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.
Australian Shepherds require daily physical and mental activities to stay happy and healthy. Aim for between 45 to 60 minutes of physical exercise for adult Aussies. Aussie puppies need physical activity throughout each day with frequent rest breaks. Daily mental stimulation is critical for all ages of Aussies.
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.
Walks and Runs
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 try to take your Aussie outside somewhere where they can roam and explore.
It’s best to exercise an Aussie twice a day, once in the morning and once later in the day. Both sessions of exercise can be 30 minutes or more. One could be a trip to the park or beach, while the other could be a walk around the neighborhood.
Swimming is a fantastic way to ensure your Aussie works out all their energy while staying cool and ensures the blazing sun doesn’t inhibit exercise time. It is also low impact, compared to running-based activities, especially for older Aussies who might have limited mobility.
Aussies are extremely intelligent dogs and 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.
To get started, check out these 7 easy steps to Train an Australian Shepherd. It’s a good idea to start with the basics like sit, stay, lay down, and drop it or leave it (when they pick up something they aren’t supposed to have). You can also teach them more challenging tricks as well which usually build on one another. For example, once a dog knows how to lay down, it is easy to teach them to roll over.
Most owners use treats to reward during training time. As your Aussie learns more tricks, this can lead to giving many treats in one session. When this happens, you will want to look into buying healthy training treats that are smaller in size or breaking the treats you have into smaller pieces. Here are 5 highly-ranked treats specifically for Aussie puppies.
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 Aussie
Aussie’s generally get along with other dogs and should have frequent occasions to socialize. This is best done at a dog park or if you have a friend that has a dog you can arrange a play date.
It’s important not to leave your Aussie alone while it is socializing with unfamiliar dogs. And if you are unsure, it’s best to keep your dogs on a leash until you are certain they are getting along.
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 Toys are Best for Aussies?
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.
Aussies need toys that appeal to them, 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 physically active, 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. Here are some great options for durable balls on Amazon.
Dogs love to play tug of war. And this can be great exercise both for you and your Aussie. As you are picking out a rope for your dog, you need to get one that is designed specifically for dogs and is the right size for your Aussie.
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 aggressive chewers like these popular options.
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 Aussie’s size. There are a variety of puzzle 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. Never leave your Aussie unattended with a dog puzzle toy.
Australian Shepherds are known for chewing, especially if they are bored and left alone. Since you will likely have to leave your Aussie for a few hours at some point, it’s critical you have toys that they are allowed to chew on to keep them busy.
Chew toys come in all shapes and sizes. It’s important to purchase dog-specific chew toys that suit the age and size of your Aussie. Here are the 10 Best Chews for Aussie Puppies.
Bones, such as reindeer antlers, or other dog-safe bones, 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 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 made specifically for your dog.
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. Here are some soft dog toys without stuffing or for aggressive chewers.
Toys That Make Sound
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 durably made with dog safety in mind like these options on Amazon.
If you don’t think a traditional squeak toy will survive your dog’s chewing, 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 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, you can give your Aussie jobs to do around the house. 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 a hidden toy 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. Just ensure that you load both sides of the dog backpack evenly.
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 work up to herding through proper training.
If you don’t have herding-specific training schools nearby, there are also online resources. There are even livestock-free options like Treiball or herding balls that satisfy the Aussie’s instinct to herd.
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! To teach your dog to close a door just have them press or lean on a door until it closes and 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.
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, so you should 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.