Australian Shepherd training is critical to having a well adjusted and happy dog. Aussies are working dogs, specifically, they were bred as herders and the herding instinct runs strong in them. In addition, they often work at the herding without human supervision, so they have a strong independent streak and will ‘challenge’ for a place in your pack hierarchy. To keep the struggle for a top dog from discoloring your relationship you need to establish proper family hierarchy from the moment you bring the puppy home. Here are three tips you can use to help your Aussie know his place and become a happy member of your family.
- Control the physical space - In dog packs, the top dog will choose his space first - the other members of the pack will arrange themselves after. Aussies may try to claim your favorite chair, your space in bed, even lie in hallways or doorways to establish control. When your puppy first comes home, be sure you establish where their space is, and more importantly, where yours is – this is a critical part of Australian Shepherd training. Let them curl up in your chair as a cute puppy and you will deal with a dog willing to snap at you to keep the chair. Be kind, but firm and offer liberal praise when they lay down in their own spot.
- Control the schedule and the food - Aussies are very independent minded and will assume that if you let them do as they like, they have control over what they do. This means that food left in the bowl means they get to eat whenever they want. A vital part of Australian Shepherd training is to establish set times for food and activity. When you feed your Aussie, fill the bowl on a counter, call the puppy over and ask them to sit - do not set the bowl down until they comply.
- Use Structured Play for Training – Aussies love to work. They get a genuine feeling of accomplishment from achieving tasks they are put to. A key to Australian Shepherd training for puppies is to introduce them to specific tasks early. Fetch is the first and easiest command for them to learn, but it won’t be long before they are capable of getting their own leash before a trip outside. Aussies are dogs that will bring your ‘pipe and slippers’.