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There are several breeds of dogs that are naturally very calm and well socialized and really don't need extensive amounts of work to be very non-aggressive and friendly towards other dogs and other animals. The Australian Cattle Dog is not one of those breeds, however once properly socialized these dogs are trustworthy with other dogs and tend to be very good companion dogs with people and some other pets such as cats.
Ideally the best option is to bring home an Australian Cattle Dog puppy with another puppy or juvenile dog and have them basically grow up together. This will prevent the natural skirmishes over dominance that can and will occur if one of the dogs is an Australian Cattle Dog. This breed is naturally the alpha leader personality and if the other breed is also dominant, there will be some minor aggression until the pack order is established. By raising the two dogs together from puppies this is largely prevented as the order of the pack is established when the puppies are very young. In most cases the submissive dog will not challenge the dominant dog once that has been developed, so there are very few issues.
In situations where you already have a dog at home, introducing the Australian Cattle Dog puppy or dog with your current pet away from the home is essential, especially if the dog happens to be of a territorial or dominant breed or temperament. Typically the dogs, after some show of dominance that may include growling, snarling and showing each other who is the larger of the two, will work out the pecking order on their own. In some cases a rehomed adult Australian Cattle Dog may not blend with adult dogs already in the family, so this needs to be very carefully considered prior to an adoption.
Neutering a male Australian Cattle Dog when they are young will decrease some of the natural dog aggression that this breed can display. Females may also be more dog aggressive that in other herding breeds, so early spaying is also recommended. With proper socialization and obedience work these dogs are wonderful with other dogs, however it will take concentrated training and socialization for this to happen with strange dogs and dogs that aren't familiar to the Australian Cattle Dog.
Socializing the Australian Cattle Dog with cats and other small animals should be done when the dog is a young puppy. Many Australian Cattle Dogs get along well with cats but few can be trusted with other small pets, especially rodent type pets. The Australian Cattle Dog may have a high prey instinct and they will kill small animals they are able to chase down. Their natural speed and athletic ability can be a concern if you do have smaller animals or if they don't get along with cats, especially if you live in the city where the neighbor's cats may come into your yard.
Since socialization and training often go hand in hand, training with this breed should also start right from the first ride home. Establishing that you are the leader with this breed will be essential, and that includes all members of the household. An Australian Cattle Dog may bond very strongly with one person in the home, usually the person that spends the most time with the dog, but they have to learn to listen to everyone.
One of the best options to combine both early training and socialization is a puppy obedience class. Look for an instructor or trainer that has specific experience in working with herding breeds as well as the Australian Cattle Dog. Since this breed is different than a Border Collie or even an Australian Shepherd it is essential that the trainer know how to help you learn to establish yourself as the leader while still allowing the dog to learn.
Many owners that live in urban or suburban settings are never going to want their Australian Cattle Dog to become a working cattle dog. Unfortunately the Australian Cattle Dog doesn't understand that, and his or her natural traits for herding and heeling are likely to start showing even when the dog is still a very young puppy. Since heeling involves the dog actually nipping at the cattle or livestock's heels, this is one instinctive behavior that has to be eliminated or managed.
One possible way to prevent this from being an issue is to teach your children how to respond if the puppy or dog starts to attempt to heel or herd them. The first thing that the children have to learn to do is to freeze. That means to literally stop moving and to stop talking or interacting with the dog. The dog will typically calm down and move out of herding mode, allowing the child to then give a command such as sit or down, which redirects the dog away from the behavior. If the children yell, run or attempt to kick at the dog the dog will only ramp up their heeling effort in order to try to bring the child's movement under control. This is when serious bites occur and kids start to become afraid of the dog.
Another training strategy is to teach the dog a stop command and include that into every training routine. This is extremely effective if the dog is also being trained in obedience, agility or any other type of competitive event. The stop command can be anything, but it has to result in the dog immediately assuming the "down" position and staying prone until the release command is given.
The very intelligence of these dogs makes them ideal for agility and obedience work. They don't take well to highly repetitive training and will often disengage from training if they are bored or under stimulated. Combining physical activity with mental training exercise provides the best of both worlds and will have your dog learning new commands at an incredible fast rate.
Like all intelligent dogs the Australian Cattle Dog can be taught an amazing number of tricks. Tricks that may take other breeds several weeks to master the Australian Cattle Dog, with the right trainer, can learn in just a few training sessions. They are also one of the breeds that can develop an amazing vocabulary when it comes to recognizing human language and words. Many members of the breed know all their toys by name and will retrieve only the toy requested, which is a true sign of canine intelligence at its best.
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