The Australian Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds in America. As they are herding dogs at heart, they are bred for energy and ease of training.
They’re smart, loyal, and agile dogs who can do anything from herding sheep to sniffing out drugs or finding lost children.
With such high-energy, intelligent pets, you cannot expect them to just sit around the house. They need to be stimulated and worked to be happy
So How Do You Stimulate an Australian Shepherd?
The best way to get your dog to have plenty of stimulation, whether it be individually or with other dogs, is to simply take them out.
Let them explore different scents and sounds. You can also add in some other stimulation by teaching them new tricks
Also, science shows us that there’s an increase in dopamine – the “feel good” hormone – in dogs while they are searching for something. So games, where they have to hunt for things, are great for Aussies
There is any number of jobs that are perfect for an Australian Shepherd, you can even train them to help you around the house!
What are the consequences of a Bored Australian Shepherd?
If your dog doesn’t feel stimulated, it could have behavioral problems, such as chewing furniture or pots and chasing shadows.
If you find your dog’s behavior changes when they become bored, then you may need to give him some special attention to keep your Aussie busy.
This can take the form of puzzles, games, or training exercises.
Do Australian Shepherds Need a Job?
Being smart and energetic, as well as eager to please, Aussies love a challenging job.
What are the Benefits of Giving Your Australian Shepherd a Job?
Aussies don’t just need jobs because they’re bored, but also because it keeps them mentally stimulated. This can be good for the dog and the owner. Walking and playing with dogs has been shown to be good for your health, both physical and mental
On top of that, you can even use this time productively and get your Aussie to help out with some jobs around the house…and not just rounding up the kids!
But what is the best job for an Australian Shepherd to keep them occupied and burn off some energy? Here are some jobs that might be a good fit!
Mental Stimulation for your Australian Shepherd
Mental stimulation is important for Australian Shepherds because it helps keep them from getting bored.
This can lead to them getting restless, which can lead to destructive behaviors, such as chewing on furniture or digging up the yard.
Here are some ways you can do so:
Teaching Your Australian Shepherd Commands
While the Australian Shepherd is an intelligent dog, they are not going to pick up new commands and tricks immediately.
When giving any dog training, repetition is key. So take the time to teach your dog what you want from them.
Be patient and avoid frustration for either you or your dog. Reward your Aussie with lots of treats and positive reinforcement.
With time, your Aussie will be able to learn an amazing number of commands, tricks, and names of toys.
Teach them new tricks
Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent dogs and pick up tricks easily.
Once you have taught them the basics of “sit”, “shake paws”, and “rollover”, you can get creative with your Aussie’s tricks.
A clicker is an excellent teaching device to get them to execute a specific action. When they do it correctly, always remember to give them healthy treats or a fuss for positive reinforcement.
Once your Australian Shepherd has learned these new tricks and commands, it is time to crank the difficulty up a notch.
Combine the commands they already know to create all-new activities! For example, teach them to come and then sit, or shake, and then rollover.
The possible combinations are endless, and your Aussie will love figuring out these new puzzles.
Specific retrieval games
Australian Shepherds are clever enough to be taught the names of things. So name each of their toys and teach them the names.
Once they have learned them, have your Aussie bring you a specific toy.
Once they get the hang of this, hide the toys around the house so they have to work to bring them to you. As a herding dog, this is sure to keep even the cleverest Aussie occupied.
Jobs at Home for your Australian Shepherd
Giving your Aussie jobs at home is a great way to keep them occupied and even help out around the house.
Have them clean up after themselves
You have probably already seen the mess an energetic Aussie can make at playtime, spreading their toys all over the place
However, after they are done playing, you can train them to put their own toys back in the box!
You’ll need an open basket or toy box, and all you have to do is teach them to retrieve their toys and return them. This not only helps you out but keeps them from becoming bored
You can even extend playtime by letting them take all their toys out again and then put them back
Australian Shepherds are herding dogs, so they love games where they seek things out and bring them to you. So turn this into a game.
Hide their toys around the house and have your Aussie go and find their toys and bring them back to you.
It’s good to switch where you hide your dog’s toys. Put it in the same place a few times, then somewhere different.
It can be fun to watch them go back and search for their toy in the same place even if they’ve already found it there several times.
Opening and closing doors
Some people have taught their dogs to open doors. Naturally, if you don’t want your dog opening the door on its own, then it might be best not to teach them this trick.
If you do teach them this trick, your Australian shepherd will enjoy the excitement of opening and shutting the doors around your home.
Just make sure you don’t teach your Aussie to unlock your doors, or you might have a problem when you’re away from home.
Rescue Games & Hide and Seek
Rescue games and “hide and seek” are not only good mental stimulation but perfect bonding times with your dog.
The game of hide-and-seek is great fun for your dog. You simply find a good place to hide, then you call your dog. Your dog will enjoy looking for you, even more, if they get a treat when they find you!
Try hiding under a blanket and see how long it takes for your dog to find you. They might even crawl under the blankets with you!
Toy-Related Jobs for your Australian Shepherd
You will not always be able to take your Aussie out. So if you don’t have a lot of room, give them a bit more than toys to chew on while they wait for you to come home from work.
Here are some ideas:
Aussies love finding hidden treats. So buy your pet a toy that hides a treat under a series of doors or compartments.
These will keep your dog focused and mentally stimulated as they search and sniff out the tasty treats you hide inside.
There are plenty of puzzles designed specifically for intelligent dogs like your Aussie, so if they get too good at one, you are sure to be able to find another to keep them occupied.
Peanut butter and a Kong.
Kongs are a tried-and-tested way of keeping your dog happy.
Simply fill the Kong with peanut butter (or anything else they enjoy) and let your dog work at it to retrieve the treat. They’ll have to work hard at licking and chewing on the toy to get the peanut butter out.
Kongs are great for Australian Shepherds and should keep them happily occupied for a while and burn off that destructive energy in a controlled way.
Kongs are available in a variety of sizes and shapes.
Spinning food toys
Spinning dog food toys require your dog to perform some manual action to release kibble, usually by spinning them around.
These toys can be wonderful for rewards and treats, but their real benefit comes at mealtimes.
Stock them with the same amount of kibble as you would give your dog for a meal. This will stop them wolfing down their meal and stimulate them too.
Backyard Activities for your Australian Shepherd
You can do a lot with your Aussie in your own yard, both for physical and mental exercises.
The following are things you can do with your Aussie in the yard or garden.
Some Australian Shepherd owners have observed that their dogs get bored with routine fetch. Ball herding is perfect for stimulating their herding instinct.
So take a basket and several balls to the park to provide them something new to consider. Throw the balls at various distances and locations.
Teach your Aussie to gather up all of the balls and return them to the basket. They’ll love finding and “herding” the balls.
This will appeal directly to their herding instincts and they will love how it keeps them on their toes!
It is important to choose tough balls. Australian dogs are not usually biting, but they can play rough with their toys.
Pet stores sell balls specifically for large dogs. Australian shepherds aren’t particularly large, but they do have a very strong chewing instinct!
Cleaning up sticks
This is a great one if you want your Aussie to help out around the place.
If you have trees in your yard, you will know they drop branches sometimes. It is not too hard to teach your Australian Shepherd to pick them up for you and put them where you like.
With a bit of luck, they might clean up sticks in the yard on their own!
A puzzle is always a hit with Aussies, especially those that take them a while to solve.
Find a crunchy treat that your dog likes and does not dissolve in water or a toy they really like.
Place the treat or toy in a bowl of bone broth or similar. Freeze it for a few hours, then take it outside
Encourage your Aussie to get to the treat inside and they will have a great time and a nice reward at the end.
Fun Activities for the Park
Taking your Aussie out of the house is always going to be more stimulating for them – new smells, other dogs, people, and squirrels…
Fetch is one of the most popular and easiest games to play with Aussies. It’s great for working on their problem-solving skills, strengthening their bond with you, and just having fun!
Aussies can become bored when left alone, so the addition of a buddy may help them relax. So set up some playdates with other well-trained dogs.
Just be cautious though, no matter how “well trained” they are, intelligent and curious dogs like these can always get up to mischief together!
Just make sure the other pets are up to date on their shots.
Exercise Games for your Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherds require just as much mental stimulation as they do physical activity. The best way to keep your Aussie happy, healthy, and out of trouble is by providing them with both types of activities.
Here are some ideas on how you can do both:
Jogging and Running
Australian Shepherds love to find new places and smells. so why not take your Australian shepherd running with you?
It won’t be the whole-out run they desire, so keeping to your pace may be difficult for them. So you will probably need to teach them to keep the same pace as you.
Keep them on a long, loose leash and they will enjoy it and it will keep them occupied and give you a bit of incentive to run faster!
Hiking & Backpacking
If your family loves getting outdoors, then the Aussie is your perfect companion. They love exploring new terrain and have been bred to cover many miles of droving cattle, so they will have no trouble keeping up with you.
Agility training will take a little bit of professional work, so you will need to find a local training center that specialized in agility courses.
Also, this is quite strenuous, so you should leave this until after your Australian Shepherd’s first birthday, so they are physically up to it. This is not something for an Australian Shepherd puppy.
While there is some cost involved, but your Australian Shepherd will take to it like a fish to water.
The combination of exercise and mental challenge ensures this is one of the best ways to entertain your Australian Shepherd.
Make sure to keep the training up at home with your backyard agility course
Build them an agility course
If you’re going to take them agility training, obstacle courses are a great way for them to practice.
These are so much fun for Australian Shepherds, as it keeps them both physically and mentally challenged.
Use boxes, cones, bars, and tunnels to construct a dog obstacle course in your backyard. Show them where to go and give them praise for completing it quickly.
You will want to start them out on a leash so you can get them to where they need to be and lots of healthy treats.
Below, we go over two main agility drills you can do at home with some easy-to-find pieces of equipment.
This is easy to do at home, you can use a log, jump rope, or a thick rope. In fact, anything that is 2-4 feet wide and not too tall for them to jump over.
For something a bit more professional, you can also build one with PVC pipes or buy one online.
To teach your Aussie this, start with two people if possible, one person on either side of the jump. If you cannot find someone to help initially, start with your Aussie on one side of the jump and you on the other.
Now, entice them with a treat. Often, this is enough to get them to hop over the bar.
If not, make sure your leash is long enough for you to jump over and have them still be on the other side. Then, go round to the same side as them and jump over, and encourage them to follow you.
They will usually pick this up quickly. Then repeat until you can remove the leash and have them jump over for a treat.
Soon they will be jumping for fun!
Another popular agility drill is the hoop or tire jump. To get started, buy a cheap hula hoop from a dollar store or similar.
Once again, you can get more professional and build a PVC pipe frame and just have it as a breakaway, or buy a kit.
Training your Aussie to do this is similar to the bar jump above, but initially hold the hoop at ground level and just encourage them with treats to walk through it.
If treats do not work, it might be time to borrow a small person to show them the way, or do this yourself if you are feeling supple!
You may need to use the leash initially to encourage them through, but usually, treats are enough.
Once they get the hang of this, start raising the hoop over time. Very soon they will be jumping through them for fun
When you are done training for these setup multiple agility items together so they can jump through multiples they will absolutely love this.
The Australian Shepherd is a highly intelligent breed of dog that needs plenty of mental and physical stimulation.
Mental stimulation can be achieved by teaching them your name, the names of their toys, and hiding their favorite toy around the house. The best way to keep them happy and out of trouble is to give them plenty of exercises.
So make sure they get lots of walks in the park or even go running with you when you jog! You can also teach them agility courses at home for some extra fun.
Physical activity will require small games like hide-and-seek, spin food toys filled with kibble, or simply playing fetch in your back yard.
Make sure to give your Aussie plenty of love too because they form a strong bond with their owners. You will need this to train them and get them to respond to your commands.