Australian Shepherd Behavior Problems: 4 Causes and How to Prevent Them

Aussies make fantastic pets; they are loyal, friendly, and full of life. However, they can get out of control for various reasons and exhibit Australian Shepherd behavior problems. Therefore, knowing how to discipline and calm them is crucial for a well-mannered dog.

Australian Shepherd behavior problems include destructive chewing, excessive barking, aggressive biting, chasing, and nipping. These issues mainly result when Aussie’s energy needs are not adequately addressed. Under socialization, improper training, and health issues also trigger these problems.

In this post, I’ll dive deep into Australian Shepherd behavior problems. I will discuss the causes and give tips for disciplining a misbehaving Aussie and calming a hyperactive one. Keep reading!

Australian Shepherd Behavior Problems and Causes

Australian shepherd behavior problems

When it comes to Aussies, you need to understand that you are dealing with a herding breed. A dog that is expected to work. Not just a light job but one that requires great physical and mental ability. 

Aussies are wired to use their brains constantly to think critically and foretell the movement of the sheep they’re herding. 

They have to stay three steps ahead, always predicting how the livestock will react, where they’ll go, and how quickly to move them from one point to another. 

So, when we take them out of their job, Australian Shepherd behavioral problems will undoubtedly occur. This is true in modern-day households. Many Aussie keepers are not farmers driving livestock across pasture day in and day out. 

Due to this present-day lifestyle, Aussie behavioral issues can occur for two main reasons:

  1. Absence of activity to challenge their intelligence
  2. Lack of a channel to release their suppressed energy

Most owners can attest that a bored Aussie is a stressed Aussie. Their frustration will most likely manifest in behaviors like excessive whining, destructive chewing, and digging. 

And when they can’t channel their endless balls of energy into physical activity, they become hyperactive. This can result in excessive barking, jumping, and tail chasing.

Nipping and pushing are other common tendencies in Aussies, thanks to their herding instincts. 

Aussies practically herd anything that moves. They’ll try to round you and your family up when you seem disorderly and noisy, and everyone runs in different directions. Even though they mean no harm, they’ll push, chase, bark, and even nip your knuckles to ‘get you back to the herd.’ This can be frightening to young children. 

Their herding and guarding instincts can also make them act aggressively toward strangers. They can bark and bite in an attempt to protect their territory. 

Besides the desire to herd and lack of physical and mental activities, other causes of Australian Shepherd behavior problems are as follows:

1. Lack of Proper Socialization

It is vital to introduce your dog to different people, pets, places, situations, smells, sights, and sounds when they are still young. It’s recommended to start socializing your Aussie at 3 to 5 weeks old. 

A dog that lacks proper social interaction will tend to be shy, nervous, fearful, aggressive, or overly excited around people or other pets

This can lead to behavioral problems.

You can begin the socialization process in a controlled environment to avoid overwhelming your pup. Then, gradually take them to the park, dog daycare, or other places you don’t completely control. 

Find Out: Is Your Aussie a Mini? Here Are 10 Easy Ways to Tell

2. Improper Training Practices

Aussies are intelligent dogs, hence, easily trainable—they tend to pick cues quickly. This calls for owners to be extremely cautious of what they teach their Aussies, as they can easily deduce bad behavior as rewarding.

For instance, if you share your food every time your dog whines or begs to eat with you at the table, they’ll see it as a rewarding behavior and continue doing so

3. Health Condition

Sometimes dogs act out of control because of illness or pain. 

For instance, puppies need to chew when teething to help relieve the irritation. Chewing becomes an issue when it turns destructive. 

If you don’t provide them with chew toys, puppies will most likely turn to furniture, shoes, or anything chewable in the house. 

If your Aussie suddenly becomes aggressive quickly, they may be ill. 

Dogs use aggression as a defensive mechanism which usually intensifies when they’re in pain. Or, say, they suddenly start urinating after being successfully house-trained—this may be due to a medical issue such as UTI.

Aussies are also highly likely to suffer from separation anxiety due to their strong attachment to their owners. 

An Aussie with separation anxiety may exhibit the following behaviors when the family is away:

  • Excessive barking, whining, and howling
  • Defecating inside the house
  • Destructive chewing and digging
  • Trying to escape. 

4. Inconsistent Routines

Dogs are routine-loving animals, regardless of the breed; they thrive on structure. 

You’ve probably experienced your canine friend whining if you don’t feed or take them out in time. That’s normal for them.

Your dog might struggle to keep up and accommodate the changes if you don’t have a predictive routine. They’ll likely let out these frustrations through destructive habits. 

How Do You Discipline an Australian Shepherd?

Australian shepherd dog

Discipline is essential to correct your dog’s undesirable behavior and establish dominance. 

When disciplining your Australian Shepherd, you’ll want to ensure the punishment measures up to the action. You’ll also want to maintain the bond and trust between you. Therefore, punishing your dog humanely is more efficient than using violence

Here are a few tips for instilling discipline in your Aussie. 

Establish House Rules

The first step to ensuring a disciplined dog is to teach them how things work in your home.

Training should begin the very first day you bring in your Aussie. Teach them firmly but gently what is allowed and what’s not. You’ll need to be patient, as learning will take time. 

You’ll want to include your family members in enforcing house rules to avoid hesitation or confusion in your dog. 

Moreover, assert yourself as the authority over your dog from the beginning. Failure to let your Aussie know you’re the leader can lead to undesirable habits like ignoring orders, excessive barking, and possessiveness of food and toys. 

You can establish authority by:

  • Assuming higher ground when sitting or sleeping.
  • Taking the lead when you’re out for walks.
  • Entering doorways and staircases first.
  • Having your dog earn rewards when they obey commands. 

Correct Your Dog’s Behavior Immediately

Reprimanding your Aussie long after they misbehave is pointless. They’ll not understand why you’re punishing them.  

You need to correct them immediately after you catch them in the act or when they’re just about to misbehave. This way, they can associate the punishment with the action. 

You can also offer them an alternative positive behavior instead so that you’ll not only be correcting a bad behavior but also encouraging a different and more favorable one. 

For example, stop your dog when you catch them chewing your child’s doll or when they’re just about to do it. Say a firm “no!” take the doll away, and offer them a chew toy. This is a more positive way of correcting behavior, even though instilling the positive habit will take several occasions. 

Use Negative Reinforcement for Bad Behavior

You can also treat misbehavior with a negative response, specifically by withholding things your dog enjoys. These can be rewards or praises.

For instance, Aussies love attention. Sometimes they act up to get your attention. So, withdrawing your attention by turning your back, ignoring them, or leaving the room can make them reconsider their actions. 

Furthermore, when your dog disobeys a command, you can take their toys away or withhold a treat you usually offer for cooperating. 

Another negative reinforcement for bad behavior is time-outs. Using social isolation is especially effective in social dogs like Aussies. When they’re hyperactive or disobedient, put them in a boring place where they can’t entertain themselves. 

Time-outs should be brief (not longer than a minute), so the dog understands it’s a repercussion for specific behavior and doesn’t adapt to their new environment. 

On the same note, you’ll want to encourage good behavior in your dog by rewarding them with treats, petting, praise, and favorite toys. This way, your dog will associate the positive behavior with a reward, and they’ll repeat it in the future.

Similarly, positive reinforcement should occur immediately after the action. Your Aussie will not understand the reason behind the reward if you do it sooner or later. 

Keep Your Emotions Under Control

Australian Shepherds are intelligent animals. They can easily feed off your mood and enact it. They’ll be jumpy and vocalizing ceaselessly if you always act overly excited around them. 

Alternatively, if you’re angry and aggressive, they’ll likely start acting aggressively toward you for self-defense. 

It’s, therefore, essential to always display good behavior around your Aussie.

So, when disciplining your dog, speak calmly but authoritatively. 

Avoid punishing your canine or have another person do it if you feel extremely frustrated. Strong emotions can result in hyperactivity, stress, and uneasiness in an already tense situation. This can easily make your dog lose trust in you. 

On the same note, avoid hitting or yelling at your Aussie, as this will only hurt them. It can also create fear and hostility in your dog, compromising their trust in you, damaging your relationship. 

Establish a Routine

As I mentioned, dogs can get out of control if they’re frustrated or unsure of their environment. Establishing simple routines will help them feel more secure and relaxed. 

For instance, if your puppy is urinating in an inappropriate place, you can regularly take them outside to the same spot to help themselves. With time, they’ll learn to equate urinating with the correct location

Moreover, try to feed, walk and play with your dog at set times. Your Aussie will learn to anticipate attention and care, making them less likely to act up. 

How Do I Calm My Australian Shepherd?

The first step to calming your Australian Shepherd is figuring out the cause of its behavior

Remember, dogs don’t act out of spite. There’s usually a reason if they’re being aggressive, whining, barking, digging, escaping, or chewing too much. 

As a pet parent, you need to determine your dog’s behavior, why they’re doing it, and how you can safely stop or limit it from happening. 

When it comes to Aussies, hyperactivity can be a significant problem. As I mentioned, these are one of the most energetic dog breeds. Therefore, having one who never seems to settle can be stressful and exhausting.

Being hyperactive all the time is also frustrating for an Aussie and can result in behavior issues. 

Thankfully, you can calm your Aussie in the following ways:

  • Ensure they receive adequate daily exercise. Aussies must put their high energy into action; daily physical activity helps them release all that pent-up energy. Experts recommend at least 2 hours of daily exercise for a healthy Aussie.
  • Stimulate their minds. Aussies are smart dogs. They need physical exercise and plenty of mental stimulation to calm their minds. You can give your Aussie puzzle toys and enrichment games to challenge their brains.
  • Keep them busy while you’re away. You can leave them some toys to play with when you’re not home to alleviate boredom. 
  • Regular obedience training. Training your dog to respond to commands is fundamental. Simple commands like “stop” and “sit” come in handy when calming a hyper dog. Moreover, training provides additional mental stimulation for Aussies.
  • Reward calmness. Teach your Aussie that being calm is good by rewarding them with a gentle pet, praise, or treat whenever they are in a quiet state. It’s best not to reward your dog when aroused or overly excited, as this will only encourage the behavior. 

Final Thoughts

Australian Shepherds are lovely to care for, but things can worsen when their core behavioral needs are not addressed. Therefore, ensure your Aussie gets adequate physical exercise and mental stimulation, proper socialization, and training to stay healthy, happy, and well-behaved. 

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