressive or destructive behavior.
Some people learn that Aussie’s require all of this exercise and decide that this breed is not right for them. Those that do choose to go ahead with getting an Aussie find that there are a number of ways to ensure they get adequate exercise. For example, if you have kids, the dog will get exercise simply by playing with them. In addition, you will have to exercise the dog in other ways, too, such as playing frisbee with the dog, swimming, biking, hiking and running with it. You may also find that a nice, long walk with your Aussie will be enough to placate their exercise needs, and may help you stay in shape, too. These are great dogs for active people!
7. Australian Shepherds Will Get Very Attached To Their Owners
One common nickname for the Aussie breed is a “Velcro dog,” and for good reason. These dogs want to be with their owners as much as possible, and are always underfoot. Aussies always want to be where the action is, and will often choose one member of the family that they want to be with most of the time. They will often walk so close to family members that they will brush your legs as you walk, which can cause falls or tripping, especially on stairs, so if you are unsteady on your feet or have kids who may topple, keep this in mind before getting an Aussie.
You might think this is cute that your Aussie will want to be with you at all times, but there are issues with this. For instance, it can be unsafe as the dog will always be underfoot. If you do not allow your dog to be with you, they can show signs of depression, aggression or develop separation anxiety.
There are some things that you can do to stop the hyper-attachment of an Aussie. For instance, you can encourage the dog to bond with all members of the household. This will make the dog less likely to become attached with only one person. If the dog is already attached, ignoring some of their attention-seeking behavior can help, as can separating yourself from the dog. For example, use a baby gate to keep the dog in one part of the house while you go to another.
6. Australian Shepherds Can Be Protective Of Their Turf
Aussies are very protective. They can be wary of strangers and will want to protect their home and their family. As a potential owner of an Aussie, you must know that you have to put in the time and the effort to socialize them from puppyhood. If you don’t, you will find yourself with a very protective, read aggressive, adult dog. You do not want your dog to bite people or even other animals, so you must nip this in the bud.
Though an Aussie will make an excellent watch dog, you must make sure that you are taking precautions when introducing your dog to strangers, including other dogs. They can learn to accept new people and animals, but with some dogs, this can take longer than others. If you have children, the dog can become very protective of them, too, and if they notice that your children are possibly in danger, they may show aggression to the other people, even if your child is roughhousing with the neighbor boy or yelling or crying during a “play pretend” situation.
To combat this, again, you must start training the dog from a young age, and make sure that you are correcting this behavior when you notice it.