As a small puppy he was extremely energetic and nippy which, as new dog owners, we were unprepared for. Any puppy—but especially an Aussie pup—needs vigorous exercise and training. The only coping mechanism we ever used was to leave him all by himself in the kitchen whenever he became too much to bear, which worsened his problems.
Despite his behavioral shortcomings, he did show incredible intelligence in unexpected ways. When we finally learned to properly exercise him, he resisted. He didn't play with tennis balls, he only played with frisbees. He didn't play fetch, he played keep away with a minimum of two people. He could herd chickens, but he could also herd children. If we took him on a bike ride he would walk in the woods where we couldn't see him and then he would circle back and go to his neighbor's house and wait patiently for us to come collect him after we had had all the exercise we needed. A simple leash would fix that problem you say? Mere walks did not scratch the surface of his almost infinite store of uncontrolled energy.
Without his mind being properly exercised through training, his behavior just got worse. He was grumpy and growly all the time. Did I mention that he refused to eat typical dog food? Nope, it was real food for him.*
Eventually he got to be too much. We collected the information of a cattle rancher who wanted a young adult Aussie. Fortunately for Duke the number that we had didn't work. It was either try to find another professional to take him or do something else. We got a dog trainer.
Oh my that lady was an eye opener. She corrected quite a few of our problems with him.
That was the beginning of the end of his rough puppyhood and young adulthood. Aside from all of this, is he currently a valuable working function on the homestead?
Probably, we still have him!
He still is grumpy at night. He still chases things he ought not chase. We still have to lock him up whenever guests come over for fear of his terrible behavior. The UPS man still speeds past our house with fear throbbing deep in his heart.
However, Duke still works hard on the homestead. Our fences don't have to be perfect: the goats know that he is waiting for them on the other side and have no desire to leave the protection of their pasture. Remember the Catastrophe of the Nigerian Dwarf Goats on the Green T? That would have been unlivable without him. All it takes is a "Go get the goats!" and off he runs. He takes excellent care of the kids, even if he himself does chase them. He knows he is the general farm dog and he is always up to the task at hand. Well except at night that is—he knows when his bedtime is.
Disclaimer: I, Jane, paused in the middle of writing this post to scramble a few of our non GMO free range eggs for Duke's dinner. He proudly eats better than the average American.
Another Disclaimer in case Duke reads this: We love him very much.
*If you would like to learn more about how we feed our dogs, please visit our individual dog page.