Any time I (Jen) have my dog, Melby, out with me I hear “Oh she’s so well behaved!”. Well … not really!
We got Melby (short for “Melbourne”) from a farmer in a remote area. He was known for breeding good-quality Australian Shepherds. When he told us that he looked at 400 different dogs before he chose a particular female to breed, we knew that he was very selective about his dogs. He also used them to help with the cattle, so they had the natural ability to learn to herd livestock, which meant they had a good work ethic (yes – dogs come with work ethics too!).
We first saw and picked her out at about a week old. We picked her up at about seven weeks. Boy – she was a tyrant of a puppy!
She didn’t understand house training until my mom was religious about taking her out every hour or two. Within a couple minutes of drinking water she’d run off and before you could chase her down, she’d pee somewhere in the house. She liked to bite. A lot. She was opinionated, whiny, and oh my goodness was she cute!!
Fast forward a couple years and we started getting the “well behaved” comments. How did this happen?? It certainly wasn’t because we were trainers! She’s not great at coming when called sometimes. She picked up “sit” within the first week we got her; we’ve been working on “down” ever since.
Bottom line – we understood the breed.
Aussies are notorious for being silly towards strangers. But it’s not their fault – it’s their owners. First of all – they are a herding breed, meaning it is their job to protect the heard, aka, their family. Second – they are timid. A timid dog will eventually feel the need to defend itself. Once they’re “defending” they can get aggressive, which is not a good doggie citizen.
So we socialized her. When she howled and whined riding in the car, we took her places. When she ran away from strangers, we made her sit and be petted. When she thought about chasing cars, we made her sit and stay until they passed. We rewarded her for good behavior and she always wants to please!
But again – we understood the breed.
Many people watch a movie or hear a story about a particular dog, and then a surge in that breed is found across the movie-watching or book-reading world. They think because of the “Twilight Bark” in “101 Dalmations” that Dalmations are the perfect dog for their young, social family. Wrong. Dalmations were bred to be protectors – guard dogs – of the firehouse engines and horses. When the firehouse was called to a fire, the Dalmations got people out of the way of the carriage and protected it from sabotage. Not “took care of the family and played ‘telephone’ with the neighbor dogs.”
Why am I including this in a blog about farming? Because our Farm Dogs are important to us!
Some farm dogs have a legitimate job. We have friends that have Great Pyrenees dogs. Their job is to protect sheep – from anything that isn’t supposed to be in their pen. We have other friends with sled dogs that run best living and working in the winter. Some people think this is cruel because they are outside 24/7, but it’s actually more cruel to expect them to stay cooped up in a house all the time. They are acclimated to temperatures, they have shelter from the elements, and – most importantly – they have a job. If they didn’t have that job, they would be more prone to chewing up their owner’s couch.
Melby works for our family – somebody is outside, doing chores, piano students in and out of the house. She’s socialized. She goes on rides and walks and stays active. Raisin (Colton’s dog) is perfect for him – even though she’s a big, energetic dog, she loves cuddling on the couch and being a couch potato all day, then coming out to sniff around and hunt rabbits, and moles, and squirrels, and gophers, and skunks … (more on that one later!).
Our Farm Dogs want you – a current or potential owner – to be an educated doggie owner.
Just because Melby is super cute and well-behaved for us doesn’t mean that she is meant to sit in an apartment all day with another person. There are many dogs out there that need good homes – especially living in shelters. Somewhere out there is your perfect dog! Don’t let media or your friends’ dog make the decision for you.
Have a Farm Dog or just a good dog? What makes it work for you? Want us to talk more about our farm dogs? Tell us in the comments!
Want to know more about the importance of finding a dog appropriate for your family? Check out our YouTube video! Consider liking the video and subscribing to the page!