UCB Parents Advice about Pets

Australian Shepherds

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I have to disagree with the person who recommended Australian shepherds to the woman looking for a guard dog. Not that they're not good guard dogs--au contraire. Just that I don't think anyone should keep this wonderful breed unless they have at least a fenced acre or two, and lots of jobs for the dog to do. This is not a sitting-around-the-house dog that will wait to woof at your occasional intruder. This is a dog that has tons of energy, has a deep inbred need to herd and protect, and it will drive you crazy and be unhappy if you don't give it enough to do. YMMV, of course.

Australian Shephards are real working dogs... And need a lot of exercise, and more importantly real work to do. If you don't provide that, I think that they become bored, unhappy and could get nippy (not real biting, just nipping) Virginia


I'd like to second the recommendation for Australian Shepards. My dog, Murphy, is now ten years and we got him when he was six months old. He has always been a very good natured, smart, protective and loving dog. Since they are working dogs, they definately need exercise but if you have a big yard you should be fine. We were a bit worried when we had our first child in the summer of 1998 since Murphy had never really been around small children. However, he was everything we thought he would be and some. He adapted to the baby very quickly and was even more protective of strangers coming to the door. He has never bitten our son - or anyone else - and I have total confidence in allowing them to play together. He sleeps just inside the doorway to our room proctecting us. He also loves our cats who play and sleep with. Dylyn
I highly recommend australian shepherds. They weigh 40-50 pounds. They are very intelligent and protective. I had a wonderful australian shepherd that I got on a cattle ranch in the sierras. when we went to see him as a pup, his father escorted us from car to house by nipping us behind the knees - not enough to hurt, but definitely to let us know we were going directly to the front door. once introduced, he allowed us to pet him and we were very comfortable. our dog's aunt was in the toddler's room. this is going to sound amazing, but she slept at the foot of the bed, guarded the child and kept his blankets on. other members of the canine family were working cattle dogs. our dog was terrific as well. we probably could have trained him to do more but he was basically a pet in the city. i don't recommend getting a dog for guard duty only. it will need lots of time, love and attention. will you be able to supply this with 2 toddlers in the house? 1 dog is not better than 2. it will mean more attention. without proper attention, affection, and continued training, the best dogs will begin to misbehave and develop undesirable behavior. all dogs need a fenced yard. they wander and can become nuisances to others, get into scrapes, or be hit by a passing car. expecting a dog to stay outside alone makes for a lonely and probably barking dog. a dog is a long term commitment, ours lived to be 18. if you are looking for a guard dog, a good alarm system may be more appropriate. good luck. lily
Australian shepherds are a wonderful breed for people who have ample TIME and SPACE. Don't be fooled by the small size; this is not an apartment dog. This is not a tie-it-up-in-the-back-yard dog. This is a dog bred to roam for miles herding sheep. An Australian needs lots of exercise or it will be unhappy and may start exhibiting nuisance behaviors like nipping at your heels (herding you...)

The breed is extremely loyal, versatile, and healthy (none of the inbreeding-induced problems of, for example, collies and German shepherds). But it's not the dog for everyone!


On breeds of dogs - Australian shepherds are not sheep dogs at all, they're actually cattle dogs, called "blue heelers" in Australia because of their skill at nipping the heels of cattle while rounding them up. In my experience, they can have a tendency to snap (as with any type of dog that's not handled correctly, of course). They are really country dogs that need a lot of running around or they get very overweight and ugly(again that's true of a lot of dogs that people keep in the city). The best advice I ever got on how to choose a type of dog was to go to a dog show and look around at different breeds, the owners are usually there and can give you lots of information about the different habits and behaviours of different types. That way you can find what you really like and talk it over as a family without being watched by the cute adoring eyes of a puppy for sale . The books on dog breeds can be helpful,! b! ut they tend to stay away from the negative side of any particular type which you actually do need to know. Hope this is helpful. Fiona
Australian Shepards, also known as Blue heelers, have a real tendency to nip. This is a trait of this dog. A nip can mean a short sharp bite that doesn't break the skin or a more aggressive bite that does. Having been the victim of a blue heeler that bit through the skin of my foot twice, I would not recommend it as a family pet.
We have a 5 year old Australian Shepard and a 22 month old son. They get a long great! Although there was a some jealousy after our son was born, it was never expressed as hostility towards our son. Our dog does need excercise and mental stimulation, but this has been easily accomplished with 2 walks (dogpark play) a day. The worst we could say about him is he does bark alot while playing. He and our son will run around the house playing together and it is chaotic and loud, but they both really enjoy it. Our experience has been that Australian Shepards make great family dogs, especially if raised with children. I would also receommend the book "The Perfect Puppy" in picking a dog breed. One of the postings said Australian Shepards are actually "blue heelers", but that is incorrect, "blue heelers" are actually Australian Cattle Dogs and are a very different breed. Michelle
We have a 10 year old Australian Shepherd, and she's a great dog, and seems to be great w/ kids. These are very smart dogs, very trainable, but need really firm and consistent discipline, otherwise they have potential to take advantage of you. Ours is wonderful with even little kids because she loves to play ball, and both kids and dog will go on forever. It has taken her a while to get used to the idea that kids are not irritating little puppies to be ignored, and she will generally still hand the ball to us, but will catch it and entertain kids for hours. Generally any animal will take a little while to get used to a new addition, but if you get them as a puppy will probably not have a problem. She does have a tendency to bark if the ball isn't thrown right away, and her bark is particularly irritating, but there is a solution. We bought a special no-bark collar, which will sound an alarm tone if she barks once, then send a small shock the second time. We put it on her only once, and now we just show it to her and she'll stop barking. I've also trained her w/ more positive praise and occasional treats and attention when she does the right thing, like no barking. Also if she's really wound up, down-stay always works to calm her down. She's basically just like a little kid who sometimes needs a time out, and may occasionally need to be removed from the stimulation. Another friend I know trained her dog not to bark by spraying a very mild water-vinegar solution. The only other problem I can anticipate is that sometimes she's so focused on the ball, and she loves to run fast (and needs some good exercise otherwise she is incessantly looking for attention), so we have to make sure she doesn't run into the little ones. Our dog has never nipped me. She has nipped my husband, but only rarely, painlessly, and related to specific games such as one where he runs away from her very fast to get her to chase him back and forth. janet
Australian Shepards need TONS of exercise, and that means more than just a walk around the block on a leash. My own Aussie Shepard mix runs faster than any other dog at the park (where we go everyday for at least 1/2 hour). They are a very high maintenance breed, and indeed, all dogs, regardless of breed, should have at least 2-3 off-leash runs per week. My advice would be to try contacting the Milo Foundation or a similar rescue group for advice on behavior and needs for a particular dog up for adoption. You might even consider a smaller, older, rescue dog, accustomed to living inside and being around children. Good luck.
Thanks to you all about your suggestions for dog breeds. We decided to get an Australian Shepherd. We picked out a very calm 13 week old puppy from a responsible breeder who spent a lot of time socializing them (she even paid neighboring children to play with them each day). We've had him for one month, and we are all very happy with him (some of our neighbors with dogs say he's the calmest puppy they ever met). I really recommend puppy obedience class, it's really helping us learn how to encourage him to be a great pet. Now I just have to figure out how to get my toddler to stop imitating the bad behaviours of the pupp like chasing the cats, chewing on newspapers, etc. Laurie
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