HOW MUCH EXERCISE DOES A AUSTRALIAN SHEPHERD NEED?
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The Aussie was the pride of Basque shepherds who used them to work their flocks of sheep in the Pyrenees Mountains. By way of Australia, the breed found its way to the shores of California in the US in the very late 1800s. They were quickly picked up by local ranchers who adored the Aussie for its quick movement, incredible mind, and adaptability to herd everything from geese to cattle. It wasn't until very recently in 1993 that the AKC recognized them, despite being a fixture and icon in cowboy culture for nearly 200 years at that time. The Aussie is still closely associated with cowboy culture and is incredibly popular as a working dog on ranches and rodeos across the US. They have found such success in their modern roles in large part because of their extremely high energy level and desire to work. Don’t think they’ll exercise themselves in your yard without you giving them a job to do. ENERGY To excel at herding livestock, the Australian Shepherd must have exceptional mental and physical energy and a quick walk around the block just won’t cut it with these compact canines. They are generally considered a high energy breed and need as much physical exercise as they do mental. You may have some individuals that are higher or lower energy than others, but in general, Australian Shepherds have a high energy level that can get them into trouble. When you're thinking about ways to burn off their energy, be mindful of their tendency towards obesity when using treats and food rewards during training and play time. You should plan to go for a long, brisk walk or jog at least several times a day with your Australian Shepherd and ideally incorporate some hills or agility work to keep them in shape. If you’re a cyclist or running then the Aussie is a great choice for you since they have the stamina to run for hours when properly conditioned. TRAINABILITY/INTELLIGENCE The Australian Shepherd is a highly intelligent breed that is very capable of excelling at mentally demanding canine sports like obedience and agility. They can be stubborn at times no matter what level of training you take them to, but regularly working on their obedience will exercise their big brains wonderfully. I know it sounds like having a Australian Shepherd requires a lot of extra effort on your part as their canine leader, and that is absolutely true. But you also have to remember that exercising their brain and body often happens at the same time. For example, every time you take them on a walk, don't just walk the neighborhood for an hour. Incorporate sit, stay, down commands along the way and double back on your path or run every so often to refine their heeling. I go over all of this more in-depth in my Boot Camp course, and it's great for adult dogs. If you're just starting out with your Australian Shepherd puppy, though, check out the Perfect Puppy course that builds a rock-solid foundation for their lifetime training. PLAYTIME Australian Shepherds are naturally very in tune with their family, which means they are wherever you are and looking for what job you’ll give them next. Don't expect them to work off all their energy in the backyard while you watch TV, especially if they are the only canine in the home. They'll play with other dogs of all sizes, but it's best if you supervise because of their high energy. Playing with other dogs only works off so much of their mental energy, though, and they need structured playtime with you as their canine leader. Most Australian Shepherds will learn agility and tricks easily, while others might prefer to sprint after a large ball with you or love games where they have to use their powerful sense of smell. They can be taught to fetch easily, and it’s a game that can burn through a lot of their energy with less effort on your part. Be prepared to spend a lot of time with fetch, many individuals of this breed aren’t picky with who thows a ball as long as they get to play for hours. No matter how you exercise them, your Australian Shepherd will always be happiest when they are making you happy and getting quality time with their whole family. WRAP UP Australian Shepherds are fantastic working dogs that love spending time with their family, cuddling on the couch after a good long play session and a few long runs. You'll find that they are exceptionally energetic and puppy-like for about the first 2 years of their life. Keep training and be patient with them, and you'll find that an Australian Shepherd is a spectacular canine worth the extra effort they need from you to exercise them properly every day.