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Let me preface this post by stating I should have done more research about the breed beforehand.

A few months ago I rescued a 2 year old Australian Shepherd. I was bringing her into a home with a 7 year old Standard Poodle, 7 year old Goldendoodle, and 2 year old Cavapoo. The Poodle and Goldendoodle are half brothers with the same father.

Here's a picture for reference...

https://imgur.com/a/gVQ6u

At first, as expected, it took a few weeks for the Aussie to get comfortable in the new household. After 2-3 weeks of adjusting, it seemed that she was a perfect fit. She is very affectionate to myself and my parents, and even plays with the other dogs from time to time.

However, over the past three months, she has gotten into 3-4 altercations with the other dogs. By altercations I mean lunging/biting at the other dogs with no signs of stopping. We end up having to grab her neck and physically pull her off the other dogs. Then we put her on a leash and bring her outside to cool down. After about 10-15 minutes, we let her back in the house and it's as if nothing happened.

Here are my observations from each altercation...

1) The first time it happened my mom had just brought her back from walking around the area for an hour or so. She was in the backyard with her, and obviously was panting heavily. My dad then lets the Goldendoodle into the yard, and being excited to see my mom, runs over to her at full speed. I don't want to make excuses for the Goldendoodle, but he's a big goofball in that he can be clumsy and knock into people. Obviously it isn't intentional, however he ran at them full speed and ended up crashing into the Aussie. She immediately lunged at him and started to attack. My dad ended up having to pull her off of the Goldendoodle and separated them until she could calm down.

2) The second time it happened was when my mom came home from being out. About five minutes prior to my mom coming home, a delivery driver dropped off a package and the Aussie was going crazy barking at him/her until they left. We actually had 1-2 occurrences where the delivery driver was getting back into his truck and when we went to open the door to get the package she would run out at full speed and chase the truck down the street. Miraculously both times I guess when she thought the truck driver was long gone and no longer a threat, she came back to the house on her own accord which left all of us puzzled and baffled. Anyway, she was already hyped up from the delivery driver when my mom comes home. The Poodle and Goldendoodle run to greet my mom in excitement and accidentally bump into the Aussie. She immediately lunges at the Goldendoodle again and attacks him relentlessly. This time I had to pull her off by the neck and put her outside to cool down.

3) The third time is a little different from the first two times that perhaps can be attributed to the dogs bumping into her when she's in an excited state. She was laying down by our screen door which overlooks the backyard. She appeared to be in a relaxed state when all of a sudden my sister's Cavapoo comes up to the screen door and starts to jump on it. The Cavapoo was clearly excited to see us and was just saying hi, however the Aussie immediately started to growl and get nasty. She then jumped on the screen door and unfortunately since it wasn't completely locked managed to open it and get outside. She then bit the Cavapoo and practically had her in her mouth since she's really small and only weighs about 20 pounds. My dad had to grab her by the neck until she released the Cavapoo and separated them to calm her down.

There was another time when she fought with the Standard Poodle, but none of us were nearby at the time so we're not sure what caused that fight to occur. We've tried to socialize her with other people, but she clearly doesn't like strangers.

When my uncle came over my dad brought him and the Aussie in the backyard to introduce them. At first she would bark at him, but we told him to keep his hands in his pockets and not make eye contact. Eventually she stopped barking and started to smell him. Then all of a sudden she jumped on him and was staring directly at him almost daring him to look at her back as a challenge. My uncle didn't want to continue further which I can't say I blame him so we separated them and kept her outside while he was in the house.

From the research I've done on Australian Shepherds, it appears that this kind of behavior is not uncommon and is due to to the fact that they are a working breed and are very protective. All of the dogs I've owned my entire life are breeds that tend to be mild mannered and have a high tolerance threshold. It appears that she has a very low threshold and has no problem letting other dogs/strangers know that.

Ultimately we want her to be more sociable with dogs/people, but we're not sure exactly where to start as we've never had to train any of our dogs before. I have a feeling that the behavior of the other dogs will need to be adjusted as well. Any advice that can be given would be much appreciated. I would hate to have to resort to crating her or keeping her outside whenever we have company. At the same time, I can't keep waiting until she ends up seriously injuring one of our other dogs, or God forbid another person.
 

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Herding dogs are definitely good at redirecting their excitement into inappropriate behavior with others. Also, they are good at -stopping- the excitement of others. Being reserved with strangers is a common Aussie trait but not aggression. Some breeders who are not paying attention to what they are breeding temperament-wise might amplify some of these behaviors. Lack of early socialization can amplify these behaviors as well. Reserved and reactive becomes aggressive with improper socialization/breeding. Aussies are not -supposed- to be aggressive toward dogs or people, especially ones they live with.

Because your dog is a rescue you have no idea what their background is. Your dog may have been poorly bred or missed out on their socialization window when they were a puppy. They could have been attacked by other dogs. Sometimes dogs just kinda end up weird no matter what. You cannot easily make this adult dog be fine in a household with other dogs or even be friendly with strangers. You might be able to achieve -manageable- with lots of training and possible management. It really sounds like you may have to resort to crate and rotate for now. I would hire a professional POSITIVE reinforcement based trainer/behaviorist. You might have to ask around your area to find out who is good.. but I really think you'll need someone to actually come in and see the situation.

There is also the possibility that this dog needs a home that is quiet with no other dogs and a low traffic household. But talk to a professional first.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the feedback, I definitely agree that outside intervention is warranted in this situation. For now when we have company over we crate her or keep her outside. I have a feeling her previous owners did the same because she doesn't resist to either and seems to actually enjoy it which surprised me. When we are out of the house we don't separate the dogs and so far no fights have occurred when they are left alone. I would know if something happened because we have cameras setup inside and outside of our house.

In the past I had a Collie mix that definitely had herding tendencies, but not the same level of aggression as this dog. On the other hand, it just seems like she's not actively looking to be aggressive, it seems like some kind of pack leader/domination thing. I'm clearly no expert though, so I will look into a positive reinforcement based trainer/behaviorist as you suggested. Preferably one that has dealt with Australian Shepherds as they seem to have unique characteristics not necessarily shared with all types of working/herding breeds.

At this point, I'll take manageable if we can teach her to be tolerable of others, but we don't necessarily need her to be overly friendly as it doesn't seem to be in her personality/breed.
 

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I don't find that highly unusual for an Aussie, especially one from unknown background. We have a lot of Aussies around my area from poor breeders that end up like that, and they are rather reserved to begin with. They do like their space, and they will tell you all about it. They don't want much to do with other people or other dogs. I don't think your dog will ever be really sociable, at least not how you would prefer. Has she ever broken skin when she's fought the other dogs? If she's never broken skin, it's probably a "Get out of my space, NOW!" type of reaction, but a professional is still a good route to take to help you find a solution.
 

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Thank you for the feedback. She's never broken skin with the other dogs, we checked. In fact, with the Cavapoo, right after the altercation I thought she was going to be traumatized. Instead she came right back up to us wagging her tail like nothing happened. No bites towards the face, always towards the body/torso area. It's weird because she has these kinds of interactions with the other dogs at least 100+ times since she's been here. And 99% of the time she's fine, it was just those few occasions mentioned above. I wish I could find the catalyst so that I can remove her from the situation proactively. I am starting to wonder if it's because she's not getting enough exercise, and the combination of being in a hyper-excited state plus either having her boundaries crossed or feeling the need to herd/control the excitement of the other dogs is a bad combination for her.

Either way, I am well aware that I will never be able to trust her like I do my Goldendoodle. It's just not in her breed/personality and I have come to terms with it. I am just hoping I can get her to a place that I did with my Collie mix. The Collie mix would tolerate people, but obviously wasn't affectionate with strangers. So as long as I can tell people to just let her be, and she just does her own thing, then that's fine by me. Other than that, she's very affectionate to myself and my parents. She absolutely loves belly rubs, I must give her 3-4 every single day. And she'll come up to you and cuddle and give you lots of licks just because she wants to. It's pretty much the only reason I haven't given up on her and tried to find another home for her without all of the excitement that the other dogs/people bring.

Once the weather gets nicer, I'm going to start doing some agility/endurance training with her. I'm hoping that the combination of wearing her out every day and mixing in some positive reinforcement training will get her to the ideal temperament.
 

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Is she biting aggressively or trying to herd the other dogs? If she is trying to herd she will be relentless and she will have bite inhibition and she may, in fact, be trying to herd the other dog away.

Aussies were bred for close in "pen" work for herding (although they can gather and drive like Border Collies, they were bred to work in the pens to move animals in close quarters). It almost sounds to me like she is herding and not aggressing with the other dogs.
 

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All of the above have given good information on the Aussie.

I have an Aussie rescue too. She is from herding stock and as IPO......says she is relentless in the herding pen. An ornery sheep is in for some serious correction, Aussie wise.

Also my dog was attacked and bitten very early on. I doubt she will ever forget this. She is constantly on the lookout for other dogs. Ironically at training class she is perfectly ok with bumping into other dogs in close quarter drills. However untrained dogs elsewhere, she is suspicious.

In your case I think since you have a variety of dogs, I’d have someone handle one while you handle the Aussie. Go for walks. Heel under control. You can switch sides and lead and follow. I’d only use two commands. Heel and watch me. Carry plenty of pea sized treats, I use small pieces of hotdogs or Milkbones. Offer treats for correctly watching you on command and for correct heeling.

You will have to spend time getting to know the dog. Going for walks , training, socializing and controlled socializing with your other dogs. It’s not going to happen overnight. 6 months maybe.

Turning them loose in the backyard is rather old school. Letting them sort it out amongst themselves will surely draw some blood. But not life threatening. These “pack”. Fights will be round untill everyone knows there place and distance. With bigger dogs they can be pretty noisy and fierce looking. Not a good idea to get in the middle if you are not prepared to get bruised.


Your doodle invaded the Aussies space probably accidentally. How would you react if someone slammed into you? I’d shove back hard enough to send the message, and big enough to back it up. Others will just shrug it off.

My Aussie absolutely loves belly rubs too. Even if she is standing she likes a standing belly rub. She also likes hugs and cuddling.
If your Aussie has stock dog breeding I doubt you will ever wear him out. We walk up to about 12 miles a day. There is still plenty of energy for a dog class and play time.
 

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UPDATE:

So it's been a few months and I wanted to give an update since a lot has happened.

We ended up hiring a professional dog trainer that specializes in Australian Shepherds. We hired her for six lessons, but honestly we probably only needed 1-2 because the transformation was immediate. The trainer gave us a lot of insight as to why our Aussie was behaving that way, and how we can help improve her aggression and/or socialization issues.

The first piece of advice which I kind of knew already was that this breed needs a ton of exercise. The breed needs a job to do, and if they are sitting around all day with no stimulation, they will resort to bad behaviors that can be very difficult to correct. So every day besides walking her we also take her in the backyard and throw tennis balls around. She absolutely loves fetching them and after about 10-15 minutes of this she eventually tires out.

The second piece of advice which I think has had the biggest impact is giving her verbal commands. As part of the dog training program, the trainer gave us a collar similar to shock collars, but it doesn't actually shock the dog. It buzzes or vibrates instead and helps to focus her and get her attention. So after the first lesson, the trainer said our homework was after we exercised her, to take her aside from the other dogs and practice commands with her. It turns out just putting the collar on her changed her behavior immediately to the point where the trainer could tell she had been trained this way before.

With the collar on, she was immediately receptive and to our surprise already knew several commands such as come, sit, stay, and lay down. So the trainer said by us exercising her and doing these commands, we were teaching her that she didn't need to be the pack leader and that it was probably causing her serious anxiety/stress thinking that she had to be on guard and correcting the other dogs all of the time.

Within 3-4 days of doing the commands, we immediately noticed a change in her behavior. She was much more calm and friendly to the other dogs, and over time they have all bonded to the point where I've seen them laying either next to each other or even on top of each other. She is very affectionate to all of us, and has improved greatly with inviting company over. In the past, we had to remove her from the room or put her outside when we had company. Now she's at the point where she will keep an eye on them, but doesn't bark or go after them at all. And most importantly, the altercations with the other dogs stopped.

I think with more socialization we will be able to improve her herding behaviors even more, but we understand they will never go away entirely. We put the collar on her everyday so she's used to it and it allows us to get her attention if we notice she's starting to regress a little with the herding tendencies. Overall though I am very happy with the results. She is a completely different dog from a few months ago for sure.

I hate to admit this, but to be honest, if the trainer didn't work out I don't know what we would have done. I can see how new dog owners or people who aren't well versed into the breed would just give up on her due to the aggression and herding instincts. However, in the end, all it took was a better understanding of how she works, and taking over the pack leader role so she doesn't have to feel the need to do everything herself. Now she can just enjoy being a dog which is what we hoped for all along.
 

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I’m glad you made progress with your dog. As you continue you will find just how enjoyable the times can be when everybody behaves. Aussies are indeed herding dogs. It hasn’t been bred out, yet. It just needs to be directed. We did go to herding classes for a while. It helped a lot as far as her learning to control her instinct for a purpose. It actually help a lot dealing with everyday things. Essentially she learned that not everything needed to be herded or gathered. Snapping and nipping were to be reserved for the ornery cow or sheep that were causing trouble. People didn’t need to be herded.

I think what you need to do now is enroll in dog training classes. If you have not done this before, understand that the trainers do not train your dog. Essentially they are teaching you how to train your dog. In these classes you will get a lot of close moving exercises next to other dogs. Your dog will learn to watch you for direction.

Personally the pack leader thing is old school. You are leading or teaching the dog what you want him to do purposely by showing him what you want not coercing him by forcing some kind of superior being on him.

If you want to do some agility training you will have to have had some basic obedience training before being accepted into classes. Were I a bunch younger I would have gone into agility with my Aussie but I simply can’t move fast enough. Instead we do “streetwise” exercises. Everyday things like going up and down stairs step by step. Not bounding up and down. We go in and out of doors in a controlled manner. Always stop at streets and crossings. We do close heel as well as free time on a long leash. We have a high speed recall that gets better everyday. This is probably the most important command you can have. I use voice, whistle, hand signal and flash light. In the field will the very long leash we learn direction calls. Go around means backup and go on the other side of an obstical. Backup 1,2,3 or more steps. We learn heel on the left, right side, follow behind and lead depending on the need.

Everything is done in a calm purposefull manner.

There is a lot more but this is to show you some direction.

We do not associate with other dogs at all. In my mind it’s just asking for trouble. Look at it this way, there are about 98 million dogs in homes, only about 4% ever get any training. So your chances of meeting a trained dog are pretty slim.

Surprisingly in training classes there is rarely dog to dog problems. I have seen it twice but it was pretty obvious before it happened.

Dogs seem to just know others are there not to fight but to work and have an enjoyable time. However dogs consider that. It’s a very mentally taxing thing for the dogs to be working in this environment. My dog will curl up and sleep for the hour drive home then get in her bed or on my bed for the rest of the night.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
I’m glad you made progress with your dog. As you continue you will find just how enjoyable the times can be when everybody behaves. Aussies are indeed herding dogs. It hasn’t been bred out, yet. It just needs to be directed. We did go to herding classes for a while. It helped a lot as far as her learning to control her instinct for a purpose. It actually help a lot dealing with everyday things. Essentially she learned that not everything needed to be herded or gathered. Snapping and nipping were to be reserved for the ornery cow or sheep that were causing trouble. People didn’t need to be herded.

I think what you need to do now is enroll in dog training classes. If you have not done this before, understand that the trainers do not train your dog. Essentially they are teaching you how to train your dog. In these classes you will get a lot of close moving exercises next to other dogs. Your dog will learn to watch you for direction.

Personally the pack leader thing is old school. You are leading or teaching the dog what you want him to do purposely by showing him what you want not coercing him by forcing some kind of superior being on him.

If you want to do some agility training you will have to have had some basic obedience training before being accepted into classes. Were I a bunch younger I would have gone into agility with my Aussie but I simply can’t move fast enough. Instead we do “streetwise” exercises. Everyday things like going up and down stairs step by step. Not bounding up and down. We go in and out of doors in a controlled manner. Always stop at streets and crossings. We do close heel as well as free time on a long leash. We have a high speed recall that gets better everyday. This is probably the most important command you can have. I use voice, whistle, hand signal and flash light. In the field will the very long leash we learn direction calls. Go around means backup and go on the other side of an obstical. Backup 1,2,3 or more steps. We learn heel on the left, right side, follow behind and lead depending on the need.

Everything is done in a calm purposefull manner.

There is a lot more but this is to show you some direction.

We do not associate with other dogs at all. In my mind it’s just asking for trouble. Look at it this way, there are about 98 million dogs in homes, only about 4% ever get any training. So your chances of meeting a trained dog are pretty slim.

Surprisingly in training classes there is rarely dog to dog problems. I have seen it twice but it was pretty obvious before it happened.

Dogs seem to just know others are there not to fight but to work and have an enjoyable time. However dogs consider that. It’s a very mentally taxing thing for the dogs to be working in this environment. My dog will curl up and sleep for the hour drive home then get in her bed or on my bed for the rest of the night.
Thanks for the post!

At some point I may look into Dog Training classes. Honestly I just want her to be able to tolerate when I have company over. What's interesting is that when we take her away from the house, all of the herding and protective instincts disappear. I've taken her to pet stores numerous times, and she ends up being the most well mannered dog there. Now I'm not naive enough to let people pet her, but she doesn't growl or stare people down when they stop and comment on her looks. Also no issues when we take her to be groomed, and it's not like she knows them or anything.

Agility training would just be for fun, not anything like trying to do it professionally. I've seen numerous videos on YouTube of people doing all sorts of tricks with Aussies and thought it would be neat to do. It would also be another form of exercise and give her something to do mentally and physically.

Like I said in my earlier post, she's much better with company. In fact, she licked my brother in laws hand and let him pet her the other day. She still growls at him though sometimes, but only when he goes to another room away from the rest of us. So clearly she still has some herding behaviors to correct, but still 1000% better than a few months ago. I think the only way to fix that is to keep exposing her to him and others so she gets used to them. It's a tough balance though because I like how protective she is of us in the house. I guess you just have to pick your battles.
 

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Since you are dealing with people thing here, how about putting a dish of small treats by the doors. Obviously high enough the dog won’t jump for them. But he may figure it out. They are not dumb.

Then advise visitors to take a few treats and offer them when the dog approaches. It won’t hurt to add nice talk like “ oh, good boy”. You might even be able offer pets.

I go the opposite way with my dog she must sit to get treats. No jumping on people. She can stand up to the counter at the pet stores or the vet. When buying dog food she will,often jump up on the counter to help ring it up.

Another thing that is very high energy for the is a retrieve game. We have 15 toys that I toss across the living room into the hallway. Sam runs hard to get them and bring them back. She must sit to get the treat. She has a couple favorites so we do them to start then finish with them too. When we are done she gets four small treats and gets to lick the treat bowl cover. Also I provide fresh water and say “ let’s get your water”.

It’s similar to football blocking drills I did and coached the team. They hated it especially if one of the kids collapsed before finishing. Then it was a lap. But in the end it was fun for them when we won the championship. The dogs love the running with reward like this. It helps develope the real bond you need.
 
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