Activities For Australian Cattle Dogs

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Introduction

Australian Cattle Dogs are highly intelligent livestock herding animals that have a great deal of energy and a legendary work ethic. These dogs require not only physical exercise each day in order to be happy and healthy, but also mental stimulation to keep their very active minds busy as well. Fortunately, these dogs are as full of adventure as they are of energy and they quickly and easily pick up many different kinds of activities and sports. 

Herding

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Sunny Day
Expensive
Normal
30 - 90 min
Items needed
Sheep (or other livestock)
Leash
Activity description

Australian Cattle Dogs are natural herders and those who have spent time with this breed for more than a few hours are likely to become aware of their tendency to gather things together. If given the opportunity it’s sheep or cattle that they tend to direct, but lacking livestock many of these dogs resort to herding stuffed animals, other household animals, and in some cases even the neighborhood kids. While this tendency may occasionally be considered cute and endearing, it is much more likely to get exhausting. Instead, give your dog a real outlet at a specialty ranch designed just for herding dogs and their owners.  

Step
1
Check your dog's health
Australian Cattle Dogs are generally pretty healthy dogs, but herding can quickly become a pretty intensive sport. While most adult Australian Cattle Dogs should be in good enough health, it may be a good idea to schedule a checkup if it hasn’t been done in a while to ensure there are no underlying problems before starting, particularly with very young dogs or senior dogs.
Step
2
Research
While there are still relatively few places that offer this opportunity in the United States, the number is growing and many pet parents find that the peace of mind that this activity provides your dog is well worth the time and gasoline required to reach the ranches. It is still important to do your research; go out and visit the place and meet with any trainers before taking your dog to the facility, check reviews, and get recommendations from other people that you trust.
Step
3
Evaluate
Your first experience with herding is likely to be an evaluation as well, one that can tell you whether your dog has the instinct and drive to actually learn the techniques, or if their prey drive may be more likely to overshadow their drive to control. This may also be a good time to think about how much you like the sport. Is this just a casual and fun form of entertainment for your dog, or are you and your pet feeling motivated to compete for prizes and titles in official herding trials?
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Toy Pick Up

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Any Day
Free
Normal
5 - 45 min
Items needed
Toybox or container
Clicker
Activity description

Herding dogs have a tendency to collect things. It is a fairly natural extension of their herding instinct and in many cases, our herding type dogs end up amassing a large number of rope toys, chew toys, fetch toys, and even stuffed animals designed specifically for dogs, toys that typically just get left on the floor, wherever they happened to be using them last. Fortunately, it is a relatively easy proposition to convince your Aussie to pick up their toys and put them into a specific toybox or bin, as it speaks to their natural inclination to gather things into one place. 

Step
1
Using a clicker
Many Aussie owners have already introduced their dog to the idea of a clicker, a small handheld device that, when pressed, emits a single, sharp clicking noise. That clicking noise is meant to tell your dog that they have done something right. If your dog has not yet been introduced to the clicker, it is your responsibility as a trainer to ensure that the dog understands what that specific sound means. This usually is achieved fairly quickly simply by ensuring that every time that the clicker clicks, a high-value treat is offered to your pooch.
Step
2
Fetch and drop
The training for this particular behavior often starts with a simple game of fetch in which you toss a toy and reward the dog when they return it to you. Once the dog is reliably returning the toy, you can introduce the open box or bin that you want the toys collected in. To do this, you will first want to position yourself on the opposite side of the box from your dog. This forces the dog to reach over the box in order to give you the toy. When the dog’s head is extended over the box, click the clicker. This will typically cause the dog to drop the item they are carrying into the box, at which point you immediately give the command that you have chosen (toybox, clean up, away) then click the clicker again and give the dog their reward.
Step
3
Independence and distance
Once your dog is consistently dropping the toy in the box, you can start moving away from the box as you give the command, helping your dog to understand that the command means to drop the toy in the box, regardless of your position in relation to the box, which helps to cement the command in the dog’s mind.
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Sign Language Training

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Any Day
Free
Hard
5 - 45 min
Items needed
Treats
Activity description

Many dogs are taught hand commands that correspond to the commands that are given to them verbally, but in many cases, pet parents don’t spend much time reinforcing the behavior without the verbal trigger included. Australian Cattle Dogs, like many other herding breeds, have a slightly increased chance of being born deaf or losing their ability to hear as they get older. Training your Australian Cattle Dog to reliably follow silent hand signals, often referred to as deaf dog sign language, before their hearing has been lost may help to ease your dog’s confusion and make life simpler if their hearing does begin to fade. This skill can also prove useful if you lose your voice or are otherwise temporarily unable to be heard by your pet. 

Step
1
The new clicker
Dogs that are hearing impaired or deaf may not be able to hear the sound of a clicker and may respond better to a visual cue than to an auditory one. Many dog owners with deaf dogs are able to replace the sound of a clicker with a visual cue, often flashing the palm of their hand towards their dog.
Step
2
Simple commands
Many pet parents default to using a combination of hand gestures and verbal commands when training their dogs, particularly with commands that are repeated often, such as sit, lie down, and stay. Starting by teaching these commands without the verbal cues should help to make more complex commands easier to learn. Simply start by giving the dog both the verbal and non-verbal cue each time, then you can extinguish the use of the verbal cue and just rely on the hand gestures. Teaching simple commands like these may help keep your dog safer in loud or crowded environments as well, by allowing you to communicate even over the din.
Step
3
Adding complexity
Herding breeds like the Australian Cattle Dog are known for their intelligence and their trainability, and they may be ready for more advanced material rather quickly. Any verbal command can be given a corresponding visual cue, as long as the dog has a clear line of sight to their trainer or their handler. In many cases, pet owners incorporate certain hand signals that are taken directly from American Sign Language into their communication with their canine companion. Commonly seen signs include signs for into, useful for getting your dog to go into their crate, timeout or stop, for when you need a bit of a break, or even signs that describe important objects in your dog’s life such as leash, bone, or ball. After each training session, reward your pup with praise and a delicious treat!
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More Fun Ideas...

Name that Toy

Australian Cattle Dogs are frequently found on lists of the most intelligent dog breeds and have been bred specifically to both think independently and to cooperate and communicate with humans, making them more likely than many other breeds to remember the names of several objects. 

Flyball

Flyball is a mix between a relay race, an obstacle course, and a game of fetch that provides an intense mental and physical workout.  

Treiball

Treiball is a fairly new dog sport specifically designed to allow herding dogs to safely satisfy their natural herding instincts by training them to herd inflated balls to a spot specified by their handler.

Conclusion

Australian Cattledogs are hardy, adventurous animals with impressive minds. They are hard working canines who don’t do well just lounging around the house and if you don’t find a job for them, this breed is quite likely to create a job for themselves. The job that a dog picks for themselves may not agree with our idea of a job and it may be noisy, intrusive, or even downright destructive rather than helpful, so it is best to keep intelligent and active dogs such as these as occupied as possible.