Tell me about your Australian Shepard

Discussion in 'Other Pets & Livestock' started by KatGold, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. KatGold

    KatGold Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 15, 2011
    I'm about to adopt a new dog friend family member.

    Our last dog, Phoenix, was a wire Fox Terrier. He was a delightful dog, but a chicken killer. We had to manage the dog and the chickens very closely.

    Obviously, we'd like a different dog experience. We cannot have a gigantic dog, so the mountain guard dogs are out.

    It seems to me, that a good breed (and fret not, I will adopt a dog from a shelter, rescue, or family in need, I will not go to a dog breeder) is the Australian Shepard. I've read and read and here's what it seems to boil down to:

    1) These are great dogs because they are herding dogs and are good with livestock, and

    2) These are terrible dogs because they are herding dogs and are bad with livestock.

    What's a girl to do?

    So please, tell me about your Australian Shepard or Aussie-mix. Has your experience been good or bad, and why?

    Did you start with a puppy? Would you recommend starting with a year- or two-year-old? Do you train your dog (either obedience, herding, chicken, or agility)? Is there anything you can attribute his or her behavior to?

    I'm trying to find commonalities on what makes them be a good choice AND what makes them be a bad choice. Maybe together, we can sort of figure out some general thoughts on the matter.

    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  2. KatGold

    KatGold Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 15, 2011
    BTW, anyone is welcome cut and paste this into a different thread with a different breed in question (though, you might want to take the bit about Phoenix out). I'd love to see a series of "Tell me about your (dog breed) ." Together, we can try to paint pictures of several breeds.

    Of course, we all need to understand that each individual dog is different. Greater Pyrenees dogs are famously good with chickens, but I knew one who attacked his own owner more than once and would have gobbled up a chicken if given half a chance. No one is suggesting that there is one personality type for each breed. But maybe there are commonalities that we can begin to wrap our brains around.

    As chicken and dog owners, we all want to help each other be more successful in our experience. Let's see if we can increase our knowledge through the power of this great group!
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  3. naturalfeddogs

    naturalfeddogs Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 8, 2011
    I have three, and have had them from puppies. They are such smart dogs that they listen well and learn fast. I've had no problems with mine and the horses.

    Their genetics play a role as well as far as how driven they are to herd. One of ours comes from show lines and no drive at all, and the other two are working lines and have tons of drive.
    1 person likes this.
  4. miss heny

    miss heny Genetic Expert in learning Premium Member

    This breed is a herding breed, which with chickens are a no-no, many times they would try to herd the bird, and with out meaning too, kill them.

    Then again, like the poster said, ti depend on the breeding line you buy it from, if you get a show line dog you might have no problems, but working lines on the other side, well they would most likely work on herding the kids.
  5. TurtlePowerTrav

    TurtlePowerTrav T.K.'s Farm

    Jul 29, 2012
    Oregon City, OR
    My Coop
    I have to disagree with miss heny. My Aussie is from the working breed line. He is great with the chickens. He follows them around and eats their poo [​IMG]. We got him when he was 10 months old. We did do some obedience training with him. He learned NO very well. We use that to redirect attention when he does something we don't want him to do. He is 12 years old now. This is our first year with chickens. What we did is the first day we got the chicks and had them in the brooder, we let him inside and had him sit near the brooder. We let him sniff the brooder and air coming out of it, but if he stood up we told him NO and made him sit back down. After a couple of days training this we began to bring the chicks into his sight, again letting him smell but he had to remain sitting, if he got up a quick firm NO and he would sit back down on his own at this point. We began letting the chicks get closer to him and if he did anything other than sniff he got a NO. Then when we moved the chicks outside we did the same thing, since now they ran around more in the coop/run. He is not allowed inside the coop. I would make him sit at the door while I was inside with the chicks(door closed), if he got up toward the door he got a NO. As the chicks got older I started doing this with the door open, leaving him at the door. Now on to them free ranging. The first time I would scold him NO if he got within a few feet of the birds. As he got used to staying away, he was allowed to get closer to them before a NO. Eventually he got to the point that he can now walk around them and pays no attention to them, other than the poop part. He even has to wait when I give them treats before he is allowed to go join them in eating whatever is left over. He and my rooster are best buds, they sleep on the porch together all the time. Any dog can be trained to be around chickens, I believe. It just takes patience and training. YOU have to be the judge on when your dog minds enough to control his impulse to chase.

    ETA: doing this will let him think the chickens are part of your pack and he is to help with the pack, not hurt them. My dog totally thinks they are in his pack, he will go after other birds in the yard(like hawks on the ground or Jays), same with strange cats, he leaves ours alone but will chase off the neighbors cat.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  6. Chickenfan4life

    Chickenfan4life Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 28, 2012
    Planet No
    Our neighbor has an Aussie from a poor breeder. He is deaf, and has strange eyes. They are blue, but the pupils are almost deformed. This causes a half-blindness. He is, though, a sweet dog with a great disposition. He learned all the hand-commands very quickly, he herds the flock around the yard, and watches them all day.

    He is protective of the flock when strange animals come around, and he is very obedient. Hope this helps. [​IMG]
  7. Jubilee1111

    Jubilee1111 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jan 8, 2010
    Austin, TX
    Given the right genetics, they are hard to beat as an all around farm dog. Take the time to teach them what their jobs are, show them exactly what you want and praise them for doing them well. They won't be so inclined to make up their own entertaining games if they have assigned responsibilities.

    My girl was super high drive, which I loved because I needed a working dog. She would do anything I asked her to. If it was within her physical ability, she would work until she accomplished it. She lived to be 13 years old and really made quite a name for herself. Definitely earned her keep [​IMG] And unless you specifically told her to chase birds ... i.e. herding the peacocks out of the barn aisle before they pooped all over, or chasing seagulls at the beach for exercise, she would leave them alone.

    You probably want to stay on the lower drive end of the breed if you don't want a dog that absolutely needs to be worked at least a couple hours a day. They are ridiculously smart dogs and love to learn but they do require training. Very forgiving of novice trainers, as long as you put in some effort and are consistent, they are almost like little mind readers!
  8. lgrant1

    lgrant1 Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 5, 2012
    Nancy, Kentucky
    I grew up on a dairy and my dad has raised Border Collies for over 50 years. I have 2 full stock collies from his line of workers and 1 Border Collie/Aussie that was given to me. They all herd everything: cows, horses, kids, and now chickens. Border Collies tend to move a bit faster and work lower to the ground. Each of them are great with all things on the farm. You really just have to spend the time with them to train them for the work you want them to do. I only added chickens last year and my dogs have adapted great. The oldest collie, Sugar, is 17 years, the mix Molly is 5 years, and the youngest, Maizy, is just over a year. I do have to watch the youngest dog more closely as she still has bit too much enthusiasm but all are wonderful with my flock. They will let you know if a bird is somewhere it shouldn't be and they patrol the area at night too. Living in a very rural setting, we have lots of wildlife looking for an easy meal but my dogs are very protective of the chickens. They are always within sight of the coops/runs and provide the best of security. As a side note, herders typically work properly for just 1 person. I have never taken my dogs for any sort of obedience training, they just get training from me. But also keep in mind that when working with these breeds, they have a natural instinct to herd. You shouldn't have to teach them herd, you just have to teach them to obey your commands. Simple spoke commands work best for us and I do not raise my voice. Also, I prefer working with female dogs. Molly the 5 yr old collie/aussie is my main dog and she genuinely thinks the chickens are her responsibility. She works much more slowly than the collies and frequently uses her nose to push a chick where she wants it to go, and she never hesitates to scat the cat when the diddles are out!
  9. punk-a-doodle

    punk-a-doodle Chillin' With My Peeps

    Apr 15, 2011
    I'm sure there are lines that are worse/better off..however, epilepsy is a large issue in the breed. For most, it is grand mal type seizures that can often be managed well. Many dogs with grand mal or petite mal seizures live completely normal lives.

    For myself and way too many others however, our Aussies and Aussie mixes had a type of epilepsy that started off with petite mal activity at age three. This triggered extreme fear and aggression. In my case, my dog was smiles and wags one minute, and a frothing, biting, raging wild animal the next second (not snapping or was uncontrolled mauling..sometimes you could catch the milisecond freeze of the body and change in the pupil, but it was not a safe detection period by any means). This grew rapidly worse and started being accompanied by grand mal activity. The grand mals responded very well to treatment. The petite mal seizures, fear, and aggression did not. In all cases, our dogs were eventually euthanized. It was an incredibly scary and heartbreaking experience. It took way too long to properly diagnose his aggression as seizure related, in part due to the recent surge in 'dominance' type dog ideologies. I would just suggest making sure that sort of aggression-causing epilepsy is not present in whichever line you look at OR would buy a dog over the age of three that you can monitor before making a final purchase. For our dog, the first subtle signs before aggression began were running into objects on one side (we dismissed it as clumsiness as he was not blind in either eye) and doing a weird, rapid blinking for prolonged periods of time (we thought it was just a 'sleepy' blinking as it occurred often after exercise...heavy exercise was the only partial trigger we were able to identify).

    I love the Aussie breed. Before the seizures became so frequent, we enjoyed a clownish, obedient, and sweet dog who would crawl on his belly and roll over for small children and scared animals to put them at ease (obviously, that was well before he started showing any aggression!). I've met many a great Aussie both in the city and in the farm. My experience has so deeply upset me though, that I will not personally buy another Aussie until a genetic test is developed for that form of epilepsy, or until several lines have been proven, without a doubt, to be clear. This may already be the case, I'm not sure. There was a research group looking into epilepsy within this breed. I'm not sure if they have any results.

    I don't mean to scare you or turn you off the breed. That type of degenerative, agression causing epilepsy is MUCH rarer than epilepsy that responds very well to treatment and/or does not effect temperament. I just would hate for anyone to walk into that blind like my husband and I did.
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2013
  10. KatGold

    KatGold Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 15, 2011
    Wow, this is completely new to me. I have read about the eye problems and have been warned against finding a blue-eyed dog, but the epilepsy is new to me. I will look more into this.

    The bad thing about this thought, is that it would likely be impossible to know the dog's history if it came from a shelter or rescue.

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