Australian Shepherds are intelligent, agile, and highly energetic working dogs that live to please their owners. However, they are not for the novice owner. If you’re thinking of buying or adopting an Australian Shepherd you’ll need to get used to poking, barking, nudging, and nipping on a general basis. Barking in particular can become a major problem that could interfere with your normal family life. Although they do tend to have these characteristics, Australian Shepherds are quite variable in temperament. Some dogs are extremely energetic and hyperactive, while others tend toward a milder, calmer behavior. What to do if your Aussie falls within the first category? Read on…
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The Root of the Behavior
Bred to herd livestock during the 19th century, Australian Shepherds are above all intelligent, versatile, and easily trained. If you are an active and energetic owner yourself, the Australian Shepherd will “fit you like a glove." When you’re dealing with such an enthusiastic breed, you need to take into account all of their innate behavioral traits. Let’s just say… it comes with the territory. Given they are working dogs, Australian Shepherds are happiest when they have a job to do. They have been bred to authoritatively boss around livestock for a long time and like to have their world in order. This means that if your command and guidance are too weak or missing entirely, the Aussie will step in and take the lead. As a high-prey-drive herding breed, Australian Shepherds excel in competitive sports such as agility, flyball, and frisbee. They need constant, challenging training and exercises to keep them going.
If they are not provided with these activities, they will display behaviors such as obsessive barking, anxiety, as well as aggression towards other dogs, including fear-biting and lunging. Australian Shepherds will bark at strangers, loud noises, and other animals as a way of getting rid of all that excess energy. More so, they can display the same type of behavior towards squirrels, thunderstorms, or even a passing car. This will most likely happen when they are bored or isolated from the rest of the family. Shepherds are intensely affectionate with the members of their human families and form strong bonds with their owners. If they are not socialized properly at an early age, they can be prone to separation anxiety, aggressiveness and a shy, fearful demeanor. As a conclusion, make sure you provide your Aussie with a great deal of physical exercise and mental stimulation to help them develop properly and reduce the risks of uncontrollable barking later in life.
Encouraging the Behavior
So we have established that Australian Shepherds are demanding dogs that need constant physical exercise and mental stimulation. They are also demanding of time and attention and want to be with their owners 24 hours a day, seven days a week. How do you keep up with their innate level of energy and enthusiasm? Be sure to have their mind and body occupied at all times. That’s the most important thing to consider if you own an Australian Shepherd. Provide your pup with 30 to 60 minutes of intense daily exercises and training sessions to distract him from any unwanted behaviors. Obedience training, playtime and long runs are ideal for your independent-minded Aussie.
They like to have good leadership and to know what is expected of them. An Aussie that thinks they are the leader of the human “pack” is usually more stressed than they should be, and can even start to “boss” the human members of the household. So take charge of the situation and control their excessive barking and inappropriate behavior through constant leadership and appropriate training. Agility training and obedience classes are both excellent choices for curbing the breed's natural tendency to bark and strengthening the bond of communication and trust between you.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If you want to stop your Aussie from barking too much, you should never resort to punishment. Many dog owners believe that by using punishment tactics they can help correct their dog’s behavior, however, aggression strategies can and often do backfire. Some of these methods include the use of choke collars, spike collars, or shock collars, which ultimately lead to fear and aggression. Usually, the methods that do work require a lot more time and patience, such as positive reinforcement training. One example of this kind would be to reward and praise your dog when he takes a few seconds to be quiet and collect himself, or when he eventually gives up his barking session.
Australian Shepherds are very strong-minded, energetic and sometimes… too noisy. Aussies need lots of vigorous exercise on a daily basis, so you need to be up to the challenge if you’re thinking of getting one. The good news is that you can avoid some of their negative traits by introducing them to agility training, obedience and herding classes, or any other type of fun-filled outdoor activity. By teaching them to remain calm and collected, they will eventually get exactly what they want, which include more walks, hikes, and car trips to fill their energy level to the max.