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Introductions are always best tackled on neutral territory, where neither dog feels threatened or feels the need to defend "turf".
If you can enlist the aid of a friend, a favorite technique of our foster homes is to take the dogs for a walk, side-by-side. Start out with both humans in the center and walk at a brisk pace. After a few minutes, move one of the dogs to the inside so now you are walking dog-human-dog-human. After a few more minutes, move the other dog to the inside so the dogs have access to each other and can sniff. Keep walking for five minutes or so, allowing the dogs to both settle down enough to decrease the over-excitement. When you feel like both dogs can interact without either dog feeling threatened, head into your house or yard and allow them to interact off leash under your watchful eye.
What is the best way to introduce my new dog to my current dog?
Can an ACD handle being alone while I go to work?
Both physical and mental exercises are essential to keep a dog occupied and “out of trouble” – and this is particularly true for herding dogs, most especially for young ones. Optimally, your dog needs to exercise to the point of “tiredness” daily. Frequently, behavior problems in dogs can be addressed simply by increasing the amount of exercise the dog gets. This can be challenging when everyone leaves the house to go to work for the day.
Here are some ideas others have used to help:
For physical exercise, the dog really needs to do some running. A walk around the block — or even several blocks — is not enough exercise for most cattle dogs! Fetch games (ball, Frisbee, etc.) when you are at home are a good way to provide excellent exercise. If you have a large area available where distant throws are possible (park, open area), the dog can get a lot of running in without the requirement of too much work on the part of the human. Even short retrieves in a small area, done repeatedly, will work. Indoors, such games played up/down stairs can increase the effort required of the dog in a rather limited area.
You might also consider teaching obedience and/or agility exercises and doing regular practice. These have the advantage of offering both physical and mental burn in one package and can help tire a dog out.
Having a professional dog walker come in during the day (or a willing teenager or neighbor) to take the dog out for a walk and play session can help tremendously. Some people have found that placing the dog in doggy “day care” a few times a week has made a huge difference.
Mental exercise means requiring the dog to think, and this also contributes to a well-behaved dog. Try teaching tricks, scent games, hide and find games – indoors or out.
It also helps to replace the “free-food-in-a-bowl” meals with situations where the dog must work for his daily rations. Try stuffing your dog’s meal into a Kong or two and leaving them for him to work on while you’re gone. Or consider scattering the kibble about widely (indoors or out) for him to hunt down his meal.
Even if you do not feed this way (and it is highly recommended you do), you can still use stuffed Kongs and other treat dispensing toys to provide occupation and stimulation for the dog. A RAW, meaty bone will also occupy most dogs for quite a while. All of these also constitute mental exercise as well as occupy their time. You might also consider hanging a tug toy (from a doorway inside or tree, etc., outdoors) if you dog likes to play this way.
Be inventive and you’ll find lots of ways to keep your dog busy and occupied even when you’re not there. But if your dog is destructive, please consider a crate or ex-pen as confinement while you’re not there to supervise. (Use those stuffed Kongs, etc., in the crate) Dogs do not mind, as they are natural den animals. Just make sure that when you do get home, the dog receives ample physical exercise. And a walk will probably be good for you, too!
Do cattle dogs generally get along with cats?
Some Australian Cattle Dogs tolerate cats well. Others never really give up the need to chase.
Make certain that the cats always have a place to escape to from your dog (always=forever, no matter how good the dog eventually becomes with them). Don’t give the dog the run of the house at first. He needs to be crated or confined behind a baby gate when he is not under your direct and CONSTANT supervision for a significant time to come! Only when he has demonstrated that he is trustworthy to be loose and unattended should he be given more freedom.
When your pup first notices the cats, before he can chase or get a mouth on them, redirect to a toy. Or teach him to sit and look at you for a reward. Eventually seeing cat should equal getting a toy, looking at person, getting a treat. It is important to prevent your dog from chasing cats IMMEDIATELY, as that is a self-rewarding behavior that you do not want to allow to develop. Any time a behavior is allowed to develop a “reward history”, it is harder to change the behavior later.
You might want to place the pup in a crate where he can see/experience the cats and they can safely investigate to “desensitize” him. And also try the cat in a crate where the pup can investigate, but not have the cat run. This helps to teach the cat to be calm around the dog. A running cat is very difficult for a dog to resist! If your dog does get his mouth on your cat, get it off by distracting him with something more interesting (toy or yummy) if possible. Don’t try wrestle him off (if a young pup), as that can be viewed as a fun game! It is far better to prevent contact in the first place!
Finally, when first allowing the animals freedom around each other, let your dog drag a leash behind him so that you can use for safety if needed. (Be certain that he only wears a line when you’re there to supervise, as he could get it caught and be injured or killed if unattended.)
It may be that your dog can learn to leave the cat alone — if the cat can learn not to run. But it’s always best to maintain a safe area (baby gate, etc.) where the cat can be free of the dog’s attention. Make certain that there is a nearby safe place (up on top of counters, etc.) that can be reached quickly for cat safety. That’s just good sense, even if your dog coexists well with your cat.
How do I get my puppy to stop mouthing and nipping people?
ACD puppies tend to use their mouths a lot. As a general rule, mouths are a dog’s equivalent to our hands. Consequently, mouthing and nipping are perfectly normal and your puppy needs to be taught not to do so. An older dog will also nip and mouth if never trained not to do so. Pup or adult, the cure is the same.
First, you need to be sure that your pup has learned an “inhibited” bite, that is, not to bite hard — something ALL dogs need to learn. Puppies usually gets these lessons from mom and the siblings between the ages of 6 and 12 weeks. But a human can finish what mom started.
Ultimately a puppy needs to be taught that putting teeth on humans is NOT allowed.
When your puppy tries to put teeth on you, immediately substitute a toy and then lavish praise when the pup's mouth is on the toy. Notice when the puppy is about to bite and move to insert the toy BEFORE the teeth reach you. Be prepared to keep this up for some time, as it will take a while to get the message across. And remember that there will be backsliding. Just keep repeating the lessons and be consistent.
If the pup does get his mouth on you, yelp LOUDLY! Really convince him that you’re HURT! The pup will drop your hand in surprise if you do this convincingly enough. This works best with younger dogs, although it can work with older ones. Praise and treat when the mouth and teeth are NOT on you. The pup needs to get the impression that human skin is EXTREMELY tender and that therefore any contact must be VERY soft! Then insert that toy and praise/treat, as above.
To augment the lessons if needed, every time your puppy tries to bite, remove your availability to him/her. Turn your back on the pup and ignore him for about 10 to 15 seconds, then turn back and, before the pup can mouth, present that toy, praise when it’s in his mouth, and give him a yummy treat. Begin teaching a “sit” to greet you and praise/treat for that. When he mouths you, turn away, then offer an acceptable chew toy and praise/reward for mouth on that. For an older dog, it may mean setting up a situation (using gates, etc.) where you can merely step over or shut a door, to isolate the offender. Also, actively teach an incompatible behavior for those times – command a sit, etc., as a replacement for mouthing.
Your puppy needs to learn that “mouth on person” means ALL people will ignore him, refuse to play, go away and leave him alone! No fun for a puppy! The puppy also needs to consistently see that "mouth on chew toy" makes humans give attention and goodies.
If you puppy keeps trying to mouth you, try the 3 strikes rule. Remove pup from hand, try to redirect to toy two times, but if pup immediately ignores the toy and keeps grabbing your hand, the third time VERY MATTER OF FACTLY (it is important NOT to be emotional in all training), go away and leave him for a 30 to 60-second “time out” or until he calms himself, then return and try again. Do NOT think of this as punishment and do NOT leave the pup alone for a long time when doing this. You want him to connect the mouthing with the lack of contact with you — getting the idea that “mouthing gets me removed from human contact“, just like “water gets me wet.” There is no “retribution” involved. You are just teaching your pup the “laws of the universe.“
Play only when the dog’s mouth remains off humans. Biting stops the play and makes humans go away. Period. Since ACDs LOVE their humans and want to be with them, your dog will eventually learn that his teeth on your skin/clothes does not get the desired results.
How can I get behavior help for a new puppy, newly adopted dog, or current dog?
Getting help from a qualified professional behaviorist or trainer is probably going to be necessary. Aggression is not solved in a group obedience class -- you will need at least a few one-on-one sessions with someone who understands animal learning theory and has experience with aggression cases.
For great info on finding a qualified behavior professional, click here. Be aware that anyone can call themselves a dog trainer, behaviorist, or any other term, so do your homework before spending money on someone who lacks credentials! They can do more harm than good! A good place to search for a qualified trainer is ccpdt.org. This organization offers a trainer search by zip code and state.
What causes aggression in some cattle dogs?
Aggression (especially towards strangers) is the number one behavior problem we hear about from cattledog owners. Usually this begins when the dog reaches adolescence (8 months to 2 years). If not addressed, this behavior will get worse and worse as the dog learns to practice it to make unwanted people go away.
A considerable amount of this behavior is inherited. Cattledogs were bred to control large herds and to protect animals and property from thieves, so working dogs are supposed to be suspicious of strangers and to protect territory. Dogs who are friendly to strangers are not much good at their jobs. The problem arises when "pet" cattledogs decide who is and isn't a threat, instead of their owners making that decision.
Pet cattledogs should be socialized to all sorts of strangers from a very young age, and that is where most of the problems lie – people don’t realize that this is not a Lab or a golden retriever that will just learn to love everyone without any special effort on the owner’s part. “Socializing” means exposing the puppy in a positive way only to whatever people, situations and places you expect the adult dog to be comfortable in. Socializing does not mean taking a puppy to a soccer game and having ten thousand kids crowd around it – that would be called “flooding” and could very well teach the puppy to be afraid of crowds of children!
Socialization, done properly and slowly, teaches the puppy that the human is a good leader, capable of making decisions that the puppy can count on, and that the puppy should look to the human for direction when in a stressful situation. Basic training from a young age is also imperative with this breed, so the pup can feel secure in being able to communicate with its human owners. Entire chapters of books have been written on socialization, and it has been the topic of several studies on dogs.
The majority of cattledogs with aggression issues probably were not given enough positive exposure to enough strangers, or were “flooded” and began to dislike at least some strangers some of the time. If you have been punishing your dog for growling or showing fear towards strangers, you may have accidentally set him up to use more severe forms of aggression (ironically). If you punish a dog for trying to communicate how it is feeling (scared/threatened/growling/cowering), or you force it into situations it clearly is fearful of (“sit and let the nice man pet you”) then all the dog has left is its teeth to try to communicate with.
Most owners with aggressive cattledogs probably did not realize what it takes to be a "benevolent leader" to their dogs and also the intense amount of training, direction, and exercise these dogs truly need, every day.
Other forms of aggression common in cattledogs are resource guarding, food guarding, and guarding spaces from people, other dogs, or both. These problems, too, can and should be prevented from an early age -- not by giving the puppy something and then snatching it away, but by hand feeding, practicing object exchanges, and doing food bowl training exercises, among other things.