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Australian Shepherds! Could you please come and tell me about yours?

(21 Posts)
HopeForTheBest Wed 17-Apr-13 08:46:56

I am pining for another dog to go with our 7yo parson russell terrier, and have been looking into all sorts of possibilites (rescue, fostering, puppy etc), and have stumbled across this breed which I'd never really heard of before.

I know you can find lots on the internet about them, but would really appreciate any direct-from-the-horse's(!)-mouth experience anyone could share, especially:

-how are they with other dogs? would they be domineering or more likely to let the other dog be in charge (am thinking of my rather bossy prt here)

-how are they with kids? Ds is 6, obviously grown up around our dog, but would an AS have problems with lots of kids coming over?

-being left alone, I know this is very much a matter of individual dogs and training. I'm a sahm, doing some work from home, so am around a lot, but obviously there are a few hours every week when there's nobody here. Breeds known for separation anxiety and/or major barking issues would not be good.

-shedding and grooming. I don't actually care about shedding as such, as I don#t think it could be noticable amoung the ASTONISHING amount of short, white, wiry hairs that my PRT sheds, but I#d just like to know about it

-anything else worth mentioning!

I have posted on here before about wanting a second dog, and I sort of feel that we should do it now while I have time and while our prt is still active enough to enjoy having another dog here ie that the different in activity level isn#t too much.
Any and all advice etc gratefully received!

AwsomeMrsFox Wed 17-Apr-13 15:39:25

I think this is what DH had when he lived in Australia (it was an Australian Blue Heeler - is that the same thing?). It was a fab dog, very loyal and gentle, but had a tendancy to 'round people up' by snapping at their ankles.

It just had very specific moulting times and other than that didn't drop a lot of hair, but different climate here.

It was an intelligent dog and was easy to train, not particularly vocal and fine on it's own.

TheCatInTheHairnet Wed 17-Apr-13 15:47:33

They are very intelligent and thrive with lots of exercise and stimulation. You may have to train the herding out of them, particularly with children. When we all take ours for a walk, he likes to try and herd us all together but doesn't nip. We had to train him not to try and herd every passer by into the group too!!

They can be quite shy with strangers and, sometimes, that shyness can manifest itself into fear aggression, so make sure you see how he is with a variety of people.

Mine sheds about twice a year, so very doable. He needs a good coat brush regularly to keep him l

TheCatInTheHairnet Wed 17-Apr-13 15:48:54

Sorry posted too soon.
That should say looking smart.

Ours is a Mini Aussie and I love him!!

TheCatInTheHairnet Wed 17-Apr-13 15:50:17

Oh, I forgot the rest too!

Mine doesn't bark much, loves other dogs (but is quite shy with people) and doesn't like being left alone.

tabulahrasa Wed 17-Apr-13 16:45:51

They're not massively different from collies tbh...similar temperament and the same sort of activity levels, maybe a bit less, intense? But they're still pretty high energy.

Booboostoo Wed 17-Apr-13 17:26:05

I looked into this breed when looking for our next dog but discounted them as not suitable for us (small child). They are very much like collies. Very intelligent, loyal dogs that bond strongly with their 'person' but on the downside they have strong guarding instincts (the two we met immediately established a perimetre around the coffee table we were siting at with their owners and proceeded to growl at everyone), they need considerable exercise (the breeders we met were all avid walkers) and ideally a job to do (e.g. agility, flyball). They also seemed a bit prone to separation anxiety as they have a strong family bond.

HopeForTheBest Wed 17-Apr-13 18:16:17

I walk our PRT between 1 - 2 hours a day, playing ball and frisbee with her, not just strolling around. She is a very active dog while out, runs like the wind, but is then rather laid-back when at home.
Would this level of activity be enough?

We had a border collie when i was growing up, maybe I just have a thing for high energy dogs!

TheCatInTheHairnet It's actually a mini aussie I'm looking at, the size really would be perfect for us (I need to fit them both in the back of my car!). Also is easier for taking with us on holidays etc.
I've been trying to avoid another terrier as I think there would be big dominance issues between them - maybe I'm wrong?

Thanks for all the replies!

TheCatInTheHairnet Wed 17-Apr-13 19:37:01

A mini Aussie would be more than happy with that level of activity so, yes, I think they would be a great breed for you.

If you get a puppy, I cannot stress the importance of socialization enough with them though, because of their natural shyness around people they don't know.

They are real conversation dogs too, as the minis are quite rare.

bonzo77 Wed 17-Apr-13 20:52:14

A blue / red heeler is an Australian cattle dog. A very different thing.

AwsomeMrsFox Wed 17-Apr-13 20:56:30

oh yes - sorry! Should have googled first. Never make an Aussie out of me! Disgregard my comment Hope.

HopeForTheBest Sat 20-Apr-13 09:40:09

booboostoo Can i ask what put you off the breed re young children? Was it the herding thing?
Ds is 6, but we do often have kids of all ages over to play. Our PRT gets on fine with them, and if I think it's a bit much for her, I move her to the bedroom for some peace and quiet!

CatInTheHairnet How is yours when left alone? Would it be happier because there is another dog there?

TweenageAngst Sat 20-Apr-13 09:53:47

What Bonzo said. Blue Heelers come from Australia and are principally used for working cattle and need a lot of work to keep them sane. Australian shepherds come from America and are so called because they were used to herd sheep in the Rockies that had been imported from Australia.

Booboostoo Sat 20-Apr-13 10:16:55

HopeForTheBest I don't want to upset anyone who has this breed, they seemed like really fun, intelligent dogs, but for me they did not seem ideal for a young family. I am sure many of them are, but as a breed they did not seem ideal so for me it wasn't worth the risk that the dog would not fit in with our family because I have never rehomed a dog and I didn't want to start with this one.

Sorry for the long pre-amble but, having said that, the reasons I did not think they were a good bet with young children:
- the space guarding. The dogs were guarding the family space but I don't want any dog barking and snapping around young children. Also potentially worrying if other children inadvertently set off the dog's guarding instincts. While I supervise my dogs around DD and I am especially vigilent when other kids are visiting I would prefer a breed that does not have these tendencies.

- close bonding to one person. The AS dogs we saw were very focused on their 'person' but not particularly interested in anyone else. I couldn't even get the puppy's attention with a squeaky voice and none of them were interested in being petted. For some people this works really well as they want a very devoted dog, but for me we wanted a more people friendly breed. Similarly dogs with strong bonds tend to have separation anxiety issues and it's not as easy to take the dog with you when you have a young family, e.g. a lot of places do not allow dogs.

- the amount of exercise. We live on a farm but I still need to do the horses, the other dogs and deal with a sometimes reluctant to walk toddler, so a dog which needs border collie levels of exercise would be too much (I can cope with JRT and GSD but not border collie levels!). I suspect this may be the case for other people who have to push a pram, or walk at toddler speed or have to skip long walks for a few days because of sick child at home.

HopeForTheBest Sat 20-Apr-13 14:19:48

Thank you for your reply!

One of the things that I really value about MN is that you can get proper, real opinions and responses. I can read lots and lots about this breed of dog on the internet, but it's always different when you get information from people who have some experience with them (or, as in your case, looked into it and decided against it).

I spend quite a lot of my time advising people not to get a Parson Russell terrier like ours because, although she is ridiculously cute and despite her size, she is absolutely not a lapdog - she is a typical terrier, and I think you have to be prepared to put in quite a bit of work to get a "good" dog out of the breed. Sadly, many people are swayed by their size and looks and of course are surprised that even such a small dog actually needs quite a bit of exercise and mental stimulation or they can become very destructive or even aggressive, and after they are out of the cute puppy stage they end up in rescue sad

So thank you again for your thoughts! Really, all and any comments are most welcome and gratefully received smile

Booboostoo Sat 20-Apr-13 15:59:44

Any decent breeder should let you visit to meet the breed. They are likely to have older and younger dogs around so you can get an idea of the breed. They should also be very willing to chat to you about the dogs, their needs and whether they think the breed would be a suitable match for your family.

Have you considered a GSD? If you research a line bred for temperament as family dogs (plus the standard health screening of course but that goes for any breed) I don't think you can beat the combination of intelligence, loyalty and a settled, confident disposition.

HopeForTheBest Sat 20-Apr-13 16:55:06

I would love a GSD, they are wonderful dogs, (or my absolute dream dog: an Irish Wolfhound!), but we cannot have a dog that size. We just don't have the space for it, plus I'd have to get a bigger car - I drive all over the place for walks with her, and we go by car on holiday every year too.

Tbh, the mini aussie is pretty much the maximum size we could consider.

Booboostoo Sat 20-Apr-13 17:41:28

Corgies are supposed to be mini GSDs. I don't have experience of the breed, but they might be worth a look if you decide against the AS. I've only known one corgie and he was an incredible dog, really intelligent and well adjusted.

RedwingWinter Sat 20-Apr-13 20:00:35

I have an Aussie and love him but would agree that they aren't for everyone. I would say like a border collie but maybe with a bit more of a guarding tendency. Mind you I don't have a large number to go on and mine was a rescue with problems (which we knew we were taking on) due to neglect.

I haven't found the 'bonding with one person' issue that booboostoo mentions. In fact ours loves all people and wants to be petted by every single person he meets. He is good with kids but he is very bouncy because he is always full of energy, so I'd worry about little ones getting knocked over. Sometimes I shut him away when visitors come, depending, as he gets excited by running and screaming. He needs a lot of exercise - not just physical exercise but something to do. He is very intelligent so easy to train. He will bark like a guard dog but as soon as someone comes into the house, he is very friendly (also with other dogs coming into the house).

I've had to do a lot of work with mine re being reactive on-leash. We know he wasn't properly socialized before but the only other aussies I've seen were like this too.

HopeForTheBest Sun 21-Apr-13 07:19:21

About the energy thing - do they have periods of "down time" or is it basically non-stop on the go until they go to sleep at night?
Our PRT is extremely active while out, and will play non-stop if we have people/kids over (the kids tend to think this is great, the adults tend to wonder "will she ever get tired??" grin ), but other than that she sort of lazes around the place during the day.

Our border collie (family dog while growing up) also needed a lot of exercise/stimulation, but if he got that ( up to 3 hours a day when he was young!) he was quite chilled and relaxed at home.

RedwingWinter Sun 21-Apr-13 18:35:51

Mine has down-time. So long as he has had his exercise for the day then he'll chill out and lounge around. He can keep going forever if you want him to and will play for hours with other dogs or if you play frisbee with him, but he will happily relax at home too. I think if he didn't get his exercise he would start bubbling over with energy though.

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