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From: DarylMB (68.150.54.214)
Subject:         The first thing to understand ....
Date: March 23, 2009 at 3:43 pm PST

In Reply to: nipping/herding question posted by julie on March 21, 2009 at 6:33 pm:

is that your dog is simply acting on instinct. Herding breeds use two methods to control the flock - border collies use "the eye", meaning a good border collie can literally hypnotize a group of sheep by staring at them. Aussies, on the other hand, tend to nip at the heels in order to get animals moving. The main reason for the difference is that border collies herd sheep while Aussies are more often used to herd cattle. Cattle are a lot bigger and more ornery than sheep and thus stronger methods are used. An Aussie will nip (not bite) because they have to be able to grab the cow's heel and then zip out of the way to avoid being kicked. So your dog is simply doing what comes naturally.

That being said, other people don't tend to appreciate their dogs, their children or themselves being herded by an over-zealous dog and they certainly won't appreciate the nipping. The other thing to remember is that one day your Aussie may nip at a dog that takes offence and then you've got a dog fight on your hands.

Herding breeds are among the smartest dogs (border collies being no. 1) and that means they are more challenging than other dogs. Herding breeds are hard-wired for working and they must have a job to do. It doesn't necessarily have to be a herding job, but they must have something to challenge their minds or else they will try to amuse themselves and that always leads to trouble. Terriers are much the same - a Jack Russell terrier without a job to do will resort to breed-specific behaviour like digging and killing small animals (I know - I have one).

I've always believed in the old adage "a tired dog is a happy dog". It's amazing how dogs that would previously tear the house to shreds when their owners were away are calm and well-behaved when they've had a walk before being left alone. Exercise is the single most important thing in getting a dog's unacceptable behaviour under control. The mistake a lot of people make is to think that bringing the dog to a dog park, taking off the leash and letting him run around is all the exercise they need. Nope. Not true. The exercise they get at the dog park is "fun" exercise. What the dog needs is "structured" exercise and structured exercise must be done BEFORE you go to the dog park. Structured exercise is a brisk walk on-leash where the dog must pay attenion to you and ignore situations that would normally result in barking, pulling at leash or lunging at people and other dogs.

Lots of people with high-energy dogs even use a treadmill to burn off some of the dog's excess energy before taking them on a walk. I use one with my Jack Russell when the weather is simply too cold for an outdoor walk (I live in Canada) and it makes for a more relaxing evening when your dog isn't pacing around looking for something to do.

So the bottom line is to make sure your dog has a proper, structured walk before you go to the dog park AND to make sure that your dog is under contorl when he's off the leash. That means that if he takes off across the park towards another dog, you should be able to call him back instantly. It isn't fair to expect people to watch out for bad behaviour from other dogs.

Aussies excel at lots of things like chasing frizbees, agilty, flyball, fetching tennis balls, etc. Find an activity that both you and your dog enjoy and use that activity to give her mental stimulation. Couple that with structured walks and you'll find that her dog park behaviour will greatly improve.


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