Like humans, dogs need to be kept entertained and engaged to stay healthy and happy. Australian Shepherds are no exception. In fact, most “Aussies”, as they are called, require more attention and activities than many other breeds.
Keeping your Aussie entertained can be broken down into 5 main areas:
- Solving puzzles
- Learning new tricks
- Canine sport clubs
- Doing a job
Those are the broad topics that will help you burn off some of your Aussie’s boundless energy and keep the animal stimulated. Each of those topics can be broken down into an assortment of more specific activities. Keep reading, and we’ll discuss each one in turn.
The Top 5 Ways to Keep Your Aussie Entertained
Aussies are naturally inquisitive, intelligent, and playful creatures who were bred for herding and other similar challenging work. As a result, Aussies tend to have more energy than many other dog breeds. This can make them a difficult pet to own, if you don’t find a way to help keep the Aussie entertained, engaged, and active.
To give you an extensive rundown of each category we mentioned above, we will address each one in turn. Then we will discuss and answer a few related questions to the topic at hand.
Exercise: an Aussie’s Bread and Butter
The first thing your Aussie needs before anything else is exercise, lots of exercise. After all, the Aussie was bred to have excellent stamina and endurance. Clearly, it won’t enjoy sitting around doing nothing all day. It’s simply not designed for the life of leisure.
Like all dogs, Aussies love to run and play and frolic outside. An Aussie that doesn’t meet a solid quota of activity may turn destructive in the house. It might start chewing on shoes, pillows, curtains—you name it—just because it is bored and has too much energy.
The cure to this is to provide your animal with some much-needed exercise.
Walks – the Classic
A nice long walk will do wonders to burn up some of that energy. If you can’t walk your dog every day, then at least try to do it every other day. And you can get creative here, too. You aren’t just limited to a walk around your neighborhood. You can take your Aussie on a hiking trail, beach strand, or even for a downtown promenade.
Dog Parks Can Be Good, But Pay Attention
Taking your Aussie to a local dog park is a great way to help your animal burn off excess energy while learning to socialize with other dogs. This works best if you make a playdate with another dog owner.
A word of caution, though, about your animal’s socialization skills. If your animal isn’t socialized, you might want to put off the dog park until they are ready. You could start with some training in an obedience school where they can help you socialize your pet—even if it is only through sharing a space with other animals while under close supervision.
Like many other dogs, Aussies love running about and chasing things. Not only is it good for the animal physically, but it also engages their minds by tapping into some of the traits for which they were bred—most notably, it allows them to access their herding instincts by chasing down a ball, cornering it, and then bringing it back.
Rubber balls or a rubber disc designed with a dog in mind work best for such activities. Hard plastic objects like frisbees should be avoided because they might hurt your dog’s teeth.
Play Hide and Seek
This game can be played both inside and out. It’s a simple game, much like the one we all learned as kids. It just involves a dog. Have your Aussie sit and not move for a few minutes (obviously, this requires a little bit of training on your dog’s part). Then, when you have found a good hiding spot, call your dog to come and find you.
Your animal will quickly oblige you. And he will do so even more quickly if you regularly give him treats as a reward.
The goal for all of these activities is to get your dog the exercise it needs. Without proper exercise, Aussies can become bad-tempered and antsy. They may start chewing on shoes, furniture, or other objects. You have to keep that kind of behavior in check. To do that, Aussies need a minimum of one to two hours of exercise every day.
Solving Puzzles: Brain Stimulation Can Be Just as Exhausting
Exercise and physical activity train your dog’s body, but you can also make efforts to engage your dog’s mind. A popular technique for engaging an Aussie’s mind to keep it occupied is the use of puzzles. Generally speaking, most dog puzzles involve the dog figuring something out in order to get a treat. Each dog is different, but you’ll likely find that your Aussie is
Puzzle Toys Made Specifically for Dogs
There are a number of food-dispensing toys and puzzles on the market. They require different methods of access. Some must be pawed, others licked, and others chewed upon or bounced to retrieve the treat.
They also come in a variety of difficulty levels. Having different puzzles with different means of activation can help keep your Aussie occupied and tax much of his energy. It can be a great way to wear him or her out.
If you don’t have a commercially purchased puzzle toy, you can wing it and create your own. Even something as simple as just spreading some of your Aussie’s kibbles in the grass will keep him occupied for a while as he picks through the grass to get his treats.
Chew Toys for Aussies (Curbing Destructive Behaviors)
Chew toys are a great way to curb a dog’s destructive behavior. The idea is to get the dog to chew on the toy instead of on your furniture or whatever else you need to preserve. Although chew toys aren’t technically puzzles in themselves, they can be used as such with a few creative touches.
A “Kong” is an excellent example of a chew toy that can also be used as a puzzle. A Kong is a rounded cone shape toy made of plastic that can be filled with various treats like wet food or treats or even the dog’s entire meal.
An excellent way to keep your dog busy with a Kong is to fill it with a mixture of wet food and treats and then freeze it. Your animal will have a blast working to get at the frozen mass of deliciousness. And it will keep your Aussie occupied for a good long time.
Frozen Treats Will Keep Aussies Entertained
You don’t necessarily need a Kong to provide a frozen treat for your dog. You could freeze some unsalted chicken or beef broth in a small bowl with an extra something suspended inside.
You could freeze another treat in there or even something as simple as one of your dog’s favorite chew toys (although, I suspect your dog will prefer something edible). The animal won’t be able to get the treat until he’s worked his way through the frozen broth, which he’ll surely love.
Note: the easiest way to get the frozen broth out of the bowl, if it is sticking to it, is to run warm water over the outside of the bowl.
Those are some good tips and ideas to keep your dog’s mind active when it comes to treat-time. The idea is to turn it into a puzzle to get his canine brain working. But puzzle toys and treats aren’t the only way to get him thinking, read on for more.
Teaching New Tricks
Another excellent way to get your Aussie’s mind and brain working is to teach them new tricks. This can be fun for both you and your dog.
A useful tool to use to help train your animal is called a clicker. Basically, it is a device you “click” to make a sound to let your Aussies know it is performing the right action that you want. The click is accompanied by a treat. Several correct actions are stacked together to perform a trick.
For example, your dog might look toward a chair (click), stick her head under the chair (click), and then finally crawl through (click). All the while, you may be saying “go under” and rewarding her with every click that marks a step in the process.
Although useful, clickers are not absolutely necessary to teach your dog tricks. You can still do it the old-fashioned way with verbal direction, hand motions, and a small bag of treats. It just might take a little longer. Regardless, here are some ideas for tricks you can teach to your dog.
It is highly recommended that Aussies get some level of training as young as possible (they can usually start at four months or so). Thorough training is necessary for your Aussie to deal with her herding instincts as well as just to keep her mind active and alert. Besides, it makes for a more productive relationship between owner and pet.
Start with basic commands like sit, come, lie down, heel, and stay. You can also use training to discourage undesirable behaviors like jumping up on people, nipping, barking at visitors, or what-have-you. The idea is to reward good behaviors and ignore or redirect bad behaviors. They should learn the difference quickly, especially with consistency and repetition.
Once your Aussie has mastered the basics, you can move on to more complicated tasks like running obstacle courses, fetching slippers, or putting away toys. It is important, though, to master the basics first as they form the foundation for more advanced skills.
Some advanced commands and skills might include:
- Have your dog point at an object with its paws or stand on it. This could be used to press a button, stand in a particular spot, or just select a toy.
- Have your dog learn and react to various hand signals. This can open up a whole new avenue of communication between you and your pet.
- Have your dog learn about and respect boundaries. This could help keep her contained in a yard or part of the house.
- Have your dog move to a particular location and stay there. This could be used to teach her to go to her bed or her crate upon command.
Socialization is a critical aspect of your Aussie’s life. Without proper socialization, your pet may develop a variety of bad behaviors that can be unpleasant for or even dangerous to visitors, other pets, or even you. With proper socialization your Aussie’s quality of life will improve and become happier and healthier.
Begin with socialization classes from a trained professional. This will help teach your Aussie how to relax and safely interact with other dogs and humans.
When socializing your Aussie with a new friend, always make sure to be cautious. Don’t force the issue. If your dog is nervous or upset, calmly withdraw from the situation.
You may find you have to work on getting your Aussie to curb some of their natural herding instincts and such, like nipping and circling.
It is worth pointing out that specialized professional instruction can help in any of these areas. It can start with signing up for obedience school to begin your Aussie’s training. This will not only help the dog learn more effectively, but it will also help the owner teach and handle the animal with greater skill and ability.
Later, instruction can be had for more advanced training and skills. Even learning to socialize properly can be aided by a skilled instructor in a controlled environment.
The options for particular tricks to learn is pretty expansive. You could teach your Aussie to fetch your slippers or stand on her hind legs or just about anything else you can think up. It just takes time, practice, and a little patience.
Join a Canine Sport
Another excellent option to keep your Aussie entertained and active is to get him involved in a canine sport. Canine sports, like human sports, provide an exciting outlet that burns off energy and can keep the mind fully engaged.
If you sign up for a canine sport, you and your pet can participate just for fun or, if you are competitive, you can try to win a few titles. Either way, you have lots of options from which to choose. Some of the more common sports include Agility, Herding, Freestyle, Dock Diving, Disc, Scenting, and Flyball.
Let’s just take Flyball as an example. It is an excellent choice for Aussies. The sport combines obstacle racing with chasing and fetching, so your dog’s mind and body will remain fully engaged throughout.
You can find out if there are any local flyball clubs in your area by checking with your local dog training school, canine fitness center, or by just doing a quick online search.
Another excellent choice of canine sport for Aussies is Agility Training. Like Flyball, this sport will help keep your dog in good physical condition as well as mentally engaged. It involves teaching your dog to navigate a complicated obstacle course filled with jumps, weaving poles, and see-saws.
Those are just a few of the options you have for canine sports. As we said, there are many more. Remember, though, even if you do wade into competitive sports, the first goal is fun!
Start a Job
One final way to keep your Aussie busy and occupied is to give her a job or two to do. Many dogs, like humans, find fulfillment in work. With that in mind, you can assign little jobs to your dog (obviously, they’ll have to be trained first) to keep her alert and active.
The types of jobs are only limited by your imagination, but here’s a shortlist to get you started.
- Accompany You on Errands: A short trip into town may seem simple to you but it can be a thrilling adventure for your dog. Your Aussie is sure to enjoy the new sights and sounds that accompany an everyday car ride.
Note: Don’t leave the dog alone and unattended in a hot car even if the outside temperature might seem cool. Car temperatures can rise quickly and dogs can overheat just as fast. If you must leave the car for a moment, make sure you leave the windows open enough to let in some fresh air.
- Turn Lights On and Off: Another “job” you could give your Aussie would be to turn lights on and off on command. You’d have to train them first, obviously, using either a touch stick or “touch” command, but it should be fairly straightforward. However, be warned, dog paws have been known to leave scratches on walls.
- Help with House Chores: It may seem strange, but you can train your dog to help you with some house chores.
They can be trained to put their toys away, for example, or to fetch you your slippers, or even to fetch something from the refrigerator. In the case of the refrigerator, you’ll have to tie a cloth or rope to the handle to help your Aussie open the door. But once that is accomplished, the rest of their training just takes a little patience.
Those are just a few possible jobs you can give your Aussie. You are not limited to those by any stretch of the imagination. Regardless, a few good jobs should help keep your Aussie busy.
What Are the Best Ways to Keep My Aussie Busy?
As we said above, boredom can be a serious problem for a dog leading it to get into all sorts of trouble. A bored dog is more likely to chew up slippers and furniture and everything else.. Above, we’ve listed a number of ways to keep your Aussie entertained. Still, of those five listed ways, you might ask yourself, “What are the best ways to keep my Aussie busy?”
In our opinion, the “best” ways would be those ways that combine both physical activities with mental activity. In this case, we’d say that, for younger less well-trained animals, starting with exercise is best.
Exercise that is turned into play is ideal. If you can play with your dog a couple of times a day, you’ll be doing your pet a huge service. Here are a couple of options:
- Tug of War: Tug of War is a great game to play with your dog to exercise both his mind and his body. It also requires very little space, so you can play it indoors if you like. Basically, all you have to do is get him interested in an old sock or a tug toy and try to get it from him.
Keep in mind that your dog will enjoy the game more if he wins a few rounds. Your goal is to keep him playing and entertained for as long as possible.
- Doggie Playdates: Probably the best way to exercise a dog is to get another dog for him to play with. In light of that, the idea of setting up a doggie playdate with a neighbor’s dog or a close friend’s dog is an excellent idea
Together, the two animals will burn through lots of excess energy and keep each other entertained and engaged for a fairly good length of time.
As your Aussie gets older and better trained, you might want to look into canine sports for even more effective means of keeping him occupied. But, as we said, that takes a lot of training.
How Do You Mentally Stimulate an Aussie?
Having looked at physical activity, you might want to find ways of focusing more directly on the mental activity of your Aussie. For example, you might ask, “How do you mentally stimulate an Aussie?” We believe the best way to do this is to give him a few puzzles to solve.
- Play Find the Treats: These types of puzzles come in a wide variety. You can have your dog watch you place treats around a room and then give him the command to find the treats. As he advances, you can make the hiding spots more difficult. Alternatively, you can hide them in a muffin pan beneath tennis balls and have him sniff them out.
- Have Your Aussie Clean Up His Toys: This can be a very useful trick to teach your dog, but it takes time. First, you have to teach him to pick up objects. Then, you have to teach him to drop objects. Then, you have to teach him to drop objects where you want them. If you put all those tricks together, your Aussie will be able to pick up his toys.
- The Shell Game: Start with one treat and three shells. Put the treat under one of the shells and mix them up. Now, see if your dog can pick out the correct shell. This is an excellent way to keep him mentally stimulated.
Those are just three puzzles that will help keep your Aussie mentally stimulated. There are many others, but we won’t list them all here.
What Are the Best Toys and Puzzles to Keep an Aussie Busy?”
No dog is truly happy unless she’s got a few toys and puzzles to keep her busy. These can range from do-it-yourself creations like an old sock or tennis ball, to well-crafted items bought from the store.
They are also great because they don’t necessarily require human engagement on your part. Your dog might be perfectly content to sit by himself for an hour chewing on his chew toy. And you can do what you want.
The following are two toys that come highly regarded.
- The Muffin Tin Game: We mentioned this one above. It is a DIY game. Basically, take an old muffin tin and place a few treats in each cup. Now place tennis balls on top of each cup and let your Aussie sniff them out.
- The Kong: The Kong is a popular commercially available dog toy shaped like a rough cone and made from durable plastic. Most people put peanut butter or frozen broth inside and then give it to their animal to work on and get the tasty treat out.
There are other popular toys for dogs on the market as well as other DIY items. All of them can help keep your Aussie entertained.
In the end, the most important thing to take away is that an active dog is a happy dog, and this is true of Aussies in particular. After all, they were bred for herding, so they have an innate amount of energy they must expend on a daily basis. Fortunately, there are many ways to do so. We hope our information helps you in that endeavor.