How much is really necessary?
|I have to shake my head when I read applications that ask me for low energy.
Really? Do you know your on a website dedicated to Australian Shepherds?
Maybe I misunderstood what you meant to type because you can't possibly be on here and
asking me to produce a low energy lap dog. Seriously you can't. They don't exist!
So lets talk about Aussies and energy. (both physical and mental)
So First thing is first. Not only is your Aussie a high physical energy dog, he's also a high
mental energy dog. This means if he needs an hour of physical exercise he also need an hour
of mental stimulation. Double whammy! Sorry.
So lets all go back to basics and remember what this breed was bred to do. Be out in the
fields all day with the farmer tending to livestock. They had to have the stamina to keep going
and going and going, think energizer bunny. They couldn't tire or shut down, whether the
day was 3 hours or 20 hours, that dog had to have the ability to give 100% the entire time
without getting tired and sloppy in his work.
He had to take direction from the farmer, but he also had to be independent enough to problem
solve and take matters into his own paws when needed.
For generations we have looked at litters of puppies and chosen to only keep those puppies
for breeding that could meet these needs in full. This is a herding farm breed FIRST and a
family pet second. They make excellent family pets if you meet their needs as a working farm
dog. It's that simple. We do not plan our litters to meet your needs as a family, we plan our
litters based on what we think will better the breed as a working farm dog.
Nothing in the breeds description says anything about low energy, mellow, or cuddles on the
couch. If that's what you want I hear ToyRus has a great stuffed animal section.
So when you are looking at this breed you have to realize you are looking at a breed that is
going to demand you get out of the house. They need to get out and run. Yes I said RUN.
A walk for an aussie is a means to get from point A to point B. Nothing else. It may be where
you allow your dog to do his potty business but it has zero affect on the amount of physical or
mental stimulation the dog needs.
Every single aussie needs to get out for at least 1 run a day for no less than 1 hour in length.
You can break it into 2 - 30 minute sessions but this is the minimum requirement.
This is a minimum lower energy aussie. A higher energy aussie will need 2-3 runs at 45-60
minutes each and every single day, rain or shine.
I try to be VERY honest about the needs of each litter based on the needs of their parents, so
when I say the litter is high energy, I'm not just saying for fun, I'm saying i from experience.
Now realize that all a run at the park does is tires out the physical muscles, it's mindless. The
dog doesn't really have to think about anything, it just moves it's legs and goes forward. It's very
boring mentally. If you add in a ball or a frisbee you increase the mental work out of the run by
about 20%, now the dog has to watch the ball, catch it, bring it back. That's mental. If you are
playing disc and you are teaching various styles of going under legs, body vaults etc, now you
are using your time to stimulate both the physical as well as the mental needs of the dog. This
is a productive hour at the park and kills two birds with one stone so to speak.
Remember I said this was a high mental energy dog as well. I wasn't kidding. Think back to
anyone with a toddler that was busy, always chattering to you telling you stories, wanting to
touch things, and learn things, go places and do things and they were always going at high
speed, well that's an aussie, their brain likes to be kept busy, in fact it needs to be kept busy.
You should be doing.....
NO LESS THAN 60 MINUTES OF TRAINING PER DAY.
Yes I'm bring honest. Minimum 1 hour a day should be dedicated to just training your dog.
If you can not dedicate this time to the mental health of your dog.
Don't get an aussie.
Some litters will require more than one hour a day of mental stimulation.
TRUST in me as a breeder when I describe each litter.
I KNOW my dogs and I breed for active working aussies.
Now I'll make that above statement a bit more realistic.
Even I do not dedicate an hour all at one time. I break it up into many little sessions. I make
training a part of my every day life. I have dog treats in the bathroom, these guys love to follow
you into the bathroom, when your sitting on the toilet your hands are free. Grab a few treats and
do a sit, lay down, shake a paw, roll over, spin, speak etc. Get in a couple minutes of training.
Your hands are free anyway. When your standing at the stove or bbq cooking, your really not
doing much, you can only flip a burger so many times :) you have free minutes in there, use
them to train the dog. Do short heeling work in front of the stove back and forth, you can see
dinner and work the dog all at the same time.
Teach the dog how to pull on a rope, tie that rope to your lower cupboard doors, when you are
putting dishes away get the dog to open the doors for you by pulling the ropes. Teach him to
close the doors by bumping them with his nose. Now when you are putting dishes away he is
working with you. It doesn't take any extra time from your busy life, and he's getting mental
stimulation. Teach him how to pick things up off the floor and put them in a basket, now he can
help pick up dirty laundry with you or kids toys. Sure he may not be as fast as you, but it gives
him something to do. He can also pick up plastic water bottles for the recycling bin. Teach him
how to hold an object in his mouth and when you go get the paper he can carry it back to the
house for you. With a little imagination you can get your dog doing a few hours of "things" a day
and not actually take much time out of your day (once he's trained). Training should just
become part of your life style.
These guys are very agile. Set up a make shift agility course in your back yard with chairs,
broom sticks, hoola hoops, 2x4's etc and teach them how to go over, under and around things.
Teach them how to run out and go around a tree on command, now when you are out at a park
you can send him around trees ad garbage cans, keeping him both physically and mentally
stimulated. The farther away from you that you can send them, the more they get exercise and
stimulation. Use your surroundings!
If you are looking for a dog that you only have to teach the very basics to, sit, stay and come
when called, and then you want to just have an arm piece puppy that requires minimal
interaction on your part, this is NOT the breed for you.
Your aussie will be so mentally bored that he will create his own fun. He will bark, dig holes,
chew furniture/floor/drywall just to pass the time.
This is a breed that needs a family who wants to be interactive with them.
Even our lowest energy and more boring aussies need both physical and mental stimulation.
It's part of the breed.
Try and look past the "cute" factor.
If you see our dogs and how well behaved they are, realize that I live on a working farm.
We have pigs that we raise for meat, we have rabbits that we raise for meat. We are always
out doing yard work and I'm home 24/7 with the dogs so I get to interact with them all day long. I
also have more than 1 dog, so they play with each other when I'm busy and keep each other
entertained and stimulated. Our co-owners are professional entertainment homes who do a ton
of training to keep their dogs in mental and physical shape so that can travel across North
America entertaining crowds. When you see my dogs at a show being very calm and well
behaved, know that they've already had hours of both physical and mental stimulation that day
to be that calm and happy. We are meeting their needs so that they are easy to live with.
Be honest with yourself about your ability and desire to work with the dog.
These dogs do not slow down as they age. Our 10 and 11 year old dogs are just as active as
out 2 and 3 year old dogs. The physical and mental stimulation is a 10-15 year commitment.
If you are a young family just starting out, maybe you don't have kids yet or your kids are very
young. Try and think realistically if you will still have the time to dedicate to your aussie when
your children are toddlers and walking around, needing afternoon naps. What about when they
are school age, maybe you had time off of work and now you have to go back. The dog still
needs the same amount of physical and mental stimulation. His needs did not change. What
about when the kids are going to dance classes, hockey practice, karate? Will you still have
time to raise your children and provide for them as well as continue to meet your aussies
needs? You need to think long term plan before deciding to adopt an aussie.
If you have any doubts about your ability for the next 12-15 years, please be fair to the dog and
choose a less needy more suitable breed to love and take home.