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Snooze, cuddle, snuggle, ATTACK!!!
December 1, 2012 9:15 PM   Subscribe

What advice do you have for raising a happy, healthy and sane Australian Cattle Dog? We just adopted an 5 & 1/2 month old ACD/mixed breed puppy from a shelter and for the most part, she is a dream come true. She does have many of the less-pleasant but totally normal puppy behaviors like mouthing/biting when playing. We were told that she is a little socially delayed because she had diarrhea when she was transfered in from a high-kill shelter a few weeks ago. Treating the diarrhea threw off her vaccination & spay schedule, so she hasn't had much of a chance to socialize with other dogs and people until now.

Alice cme home with us yesterday and it's been a doggy-people lovefest for the past 24 hours. I know that I need to address the mouthing/play biting ASAP because she can get pretty rough. I was told to be gentle when trying to train a herding breed because they are very sensitive and can get very distressed when their human appears to be angry with them. She came with an avalanche of pamphlets, booklets and handouts, all of which will be read promptly. However, I'd really like to hear from the part of the hivemind that lives with and loves Australian Cattle Dogs.
posted by echolalia67 to Pets & Animals (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Exercise, exercise, exercise. No, really. Exercise.

Epic needed exercise more than anything else and his desire to herd and nip at heels channeled in to something else - for use it was tennis balls, which morphed in to toys that were easier on his teeth. It took him about 5 years to start to slow down, before that it was at least an hour or two of running a day.

Getting her out to the park to socialize is going to be pretty key as you already know, we spent a lot of time with Epic doing different things, he was pretty much with one of use 90% of the time when we were out and about which basically got him used to all manner of things and he's pretty much ok with just about everything now.

Good luck!
posted by iamabot at 9:24 PM on December 1, 2012


Your puppy picture isn't working :(
posted by two lights above the sea at 9:57 PM on December 1, 2012


Socializing is a big deal with those dogs as they can be kinda.. intense. And bitey. My dog has been bitten by two separate Cattle dogs at this point, both times the owners had no control over the dogs once they got into chase/ aggressive mode so make sure you have the dog very well voice trained and make sure you spend a lot of time training it to "Leave it!" and "on by" (ignore another dog or person). Even if a dog is smart and does most "people" things right it doesn't mean they are being obedient. They are an independent breed and need a lot of reinforcement to default to you being in charge and not them. Herding dogs in general do. I've also seen more than a few cattle dogs get very thoroughly chomped by other dogs for biting. So socialize her with one other known, larger and mellow dog first that can defend itself if she gets aggressive but won't hurt her, then work your way to going to the dog park. Don't just take her there and toss her in at the deep end because odds are she won't back down at all and she won't listen to you at this point. A puppy class is a good idea too.

For the play biting I think the best thing to do is play with the dog and enforce limits. I got a big dog from the pound that had no real socialization that would happily tackle and bite people like you were another dog. In a good-natured way but still! Instead of banning play I played with her a lot, enforcing my rules of playing and now she's still very playful but she knows to be gentle and not bite at all.

Also with the breeds more prone to biting (and cattle dogs are bred to nip) it's a really good idea to get them used to you handling them all over, rolling them on their backs, hugging them, picking them up, pulling their ears and tail gently, playing with their feet, wiggling their toes, etc. It's a good idea with all dogs but especially with a dog that might not be as accepting or might overreact to a child being rough with them. As far as I'm concerned my dog should let me or any human do anything to her and without any trauma on anyone's part.
posted by fshgrl at 10:12 PM on December 1, 2012 [2 favorites]


Maybe this link will work.
At the moment, I don't feel comfortable letting her off-leash at the dog park - I can't be sure that she won't head for the hills at the first sign of freedom. She and the older dog next door seem to have a strong desire to play. The owner says that her dog prefers playing with puppies, so there might be a doggie mentorship potential there.
posted by echolalia67 at 10:55 PM on December 1, 2012


I wanted a herding breed because I was worried about my chickens being around a dog with a strong prey drive. So far she seems wary of the chickens and is hanging back from fully engaging with them. She been equally wary of the cats although she seems to want to get them to play with her. She is generally calm and bit shy ... until the desire to play kicks in. Then she turns into an unstoppable chewing, mouthing, nipping, clothes tugging, whirling dervish. We've been taking her for several short walks a day to get her used to our very busy neighborhood, but it's clear that she needs a place where she can run full-bore to the point of exhaustion.
posted by echolalia67 at 11:08 PM on December 1, 2012


Don't take your dog to an off leash dog park and keep it on a leash. It's not fair to your dog who is more likely to be aggressive towards other dogs because of the leash (look up leash aggression) and its not fair to other dog owners who reasonably expect dogs at a dog park to be well socialized already. A dog park is a place for well socialized dogs to have fun, not a place to see if your new dog bites. It's the worst place in the world to take your new, untrained dog. You can't train there, its too chaotic, and you can't guarantee anyone's safety or enjoyment at this time.

Also, I don't know who told you herding dogs don't have a prey drive. They have tremendous prey drive, that's why they're herding dogs. So training leave it is extra important if you have livestock. Nothing worse for chasing livestock than an untrained herding dog.

It's awesome that you rescued this dog but not really a breed I'd recommend to a new dog owner. A puppy obedience class, a canine good citizen class and a lot of books are going to be your friends here.
posted by fshgrl at 3:19 AM on December 2, 2012 [3 favorites]


I have a farm collie cross rather than a Cattle dog, border collie most likely but Irish farm collies don't really come as a breed :) As a puppy she was incredibly mouthy, like no dog I'd had before, and even now a year on she still occasionally mouths at the cuffs of my sleeves when we play.
She was also a chewer. The arms of chairs were her favourite, but anything at all she seemed able to utterly destroy. She was also a demon at reaching for things that you were sure were beyond her. Including a pair of glasses. Anything she thought might be interesting she'd go for.

We got her a K 9 bridle because it got cold and icy before she had the hand of not pulling on the lead and I didn't want to fall everytime we went out. Worked a treat.

We're lucky because our neighbours got a puppy around 6 months after we got Ripley and the two are the best of friends and would spend all day playing if they could.

Totally agree about the exercise, Ripley has her dog walker in the middle of the day when I am at work, she gets out for around 40 mins in the morning with me. A play session with Marley next door when we get home from work. And then a short pee walk around 8 in the evening. And you can really tell if she hasn't had enough.
posted by Fence at 3:23 AM on December 2, 2012


I took my puppy to the dog park well before he was trained because good socialization was critical. In my experience, adult dogs are more tolerant of puppies. I have a giant breed so even though he was a puppy, he was a big puppy, and we went to a big dog park. I did go at less busy times when there were just a handful of other dogs. (My dog park is huge but entirely fenced.) I would not have taken him to the off leash beach area. Even now, I don't take my dog to the dog at busy times. And for high energy dogs, a long walk before playing is better so they aren't frantic and overly excited when first encountering other dogs.

Like Fence, I had a neighbor with a dog of similar age and we would let them play like crazy. It was good for him to have a regular doggie friend as it helps them learn skills for playing with other dogs.
posted by shoesietart at 4:06 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


My point was not to take the dog and keep it on a leash. It's far more likely to fight or learn to be frightened that way. Either take it someplace fenced or teach it to come first. Shouldn't take more than a week or so to do that. And don't take a dog to a dogpark until youve had it around other dogs and know how its going to react. That's just common sense.
posted by fshgrl at 4:36 AM on December 2, 2012


I don't live with Aussies, but I help rescue them. In my experience, they are one of the smartest dogs around. Alice will watch and notice every single thing you do. (And where you hide the treats...) Almost all the Aussies I've known have benefited by getting involved in agility training. Maybe that's an option for you? Even if you don't do it "officially", you can still set up some diy obstacles in your yard, and get her going over, under, around, between, etc.

I do own a dog who is part Australian shepherd (another herding dog). Sugar has a very strong need to have the SuperSquirrel Family (human, canine and feline) in view at all times, which means she's constantly hovering nearby, looking nervous. She calms down when we give her those doggie puzzle-type toys, so she has some "work" to do.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:00 AM on December 2, 2012


It's awesome that you rescued this dog but not really a breed I'd recommend to a new dog owner.

I had a dog for 14 years that I raised from the age 10 weeks until he passed away last year. He was an Australian Shepherd/Britney Spaniel/Chow mix. My vet said, in so many words, that with that mix of breeds I had somehow hit the trifecta of canine neediness and neurosis. This is not my first time at the rodeo.

That said, I know from that experience that I was in over my head with the particular breed mix of my last dog and I need to proceed with more awareness this time around. Hence the AskMe.
posted by echolalia67 at 7:09 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ian Dunbar, who is a giant in the positive-reinforcement training community, wrote this great piece on bite inhibition. Read it, please.

As the first sentence of this article says: "Please read this section extremely carefully. I shall repeat over and over: teaching bite inhibition is the most important aspect of your puppy's entire education."
posted by rockindata at 8:55 AM on December 2, 2012


I had a cattle dog terrier mix from puppyhood (the dog's, not mine). I would advise socializing maximally, and probably getting a decent and comfy muzzle like the Jafco so you can take your dog to more off leash areas to socialize and run without worry of biting if you have any fears around that. Gentle leader for walks or a harness to keep the leash away from your dog's mouth if they treat it like a funtime chew toy on walks. Two hours a day of walks or runs, with much off leash time, will do wonders for your dog's attitude. And lots lots lots of positive reinforcement for behaving well around strangers and on leash.
posted by zippy at 8:55 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, and teach an emergency recall word (different than your usual come here command) with a really special treat used only for this training (I used maximally scenty sardines). Because your dog will bolt after another dog, or a deer, or a delicious small human, and you'll want a command that is the big red reset button that is so awesome they drop everything to return to you.
posted by zippy at 9:01 AM on December 2, 2012 [2 favorites]


Our dog wasn't a puppy but we were advised at some point to try yelping like a dog would when she mouths or nips you. This is how they learn not to bite other dogs too hard. It worked for us.

I'm confused that you're worried about her running for the hills at a dog park - most parks are fenced in. Parks are often empty if you can go there at an unusual time. Many parks we've been to also have separate fenced areas for big and small dogs, so if one area is empty, you can take her there to run without having to socialize. (As stated above, keeping your dog on a leash when all the other dogs are off probably freaks your dog out).

I'd also suggest getting her into puppy kindergarten and basic obedience ASAP. The mental stimulation will be great for her and the right trainer will be very familiar with nipping and other puppy issues. She can also start socializing with other dogs there in a more controlled environment.

As far as appearing angry, if you do positive reinforcement training, the only way you show your dog they're behaving badly is ignoring them. They want your attention - if you turn your back and playtime's over every time they nip, they will learn quickly.
posted by nakedmolerats at 9:51 AM on December 2, 2012


LOL you had me at "sane Australian Cattle Dog". Good luck. My father loves those things, and has had 5 or 6 over the years. But not one of them has been "sane". :)
posted by Area Control at 11:09 AM on December 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


They want your attention - if you turn your back and playtime's over every time they nip, they will learn quickly.

I am a big believer in positive reinforcement, however I also found with my cattle dog that his drive to nip and misbehave was stronger than his need for my attention. I could stand facing away from him for twenty minutes and he would still be at it.

Distracting him and redirecting him very early on, or before he got riled, was key. Once he hit the point of no return, it was hopeless.
posted by zippy at 2:10 PM on December 2, 2012


I'm confused that you're worried about her running for the hills at a dog park - most parks are fenced in. Parks are often empty if you can go there at an unusual time. Many parks we've been to also have separate fenced areas for big and small dogs, so if one area is empty, you can take her there to run without having to socialize.

Both the official & unofficial dog parks near my house are in Golden Gate Park and unfenced. As a matter of fact, a few years back I saw an obviously lost dog come running out of the park across Lincoln & 19th & coaxed her into my car. Long story short, her owner had lost her at Stern Grove - a completely different (unfenced) city park at least one mile south of GG park. There is a lot of open green space in San Francisco and a clever dog could end up very far away from home simply by traveling through the green space.

Also, I don't know who told you herding dogs don't have a prey drive. They have tremendous prey drive, that's why they're herding dogs. So training leave it is extra important if you have livestock. Nothing worse for chasing livestock than an untrained herding dog.

I found with my last dog that the herding behavior and energy levels were the easiest of his traits to deal with. Liked to herd other dogs, cats & people; not very interested in chasing squirrels. While I'm at home a lot, there are times I have to leave the dog behind in the yard. For that reason I more concerned about bringing home a dog with a hunting breed background - I didn't want to come home only to find erzatz chicken sashimi all over the yard, a big hole under the chicken run and happy, grinning dog with feathers on it's chin.
posted by echolalia67 at 3:47 PM on December 2, 2012


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