Whether you’ve just brought home an Australian Shepherd (Aussie) puppy or adopted an adult Aussie that needs to learn all the basics, this article will hopefully give you a bit of guidance. Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent dogs, and their high energy and herding instincts can get them into trouble rather easily if they don’t have the proper training.
We collected 8 tips to assist you with training this beautiful and amazing breed. We won’t get into any specific training, such as housebreaking or teaching fetch, as this is meant to be an overview. Australian Shepherd training might be a challenge, but it’s most certainly a rewarding one.
Before We Begin
If you are considering an Aussie and need to know what goes into training one, you should know a bit about the Australian Shepherd.
Aussies are not actually from Australia. They hail from Europe with the Basque people, who brought them to Australia and eventually settled in California. It was on American soil that the breed was perfected and has become the Aussies that we know today.
Temperament-wise, Aussies were bred for ranches. They are excellent herding dogs that are renowned for their superb work as sheepherders. They are exuberant and have a strong work drive.
They will herd everything that they can and are intelligent enough to be able to trick their owners from time to time, so they aren’t the best dogs for inexperienced owners.
This is just a smidgen of information that touches on the complex Australian Shepherd. Now let’s look at the best way to train this breed.
1. It’s All About Socialization
Training Australian Shepherds should always start with socialization. In fact, socialization is arguably one of the most important things that you can do for any dog, let alone an Aussie!
It’s best to start socializing them when they are puppies because it sets them up for the rest of their lives, but it can be accomplished at any age — it will just take more time and patience for an adult dog to adjust.
The ages of 7 weeks to 4 months is the prime time to socialize your Aussie. That said, dogs should be socialized as often as possible at any age.
You need to give your Aussie as many opportunities to interact with as many people, environments, and situations as possible. This will give your puppy self-confidence and the realization that the world can be an exciting and fun place, not something to fear.
Part of socialization could take place in puppy training classes, where you can get your Aussie’s training started and the chance to meet other people and dogs.
2. Then It’s All About Reward-Based Training
Aussies respond best to reward-based training, so you need to stock up on treats and toys. You should use positive reinforcement to reward the desired behavior rather than punishing your Aussie for the unwanted behavior.
So, when your Australian Shepherd does something that you want as a part of training or stops doing something that you don’t want (like chewing your shoes), you give your pup a treat and praise. Just be sure to have treats that your puppy loves for it to be truly effective!
3. Start With the Basics
You’ll need to start with the basics, beginning with your puppy’s name and going into teaching simple verbal cues like “sit,” “down,” and “stay.” You’ll also want to train them to get used to the leash and any household rules that you need to establish.
One of the best methods that you can use to get started is employing verbal cues and rewarding your Aussie when your dog is about to naturally do exactly what you want to teach them.
- For example, if your pup sits down, you say “sit,” and then give them a treat and praise.
- Repeat this process every time your Aussie sits.
- Your dog will start to associate the action with the verbal cue and will understand that there will be a treat.
Another option is to use the treat to entice your dog to perform the desired behavior.
- For example, you hold a treat over your Aussie’s nose and then move it toward your dog’s forehead.
- Your dog will follow your hand, which should cause them to lower their rear end to the floor.
- You speak your verbal cue, give them a treat and praise.
- Repeat until your dog starts to anticipate it, which is when you can phase out the hand gesture and just use your verbal cue.
You can use these techniques to train your Aussie to learn a variety of different tricks. Australian Shepherds are motivated by praise and treats, and combined with their intelligence, they can pick up training rather quickly.
4. Short Training Sessions
With almost any dog, you should only do training sessions that are around 15 to 20 minutes long every day. Longer training sessions will only end up in frustration for you both, as your Aussie will probably lose interest and become less focused.
Your training sessions should end on a positive note, so take the time to play with your dog afterward.
5. Consistent Verbal Cues
When choosing a word for a verbal cue, you need to be sure to use the same word every time and to try to say it the same way consistently.
Saying “lie down” and “lay down” might mean the same thing to you, but it might prove confusing for a dog. When you pick a word or phrase for your Aussie, stick with it and ensure that everyone within your household is aware of this.
Also, saying “stay” when you’re cheerful versus “stay” when you’re feeling frustrated will also sound quite different to a dog. So, no matter your mood, try to use the same tone.
6. Introduce More Training
Once your Aussie has the fundamental training well in hand (or paw), you can further the training by introducing more (and essential) skills. Teach your dog to stay, lie down, and heel, or try fun ones like shake a paw or play dead.
While teaching new skills, be sure to also reinforce the verbal cues that you previously taught your dog. This will enable your Aussie to remember these older skills, which will allow for more consistent training overall.
7. Advanced Training
If you’re considering teaching your Aussie more advanced skills, you’ll need to break the training down into smaller parts. You should teach your dog each skill separately with the usual praise and treats and then slowly pull each skill set together.
Aussies are high-energy working dogs and can do well in agility or herding trials.
8. Reduce Herding Behavior
Australian Shepherds are herding dogs. They will attempt to herd everything in your household (children, other pets, etc.), and some are known to chase cars with this intention. This is quite dangerous, so it’s important to curb this behavior as best as you can.
Of course, if you’re using your Aussie as a working dog, you can skip this section because you’ll want to encourage their herding behavior.
Recognize the Behavior
First, you need to start by identifying the behavior that indicates that your Aussie is about to start herding.
- Aussies tend to become focused on one animal or person and are not easily distracted.
- They face the subject with ears and eyes forward.
- They might start in a relaxed position, with both the head and chest raised.
- Aussies might also be standing with alert and focused body language.
- The final and most telling sign is the crouched position. Australian Shepherds might be in a crawling or crouched position, but this is usually just before they engage in full-on herding behavior.
When you can start to recognize these signs, you can stop the behavior before it starts. You can also look out for what seems to trigger your dog. Certain sounds and people or animals running might be triggers, so look to your Aussie at these times.
Stop the Behavior
Once you’ve observed that your Aussie is about to start herding, you’ll need to use the basic training that you’ve been teaching your dog. In addition, to sit, stay, and heel, you should also train your Aussie “down,” “watch me,” and “leave it.”
If your Aussie is about to herd, you can use the “sit” verbal cue, which means your dog needs to use their entire body to sit. This should help distract them from the herding behavior.
Also, consistency is key. Don’t let your Aussie ever herd if this is a behavior that you don’t want to encourage. This will just prove confusing for the dog.
You can also use redirection when your Aussie starts herding behavior. These dogs need a great deal of exercise, so be sure to provide your Australian Shepherd with plenty of playtime and opportunities to run.
This is something that you can do as soon as you see your Aussie attempting to herd — take them outside to run off that excess energy!
Many Aussies end up in rescue groups due to a lack of appropriate training, so training is exceptionally crucial for this breed! Australian Shepherds form a strong bond with their families. They can be territorial of their property, so they shouldn’t be left alone for long periods.
However, their enthusiasm, energy, and intelligence make them easy to train for the right owner. With proper training and plenty of effort, time, and patience on your part, you’ll end up with a wonderful companion for many years.
- How Big Do Australian Shepherds Get? The Surprising Answer!
- Do Australian Shepherds Shed? How Much & How to Manage
- Are Australian Shepherds Born with Tails? Info, Facts, & Pictures
Featured Image Credit: John Hoehn, Shutterstock
- Before We Begin
- Recognize the Behavior
- Stop the Behavior