How Much Do You NEED TO TRAIN Your AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD
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HISTORY Let's take a quick look at the origins of this lovable breed so we can better understand their natural tendencies and how that affects them in our modern world. Firstly, the Australian Shepherd isn't a native Australian breed but the breed did have some refining in the country. They actually originated in the Pyrenees Mountains in Europe and were the shepherd dogs developed by the indigenous Basque. They were primarily sheepherders who needed medium-sized dogs with endless energy and sharp minds to help them move the flocks of sheep around the fertile pasture land. From that need, the original Aussie was developed and then refined with some English breeds in the 1800s in Australia. Upon arrival in the promising lands of California in the 1900s, local ranches fell in love with the intelligent working dog and they've been a staple in cowboy culture ever since. TEMPERAMENT Now let's really dive into the temperament that makes the Aussie such an extraordinary working dog and family companion. As a working canine Aussies typically find roles in, of course, herding livestock. They herd everything from Geese and Ducks, to sheep and goats, to horses and cattle with amazing dexterity. For larger herds, it's common for the Aussie to work as part of a team of several dogs all being directed by the shepherd or rancher. The needs of this demanding role mean that the Aussie must be highly intelligent and trainable, only mildly independent thinking, have an intense desire to please and be able to focus in chaotic environments. These same temperament traits are also what makes them fantastic in their other modern working roles as entertainers, service dogs, and even in scent detection work. They are extremely athletic so they are usually top competition at agility events and demanding canine sports. INTELLIGENCE The Aussie is incredibly smart and not just when it comes to the trick you teach them. They frequently rank in the top 10 to 20 most intelligent breeds and even as high at the top 5 on some lists. Their memory and determination are quite impressive and they have an insistent personality when they want something. Throwing a ball is a good example of their intelligence. When they bring a ball to you, they will look at you, at the ball on the ground, and back again several times subtly wondering if you don't know what to do. They'll be more obvious by picking it up and trying to shove it in your hand if they think you still need more help. They'll probably throw some pleading expressions your way or even pout if they don't get their way. It's a common experience with the breed that, as far as I know, has never been consciously taught to them. They are excellent manipulators when it comes to getting what they want and can be prone to obesity because of it. If they can get away with something once, you can bet the Aussie is going to remember it and try again and again to get the same result. In many ways, they are like a small child that knows just enough to work your emotions and brave enough to test the limits of what you'll let them get away with. Their intelligence can make them both frustrating and charming at the same time. TRAINABILITY Now, when the Aussie has a calm, consistent canine leader they can excel to amazing levels of obedience and skill. You'll find Aussies winning all kinds of canine competitions like flyball, agility, disc sports. They are also adept at modern functional roles as in service, search, and rescue, scent work, and emotional support. Of course, they are still often used in livestock work and are closely associated with the Western lifestyle in the US. Aussies can be trained to work as individuals and in groups all moving and stopping instantly on their leader's commands. Depending on what they are herding, they'll often be dodging kicks from large animals like sheep, horses, and cattle. There are more than a few that both work livestock and perform at rodeo events as well. Showing off the breeds amazing herding skills is common at rodeo events as well as trick performances. To train an Aussie to these levels takes tons of time and dedication on the part of their owner but they do pick up many things very naturally. They bond closely with one person in the family, usually the one who works with them the most, and will look to their primary person even if someone else in the home gives them a direction. In homes where they aren't competition or performance canines, they generally are quite well behaved and polite as long as there are consistent boundaries. You can see why it's so important that everyone in the home be on the same page and rise to their highest level of canine leadership with a breed like this. WRAP UP Aussie's are a high energy breed with an intense drive to a herd that can be redirected to other high-level sports like flyball, dock diving, or any number of tricks. They thrive in active homes where they can get several hours of play and exercise each day that satisfies their working instinct. They are incredibly sweet and affectionate with everyone but listen best to their primary person when it comes to commands and guidance. For an active and experienced canine leader, the beautiful Australian Shepherd just might be the perfect fit.