Australian Shepherds are medium-sized dogs that have a solid build and a high amount of energy. They are among the smartest dogs and thrive when properly trained. As a working dog breed, Aussies want to train, as long as you do it properly. Yes, there are challenges with a herding breed, but that is why we are here to help you. Let’s talk about how to train an Australian Shepherd.
The first thing we have to talk about is the personality traits of your pet. For that, we have to look a bit into the history of the dog breed. Aussies were bred to be herding dogs. And they have retained that herding behavior to this day.
Working on farms has been part of their DNA since their birth. These active, yet easy-going puppies love to play and tend to get along with other pets.
They are happiest when they are working and playing with their pet parents. Here are some common personality traits of Australian Shepherds:
- Active and easy-going
- Love to play and romp with children
- They get along with other animals
- Considered highly intelligent and easy to train
- Eager to please their owners once they form a bond
- They have endless stamina and can work all day long
- Happiest when having the chance to put their brain to work
- They are alert and might show territorial behavior
Challenges When Training An Aussie
The simplest way to describe the Aussie is “work hard play hard”. That is their signature personality trait. Some would say this puppy is like your friend who manages to run marathons, score promotions at work, and make time for friends and family. They love to be involved in everything you do, and they have the energy for that.
Their endless energy is a plus, but it can also be a challenge. If you cannot control their energy, in other words, burn it, and they will resort to destructive behavior.
They were bred for work, so you must provide a job, a task to do. If not, they will find it on their own. In many cases, that can mean digging in the yard or herding toys around the house.
Another big challenge is their high intelligence. Being smart can also mean being stubborn. If you are not on their level of intellect, they will try to outsmart you. And do it in the most stubborn way possible. It is crucial that you start training early on.
Speaking of their energy levels, a long walk or two is not going to cut it. Meeting their exercise needs is the biggest challenge. More on this later on. They need both physical exercise and mental stimulation.
Last, but not least, they can suffer from separation anxiety. Working dogs such as Australian Shepherds need something to do and be around people or other animals. When left alone for long periods, they can show all the symptoms of separation anxiety.
Crate training is a must for coping with that challenge.
What Makes It Easy To Train An Australian Shepherd?
Australian Shepherds are among the smartest dog breeds in the world. They are not at the level of another herding dog, the Border Collie, but they are close enough.
Their intelligence makes them easy to train. We talked previously about the challenges for how to train an Australian Shepherd.
But because of their intelligence, and the fact they have been used for working purposes, it makes it easy to train them. Working has become a part of their DNA. It is in their genetics to follow commands and appease their owners.
This amazing work ethic, combined with high energy levels and athleticism, has made them ideal canines for dog sports.
And to top it all, they are great companions that develop a strong bond with their dog owner.
Why Do You Have To Train Your Aussie?
The main reason why you have to train your Aussie pup is the fact they know only working life. They haven’t been bred for anything else than working.
When your Australian shepherd puppy is put to work, it feels satisfied, stimulated, and very content. And it is important you understand this is an Aussie owner from Day 1.
Without a sufficient amount of physical exercise and mental stimulation, your pet might resort to bad behavior, destructive behavior, anxiety, temperament changes, stubbornness, and disobedience.
How To Train An Aussie?
The best way to train an Australian Shepherd is the positive reinforcement method. That means using lots of rewards and praise.
As we said before, Aussies create a strong bond with their pet parents. They adore their owner, so use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior.
It works much better than using punishment. Using treats and praise will help reward every step of the progress. Your smart dog will quickly learn that dog training sessions are something to look forward to.
How To Provide The Stimulation They Need
Now let’s talk about how to train an Australian shepherd and provide the amount of stimulation they need. As we said before, a long walk will not do it. They need plenty of physical exercises, at least 60 minutes per day. Preferably, they would love 90 to 120 minutes of exercise per day.
Yet, physical exercise is not the only part. They need to exercise their brain as well. Even if you take your Aussie with you on jogging, and run for an hour or two, they will still need mental stimulation.
With that in mind, the best way to provide mental stimulation and physical exercise is with dog sports and agility courses. Play fetch, hide and seek, or build an obstacle course in your backyard. You should train your dog and teach new tricks every week.
And when you are at home, make sure to provide plenty of puzzle toys. When you have an Aussie, regular feeding should be switched to some mental stimulation feeding. Puzzle toys like Kong, or hand feeding while repeating some tricks is the way to go.
Aussies come to life when they get to use their brain, muscles, and herding instincts.
The Importance Of Socialization
Being a herding dog breed, Australian Shepherds can be territorial and aloof around strangers. It is important that you expose them to different people, places, animals, and surfaces.
When exposing your Aussie to other dogs, make sure it can be done in a safe way. Do not introduce dogs that are anxious, and nervous, and show signs of aggressiveness when approached.
Tips For Burning Their Energy
Let’s finish off the article on how to train an Australian Shepherd with a couple of tips for how to burn its energy.
- Use puzzle toys like Kong, licking mat, sniffing mat, and treat-dispensing balls for mental stimulation
- Utilize dog sports, agility training, and scent work for physical and mental stimulation
- Make your own backyard obstacle course at home