Australian Shepherds need to vent their energy on a regular basis and to utilize their active and brilliant minds, otherwise they will become out of control and bored stiff -- which they usually express by barking and destroying. A bored Aussie will trash your house and yard. Chewing on furniture, walls and shredding whatever they can get their teeth and paws on. Imagine you just got home from a hard day at the office and just want to kick back and relax. You walk through the door and your Aussie is wiggling that butt, joyful to see you and excited to show you the couchthat he ripped to shreds or the leg of the chair that has been chewed down to a nub.
Here are some examples of the brilliant Aussie mind...
Most dogs see a fence as an obstacle, Aussie see it as a challenge and will devise a number of strategies to jump over. Most dogs see a large tree branch as something to chew on in the back yard. An Aussie sees it as something that they can strategically maneuver through a doggy door, bring into the house, and prance around, head held high displaying their trophy. Most dogs would show their desire for food by sitting by their bowl or staring you in the face. An Aussie will open cabinets, reach on counter tops or go on a doggy scavenger hunt to find something yummy for their tummy. They are quite pro active. So, unless you need an excuse to remodel your house or buy new furniture, here are some suggestions to stimulate your Aussies mind and keep them occupied:
1. Frozen surprise water bowl: Take a large mixing bowl and fill it with chicken or beef broth, place a nylabone or other non dissolvable treat into the bowl and put it in the freezer. Once frozen, take it out of the freezer and place it upside down in the sink and run warm water for just a few seconds. Now take it out to the backyard, place it upside down, tap lightly and the frozen treat filled delicacy will be on the ground. Depending on the time of year and where you live will determine how long it will take your Aussie to devour the broth and get to the treat.
2. Aussie Hide and Seek:Once your Aussie knows the command 'sit' hide and seek will be a blast. Have your Aussie sit and stay. Leave the area whether inside or out, and once you have found a good hiding spot, call him! To make it extra fun, have a treat in your hand so that when he finds you, he will be handsomely rewarded, although finding you would be reward enough for him.
3. Joyriding: You know all those short errands that you do? The post office, picking up dry cleaning, drive through coffee or putting gas in your car? I know these are not very exciting for you but for your Aussie it is an opportunity to see new and exciting things with every car trip. This is a win- win situation. Your Aussie has something to do and you get to spend more time with him! Just remember of course, do not do this in warmer weather, make sure your windows are open enough for air flow but not too much for your Aussie to see something and want to jump or for someone to reach in and make sure the errands will keep you out of the car for only few moments.
4. Play dates: If you know someone with dogs that are well behaved and socialized, then arrange for a play date. Even a 30 minute to one hour play date will give your Aussie something new and exciting to do, while making new friends, getting exercise, improving socialization and sharing skills and again spending more time around you. Bring your Aussie to see other dogs another car ride!) or invite the dog (and owner of course) to your home. Of course, always make sure to supervise.
5. The All mighty Kong: What is more fun than watching a dog eating peanut butter? Almost nothing. Kong toys are amazing. They are safe and durable, and once filled with a delectable treat they will keep your Aussie for a while.
6. Dog Puzzle toys: There are a couple of companies that offer a variety of dog puzzle toys that can keep your dog busy and stimulate his huge brain: Kyjen Dog Games, Ethical Pet, Star Mark, Zanies, Pet safe Premier and Company of Animals.
A stimulated mind is a happy mind, and a happy mind is a beautiful thing!
We are all quite confident that we understand our Aussie's moods and emotions pretty well. A wagging tail is utter excitement, those big sad eyes of depression saying 'don't leave' when you walk out the door, the drooping head of shame when they have been scolded for doing something wrong or inconsolable depression when a pack member or companion has passed. Yes it is true that dogs do experience emotion, but on a much different level then we humans. Each and every emotion that a dog experiences is pure unadulterated honesty.
Dogs do not have the capacity to 'fake it' or have other ulterior motives. When your Aussie looks at you with those loving and adoring eyes, I can assure you that your Aussie does love you with every core of his being, although he may play it up a little bit if there is a treat involved.
Recent Science has proven that dogs have quite similar brain structures to ours and can cause/produce our wide range of emotions. Dogs experience the same chemical changes that we do during the various emotional states due to having the same hormones to include oxytocin, which, is the hormone that expresses love and affection. In fact Gregory Berns, a professor of neuroeconomics at Emory University, had spent two years training dogs to go into an M.R.I. scanner completely awake and unrestrained to obtain his results. Berns stated that 'the ability to experience positive emotions, like love and attachment, would mean that dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child," Berns writes in the New York Times. "And this ability suggests a rethinking of how we treat dogs." In his final report he stated that "Dogs are people too." In another study by Friederike Range and colleagues at the University of Vienna in Austria and Paul Morris at the University of Portsmouth, they suggest dogs have a complex range of simple unpleasant emotions such as jealousy and pride, giving them a sense of fairness that has never been discovered before. It is indeed a hard concept to wrap your head around, that our dogs do experience emotions much like we do, but it is necessary to understand that the emotional ranges of dogs and humans are not identical.
Dogs do however experience specific emotions that are radiating from their owners. That is why your anxiousness would be passed on to your dog, demonstrating anxiousness as well. If you radiate fear, your dog will feed off of that fear. That is why a strong confident owner generally has a strong and confident dog. This clearly explains to me why our dogs walk on the leash so much better for my husband than for me. He apparently exudes far more confidence than I when walking them. Studies have also proven that your dog will respond and replicate your yawn more often than a stranger. That suggests dogs are "emotionally connected" to people, study leader Teresa Romero of the University of Tokyo said in a statement. I am doubtful it would happen in my lifetime, but wouldn't it be nice if one day people would come to know universally that dogs are highly intelligent creatures that experience intense human emotion such as joy, love and sorrow, and maybe that will lead to great changes in animal rights......... One can certainly dream.
Your Aussie's Natural Instincts
Australian Shepherds are protective watchdogs. They are closely attached, loyal and committed to their families and
are very affectionate with family members. They are often possessive, protective and territorial. They don't usually seek
contact with strangers due to their strong loyalty and family guarding instincts, therefore Aussie owners must be aware of
the guardian tendency and understand that normal precautions should be taken when introducing strangers to their
Aussie's territory and family.
Aussies have a strong and natural need to step in and take charge of a situation and will not easily back off due to their loyalty. When an Aussie feels that a family member is in danger, they exhibit these instincts by nipping at legs and feet of the assailant not as a vicious attack, but as a warning to stay away. Once you add their intelligence and herding instinct to their strong guarding instinct, they are often misunderstood and mislabeled as aggressive dogs. Many ignorant people have pressed charges against Aussie owners accusing their dogs of being vicious when in fact they were simply and factually protecting their own. These misunderstanding cause great stress and financial hardship to those Aussie owners. And depending on where you live and the philosophy of the local animal control, the outcomes can vary. Some communities are more schooled on the breed and understand while others would not hesitate to confiscate and destroy the dog.
Here is a testimonial from Kristie Rhodes-Kissler, a disabled veteran in Colorado who experienced her very own nightmare:
By Kristie Rhodes-Kissler
Hi! I am Kristie and this is my mini aussie, Arthur. He is my great protector! Loyal to the bone! On Sept 27, 2013 I was right outside my front door letting him go potty on a bush 1 foot away from me. Suddenly a very volatile neighbor came storming toward me screaming "get your F*#%ing dog on a leash"! Arthur alerted. I calmly asked the man to stop so I could get Arthur in the house. This man was about 6 feet away from me at the time. He gave me no time and responded by screaming "eff that" and stormed toward me in an aggressive manner. When he got about 3 feet from me, Arthur took over! He herded him in another direction and nipped him. My neighbor began screaming and stomped upstairs and called animal control. I took Arthur back inside while my neighbor had his screaming fit.
I then talked to animal control and explained what happened. I was criminally charged with having him off leash and possession of an aggressive animal! Seriously! So, I went to court on 10/15/13 on my own with pictures, his agility awards and letters from people attesting to Arthur's temperment and character. The judge thought the charges were ridiculous! The judge told me I should go to trial because I would win. I am a 100% disabled veteran and can't afford a lawyer and I told the judge that part of my disability was anxiety and I couldn't continue with this. This wonderful judge dropped all charges but one. Suspended all fines. Told me to keep Arthur in agility instead of mandatory obedience training to save me more money. And then I have to have his microchip swiped by animal control. That is IT! We are FREE!!!!! Yay! Justice prevailed!!
The Social Aussie
Socialization: A continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values,behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.
Although the Aussie is highly intelligent and sweet natured, proper socialization is a critical and essential part of any Aussie training if you want him to thrive at his full potential. Knowing how to socialize with kids and grown-ups as well as other domesticated animals results in a well adjusted Aussie that is comfortable in his surroundings. This is especially critical for Aussies as their breed is often reserved with strangers and have strong guardian instincts to family. It is highly important for your Aussie to get accustomed to people and different environments, but socialization requires a well planned introduction to a variety of different environments so that he will become comfortable anywhere you may take him.
An Aussie that has not been properly socialized can often be frightened and apprehensive in new situations, and a fearful Aussie will be a perilous Aussie. Socialization is not an option, it is mandatory and critical for the well being of your Aussie and in turn, you. The most optimum time to begin this training is no later than 18 weeks of age, as during this stage they are highly accepting of new places, people and animals. Proper socialization is simply not walking your dog around Pets Mart or a Sunday trip to the dog park. It requires so much more. Part of socialization is teaching your Aussie to be comfortable in a variety of environments. This can prove especially helpful when at the vet.
Part of the socialization process can also be done in the comfort of your own home. A lot of noise and confusion or the sound of the vacuum cleaner, disposal or lawnmower can prove stressful to your Aussie if he is not used to it. Introduce him to these things slowly and gradually, most definitely not all at once. Show him that you are calm around these noises, and reward his positive response.
Many people practically force their pup to meet new people or experience new environments no matter how stressed out they seem to be. You will need to protect him from becoming too overwhelmed or scared. You don't want to give him more than he can handle or your good intentions could backfire and cause lasting emotional damage such as the 'fight or flight' reaction. And if he can't remove himself from the stressful situation, he could fight. Look for the signs and cue's. Your must encourage your Aussie's confidence as he goes out into the world. Reward the positive responses with a treat.
When out in public, don't make a big deal about it. Don't use that high excited voice. We know our Aussies respond to our moods and emotions. Simply carry on, almost paying no attention to your Aussie, showing him that being out and about is no big deal, especially when conversing with other people. If your Aussie is already an adult when you get him (hopefully through rescue/foster/adoption) then your focus should be more about behaving calmly in public and walking nicely on a leash since you won't be dealing with the happy go lucky puppy attitude. When introducing him to new dogs, make sure it is only one at a time as to not overwhelm him and of course make sure the other dog is well socialized as well. If any anxiousness or aggression is sensed from either dog, command your dog to walk away and reward him for that positive response with praise and treats.
The point here is that proper socialization with benefit the dog if he finds it an enjoyable experience. Teaching your puppy or adult dog appropriate social behavior and protecting him from unwanted behavior and contact will prove fruitful in building the everlasting bond and trust between you and will give you many happy years and wonderful experiences with your loving pet.