|Henry playing with the three Australian Shepherds|
at the beach in Galveston, Texas.
Howdy has the market on jumping ability.
|Here, you can see Howdy's mane. Tux, the Blue Merle Aussie|
is my daughter's dog and the Red Tri is Howdy's offspring, still a puppy
and lives in my daughter's household. His name is Dunk.
For this particular blog entry, I want to get one of the difficult parts about these dogs out of the way early. For the ugly truth, an Australian Shepherd can be destructive. They have a tremendous desire to "work" with their teeth and paws. I'm not talking about mouthing and pawing as a normal puppy, an Aussie MUST work their mouths and paws...it is the entire make-up of their nature to keep their mouths and paws employed.
If an Australian Shepherd's mouth and paws are not kept purposefully busy with productive activities, this deep-seated need within this breed can become disastrous for your home. Many new puppies can be chastised for this kind of behavior, but it must be understood that an Aussie wants to use their mouth and paws intelligently. If you give them a good reason to put themselves to work, this will create a happy owner and a happy dog.
If an Aussie feels unable to be exuberant, they can develop serious anxiety. Basically, this means that these dogs must be given robust, regular, consistent exercise and play-time. If not, they will chew off your window sills, destroy your shoes, gnaw on the edge of your sofa and simple find themselves doing mindless destructive things in their unguided efforts to expend excessive, unused energy.
|My oldest daughter, Heather, as Howdy jumps|
for the rope. She is nearly six foot tall and ready to play.
No doubt about it...these dogs must be kept busy and be worn out. And...wearing them out is not easy. Daily, it is nothing special in our household to play ball with Howdy for two hours nonstop. Our arm will wear out LONG before his body will. These dogs are magnificent athletes. I have been forced to even submit to playing ball in the house. Since I'm not always game to stand outside in 105 degree Texas heat, an indoor game will sometimes have to be sufficient. Believe me, Howdy doesn't care where we play a good game of fetch, he's happy, just as long as we play.
|Still an athlete, Tux can't jump as high as Howdy, but he has|
all of these dogs beat in his ability to have speed when running.
Howdy doesn't have a chance to keep up with Tux's speed.
|Shaye holding the bamboo stick is sometimes a problem|
for Howdy, he wants to take the stick in his mouth
and make her go where HE wants her to go. She has learned
to have a voice of authority over Howdy.
Another way we play is for me to simply throw the ball into the air for him to jump and catch it. He can do this all day long. My point is, if you have an Aussie, you might have to develop some indoor games, especially if you are in the suburbs, as we are. For us, having backyard chickens has helped Howdy exert some of his intense energy and focus as he runs around the yard, actually making a count of his flock several times per day. He knows each of those birds better than I do. Throughout the day, he will run outside and immediately start looking for the chickens in their favorite spots, just so he can make sure they are there. Then, he's often content to come back in the house for a few more minutes of indoor time.
|My youngest daughter playing ball on the beach and Howdy is|
STILL ready to play some more. He sits in between Stefie and Brice
as they throw the ball, hoping it will come his way.
Tux knows this isn't his game.
|Dancing on the beach, Howdy is still ready for a turn.|
He loves Stefanie.
|Howdy is actually jumping on the trampoline with|
Deputy Dave and little Shaye. Normal dogs
would not even want to go NEAR a trampoline with
people jumping on it.
Another interesting fact about this dog is that they are always alert, even when it appears they are resting. Usually, they flip an ear back so that their inner ear is exposed and their eyes will narrow into a noticeable sharpened focus as they become nearly obsessed with figuring out the change in surroundings. If you bring something different into the house, they will note it.
|Howdy playing the Belle the Yorkie!|
We even tried to put in an old blanket that had our smell all over it.
Nope, it didn't work. Same thing, next morning the blanket was in shreds.
The next night, we figured we could put an old towel in the kennel with Howdy, surely that would give him SOMETHING soft to have to lay upon that wouldn't deserve a shredding by his powerful claws. The next morning, we opened the kennel and immediately found Howdy in a tizzy. He was backing out of his kennel with the towel in his powerful jaws and his front two paws attacking the towel as he worked frantically to pull the towel out of his kennel, then he put his big head back inside the kennel for a good look around, he let out a big snort and went about his day.
What was wrong with this dog? More aptly, what was wrong with me? I just couldn't accept the fact that maybe he didn't WANT anything soft or cuddly in his kennel. NOOOOOOO, that thought would not DARE cross my mind.
In my Aussie denseness, I felt so bad for my BABY --- he would not accept a blanket at all. How could he be comfortable in the hard kennel all night? Then, one day I was again studying Australian Shepherds and there was a passage about how wranglers loved the ease of traveling with an Aussie because other dogs and animals often need to have their blankets at night, but the Australian Shepherd is apparently known for shunning blankets...that's because the Aussie's double coat of hair, with its thick under-coat, means that he has no use for blankets.
Lana's lightbulb finally lit up.
Since we had found Howdy after he was several months old and after he had lived on a ranch in the open, not inside a residence, he was probably already set in his ways for being content with his built-in padding.
This breed is a double-coated breed. His natural double coat of hair serves as a built-in blanket. Australian Shepherds are also like little heaters, they put off a ton of body heat. Sometimes, I indulge my dogs with extra attention, so I'll let Howdy up on the sofa with me for a few minutes. He will lean against me or crawl partly across my lap, so content to be close...these dogs are very affectionate, but within three minutes, he is radiating serious heat and starting to pant as if he is parched...I know that he won't sit there for long, simply because he gets too hot and prefers his space.
Of course, during cold weather, an Aussie can be your best heating pad; they won't let you go cold. Howdy can be very sweet and an Aussie will lay his head against you firmly in the most endearing manner. Since their head and ears are of a different texture of hair, it is silky smooth hair, I can only imagine that God created this dog so that his warm nature of needing contact with his owner is made more lovable by the soft hair on their head as you pet them. At least it's a nice thought.
Their undercoat is also called a "warming undercoat" and the thickness depends on the climate the dog lives in. I find it fascinating that this undercoat not only helps them keep warm in the winter, but it helps to keep them cool in summer. In the heat, the undercoat also works as a built-in "air-conditioner" because it helps lift the upper coat of hair to aid circulation. If you keep the hair that is shedding regularly brushed out, the double coat of hair also acts as a protectant for their skin to stay cool and healthy beneath the sun's harmful rays. Regular brushing with a deep scrub bath every three or so weeks can work wonders to help your Aussie stay cool in the summer months. They do not need to be bathed too often because they have natural oils on their skin and hair, plus you will find that an Aussie's outer coat of hair is so coarse that they do not easily hold caked on dirt for long. If they do happen to play in the mud, which Howdy LOVES to do, then their hair is more likely to let the dirt go after it has dried and they have played a few hard games outdoors in the dry grass.
If Howdy does romp around in the mud, this is when he must accept a big absorbant towel in his kennel. I'll put his soaking, muddy self in the kennel with the towel and after a bit he will be dry, then we can step onto the porch to brush the dirt out pretty easily. And these days, I manage to keep a small towel in his kennel with him most of the time.
The good thing is...these dogs also really do not benefit from being shaved, especially after you understand the function of their double-coat of hair.
If you do not want a dog that sheds a LOT, then avoid the Australian Shepherd. To be honest, this is one aspect to owning an Aussie that I had NOT been prepared to live with. I am obsessed with my floors and with trying to keep things dusted; however, since we have owned Howdy, it's a losing battle. I must admit, we have Aussie Hair Everywhere.
When brushing Howdy, we must be out of doors because the double-coat is thick...making for constant brush cleaning and hair flying everywhere as you brush. I am obsessive about my floors and sweep daily, sometimes multiple times per day and I always find more hair laying around than I can clean. It's a constant battle. It's a good thing that we do not have any carpet downstairs, except for my cowhide which I still vacuum and Deputy Dave takes outside once a year for a good beating. The tiled floors equalize the battle against the shedding Aussie. Since Howdy basically lives indoors, he sheds more year-round than a dog would if he were living in outdoor quarters.
As for the fur of an Australian Shepherd, it can vary slightly, but this breed is very unique in that the male dog looks masculine and the female appears feminine. Males have a more mascular build and females are more delicate looking. Compared to breeds such as the Boxer, where a female can look just as intimidating and muscular as a male Boxer, this is interesting. Males, such as Howdy, often develop a rather large and impressive mane of hair. I admit, we had cut his hair last year, not understanding the effects of his double-coat; his mane is just now growing back fully. A male Aussie, with a full mane, can indeed look intimidating. However, since I know Howdy's softer side, I can laugh as he prances around in the backyard like a mini-Lion with his mane blowing around in the wind. It appears that the excessive hair around their neck serves a valid purpose...in the wild, it is more difficult for a predator or enemy to get a good grip around a neck full of thick hair. And their coarse hair is less likely to be tangled or caught up in thorny shrubs.
When Howdy was a puppy, he looked like a little fluffy bear. His fur was super soft, very fine and silky all over. However, be warned, as you are looking at the adorable little Aussie puppy, keep in mind that the Australian Shepherd's coat changes from a puppy coat of fluffy softness to a more coarse, wavy coat that is nearly impervious to dirt and water.
|Lyla is still top dog around here.|
|Howdy as a puppy, before he grew in his mature coat of hair.|
I am enjoying my time writing about Australian Shepherds and hearing about other people's experiences with them...good, bad and indifferent. I love reading other people's blogs about these dogs. I also found it interesting that this breed was developed by partially using the Collie line, which isn't surprising considering their herding and working instinct. In fact, if you look at a Collie, the Aussie looks similar. I am still a novice in raising these dogs, but in this area, I am a fast learner.
I am fascinated by their stamina, agility, and power. This dog has taught me a lot of things, such as how to be a strong "master" or this dog will run all over you, literally. We had a few tense moments when I had to assert myself as "A" dog over him, but I will share those moments with you later. Once I had passed the test and Howdy had been reminded that Mama Rules, all was well in the house. And, for the most part, a happy house we've had with Howdy.
I leave you with a video of me feeding the three dogs by fork. It's Sunday eggs. Every Sunday I make eggs for the dogs which helps them have a shiny coat of hair. You can see the difference in the breed by the way they eat. Howdy, who is the only male of the bunch, is the most delicate with eating because of the Aussie's innate nature to use a soft bite. And...ignore my kitchen rug, it survived Hurricane Ike and is on its last leg...full of grass from a day of doggie traffic...I think new kitchen rugs are on my list, but I cringe at the dirt and post it anyway!