1. How do you pick the best
working pup from a litter to keep?
Well, it's really hard, and no matter how much time and thought we put
into the selection, sometimes we find out later we let the best one go!!
In selecting a working pup, I look for the most "sensible" one.
The one who thinks, who sits back and watches the others a lot of times
before jumping into the fight. Not to be confused with shyness -- just a
"thinker". I also like a puppy that would rather follow me
around than play with its siblings. I do a little preliminary testing at
about 5 or 6 weeks old, such as dragging a mop or old towel to see if they
show any interest in trying to catch it. It's difficult to describe, but
actually I'm looking for that certain "something" in their eyes.
I don't really know how to explain it but I know it when I see it.
And sometimes it's just the one that I seem to get along with best.
2. Is there
anything in particular you suggest doing with a working puppy that will
make it a better dog?
I do have a hand-out that I give to working puppy owners. To view a
copy, click here.
3. Does a
male or female make the best working dog? I hear a male is more aggressive
Whether you're picking a companion, worker, or competition prospect, in
our opinion the sex of the dog is not a determining factor in how good it
works, whether it's a good watchdog, or companion, etc. It all depends on
the individual animal and how their genes happened to fall. We've known
females that were very aggressive on stock, much more than our males, and
we've had females that were sweetie pies, and vice versa. In our opinion
the sex doesn't have as much to do with it as the individual genes and
that particular dog's temperament. In short, analyze the individual
puppy for the traits you are looking for, without regard to sex.
4. Is it
true that red dogs are more aggressive than other colors?
We've heard this for years, from people who have been in this breed a long
time, and from people in other breeds who claim that red dogs are more
aggressive. We have yet to establish the criteria by which they make this
claim; the reasoning behind it, and the facts substantiating it. In our
opinion, we find nothing to support this theory. We have known black and
blue dogs that had very poor temperaments. Some of the best dispositions
we've seen were those of red dogs. So again, we think it depends on the
individual dog, how their genes happened to fall, and perhaps handling and
upbringing, rather than color.
5. Can I let
my working dog run loose?
Sure, if you don't care anything about your dog, your stock, or your
neighbors! Any dog that's worth anything is going to be a little
trouble, and Aussies are no exception. They are an intelligent, high
energy breed, inquisitive and easily bored. Remember that they were bred
to work livestock. If left unconfined and alone, they will quickly seek a
way to amuse themselves. If they have any working instinct, they will look
for stock to work -- either yours or your neighbors. When they find it
they will work it by their own method, and it most likely will not be a
method you will approve of!! They might bring a neighbor's stock home to
you, push stock through fences, become excited and chase young stock --
all sorts of things. One of the quickest ways to teach a young, good
working dog bad habits is to allow it to run out and work the stock any
time and any way he wants to.
Even if they don't have any working
instinct your dog will find something to get intoÖsomething that can be
fatal. Things that we don't even think of as being harmful can be deadly
to a dog. We even know of a dog that swallowed a golf ball he found on the
neighboring golf green and nearly died. And of course there are always the
highways. "But my dog never goes anywhere" you say. Well, he may
stay around for a while, even a long time, but one day he will decide to
explore. Especially an intact male dog -- the enticing aroma of a bitch in
heat travels for miles and a male dog will forget all about his loving
master and home and do whatever he has to do to find that bitch. And when
he does, if she has a conscientious owner, you can bet your male won't be
welcome in her boudoir!!
We love dogs and animals as much as
anybody, more than most people. But we will also be the first to say that
there's nothing more irritating than a dog that comes around uninvited, be
it a much loved neighbor's pet or a rambling stray. We've had neighbors'
dogs carry off our shoes and cooking utensils that were left sitting by
the grill, kill our chickens and sheep, pick a fight with our dogs through
the kennel fence, bark at us in our own yard, and sit in our yard and howl
at the moon at two o'clock in the morning. We are firm believers that no
dog, including ours, should bother anyone. But everyone is not as patient
and tolerant as we are. If you allow your dog to run loose and be a
nuisance, it may very well turn up missing or injured, or even dead by
very unpleasant means. Some people will do anything. So if you care about
your dog, don't let it get in a position where this could happen to it.
Contrary to some people's misconception
that confining a dog is cruel, it actually is one of the most responsible
and loving things you can do for your dog. But let's be sure we define
what we mean by "confined". We don't mean crated all or even
most of the time, or confined in a small space with inadequate exercise.
What we mean is having a good, secure fenced yard (be sure the fence is
high enough and remember that Aussies are very athletic and can JUMP and
CLIMB!!) or a nice, shady or covered secure kennel that your Aussie can
stay in when he's not with you. All of us love our Aussies but remember
they are animals, and since they don't have our reasoning ability they
don't always perceive danger. It is up to us to protect them.
6. I've got
an older dog that works good. Why can't I just turn this pup out with it
and let the old dog teach the young dog how to work?
If you do this, your young dog will probably relate to the old dog as its
pack leader and work for him instead of for you. In addition, it will
easily pick up any bad habits that the old dog has. Itís best to start a
young dog by itself and let him learn that he works for YOU. Use the old
dog for back-up but donít let him teach the young dog how to work. Thatís
your job as pack leader. Later when the young dog knows his commands and
is accustomed to working for you alone, you can work the two dogs
7. Why does
my dog bark so much when it works?
This is very common in young dogs. Most working dogs bark because they are
frustrated about something. They may be trying to figure out exactly what
to do, how to get the stock to move, when they donít have the confidence
to walk up into the stock to get it to move. Some dogs will also bark when
the working situation gets tough and stressful, as in a competition
situation where precision control is essential and the dog is feeling a
lot of pressure. Normally when a dog gets more confidence in himself and
his handler and has more working experience, the barking will cease, or at
least greatly decrease. If your dog is barking because of frustration,
especially if it is young, you might try putting the dog in different
working situations and helping the dog move the stock in different ways so
that he sees he can be successful. Some dogs may never completely quit
barking, as they may never gain the confidence they need in all
situations. By barking, the dog feels that he will make the stock do what
he wants them to do.
There is a lot of difference between a
"frustration" or "stress" bark and a
"control" bark. Some dogs will first warn the stock, in
particular cattle, with just a bark or two (not a constant yipping). Even
the tone of the bark is different from a "frustration" bark.
This control bark tells the cattle, "Move on your own or Iím coming
with teeth." Even the stock can sense the difference between a
control and a frustration bark. Some people think a working dog should be
completely quiet while working. During my thirty years of working dogs on
livestock, primarily cattle, Iíve always found a control bark to be
helpful. In a lot of cases than it is more effective than a bite,
especially when working large groups. A control bark tells the whole
group, "Thereís a dog back here and I mean business." If a dog
grips, the only one who knows about it is the one who got nipped. Also, to
me a control bark is easier on the stock than a grip, and the whole idea
is to move the stock in the calmest and easiest manner possible.
I like to teach my working dogs to bark
on command. This is very useful to me when having to move stock after dark
in the winter time, or when we have escapees at night. I canít always
tell where my dog is, but I can give him the "Bark" command and
know his exact position. I have also used this command in competition when
the situation was especially touchy.
about using my Aussie to work my horses?
Although we know there are people who say they effectively use dogs to
work their horses, we do not recommend it, especially with young dogs. An
older dog with experience dodging hooves might do better but we know of
several who were either killed or severely injured while trying to work
horses. Horses aim their kicks better than cattle and some horses will
even come after a dog and try to stomp it. If you intend to use your
Aussie to work horses both you and the dog should have a good deal of
experience. It can be done, but be careful.
heard the working lines are aggressive toward people. Is this true?
Generally speaking, more dogs from working lines have retained the
"old time" Aussie temperament than those from non-working lines.
The Aussie was bred to be a working dog and protector of family and home,
and in those days there were no conformation shows for Aussies. Now there
are, and the dogs that are shown need a happy, never-meet-a-stranger,
"pet me, pet me" attitude in order to do well in the breed ring.
In our opinion this is not in keeping with the ASCA
breed standard regarding temperament. We are not condoning aggression;
there is no excuse for a dog to be aggressive unless it is provoked.
However, we believe some people are using the term "aggressive"
loosely and confusing the term with the naturally protective, reserved
temperament of a lot of the working dogs -- which is how ALL Aussies used
to be and in our opinion, should be.
True aggression can be caused by many
factors Ė inheritance, lack of socialization, bad experiences at a young
age, improper handling, and abuse, just to name a few. We feel there are
just as many aggressive Aussies from non-working lines as there are from
told me that any Australian Shepherd would work my cows, because it's a
herding breed and all herding breed dogs work. Is this true?
Absolutely, positively NOT. Neither can just "any" thoroughbred
race!! It is a sad but true fact that there are an awful lot of Aussies
out there who don't have any inclination at all to work; some are even
afraid of the stock. Working instinct is an inherited trait and is easily
lost if care is not taken in a breeding program to preserve and enhance
it. Even if you breed two good working dogs, there is a chance there will
be one or two puppies in the litter that, for unknown reasons, don't want
to work. So if you want to increase your chances of getting one that WILL
work, you should be sure that at least both parents (and preferably all
grandparents) actually worked stock. It is also a little more difficult to
select one to work cows. You should ask if both parents actually worked
cows. Some dogs may work smaller stock but lack the power or constitution
to tackle cattle. If the parents worked the type stock you have, your
chances of getting a puppy that will are even better.
11. Do you train
working dogs for other people?
Unfortunately our time is very limited so right now we do not take any
outside dogs for training unless they were purchased from us. If you have
a working Aussie and need help with training or problem solving, you
should contact the breeder. Any person who sells their Aussies as working
dogs should be able to provide you with the help you need. If they can't
then they shouldn't be selling working dogs. We do try to have some
clinics during the year that are open to all working breeds. For more
information, contact us.
12. Do you
ever have started dogs for sale?
We get lots of requests
for started dogs but unfortunately rarely have one for sale to the public.
We have a long waiting list for started dogs and are able to produce only
one or two per year. Normally the puppy (or adult) is purchased from us
with the understanding that it will be started later on. Prices begin at
$750.00, depending on the amount of training the owner wants the dog to
have, and whether they wish it trialed and started titles completed.
A word of caution
if you're planning on buying a started dog: Be SURE that you and the
seller have the same thoughts about what "started" means.
To some people, if a dog has been exposed to stock at all, even on a lead,
it is "started". Others don't consider it started unless
it has a good, controllable "down" and is reliable on its
flanking commands, walk-ups, etc. Just be certain that if you're
buying a started dog it has had the training you expect. Ideally,
you should visit the dog and owner and have him/her work the dog for you,
then let you work it to see if you and the dog are going to get
along. The owner should also be willing to give you some tips on how
to work the dog. If that's not possible, at the very least you
should see a good video of the dog working so there will be no
misunderstanding about what it can/can't do. Also, be sure that it's
been started on the type stock you will use it on. A dog started on
sheep may not be ready to work cattle yet.