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How to Keep an Australian Cattle Dog Busy

Australian Cattle Dogs (ACD) are highly intelligent and possess endless amounts of energy. One of the biggest challenges facing owners of ACDs is managing their high energy so you have a happy, healthy, and non-destructive companion. So, what are some ways to keep a Cattle Dog busy?

Australian Cattle Dogs require a variety of activities to burn off energy. Due to their herding dog and dingo genetics, ACDs excel at outdoor activities such as hiking, running, agility, and fetch. However, Cattle Dogs also need to stimulate their brains. To create a good balance between mental and physical health, Australian Cattle Dogs need daily indoor and outdoor activities to keep them busy.

What toys are best to keep your Australian Cattle Dog busy? What type of training can you participate in? What activities can you both enjoy? Let’s take a look at all the fun ways you can entertain your Cattle Dog.

Blue Heeler Bindi and her Frisbee

What are the Best Toys for a Cattle Dog?

A variety of toys are essential for an ACD. Toys are an excellent way to keep your dog busy while they spend time inside, especially at times when you must leave the dog alone. Your dog can choose which toys they want and happily keep themselves busy.

– Chew Toys

Chew toys for an Australian Cattle Dog need to be durable. Even durable toys are often quickly destroyed by an ACD. Always provide your dog a choice and have some in reserve to add to his toy basket. Durable toys will often be more expensive but avoid the temptation of buying a toy because it is cheaper. Always read the label to know what the toy is made of. Avoid flimsy plastic, elastic, and very thin rubber chew toys. ACDs can destroy these materials very quickly. They could also easily ingest the pieces, leading to a serious health emergency.

Kong classic extreme toys are an excellent choice. It is the strongest type of Kong and is made with tough chewers in mind. These toys have center holes that you can fill with treats, providing both physical and mental stimulation.

In addition to the Kong extreme toy, the following are excellent chew toy options for an ACD:

  • Kong extreme tire – This comes in two sizes, so you can use the smaller one for puppies and upgrade when your dog grows
  • Chompion heavyweight – This dumbbell-shaped toy is textured, so it not only provides interest for your ACD, but it also helps look after their dental health. It is ideally shaped for dogs that like to carry around their toys and is designed to take a battering.
  • Nylabone power chew – Nylabones are popular chew toys for dogs. For an ACD, go for their more durable model, the power chew. These bones come in various sizes and flavors.
  • Outward Hound – to provide your ADC with a soft textured toy, Outward Hound is designed to hold up to rough handling. These toys come in different shapes, squeak for added stimulation, and don’t contain stuffing, so there are no worries about accidental ingestion.
  • Goughnuts – This is a ring chew toy, which the makers claim is made of nearly indestructible material.
  • DuraForce Toys – squeaky toys that not only satisfy ACD’s chewing needs but also can be used in games you play together.

The above list is by no means exhaustive. Today, there are many chew toys designed for tough chewers. There is a huge variety, so you can give your Australian Cattle Dog plenty of choices.

– Treat Toys

Treat toys provide fantastic mental stimulation for an ACD. Dogs are food motivated. These toys, combined with food, can keep an ACD focused and helps avoid them seeking their own entertainment. Most treat toys come in a ball shape. You can stuff the ball with treats and your dog will have to move the ball to release a treat. For an ACD, look for durable and more complicated treat toys that require more skill to access the treat.

Good treat toy examples include:

  • Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball – This treat ball requires a little more than pushing to release a treat, thus occupying an ACD for some time.
  • JW Pet Roller Extreme Dog Toy – This treat toy is made from strong, flexible rubber. It is open, providing many holes you can stuff with treats.
  • Nylabone Stuffable Chew Toy – Pick the version aimed at heavy chewers. This toy has a cavity that you can stuff with spreadable or kibble treats.
  • West Paw Rumbl – West Paw toys are eco-friendly and American-made. The Rumbl is not as durable as some other toy types but offers a squishy texture that provides variety.

– Puzzle Games

Puzzle games are a must-have toy for Australian Cattle Dogs. To prevent boredom, it is important to provide an ACD with mental stimulation. Remember, they are highly intelligent dogs! Puzzle games have become very popular, so you’ll find a lot of choices. It is a good idea to have a few different puzzle games to rotate, keeping your ACD guessing.

Puzzle games involve placing treats in various compartments. The dog then has to discover which compartment has the treat and figure out how to open it. A great feature of these games is that you can change where you put the treats.

For an interactive puzzle game that only requires treats, you can train your ACD to play hide and seek. Do this by teaching your dog to wait in another room while you hide treats. When the treats are hidden, call your dog back and ask him to seek. Not only will this game mentally stimulate your ACD, but it will also burn off energy and strengthen your bond.

Puzzle Game Options:

  • Nina Ottosson by Outward Hound – There are several variations of this puzzle game. Some come in four levels, with level 4 being the most difficult. Level 1 only requires your dog to learn one action to reveal the treat. Level 2 requires more thought and multiple actions. Level 3 requires your dog to learn a sequence to solve the puzzle. Finally, level 4 requires your dog to learn several steps before they can get the treat.
  • Snuffle Mat – Snuffle mats come in a variety of designs. It is a soft puzzle game made up of numerous soft strips where you can hide treats.
  • Trixie Activity Flip Board – This puzzle game has different shaped compartments, requiring your dog to use multiple skills to get them open
  • Trixie Mad Scientist – This is a cool puzzle toy that requires your dog to turn the canisters around and keep them in place for the treat to come out. It comes with different lids to increase or decrease difficulty.
– Tug Toys

Your ACD will love playing tug with you. Tug toys provide both physical and mental stimulation. They are a fun activity that you can enjoy with your ACD. These toys come in the shape of ropes and rings. Like any toy you choose for an Australian Cattle Dog, pick the most durable products. When playing tug with a puppy, let the puppy do the pulling so you don’t injure their growing body by pulling too hard.

If you have two dogs, tug toys provide a great way for them to play with each other, keeping them out of mischief!

Australian Cattle Dog Tug Toys:

  • Nylabone Power Play Tug-a-Ball – This cool toy is both a tug toy and a ball. It has two interlocking rings that bounce in random directions when thrown.
  • Beco Hemp Rope Toy – This tug toy is in the commonly seen bone shape or loop. However, instead of being made from cotton, it is made from hemp. It is environmentally friendly for the eco-conscious dog parent.
  • Hartz DuraPlay – This tug toy has two loops and a central ball.
  • Rope tug – This is the most commonly found tug toy. They are thick cotton ropes with two or more knots. Look for the thickest version for your ACD, like Benjamin’s Cattle Dog Rope Toy.
  • Kong tug toy – made from Kong’s tough material, this tug toy has two handles, one for your dog and one for you.
– Toy Clean-Up

You will have a lot of different toys for your ACD. They need variety and can destroy toys with some frequency. To manage all your dog’s toys, you will need a place to store them. You can combine the toy storage area with a fun activity for your dog. Toy clean-up is a great game to nurture your Australian Cattle Dog’s intelligence and herding instinct.

Teach your ACD this game by adding some treats to the toy storage. Then walk your dog, carrying the toy to the box, and show him the treats. When he drops the toy in the box for the treat, give him lots of praise, and use your command. This command can be your choice, ‘clean up’ is a good option. Spend short seasons repeating the task until your dog understands. With an ACD, it won’t be long until your dog picks up all his toys and puts them away for you on command.

Best Training Methods for an ACD:

Training an ACD is essential. Their high energy means that you need to have a way to keep them under control and well-behaved. Training is where your Australian Cattle Dog’s intelligence can really shine. It is extremely rewarding for both the dog and dog parent. You can take your training to advanced levels, and even participate in competitions.

– Basic Obedience

All Australian Cattle Dogs need basic obedience training. This training needs to begin when your dog is a puppy. Due to their intelligence, you need to proceed carefully to ensure you give your puppy the correct responses. Consistency is key. Always respond instantly with a correction, by saying ‘no’ or rewarding with a treat or pet.

Start with the very basics and establish a routine. Feed, groom, and take your puppy out at the same times each day. Set a regular bedtime, so your puppy learns that a certain time means they must rest. Use the same words to indicate each goal and give plenty of praise when your puppy does what you ask.

At 10-weeks old, you can start to train more advanced skills. Teach your ACD to walk on a leash without pulling; it’s best to start this indoors. Teach your puppy to come when called using a longer leash and increase the distance while using the come command. A young Cattle Dog should also stop barking when asked. Once you reach 12-weeks of age, you can start training some more fun commands, such as sit, lie down, go to bed, and give you their paw. As your puppy masters commands, you can add more complicated tricks to their arsenal.

Enroll in puppy classes. Not only will you meet other dog parents, but puppy classes also provide socialization with other dogs. A well-rounded dog must learn how to interact with other dogs to avoid problems when you meet other dogs out and about.

– Agility Training

Agility is a fantastic activity for Australian Cattle Dogs. It makes a dent in their seemingly endless energy levels, enforces their bond with you, and provides wonderful mental stimulation. ACDs love to work and please their favorite person. Agility will provide endless hours of fun for both of you. Since agility is an off-leash activity, your ACD needs a mastery of basic obedience before beginning agility training.

Agility consists of a course of obstacles that you direct your dog over and through. Start by introducing your dog to the individual obstacles and understanding your directions to tackle them. When you first start, make sure you practice in a contained area that your dog cannot escape from. When you introduce your dog to each obstacle, make sure they are set to the easiest level. Make tunnels straight and short, and the jumps low. Keep a stash of treats in your pocket or a belt pouch and hand them out readily. As your dog masters each obstacle, slowly increase the difficulty.

Dog agility has become quite popular. There are many organizations to join that host competitions and training. United States Dog Agility Association has excellent training resources and information about events for dogs of all levels and competitiveness. You may also find local dog agility clubs near you to join.

– Herding

Herding is right up your Australian Cattle Dog’s alley, it’s what they are bred to do! Training your dog to herd will provide an ideal outlet for his work ethic, instincts, and energy. It can also control his natural urge to nip at everyone’s heels! It is also good to train your ACD to herd if you live on a farm or in an area with livestock. It will prevent your dog from causing problems with your neighbors.

Like agility, your ACD needs a mastery of basic obedience before embarking on herding training. Training your dog to herd takes time, usually many months. Start by introducing your dog to livestock in a controlled manner, so he learns to respect them and your expected behavior around them.

If you are new to herding, seek the help of trainers that specialize in herding training. Even if you don’t have your own farm, you can still participate in herding competitions for fun. The National Cattle Dog Association holds regional trials and a national championship.

How to Keep an ACD Busy with Fetch Games:

Fetch games are perfect for keeping an ACD busy. These games require athleticism, concentration, and oodles of energy. A basic ball will do for a game of fetch. There are even ball launchers that can fire off multiple balls quickly. For more advanced fetch games, teach your ACD flyball and frisbee.

– Flyball

Flyball is a team game involving two teams of four dogs. Each dog must race over several obstacles, hit a trigger that releases a ball, and bring that ball back to the starting point. It is a fast-paced and exciting game to watch that requires concentration from the dog.

– Frisbee

ACDs love frisbee. It requires a great athletic ability for your dog to run, jump, and catch a frisbee in the air. To teach this game, first, show your ACD how to hold a frisbee. You can start this training when your dog is a puppy, but to avoid injury, don’t start the jumping into the air portion until they are at least a year old. Use a soft frisbee as it’s easier for your dog to hold and is less likely to damage their mouth. Frisbee is a competitive sport known as disco dog or frisbee dog.

Herding Activities to Keep ACDs Busy:

In addition to or instead of formal herd training with livestock, you can indulge your ACD’s herding instinct with a variety of activities.

– Herding Ball

A herding ball is a large ball that your ACD can push and chase himself without your help. These balls don’t bounce and are too large for your dog to pick up. The only way he can play with it is to push. This game can entertain a breed like the Australian Cattle Dog for hours. Here’s a previous post on the best herding balls.

– Treibball

Treibball is a dog sport that uses herding balls. The sport requires the dog to herd eight balls into a pen within the time limit. The human team member must stay within a set boundary and have no physical contact with the dog. The balls must be taller than the dog’s shoulder.

Walks for Different ACD Activity Levels:

At a minimum, an ACD must go on multiple walks per day. It is a great activity for both your dog’s and your physical health. You can mix up walks by exploring different areas.

– Neighborhood

Walk your ACD twice a day for at least 45-minutes each time. If you do less physical activity, you risk a dog that could become destructive in your home. Vary your routes through your neighborhood to provide a variety of mental stimulation. You should always include other activities during the day to stimulate your ACD and not rely completely on neighborhood walks to meet his needs.

– Dog Park

When your ACD has basic obedience skills and is good at socializing with other dogs, a dog park is a fun way for your dog to play. Dog parks provide an outlet for those who live in more urban areas and want to keep an Australian Cattle Dog.

– Hikes

ACDs are sturdy and have excellent endurance, making them excellent hiking companions. Exploring nature on hikes provides plenty of mental and physical stimulation. Before embarking on a hike with your ACD off-leash, make sure he has a foolproof recall, so you don’t lose him when he decides to herd the local wildlife. ACDs are capable of a full day of hiking, so long as you take appropriate breaks to rest. Here’s a previous post on ACD hiking.

Running with an ACD:

ACDs love to run. You can combine this with outdoor activities that you enjoy. For your safety, choose areas that have low amounts of traffic.

– Road or Trail Running

When running on the road with your ACD choose areas that have low amounts of traffic. For both road and trail running, keep runs to five-mile sessions.

– Rollerblading

Rollerblading is a fun activity in parks with plenty of hard paths. To safely rollerblade with your ACD, he needs to have mastered some basic training. Ensure your dog knows not to pull on the leash and travel beside you without crossing your path. He also must know how to stop when asked.

– Bicycling

Like rollerblading, your ACD needs to understand certain commands, so you can both safely enjoy bicycling together. If your ACD is very obedient, you can enjoy off-road trail biking together.

For both bicycling and rollerblading, remember that you are traveling much faster than a walk. Treat these activities the same as a run by keeping sessions to 5 miles.

Final Thoughts

No matter which toys, training, or group activities you chose, the result will be a more satisfied and calmer Cattle Dog. The ultimate goal is to have fun with the various ACD activity options and enjoy them with your loyal companion!

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