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Discussion Starter #1
I am wondering more about working line australian shepherds, who usually seem to be used as cattle dogs, and I was wondering if anyone had experience with them?

I am wondering what their toy drive and working ability is usually like in sports like agility and flyball, as most seem to be purely used for farm work it is hard to get an idea if they will have the interest in toys I am looking for on average...

I am looking at dogs with Slash V and Pincie Creek in them, at quite intense workers, but do you think that will transfer to intensity for toys and sports?
Or is the only way to tell to actually meet the dog and see their interest in toys?

Border collie folk tell me that working dogs generally have the drive needed to excel in sports, and a lot of farm border collies are amazing, does that apply to aussies too?

I have seen farm bred dogs that lack the toy drive I am looking for too, I am hoping for a dog that basically lives for toys, so would a working bred Aussie from hard working lines suit me in this regard?

Thanks
 

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My parents have working Aussies. The drive is definitely there but I'd say you'd have to raise them with toys from the start - many just aren't exposed to toys so they have other outlets for their energy. Currently they have two, they got both as adults and I doubt they ever were around toys at all. One could care less, the other does really enjoy balls but doesn't seem to understand anything else.
 

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I have a pup from a conformation line (I know you are talking about working Aussies but as I understand it the breed isn't that split *yet* and I figured I'd chime in anyway), the breeder mentioned that "some have a great retrieve and others not so much." Mine loves plush toys and the tennis ball, disc will take some work though. For a while she would wait for the toy to stop moving before going after at... She even seems to be learning the names of a couple of them (just asked for 'Quackers' and she brought me back the duck plush) . She also seems to be willing to work for play but we're mostly doing food work still (except for training fetch and fetch + sit/stay). Not old enough yet for dog sports but I got her jumping through a hoop in a session or two.

Definitely driven (she'll train all day), beyond smart, eager to please... Big thing with the breed that kinda took me by surprise is how ridiculously mouthy/nippy they are (you watch accounts and think "well yeah of course they are mouthy, all puppies are mouthy" but the heeler genes might as well be piranha genes)
 

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I have had Aussie mixes, so take my advice for what its worth, haha.

We had an Aussie/BC mix on the farm that worked cattle. He was born and bred on a farm, parents were workers. He did like toys, but he wasn't insane about them. He was motivated by food, and by the chance to herd cattle. We didn't do sports with him, but he probably would have been good.

I currently have an Aussie/Collie mix who likes/loves toys in certain situations. He's a rescue, no idea where he's from. Inside, he loves to bring us toys to throw for him. Outside? No, not really. He'll play for a time but then is more interested in sniffing or doing stuff with me when I bring out the treats. He's only insane for one toy: his ball launcher. If I throw a ball from my hand, he doesn't care. If I launch it with the launcher, he takes off after it like a rocket and won't stop asking for more. I do agility with him, and he's insane for that, as well. I use food rewards because that's what he likes the most.

So, I don't think having a raging toy drive is necessary for sports (unless you're doing disc, in which case, yeah, you probably need that, but I imagine it could be built). You use what the dog likes. If I were you, I would speak with the breeders you're looking at and tell them everything you just posted. They should be able to tell you how their dogs are at sports, or what their toy drive is like. A good breeder should also be able to help you select a puppy that is displaying the traits you want.

But, there's dogs out there who might be brilliant at sports but not care about toys. Or, theres dogs who love toys but don't really enjoy leaping over obstacles. Bottom line, each dog is an individual wether they were bred for work, sports, or companionship.
 

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You don't need ANY toy drive for sports, to be honest - food drive works just fine. It CAN be a problem if you have a dog with a ton of energy and can't use disc/ball/tug to expend some of it, but that's entirely different from training, even for sports, or even bringing lots and lots of energy and enthusiasm to the sport/training.

I have 3 sports dogs. 2 are into toys, 1 works only for food. I had to train myself to use the toys as rewards because food is faster, easier, and just as effective (with the disclaimer that sometimes being able to throw the reward - in this case food - is useful). I mean I use the toys now because they're higher value to the other two dogs, but it takes more time and better mechanics. The real key really is that you have to be energetic and dynamic when you present the reward and this INCLUDES FOOD. You don't just... hand it to them and move on.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
It is in my opinion that I like working my dogs with toys, the more toy drive the better.
I find food is good for getting the dog to think, whereas toys add an element of prey drive which is amazing for getting very fast work in flyball, agility and obedience. And you dont 'use up' your toys like you can food, so dont end up dropping bits everywhere of toys, etc.

I am not really wanting to debate this, I am sure we all have different opinions on how we like to train our dogs for sports, but for me, I like using toys where I want fast work, and treats during areas I want calmer focus and reliability like startline waits and contacts, and I want as much toy drive as possible in a dog for the faster work.

So toy drive is important to me, but seems like even in working line herding dogs they often dont have the toy drive I am looking for, which is a shame.
I suppose I will have to look at lines with proven toy drive close to what I am looking for.
 

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No one's debating. We're countering a common myth that the only dogs who are good sports dogs are ones with high toy drive. That my most titled, and highest titled,making national top 10 lists dog has none, I'm just saying that's wrong. This is entirely different from arguing or telling you what you want. EVERYONE has preferences and fits and they're valid and fine!

I can't tell you how much toy drive you're going to find in a working aussie. I can tell you that my purpose bred working BC cross (purpose bred for work) is a nut about all toys (and I mean NUTS) and that my working bred BC is pretty toy insane. But in both cases they took a little bit of work on my part to 'get it', because as stated before they'd never seen a toy in their lives before coming to me. Once they discovered the fun and I'd managed to direct their drives onto toys it was gold, both got there fast but it wasn't an 'out of the box' deal for them.
 

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It is in my opinion that I like working my dogs with toys, the more toy drive the better.
I find food is good for getting the dog to think, whereas toys add an element of prey drive which is amazing for getting very fast work in flyball, agility and obedience. And you dont 'use up' your toys like you can food, so dont end up dropping bits everywhere of toys, etc.

I am not really wanting to debate this, I am sure we all have different opinions on how we like to train our dogs for sports, but for me, I like using toys where I want fast work, and treats during areas I want calmer focus and reliability like startline waits and contacts, and I want as much toy drive as possible in a dog for the faster work.

So toy drive is important to me, but seems like even in working line herding dogs they often dont have the toy drive I am looking for, which is a shame.
I suppose I will have to look at lines with proven toy drive close to what I am looking for.
I'm not looking to refute your opinion or debate with you either, but sometimes it helps to receive different opinions or other experience that may help you find the perfect dog for what you want.

Instead of looking for purely "has a raging toy drive", perhaps look for the dogs that are the most willing to work with their owner and get excited about doing a thing with their owner. That excitement can be used to build toy drive, build value in sports, whatever you want. I think if you look for mainly "has a raging toy drive" you may be disappointed (unless you get an adult). You may get a dog who's crazy about toys, but doesn't really care about anything else. I know mine grew less and less interested in toys as he got older, and then just became selective of where, when, and what kind of toy he would enjoy playing with. Many of those farm dogs you see working aren't doing it for a toy or a treat, they're doing it because they love their work, they love working with their handler, and they find that the most rewarding.

For example, my dog does not really find toys highly rewarding, but he's consistently been getting wicked fast times and 1st place finishes in his events because he LOVES agility, and he loves working with me. I've never used toys as a reward, just food, or getting to do the thing again.

I think, though, if you really, really want the high toy drive, look at Border Collies. They're always the ones I see tugging with their owners before a run, who run to the lead bucket to grab their tug leash thing. The Aussies don't seem to care much about toys. There's a lot of them at our trials, and none of them play with toys like the BCs. They are generally fast, and they're fine sports dogs. One carries around a stuffed toy, but I never see the handler using it before a run.

It's just...just because they have a toy drive doesn't mean they will be good in sports, and just because they're good in sports doesn't mean they have a raging toy drive. I think that's probably true across all breeds. I think your best bet is going to be going with a breeder who does sports with their dogs and not limiting yourself to working line.
 

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The breeder should be able to tell you about toy drive in their past breedings from those lines if that is important to you. I do know of Aussie breeders that do make sure to incorporate toy and food drive into their dogs because they like dogs that can do performance sports.. and it isn't a working vs show line thing. I've been researching and becoming more and involved in Aussies to know what working lines does not necessarily mean sport dog. Some of the slowest Aussies I see have been heavy working line and heavy show line. A dog who likes to herd may not care for agility.

I mean, I have a Border Collie that is all working cattle lines who's lineage is mostly dogs working on a secluded farm. She is a mental case around dogs in buildings because she was bred with a bubble around her. Her agility career is over because of it. I prefer breeders who take their dogs out and about now so that I know what they might react to. Working ability is great.. but ability to be around society is much more important to me.

I would be less concerned about working vs show and be more concerned with the other factors. Athletic and sleeker type. Toy/food drive. Performance titles on parents or multiple offspring. Breeder who can tell you all about their lines performance strengths and weaknesses. There are still plenty of versatile show (and mixture of) lines that make excellent agility dogs.

My Aussie is kinda of mixture of older show and working/performance and she has pretty minimal toy drive. She still excels at agility because her food drive is high and she just really enjoys it! She is fast, fun and she is very pressure sensitive. Her smaller and lighter bone/athletic type really, really is awesome for it. She almost never knocks a bar. She has a good strong rear for leaping and a nice correct shoulder layback/front keeping the front impact minimal. She is 19.5in and 40ishlbs. No toy drive required. :)

I get wanting to train with toys though. I think if I would have worked it as a puppy it might be a bit more. I did not at all.
 

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Discussion Starter #10 (Edited)
I'm not looking to refute your opinion or debate with you either, but sometimes it helps to receive different opinions or other experience that may help you find the perfect dog for what you want.

Instead of looking for purely "has a raging toy drive", perhaps look for the dogs that are the most willing to work with their owner and get excited about doing a thing with their owner. That excitement can be used to build toy drive, build value in sports, whatever you want. I think if you look for mainly "has a raging toy drive" you may be disappointed (unless you get an adult). You may get a dog who's crazy about toys, but doesn't really care about anything else. I know mine grew less and less interested in toys as he got older, and then just became selective of where, when, and what kind of toy he would enjoy playing with. Many of those farm dogs you see working aren't doing it for a toy or a treat, they're doing it because they love their work, they love working with their handler, and they find that the most rewarding.

For example, my dog does not really find toys highly rewarding, but he's consistently been getting wicked fast times and 1st place finishes in his events because he LOVES agility, and he loves working with me. I've never used toys as a reward, just food, or getting to do the thing again.

I think, though, if you really, really want the high toy drive, look at Border Collies. They're always the ones I see tugging with their owners before a run, who run to the lead bucket to grab their tug leash thing. The Aussies don't seem to care much about toys. There's a lot of them at our trials, and none of them play with toys like the BCs. They are generally fast, and they're fine sports dogs. One carries around a stuffed toy, but I never see the handler using it before a run.

It's just...just because they have a toy drive doesn't mean they will be good in sports, and just because they're good in sports doesn't mean they have a raging toy drive. I think that's probably true across all breeds. I think your best bet is going to be going with a breeder who does sports with their dogs and not limiting yourself to working line.
Perhaps I already know what kind of dog I like?
I have owned dogs with subpar toy drive that have great engagement and food drive, and dogs who will do anything for the toy, and the latter is way more fun to work with, and what I have always preferred working with. I know many many sports dogs and sure, food drive can do well but nine times out of ten they are slower than dogs extremely eager to get the toy. There is a reason many people and handlers do seminars for building toy drive for agility, there are reasons top handlers work their dogs using toys if they have the option. I am not just trying to title my dogs and get clear rounds, I am looking competitively.

To put it in my perspective, sure it doesn't mean they wont be good at sports, but I am not looking for a dog who is simply 'good' at sports. I have the experience to know what I want, and why I want it.

And not something I am wanting to debate, because I am pretty set in this with my experiences, and the experiences of others, from years of competing and training different dogs. So perhaps your food driven dog is one you like and is nice in agility, just not what I am looking for or like, and I know it from experience.

I was thinking of border collies, in that many, not all, working border collies have amazing toy drive, and I was thinking if there is a relationship between intense working dogs and high toy drive, would aussies bred for work have high toy drive in general?
 

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The breeder should be able to tell you about toy drive in their past breedings from those lines if that is important to you. I do know of Aussie breeders that do make sure to incorporate toy and food drive into their dogs because they like dogs that can do performance sports.. and it isn't a working vs show line thing. I've been researching and becoming more and involved in Aussies to know what working lines does not necessarily mean sport dog. Some of the slowest Aussies I see have been heavy working line and heavy show line. A dog who likes to herd may not care for agility.

I mean, I have a Border Collie that is all working cattle lines who's lineage is mostly dogs working on a secluded farm. She is a mental case around dogs in buildings because she was bred with a bubble around her. Her agility career is over because of it. I prefer breeders who take their dogs out and about now so that I know what they might react to. Working ability is great.. but ability to be around society is much more important to me.

I would be less concerned about working vs show and be more concerned with the other factors. Athletic and sleeker type. Toy/food drive. Performance titles on parents or multiple offspring. Breeder who can tell you all about their lines performance strengths and weaknesses. There are still plenty of versatile show (and mixture of) lines that make excellent agility dogs.

My Aussie is kinda of mixture of older show and working/performance and she has pretty minimal toy drive. She still excels at agility because her food drive is high and she just really enjoys it! She is fast, fun and she is very pressure sensitive. Her smaller and lighter bone/athletic type really, really is awesome for it. She almost never knocks a bar. She has a good strong rear for leaping and a nice correct shoulder layback/front keeping the front impact minimal. She is 19.5in and 40ishlbs. No toy drive required. :)

I get wanting to train with toys though. I think if I would have worked it as a puppy it might be a bit more. I did not at all.
Sadly lots of people who breed dogs for herding don't, and can't...
Which is why I am asking

I am actually looking at certain breeders of working line dogs because they have the athleticism and structure I like, with nice herding instinct, but I have no idea what their dogs toy drive is like. I was just wondering if there is an average, or if it is something I have to make sure a breeder can tell me about, seems like it is the latter.

I agree, being good in most situations is very important too, around other dogs and people, loud noises and traffic, etc.
 

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Perhaps I already know what kind of dog I like?
I have owned dogs with subpar toy drive that have great engagement and food drive, and dogs who will do anything for the toy, and the latter is way more fun to work with, and what I have always preferred working with. I know many many sports dogs and sure, food drive can do well but nine times out of ten they are slower than dogs extremely eager to get the toy. There is a reason many people and handlers do seminars for building toy drive for agility, there are reasons top handlers work their dogs using toys if they have the option. I am not just trying to title my dogs and get clear rounds, I am looking competitively.

To put it in my perspective, sure it doesn't mean they wont be good at sports, but I am not looking for a dog who is simply 'good' at sports. I have the experience to know what I want, and why I want it.

And not something I am wanting to debate, because I am pretty set in this with my experiences, and the experiences of others, from years of competing and training different dogs. So perhaps your food driven dog is one you like and is nice in agility, just not what I am looking for or like, and I know it from experience.

I was thinking of border collies, in that many, not all, working border collies have amazing toy drive, and I was thinking if there is a relationship between intense working dogs and high toy drive, would aussies bred for work have high toy drive in general?
Again...I'm not debating anything with you. You are perfectly free to like whatever type of dog you like for whatever reason. I'm simply relating my experience to you because I like talking about dogs and training, and you may do whatever you wish with the information I took time to relate to you.
 

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Again...I'm not debating anything with you. You are perfectly free to like whatever type of dog you like for whatever reason. I'm simply relating my experience to you because I like talking about dogs and training, and you may do whatever you wish with the information I took time to relate to you.
Thank you for taking the time to share your experiences :)
 

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Sadly lots of people who breed dogs for herding don't, and can't...
Which is why I am asking

I am actually looking at certain breeders of working line dogs because they have the athleticism and structure I like, with nice herding instinct, but I have no idea what their dogs toy drive is like. I was just wondering if there is an average, or if it is something I have to make sure a breeder can tell me about, seems like it is the latter.

I agree, being good in most situations is very important too, around other dogs and people, loud noises and traffic, etc.
If you are in it for serious competition and that is important to you then you need to find that breeder that is going to tell you about the toy drive in their dogs.. and drive in general. I would pass on Aussie breeders that are just working and not doing any performance. Or sometimes they at least keep in touch with puppy owners and can tell you if offspring have went on to be good agility dogs.

Aussies and Border Collies working vs show lines cannot even be compared. Not even working BC vs working Aussie because their working styles are just so different. Their temperaments and drives are soo very different too. My Border is toy obsessed but Border Collies by nature are obsessive and repetitive because of how they work. Aussies are more pushy, trotty, loose eyed workers. Not as obsessive. So maybe prey drive + obsession has something to do with how most Borders Collie's have no issues gaining toy drive? I don't know.. but I do know that Aussies are not the same. I mean.. most Aussies LIKE toys. Mine gets bored with them much faster for sure. Still... no reason a breeder cannot tell you if their dog enjoys retrieving toys or not?
 

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I mean, if you know exactly what you're looking for then why not go to breeders who produce for performance and sport rather than ranch work? Those breeders exist these days, especially for the breed you're looking for.

For being very particular, you are looking at a niche that will not give you the consistency you might be looking for.
 

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I mean, if you know exactly what you're looking for then why not go to breeders who produce for performance and sport rather than ranch work? Those breeders exist these days, especially for the breed you're looking for.

For being very particular, you are looking at a niche that will not give you the consistency you might be looking for.
Thats probably what I will have to do, and the reason I was asking, to see if I would have to cross working aussie breeders who dont know their dogs toy drive off the list.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
If you are in it for serious competition and that is important to you then you need to find that breeder that is going to tell you about the toy drive in their dogs.. and drive in general. I would pass on Aussie breeders that are just working and not doing any performance. Or sometimes they at least keep in touch with puppy owners and can tell you if offspring have went on to be good agility dogs.

Aussies and Border Collies working vs show lines cannot even be compared. Not even working BC vs working Aussie because their working styles are just so different. Their temperaments and drives are soo very different too. My Border is toy obsessed but Border Collies by nature are obsessive and repetitive because of how they work. Aussies are more pushy, trotty, loose eyed workers. Not as obsessive. So maybe prey drive + obsession has something to do with how most Borders Collie's have no issues gaining toy drive? I don't know.. but I do know that Aussies are not the same. I mean.. most Aussies LIKE toys. Mine gets bored with them much faster for sure. Still... no reason a breeder cannot tell you if their dog enjoys retrieving toys or not?
I have seen purebred aussies with eye and obsession actually, it is interesting to watch :) Most seem loose eyed but I can think of some who do have a good bit of eye!
But thats beside the point,

I see, I will probably have to agree, and stick to breeders who can tell me something about their dogs drive and interest in toys.
Thanks for the information!
 

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I mean, if you know exactly what you're looking for then why not go to breeders who produce for performance and sport rather than ranch work? Those breeders exist these days, especially for the breed you're looking for.

For being very particular, you are looking at a niche that will not give you the consistency you might be looking for.
Pure performance and sport Aussies not really a common thing like in say, Border Collies or Goldens. There are plenty of breeders that do show and performance in combo and some that do work and performance. But hardcore sport breeders? Definitely hard to find in Aussies.

There are definitely nice drivey dogs in working lines that would work for OP's purpose. They just need to be able to ask around and be up front about what he/she wants.

OP- There is a "Working and Agility Australian Shepherds" for sale group on FB with the types of dogs and breeders you may be looking for.
 

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Thanks, good to know! I knew they are out there but I didn't know they were uncommon compared to performance BC breeders. Honestly, I find Aussies to be a moderate breed in between BCs and ACDs, with more similarities to BCs. Like, a less sensitive and sharp BC seems like an Aussie and a more sensitive and sharp Aussie seems like a BC. Just my experiences :D
 

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I think once you own one and especially once you own both they are more different than a-like. They can have the same kind of general herding breed issues and some behaviors but I find Aussies to be more of a "normal dog" most of the time. Border Collies are just weird and have the weirdest behaviors. Very interesting and intriguing at times but definitely weird. That doesn't always mean one or the other is harder to own. Just different.
 
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