- Nannette Newbury
"We are a Very Active Family!"
When interviewing prospective first-time Australian Shepherds puppy owners, I always ask, "what attracted you to this breed?" Oftentimes the the response is, "We are a very active family, so we feel we would be compatible with an active breed like the Australian Shepherd." And with the burgeoning popularity of the breed, many families have done their homework. They have read that the breed is not only active, but highly intelligent. I learned from these interviews, that it was imperative to analyze more deeply this question..."so, what exactly does your family do that is active?" "The kids have track meets, swim meets, baseball games, soccer games, music lessons." Hmm...okay, "Can you take a puppy/dog to any of these events?"
"Well....no...." So while your family is very active, it may not be the type of active that an Aussie will thrive on. This is a breed that not only requires physical stimulation (and "NO" walking your dog around the block is NOT physical activity for an Aussie...it may well be your exercise, but this is not exercise for an Australian Shepherd.)
Before committing to this breed it is important that you figure out AHEAD of time, how you and your family will meet the needs of this wonderfully active and intelligent breed. Otherwise the dog is just "surviving, not thriving." This is a dog that adores/loves and lives for running off leash with wild abandon; for great distances and for a great length of time. If you live in suburban environment, meeting this need becomes a challenge. Many breeders learned early on that dog parks are not necessarily the ideal place to let your dog loose for a long romp. Unfortunately other clueless owners might be in attendance letting their unsocialized, ill-behaved dog loose with yours. Many a dog fight and injury has occurred at dog parks. It is also important to remember that a dog park can become a harbinger of disease.
Running off leash may be a challenge for you and your family and your new dog. Figure out the solution before the puppy comes home.
The next challenge will be keeping up with the mental stimulation this breed requires. This might be easier to solve, but will require time and commitment on your part to provide. When the pup is older agility training provides endless enjoyment for an Aussie. It is one of the few events where the training in and of itself is fulfilling to the dog. You do not need to compete to reap the benefits. New events such as trick training, dock diving, scent work can also provide wonderful mental stimulation.
Keep in mind that these are not just isolated events that you do with your dog once or twice, or just when they are puppies. It is a lifetime dedication on your part to providing this incredible breed the stimulation they need to be truly happy.