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Pincie Creek Australian Shepherds

About our breed

We get a lot of questions from present and prospective Aussie owners regarding working dogs, and some of  the same questions keep popping up over and over again.  Below are some of the more frequently asked questions, and Roger's answers.  Remember that these answers reflect OUR opinions only.  Other breeders may think differently.  Got a question?  Email it to us, and we'll try our best to answer it.  Questions of general interest will be posted to our web site. (For FAQ's dealing with general subjects, click here.)

1.  How do you pick the best working pup from a litter to keep?
Well, it's really hard, and no matter how much time and thought we put into the selection, sometimes we find out later we let the best one go!! In selecting a working pup, I look for the most "sensible" one. The one who thinks, who sits back and watches the others a lot of times before jumping into the fight. Not to be confused with shyness -- just a "thinker". I also like a puppy that would rather follow me around than play with its siblings. I do a little preliminary testing at about 5 or 6 weeks old, such as dragging a mop or old towel to see if they show any interest in trying to catch it. It's difficult to describe, but actually I'm looking for that certain "something" in their eyes. I don't really know how to explain it but I know it when I see it.  And sometimes it's just the one that I seem to get along with best.

2.  Is there anything in particular you suggest doing with a working puppy that will make it a better dog?
I do have a hand-out that I give to working puppy owners.  To view a copy, click here.

3.  Does a male or female make the best working dog? I hear a male is more aggressive on stock.
Whether you're picking a companion, worker, or competition prospect, in our opinion the sex of the dog is not a determining factor in how good it works, whether it's a good watchdog, or companion, etc. It all depends on the individual animal and how their genes happened to fall. We've known females that were very aggressive on stock, much more than our males, and we've had females that were sweetie pies, and vice versa. In our opinion the sex doesn't have as much to do with it as the individual genes and that particular dog's temperament.  In short, analyze the individual puppy for the traits you are looking for, without regard to sex.

4.  Is it true that red dogs are more aggressive than other colors?
We've heard this for years, from people who have been in this breed a long time, and from people in other breeds who claim that red dogs are more aggressive. We have yet to establish the criteria by which they make this claim; the reasoning behind it, and the facts substantiating it. In our opinion, we find nothing to support this theory. We have known black and blue dogs that had very poor temperaments. Some of the best dispositions we've seen were those of red dogs. So again, we think it depends on the individual dog, how their genes happened to fall, and perhaps handling and upbringing, rather than color.

5.  Can I let my working dog run loose?
Sure, if you don't care anything about your dog, your stock, or your neighbors!  Any dog that's worth anything is going to be a little trouble, and Aussies are no exception. They are an intelligent, high energy breed, inquisitive and easily bored. Remember that they were bred to work livestock. If left unconfined and alone, they will quickly seek a way to amuse themselves. If they have any working instinct, they will look for stock to work -- either yours or your neighbors. When they find it they will work it by their own method, and it most likely will not be a method you will approve of!! They might bring a neighbor's stock home to you, push stock through fences, become excited and chase young stock -- all sorts of things. One of the quickest ways to teach a young, good working dog bad habits is to allow it to run out and work the stock any time and any way he wants to.

Even if they don't have any working instinct your dog will find something to get intoÖsomething that can be fatal. Things that we don't even think of as being harmful can be deadly to a dog. We even know of a dog that swallowed a golf ball he found on the neighboring golf green and nearly died. And of course there are always the highways. "But my dog never goes anywhere" you say. Well, he may stay around for a while, even a long time, but one day he will decide to explore. Especially an intact male dog -- the enticing aroma of a bitch in heat travels for miles and a male dog will forget all about his loving master and home and do whatever he has to do to find that bitch. And when he does, if she has a conscientious owner, you can bet your male won't be welcome in her boudoir!!

We love dogs and animals as much as anybody, more than most people. But we will also be the first to say that there's nothing more irritating than a dog that comes around uninvited, be it a much loved neighbor's pet or a rambling stray. We've had neighbors' dogs carry off our shoes and cooking utensils that were left sitting by the grill, kill our chickens and sheep, pick a fight with our dogs through the kennel fence, bark at us in our own yard, and sit in our yard and howl at the moon at two o'clock in the morning. We are firm believers that no dog, including ours, should bother anyone. But everyone is not as patient and tolerant as we are. If you allow your dog to run loose and be a nuisance, it may very well turn up missing or injured, or even dead by very unpleasant means. Some people will do anything. So if you care about your dog, don't let it get in a position where this could happen to it.

Contrary to some people's misconception that confining a dog is cruel, it actually is one of the most responsible and loving things you can do for your dog. But let's be sure we define what we mean by "confined". We don't mean crated all or even most of the time, or confined in a small space with inadequate exercise. What we mean is having a good, secure fenced yard (be sure the fence is high enough and remember that Aussies are very athletic and can JUMP and CLIMB!!) or a nice, shady or covered secure kennel that your Aussie can stay in when he's not with you. All of us love our Aussies but remember they are animals, and since they don't have our reasoning ability they don't always perceive danger. It is up to us to protect them.

6.  I've got an older dog that works good. Why can't I just turn this pup out with it and let the old dog teach the young dog how to work?
If you do this, your young dog will probably relate to the old dog as its pack leader and work for him instead of for you. In addition, it will easily pick up any bad habits that the old dog has. Itís best to start a young dog by itself and let him learn that he works for YOU. Use the old dog for back-up but donít let him teach the young dog how to work. Thatís your job as pack leader. Later when the young dog knows his commands and is accustomed to working for you alone, you can work the two dogs together.

7.  Why does my dog bark so much when it works?
This is very common in young dogs. Most working dogs bark because they are frustrated about something. They may be trying to figure out exactly what to do, how to get the stock to move, when they donít have the confidence to walk up into the stock to get it to move. Some dogs will also bark when the working situation gets tough and stressful, as in a competition situation where precision control is essential and the dog is feeling a lot of pressure. Normally when a dog gets more confidence in himself and his handler and has more working experience, the barking will cease, or at least greatly decrease. If your dog is barking because of frustration, especially if it is young, you might try putting the dog in different working situations and helping the dog move the stock in different ways so that he sees he can be successful. Some dogs may never completely quit barking, as they may never gain the confidence they need in all situations. By barking, the dog feels that he will make the stock do what he wants them to do.

There is a lot of difference between a "frustration" or "stress" bark and a "control" bark. Some dogs will first warn the stock, in particular cattle, with just a bark or two (not a constant yipping). Even the tone of the bark is different from a "frustration" bark. This control bark tells the cattle, "Move on your own or Iím coming with teeth." Even the stock can sense the difference between a control and a frustration bark. Some people think a working dog should be completely quiet while working. During my thirty years of working dogs on livestock, primarily cattle, Iíve always found a control bark to be helpful. In a lot of cases than it is more effective than a bite, especially when working large groups. A control bark tells the whole group, "Thereís a dog back here and I mean business." If a dog grips, the only one who knows about it is the one who got nipped. Also, to me a control bark is easier on the stock than a grip, and the whole idea is to move the stock in the calmest and easiest manner possible.

I like to teach my working dogs to bark on command. This is very useful to me when having to move stock after dark in the winter time, or when we have escapees at night. I canít always tell where my dog is, but I can give him the "Bark" command and know his exact position. I have also used this command in competition when the situation was especially touchy.

8.  What about using my Aussie to work my horses?
Although we know there are people who say they effectively use dogs to work their horses, we do not recommend it, especially with young dogs. An older dog with experience dodging hooves might do better but we know of several who were either killed or severely injured while trying to work horses. Horses aim their kicks better than cattle and some horses will even come after a dog and try to stomp it. If you intend to use your Aussie to work horses both you and the dog should have a good deal of experience. It can be done, but be careful.

9.  I've heard the working lines are aggressive toward people. Is this true?
Generally speaking, more dogs from working lines have retained the "old time" Aussie temperament than those from non-working lines. The Aussie was bred to be a working dog and protector of family and home, and in those days there were no conformation shows for Aussies. Now there are, and the dogs that are shown need a happy, never-meet-a-stranger, "pet me, pet me" attitude in order to do well in the breed ring. In our opinion this is not in keeping with the ASCA breed standard regarding temperament. We are not condoning aggression; there is no excuse for a dog to be aggressive unless it is provoked. However, we believe some people are using the term "aggressive" loosely and confusing the term with the naturally protective, reserved temperament of a lot of the working dogs -- which is how ALL Aussies used to be and in our opinion, should be.

True aggression can be caused by many factors Ė inheritance, lack of socialization, bad experiences at a young age, improper handling, and abuse, just to name a few. We feel there are just as many aggressive Aussies from non-working lines as there are from working lines.

10.  Somebody told me that any Australian Shepherd would work my cows, because it's a herding breed and all herding breed dogs work. Is this true?
Absolutely, positively NOT. Neither can just "any" thoroughbred race!! It is a sad but true fact that there are an awful lot of Aussies out there who don't have any inclination at all to work; some are even afraid of the stock. Working instinct is an inherited trait and is easily lost if care is not taken in a breeding program to preserve and enhance it. Even if you breed two good working dogs, there is a chance there will be one or two puppies in the litter that, for unknown reasons, don't want to work. So if you want to increase your chances of getting one that WILL work, you should be sure that at least both parents (and preferably all grandparents) actually worked stock. It is also a little more difficult to select one to work cows. You should ask if both parents actually worked cows. Some dogs may work smaller stock but lack the power or constitution to tackle cattle. If the parents worked the type stock you have, your chances of getting a puppy that will are even better.

11. Do you train working dogs for other people?
Unfortunately our time is very limited so right now we do not take any outside dogs for training unless they were purchased from us. If you have a working Aussie and need help with training or problem solving, you should contact the breeder. Any person who sells their Aussies as working dogs should be able to provide you with the help you need. If they can't then they shouldn't be selling working dogs. We do try to have some clinics during the year that are open to all working breeds. For more information, contact us.

12.  Do you ever have started dogs for sale?
We get lots of requests for started dogs but unfortunately rarely have one for sale to the public. We have a long waiting list for started dogs and are able to produce only one or two per year. Normally the puppy (or adult) is purchased from us with the understanding that it will be started later on. Prices begin at $750.00, depending on the amount of training the owner wants the dog to have, and whether they wish it trialed and started titles completed.

A word of caution if you're planning on buying a started dog:  Be SURE that you and the seller have the same thoughts about what "started" means.  To some people, if a dog has been exposed to stock at all, even on a lead, it is "started".  Others don't consider it started unless it has a good, controllable "down" and is reliable on its flanking commands, walk-ups, etc.  Just be certain that if you're buying a started dog it has had the training you expect.  Ideally, you should visit the dog and owner and have him/her work the dog for you, then let you work it to see if you and the dog are going to get along.  The owner should also be willing to give you some tips on how to work the dog.   If that's not possible, at the very least you should see a good video of the dog working so there will be no misunderstanding about what it can/can't do.  Also, be sure that it's been started on the type stock you will use it on.  A dog started on sheep may not be ready to work cattle yet.

 
 

~~ Inquiries Welcomed ~~
Roger & Kathy Stevens
175 Fortson Road
Dothan, Alabama  36305
Phone 334-692-3883 (call after 7:30 p.m. CST)
or email us at pinciecreek@centurytel.net

      

     
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