Australian Shepherds are some of the most energetic and intelligent dogs, so keeping them happy, healthy, and entertained can be challenging. Without consistent stimulation and attention, you’ll quickly find out what happens if Aussies don’t channel their energy.
If you are worried that your Australian Shepherd may be unhappy in your home, then it’s time to take a look at all the ways you can keep them happy. Read on to discover more about Australian Shepherds and all the things you can do to make them happy members of your household.
How Do I Keep My Aussie Happy?
Australian Shepherds, besides being one of the most active dog breeds, are also one of the most intelligent. This can be both a blessing and a curse, as when intelligent animals get bored, this can lead them to become destructive. This is why you should try your best to keep your Aussie happy by doing the following things.
An Australian Shepherd will not be happy if it is left indoors all day. These dogs were bred specifically to be active and have lots of endurance and stamina. And you will need to let them express this daily.
While it is possible to exercise a dog indoors, unless there is inclement weather, you should always take your Aussie outside somewhere where they can roam and explore. This will fulfill their need for physical as well as mental stimulation.
It’s best to exercise an Aussie twice a day, once in the morning and once later in the day. Both periods of exercise don’t have to be a big deal. One could be a trip to the park or beach, while the other could be a walk around the neighborhood. It’s up to you and your schedule, but just letting them out to potty a few times a day won’t cut it.
As previously mentioned, Aussies are extremely intelligent dogs, and as such, they need lots of mental stimulation to be happy. At a minimum, you should have one training session with your dog each day, for at least 15 minutes. Even if you don’t teach them something new, at least run through tricks they already know.
It’s a good idea to teach your Aussie the basics like sit, stay, lay down, and drop (when they get something they aren’t supposed to), but you can also teach them more challenging tricks as well. More challenging tricks usually build on one another. For example, once a dog knows how to lay down, it is very easy to teach them to play dead.
If you don’t know how to teach these tricks, that’s okay. A quick Google search can help show you how to teach your dog new tricks. Just find a website with training steps, as these will help you and your Aussie learn the trick more effectively.
Most owners use treats to reward during training time. As your dog learns more tricks, this can lead to using many treats in one session. When this happens, you will want to look into buying specific training treats that are smaller in size or breaking the treats you have into smaller pieces.
Not all dog breeds do well with agility training, but your Aussie will love it! Even if you don’t plan to compete, just going to a course and having your dog do some of the obstacles with you will certainly keep your Aussie happy!
Make sure before you head to an agility training center that you know how all the obstacles work. This will keep both you and your Aussie safe while using the course. You can find the rules and explanations on an official competition website, and there are plenty of videos on YouTube you can reference as well.
Play With Your Dog
Although your dog may be content to sit and chew on a bone by himself or herself, dogs are pack animals, and they are used to interacting with others. If you have kids, this is perfect because they will run and play with the dog as a littermate might.
If you don’t have children, then it’s important to give your Aussie individualized attention each and every day. You can do this by playing fetch, tug of war, or doing a dog-friendly puzzle together. This way, your Aussie will get the attention it craves while also having an outlet for its energy.
Socialize Your Dog
Besides just socializing with human housemates, you must let your Aussie have time to socialize with other dogs on occasion. This is best done at a dog park or if you have a friend that has a friendly dog.
Never leave your dog alone while it is socializing with other dogs. And if you are unsure if your dog is friendly towards other dogs, always keep your dogs on a leash until you are certain they are getting along. It’s also best to have dogs meet on neutral territories like a dog park or nature park in your neighborhood.
Aussies should begin the socialization process while they are still young, this way they will be properly socialized by the time they are an adult and will interact with other dogs with ease.
What Do Aussies Like to Play With?
In the section above, it was mentioned that you should be playing with your Aussie with their toys regularly. But you may be wondering what toys are best for an Aussie. Because they are so intelligent, Aussies need toys that appeal to them mentally and physically, but in general, it is good to have a wide variety of toys for your Aussie to rotate between.
Fetch is an excellent activity to play with your Aussie. Not only does it keep them active (and burning their endless energy), but it also engages them mentally as they have to watch where the ball goes and find it when it lands.
When choosing a ball for your Aussie to fetch, it’s critical that you pick one that is small and light enough for you to throw far but also big enough that the ball won’t slip down your dog’s throat on accident. A standard tennis ball is usually a good-sized ball for an adult Aussie to play fetch with, though you may need to use a smaller ball when they are a puppy.
Aussies can also be taught to fetch items that aren’t a ball, such as a plush toy. These can frequently be easier for owners to spot and less likely to be lost. Whatever toy you use to play fetch, try to use the same toy each time, so your Aussie knows to expect a game of fetch when you pick up that specific toy.
Dogs love to play tug of war. And this can be great exercise both for you and your Aussie both. As you are picking out a rope for your dog, you need to get one that is designed specifically for dogs and appropriate for your dog’s size.
This is because if a rope isn’t dog safe, your Aussie could tear it apart and eat the threads, which could jam up their digestive system. And a rope that is too small for your dog poses similar risks as well as the risk of choking. If your dog is a serious chewer, you should also get ropes that are designed for dogs that love to chew.
The important thing to know when having a rope to play tug with your Aussie is to ensure that you use the rope, and only the rope, to play tug. This is because you don’t want your dog to play tug with things that aren’t meant to withstand tug of war—like other plush toys, or worse, your favorite shoes that your Aussie got from under your bed.
When it comes to mental stimulation, you’ll want to get some sort of puzzle toy for your Aussie. A puzzle toy is any sort of toy where your dog has to work for the reward—usually a treat.
Always buy a dog-specific puzzle and one that is appropriate for your dog’s size. There is a wide range of these types of toys available online, or you can head to your local pet store and see what they have.
Dog puzzles are always meant to be done with both the dog and owner and therefore aren’t the most damage resistant and may sometimes have smaller pieces than other dog toys. Never leave your Aussie unattended with a dog puzzle.
Australian Shepherds are known for chewing, especially if they are bored and left alone. Since you will have to leave your Aussie for a few hours at some point, it’s critical you have a toy that they are allowed to chew on to keep them busy.
Chew toys come in all shapes and sizes, with everything from bones, to rubber chew toys, to rawhides being available. This is another area where you must purchase dog-specific chew toys that suit the size of your companion. If a dog is given a chew toy that is too small, this could cause them to choke.
Bones, such as reindeer antlers, or other dog-safe bones, along with rawhides, should not be given to your dog while they are unattended, as pieces could get broken off. So if you are leaving for a few hours each day, it’s probably best to invest in a toy like a rubber Kong that is almost impossible to destroy that will keep your dog busy for hours.
Plush toys can often become a symbol of comfort to dogs, most notably when they are experiencing stress and anxiety. But a plush toy will need to be selected, especially for your dog.
This is because some Aussies like to destroy plush toys and eat the stuffing. If this sounds like your dog, then you will want to get a special type of plush toy that doesn’t have any stuffing—because the stuffing can harm your dog’s digestive system.
An additional measure you can use to keep your dog from destroying a plush toy is to be sure you never let them chew on it, play tug, or fetch with it—this will establish to them that this toy is different than the others.
Toys That Make Sound
A toy that makes a sound when it is moved or squeezed is another great way to provide your Aussie with mental stimulation. Although if you pick the wrong one, this could drive the humans in the house crazy, so make sure you select one with a sound that you can listen to over and over again.
Selecting a toy with sound for your Aussie follows the same rules as for any other toy. You need to select one that is of the appropriate size and shape for your dog. You also need to consider if your dog can handle a traditional squeak toy that may be able to be torn up and the squeaker swallowed on accident.
If you don’t think a traditional squeak toy will survive your dog’s chewing abilities, then you should consider getting a water bottle toy. This type of toy is a soft covering for a water bottle that will make a crinkle noise when your dog chews it. But unlike other noise toys, there is no stuffing or squeaker that can be accidentally swallowed.
What Jobs Can I Give My Aussies?
When it comes to keeping an Aussie happy, it’s recommended that you give your Aussie jobs to do around the house. This will help your Aussie to have mental stimulation as well as to feel as if they are part of the family. There are lots of different jobs you can have your Aussie do on a daily basis.
Pick Up Toys
Now that you’ve bought all sorts of toys for your Aussie, it’s likely that they are spread all over the house. You should have a toy box specifically for your Aussie’s toys, and it should be your dog’s responsibility to put all the toys away before bed each night.
This is an easy trick to train. You will just need to teach your dog first the commands ‘come’ and ‘drop’ then. Next time they carry a toy, tell them to ‘come’ to you at the toy box and instruct them to ‘drop’ it in. After your dog masters this, you can work on creating a command for the entire job of picking up toys.
Find Objects and People
You Aussie can also be trained to find objects as well as family members. This one will take some diligence to train, as you will have to teach your Aussie the names of the objects you want them to find before you can instruct them to do so.
But if you take the time and persistence to do so, this is a great trick to show off to others, especially if you teach your Aussie to find something like the mail or find specific family members.
This is one of the easiest jobs to train your Aussie to do, especially if you also carry items. This trick is generally trained first with your dog’s toys, then eventually with bags, water bottles, and whatever else you want your dog to carry in his or her mouth.
Besides just having your dog carry things around the house, it can be helpful to get a dog backpack and have your dog carry things on its back. Wearing a backpack can make your dog feel as if they are working and help them not to run as far as they are off-leash. Just ensure that you load both sides of the dog backpack evenly, so your dog doesn’t run/walk lopsided.
Wake Up Family Members
Since you are already teaching your Aussie the names of household members for the ‘find’ command, it’s pretty easy to later transform that command into waking up various members of your household.
This is best done by teaching your dog to nudge or jump on the bed on command. Then you can combine this with the command “wake-up.” Once your dog has this down, try combining the new command with family members’ names and see what happens!
If you live on a farm, then you should absolutely have your Aussie involved in herding duties. After all, this is what Aussies are born to do! The important thing to remember is that while Aussies have automatic herding behavior built into their genes, you still need to have a command to tell them when to herd.
If you don’t have a herding-specific command, this could lead to your dog herding the animals and not stopping when asked. This could also lead to your Aussie herding other things, like small children, without being asked. Avoid both of these problems by issuing a verbal command before letting your Aussie loose near farm animals to practice their herding.
Opening and closing doors in your house on command is a great job for your Australian Shepherd to have, especially when your arms are full! Teaching your dog to close a door should be no problem, just have them press or lean on a door until it closes, then give them a treat.
Opening doors can be harder, particularly if you have doors with round knobs, but you can also attach ropes to certain doors, like the fridge, and teach your dog to pull on the rope to open the door. This is also a great time to teach your Aussie to grab a drink with their carrying skills.
This next one can be a bit harder to train unless you have a pool at your home, but it can still be done. This job starts as a game of fetch but is trained in much harsher conditions. For example, you might toss your dog’s toy in the pool and tell them to ‘rescue’ instead of fetching.
You’ll need to practice this with toys quite a bit before you start with humans, but once your dog has rescue down, try having someone in a t-shirt jump into your pool and tell your Aussie to ‘rescue.’ (The t-shirt is so your Aussie has something to grab onto to drag them to safety).
At What Age Do Aussies Calm Down?
If you’ve recently, or not so recently, acquired an Aussie puppy, you maybe be exhausted with the amount of playing and running they require. This will leave you wondering when you can expect your Australian Shepherd to calm down, as most dogs tend to do as they age.
Australian Shepherds are known for having lots of energy throughout their entire life. That being said, you can expect your Aussie to have a dip in energy around two years of age. This is when your dog is considered to officially be an adult dog, and they will lose some of their puppy energy.
But again, you should never expect your Aussie to not have more energy than other dogs. Aussies will always need to live an active and mentally stimulating lifestyle, even after they reach the age of two. Do not get an Aussie unless you are prepared to be active with your Aussie for its entire lifespan.
There are also some owners that report that their Aussie still acts like a puppy, even as they pass three, five, and seven years of age. So don’t count on that zooming around the house puppy energy to end after just two years.
How Can I Teach My Aussie Not to Chew?
When your Aussie begins to chew your possessions, this can annoy and infuriate you to no end. Chewing is a normal habit for dogs, and sometimes something as simple as getting a proper chew toy can keep your Aussie from destroying your things. But this isn’t always enough, and even with a Kong, you can come home to find your favorite couch in shreds.
Chewing is both a sign of your dog teething, as well as anxiety and possible stomach upset. Once you’ve ruled out these three possible causes of your dog’s chewing, and you’ve ensured they have proper chew toys available, it’s time to face the facts that your Aussie maybe chewing out of curiosity.
Chewing out of curiosity is the same as chewing out of boredom. It is the equivalent of your dog laying around your house, bored, wondering, “hmm, what does the couch taste like?” And indicates that you aren’t providing your dog with enough stimulation. Your first response when dealing with an Aussie and chewing is to up the amount of exercise your Aussie is receiving.
If you were previously taking your Aussie for a 15-minute walk in the morning, and a 30-minute dog park session in the afternoon, try upping both of these by 15 minutes. You could also consider adding a third evening exercise session to help decrease the energy your dog has during the night.
You can add up your mental training sessions with your Aussie so that they feel more mentally tired and are more likely to sleep instead of destroying. And if you’ve tried everything on this list and your dog still won’t stop chewing, you may want to contact your veterinarian or a dog trainer for help.
How Can I Get Help Training My Aussie?
As you can see by this article, Australian Shepherds are amazing dogs truly capable of doing some awesome tricks if they are trained right. When it comes to training an Aussie, you should start while it is still young, chiefly when it comes to discipline training.
If you’ve never had or trained a dog before, it can be difficult to know where to start or how best to train a dog with so much energy. In this case, you should consider taking your dog to obedience classes or puppy school.
When you take your dog to obedience classes, not only will they help you train your dog, but they will also train you on how to train your dog. Do not expect puppy classes or obedience training to be a magic fix-all, and be prepared to work with your dog in your own free time if you truly want to have a well-behaved Aussie.
Owning an Australian Shepherd is a lot of work, especially if you get yours while a small puppy. Aussies thrive in environments that are physically and mentally stimulating, and therefore you need to be prepared to provide your dog with toys and jobs that will help promote this in their life.
Having the proper toys and activities will not only keep your Aussie happy and healthy, but it will keep you happy as well, as your dog will be less likely to have behavior problems. You can also harness an Aussie’s energy to teach them cool tricks! So if you have or plan to adopt one of these loveable dogs, be prepared to keep your Aussie happy using the activities in this post.