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future aussie owner - what am I missing?

1176 Views 14 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Bentwings
I will soon be getting a female 8-week old Australian Shepard. It will be my first aussie and I haven’t had a dog since I was a teenager. I would like to know if I’m getting in over my head and if what I have in mind is even possible.

My wife and I are both retired and live on 20 acres - 6 acres of orchard/vineyard are fenced for deer and the rest is wild. The dog will eventually have free run of the 6 acres with the idea that she can discourage visits from unwanted wildlife - raccoons, opossum, turkeys, bobcats, etc. I have a free ranging flock of chickens that I’m hoping to train the dog to protect but not harass too much. I realize this may be a tall order.

The breeder I’ve chosen states that the puppy will be trained to use a doggie door. The puppy’s first ‘room’ will be a grated off laundry room with a doggie door to an outside small fenced area along the house. This sounds ideal but does anyone have experience with giving a puppy this young that kind of outdoor access? I’m a little concerned with a possible attack from a Great-horned Owl, bobcat, coyote, raccoon - all of which show up occasionally. I’m trying to make the area as puppy proof as possible.

I’m steeling myself up for the initial grind of dealing with a puppy and have been studying training techniques and scouring this forum. I’m aware of the high energy level of aussies but that, and their intelligence, is exactly what I’m after. I intend to ask the breeder to help me in selecting a puppy that is not too ’high strung’. Is that something that can be determined at a young age?

This is a great forum and I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.
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Just because the breeder uses a doggy door doesn't mean you have to. It's your dog, and if you don't feel comfortable letting it out through a doggy door, then don't. You can certainly make an enclosure that has top, too, so birds can't swoop in if it is something you want to do. Personally, I wouldn't give a puppy that much freedom yet until they are potty trained and can be trusted not to cause a ruckus.

A good breeder can usually tell which pups are calmer and which are more high strung, but all adolescents seem to be pretty nuts!

Many dogs can coexist with chickens. If started early, there's a pretty good chance the pup can learn to leave them be. There are a couple of threads on this forum about counter conditioning to cats, and counter conditioning to chickens would be pretty much the same thing, unless of course you want the dog to actually round up the chickens, then that's different.
Have you talked to the breeder about health testing? I know that Aussies can have the MDR-1 gene mutation which makes them more sensitive to certain medication (like Ivermectin, found in a lot of heartworm prevention), as well as PRA and Collie Eye Anomaly, and hip dysplasia.

Personally, I'm not that wild about doggie doors for young puppies. I'd rather supervise their outdoor time. I can totally seeing a Great Horned Owl or a hawk mistaking a puppy for a rabbit.... maybe it you could put a roof (or at least wire) over the area you are planning on using?

As for training, a positive based in person puppy class would be a good idea. there is also a great online resource called Fenzi Dog Sports Academy http://www.fenzidogsportsacademy.com/ There is a good class in theor Self-Study section called Raising a Performance Puppy, that is really just a good, all around puppy class.
Welcome to the Aussie club!

LeoRose is spot on with the health testing - Atlas and his litter went to have their eyes checked before they came home, and I have copies of the hip test results from both of his parents. His breeder knows her lines and her dogs well, so was able to tell which puppies would be good where. I've said this before on the forum, but she did a great job picking! Atlas' one brother went to a home with three (now four) kids and has been incredibly sweet with them from day one. She picked Atlas for us because she knew he would be my kid and I would spend a lot of time and effort on him. (He's also very sweet, but was a total land shark for the first six weeks after we brought him home!)

I agree with maybe not using the doggy door right off the start if you are worried about other wildlife. Plus, it might be nice (and helpful) to learn her potty habits/timing which will likely help you housetrain her. I had very few (maybe 5?) accidents with Atlas, but we went outside a lot those first weeks!

I hope you enjoy this breed as much as I am!
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I have no experience with the breed, but generally speaking I wouldn't allow a young puppy that much freedom either.

I think it's great that you're doing so much research before getting your puppy; so many people don't. I do want to say though that you can be as prepared as possible and still be completely overwhelmed with a new puppy, especially since this is your first one. Try not to get discouraged and remember that if you are patient and consistent you will end up with a great dog in the end :)
Thank you for the encouragement. I'm really looking forward to the experience.
Thank you. I've never heard of counter conditioning but will pursue it.
Thank you. I've done my homework on the health issues. The breeder is well established and very professional. The pup will come with a 5 year health guarantee.
All good points above.
Now, Aussies are very much people and family dogs and thrive on close contact with their family. They also are great herding dogs with a totally different style from Border Collies. They use barking and nipping to get their point across to live stock. A working Aussie will have plenty of prey drive and by a year and a half will be big enough and strong enough to drive off most small game predators.

I would not let a puppy run loose in your yard yet. He will need to know its limits and they are unbelievable escape artists. They can be very independant yet very good around people and livestock. But you need to train them for what you want.

I don't have any limits in my appt. my Aussie can go anywhere inside but I try to discourage counter surfing. Mine will eat about anything edible.

They have almost unlimited energy as young dogs and only slow down as they become more comfortable in their environment. They generally are very smart and you need to be 3-4 steps ahead of their thinking all the time. They thrive having something to do.

I would plan on weekly classes right from the start. First to help you learn to train them, then for close socialization with other people and dogs. They will need this well into adult life. We have been going to classes for four years almost every week.

They need their own place to rest so I'd get a big crate. I have the largest available. Mine has to be crated at work due to shop dangers but at home it's just a den for her. Most of the time my Aussie follows me everywhere.

We we walk 3-12 miles every day regardless of weather. A little less in very hot or very cold weather but every day. Mine will not go potty in the house, ever. She will go about 100 yds minimum, sometimes waiting until we are a mile away. We have a very intense play/ training time 2-3 times a day.

Almost every Aussie owner will say they need a job. Mine " does laundry". She goes and picks up my dirty cloths and brings them to the washing machine.

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This is all very helpful. I'd never thought of a 'doing laundry' job but what a great idea.

Can anyone give me pointers on what to look for in a puppy class as well as classes for adult dogs. I'm not interested in show or completion.
Puppy classes are usually an introduction to sit, stand, down, come when called and beginning heel. All things you can practice at home. The classes, in my mind, become proofs and positive reinforcements and socialization with other dogs. Don't be afraid to just attend classes at various training centers to see what they are doing. We go to three different centers each has completely different atmospheres. One I call chaotic as there is little room to get around and it's very noisy. Another is exactly opposite. The third is about between. These all are very mental on the dog. They are the one thing that will tire my dog.

Once you have been to a couple class groups say 8 weeks each, you should be ready for a beginner obedience class. I'd look for one more oriented toward general street wise things. Heeling side by side, following and approaching. Recall perfection, leave it, unusual footing and situations.

By this time I add going in and out of doors in an orderly fashion, going up and down stairs calmly by your side, and beginning loose leash walking.

Our advanced classes are extensions of this. I added a watch me command so the dog keeps a more or less constant watch of me whether she is heeling on the left or right. I added a lead and follow command too for going between things. Also a go around command for avoiding getting tangled with signs and other sniffable objects. I added a command to purposely pull on the leash for exercising. This builds massive strength everywhere.

A very important one is an automatic halt or stop at all crossing streets, driveways or path. Then a calm close order heel for crossing streets, watching me closely.

We did rally for awhile but abandoned it because there was too much stand around time and little teaching or guidance at classes.

Be aware that most people do not take their dogs to classes of any kind often saying my dog doesn't need it or some other lame excuse. These people and dogs you have to be very wary of as the dogs may be off leash and with out warning rush you or simply attack.
I'm very short tempered with this and will not hesitate to spray pepper spray all over drive off by what ever means necessary any dog that is not leashed near us. Dog attacks and challenges are not fun.

You can use your imagination.

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First on all...congrats! Best dogs I've ever had. Be sure he/she gets checked out by a vet first. We rescued a baby someone abandoned and now she has heart issues and we are looking at surgery. But, we have two and they learn everything so quick! Potty training was a breeze with both. They love to learn new tricks so keep them learning stuff daily. Our first girl did like to chew our walls but quickly learned that was a no no. She does have a lot of energy but we usually go outside and throw the ball for her a couple times and then she's content. They are the smartest breed I've ever had. At least with ours, much training wasn't needed. We did take Blue our first baby to puppy training to get her around other dogs but she still barks and acts a nut when she sees others she doesn't know. She's extremely skittish too to storms/ fireworks/ loud noises which seems to be an Aussie trait, but then again our newest 7 mo old could care less about noises. It's really all in what your baby's personality will be like. Congrats again! And prayers needed for our baby for her surgery if we go through with it ; (
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If I may hijack this thread for a question I think relevant:

I have a 14 week old Aussie/Border. What were the timings of when the dog started or stopped doing certain things? For instance, my puppy LOVES jumping and biting and it's driving me crazy. Did your puppies have that issue and if so when did they stop? What about age when they were potty trained, stopped chewing, etc?

Some of those key milestones would be helpful in having a ballpark on when to expect certain behavioral changes and whether 'it's just typical puppy' or is something I may need help with.
I teach puppy classes and I live in an area where herding breeds are the most common (lots of ranch land). Yes, it's a puppy thing. But yes, training will help and you should not 'wait' for things to get better. It's likely to get harder before it gets better. People think 8-16 week old puppies are hard, until their puppies reach adolescence :D

Almost every puppy will nip or mouth people. How a person reacts within a few days of experiencing that behavior determines how much that behavior will continue. Most people start off with no treats, no bite rags on their person, and the first little nibbles are endearing. Or, the person is so smitten with the fact that they've just gotten a puppy that they just 'interact' with their hands and laugh at the crazy puppy antics. THAT is the habit forming right there. And it's no wonder when those people present toys LATER on, when human-nipping is habit, that the puppy goes for the hand over the toy all the time.

My coworker never had biting issues with her aussie/X puppy. My other co. never had biting issues with her BC/X puppy. My other co. isn't having issues with her shepherd/X puppy. My other co. doesn't have issues with his GSD/corgi puppy. I never had biting issues with my Dutch shepherd puppy. But we all are in a work environment where training information is heavily shared and we all help each other out. Teaching a puppy not to bite/jump is no secret:
1. Focus on teaching behaviors that you want every moment you are interacting with your puppy (examples: how to follow a lure, capturing sits and calm behavior, playing with appropriate toys, biting appropriate tugs or bite rags, handling exercises, obstacles, scent games, impulse control exercises, its yer choice, shaping, flirt pole, etc.)
2. Prevent unwanted behavior (puppy is physically not able to touch you when aren't interacting with the puppy... IF you have constant nipping issues. Of course your puppy can be around you if it is calm!). This means knowing when your pup is most nippy (first thing in the morning? after a walk? after a training session? and using the most management in those times).
3. Negative punishment when the puppy nips (play time ends, time out, etc.). But with steps 1 and 2, you might not even need step 3.

Which isn't to say, never just chill with your puppy or pet your puppy without being in training mode... But some puppies enjoy cuddling more than others. I've met puppies who melt in your lap and could stay there all day. My Dutch puppy, for the first few months and even sometimes now at 8 months, physically could not be touched without his mouth on something. He learned day 1 not to put his mouth on me... Because the day I met him at my breeder's house I had a treat pouch and two bite toys on me. I met him by shoving a toy into his mouth; that's how intent I was on starting him off with training. So if I was sitting on the floor with this 9 week old puppy just trying to 'be' with him, you could see his little conflicted self wanting to crawl into my lap and snuggle but at the same time his head was literally flailing around looking to grab the closest thing. I'm not over exaggerating - open mouth flailing, all the time. If my face, my hair, or my sleeves were in the way they were first hit. But I walked around with a bite rag in my pocket 99% of the time. And any time I touched him I had a treat in my other hand waiting to reward calm behavior. You know how long it took me before I could kiss him on the head or just pet him like a normal dog owner without him head flipping at me? Very long. But, I still stand by the fact that I never had any nipping or mouthing issues.
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Nice Canyx, I'm not going to quote it just makes for super long posts.

These guys never really stop learning. Being " just a dog" simply isn't in their make up. They have a built in need to learn and be taught new things. You will need to a couple steps ahead of them constantly or they can learn bad things.

My 5 year old Aussie never stops trying to please me. She has gone away from the puppy/young dog bouncy behavior to much more direct and purposeful behavior. Hard to really describe but she doesn't just go boinging around, she is very direct. Recalls are still explosive but she now knows to slide to a stop in front and wait for further instruction which can be a number of different commands. She may quiver in anticipation but doesn't try to out guess me anymore. Any thing I do is is a great thing for her. Even resting she is watching me. Now instead of pacing the rooms looking for something to get into, she will brush by looking for a couple quick pets then she will pick her temporary resting place and curl up ( also a command) and wait for the next move by me.

Dinner time is exactly 5:00 pm for her. I can tell time by her. LOL.

I'm not sure who owns who. When we go out I ask her if she is going to take me for a walk. She responds by gently pulling me along on the leash occasionally stopping to make sure I'm following. Then when I say ok, let me take you for a walk, she will explode right to my side, waiting for me to gather the leash. She then really gets into an excited but very controlled walk beside me,

These guys are really wonderful companions.

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