Aussies need to be kept entertained and engaged to stay healthy and happy. Australian Shepherds often require more attention and activities than many other dog breeds.
Keeping your Aussie entertained can be broken down into 5 main activities: exercise, solving puzzles, learning new tricks, canine clubs, and doing a job.
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.
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.
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 stamina and endurance.
Like all dogs, Aussies love to run and play and frolic outside. An Aussie that doesn’t get a certain amount of physical and mental activity may develop unproductive or destructive habits. They might start chewing on shoes, pillows, curtains—you name it. The solution to an Aussie’s extra energy 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 your Aussie’s energy. And you aren’t just limited to a walk around your neighborhood. You can take your Aussie on a hiking trail, beach strand, or even on a downtown promenade.
Taking your Aussie to a local dog park is a great way to help burn off excess energy while learning to socialize with other dogs. This works best if you make a playdate with another dog owner.
If your Aussie isn’t properly 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 dogs while under close supervision.
Like many other dogs, Aussies love running about and chasing balls and frisbees which allows them to access their herding instincts by chasing down a toy, cornering it, and then bringing it back.
Rubber balls or soft discs designed with a dog in mind work best for such activities. Hard plastic objects like frisbees should be avoided because they might hurt your Aussies’ teeth.
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’s a related post with 11 Ways to Exercise Australian Shepherds.
Play Hide and Seek
It’s a simple game, much like the one we all learned as kids. Have your Aussie sit and wait (obviously, this requires a little bit of training). Then, when you have found a good hiding spot, call your dog to come and find you especially 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 develop unwanted behaviors.
Solving Puzzles: Brain Stimulation
Physical activity trains your Aussie’s body, but you can also engage your dog’s mind. A popular technique for engaging an Aussie’s mind to keep it occupied is the use of puzzles.
There are many food-dispensing dog puzzles on the market that require different methods to access the tasty treat. Some must be pawed, others licked, and others chewed to retrieve the treat.
Having different puzzles can help keep your Aussie occupied and tax much of his energy. Here are some great puzzle options:
- Pet Zone IQ Treat Ball
- Dog Brick Interactive Puzzle Dog Toy
- Starmark Treat Dispensing Bob-a-Lot Dog Toy
- Snuffle Mat – Foraging Mat for Dogs
For more dog toy ideas, check out this related post that lists The 13 Best Dog Puzzles for Aussies.
Chew Toys for Aussies – Curbing Destructive Behaviors
Chew toys are a great way to curb an Aussie’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.
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. Your Aussie will have a blast working to get at the frozen mass of deliciousness.
DIY Frozen Treats to Keep Aussies Entertained
You don’t necessarily need a Kong to provide a frozen treat for your dog. You can also freeze some unsalted chicken or beef broth in a small bowl with a favorite squeaky ball suspended inside.
Tip: the easiest way to get the frozen broth out of the bowl is to run warm water over the outside of the bowl.
The idea is to turn it into a puzzle to get the canine brain working. But puzzle toys and treats aren’t the only way to engage your Aussie’s mind, read on for more.
Teaching New Tricks
Another excellent way to get your Aussie’s mind 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 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 sometimes accompanied by a treat.
For example, your dog might look toward a small hurdle (click), stick her head under the hurdle (click), and then finally crawl under (click). All the while, you should be saying “go under” and rewarding her with every click that marks a step in the process.
Clickers are not absolutely necessary to teach your dog tricks. You can still do it with verbal direction, hand motions, and some treats. Here are some ideas for tricks you can teach your Aussie.
Start with basic commands like sit, come, lie down, heel, and stay. You can also use training to discourage undesirable behaviors like “off” to discourage jumping up on visitors.
The idea is to reward good behaviors and ignore or redirect bad behaviors. Your Aussie 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 or putting away toys. For more training ideas, visit 7 Steps to Train an Australian Shepherd.
Socialization is a critical part of your Aussie’s life. With proper socialization, your Aussie’s quality of life will improve and become happier and healthier.
Begin with socialization classes with 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 human, always make sure to be cautious. If your dog is nervous or upset, calmly withdraw from the situation.
Aussie obedience training and proper socialization can be aided by a skilled instructor in a controlled environment.
Specialized professional instruction starts with signing up for obedience school. This will not only help Aussie learn the basics, but it also teaches the owner proper dog handling.
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.
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. The North American Flyball Association is also a great place to start.
Another excellent choice of canine sport for Aussies is Agility Training. 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 goal is to have fun!
Doing a Job
Most 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 short list 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 sights and sounds on a car ride.
Note: Don’t leave a dog unattended in a car even if the outside temperature might seem cool. Car temperatures can rise quickly and dogs can overheat just as fast.
- Turn Lights On and Off: Another “job” you could give your Aussie would be to turn lights on and off on command. However, dog paws may leave marks on walls.
- Help with Chores: Aussies can be trained to put their toys away, for example, or to fetch you your slippers, or even to fetch something from the refrigerator.
Those are just a few possible jobs you can give your Aussie.
The best way to keep Aussies busy is to combine both physical activities with mental activity.
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 keep your Aussie happy and healthy by keeping busy!