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The serendipitous arrival of an australian shepherd

Some things arrive in life before you’ve made the decision you want them. In the summer of 2005, I became the lucky recipient of an eight week old Australian Shepherd. While working at a boarding business, a customer dropped off the puppy and urgently asked that we find him a new home, as her new residence would not allow dogs. A few weeks passed but nobody wanted to pay her price for him. During this time, I cared for him on a regular basis and eventually allowed him to follow me around as I took care of the business. After nearly four weeks, the woman had to move and ask that the dog be given to anyone who could pay for the boarding fees. I took him home that day.

Trooper as a puppy

His name was Trooper and it was so fitting that I kept it. He is purebred and was reportedly a miniature. However, since he weighs about 43 lbs, he seems to have fallen between a miniature and standard. He is a tricolor and has some blue merle spots on his face. He was potty trained in less than a jiffy and got along with every animal in the house, which included 2 cats, a lizard and a parrot who liked to walk on the carpet and act like a dog. However, due to lack of understanding of the needs of the breed, he was treated a lot like the previous house dog (a 20 year old cocker spaniel) had been – nearly no walks, few outdoor activities, little training, but lots of love. Additionally, his excitable nature and the absence of a fence meant his outdoor time was spent largely on a lead connected to a stake in the ground. Not the most desirable setup…

By the time Trooper was two, he was constantly trying to escape into the great outdoors, after which he would refuse to return to the house; playing ‘chase me’ long after it was amusing. He also had a plethora of other bad habits, including biting at his feet or belly until they were red or bleeding. Around that time, I decided that obedience training was long overdue and signed us up for a basic obedience class. Shocking given his track record, but not too surprising given his breed, Trooper was awesome at learning tricks and obedience. He quickly became so fast at learning things that we would have nothing to practice during our week between class meetings. We progressed to the intermediate class and agility. His behavior at home greatly improved with the training and he seemed to be becoming a one-person dog – mine. His attentiveness to my needs and commands was incredible; he tirelessly followed me everywhere in the house: bedroom, bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, bedroom, laundry room, garage, laundry room, bedroom, etc, explaining why this breed is sometimes called a “Velcro dog”. His eyes seemed to beg for requests, as if he could not wait for my next trick demand. He was becoming a great pet.

Trooper has become an excellent dog

Fast forward nearly five years: Trooper is amazing and the most lovely dog I have ever had as a pet. He never runs away, does not bite his feet (as much), still learns tricks in a lickety-split and loves children. He is polite and handsome and almost always shows the most perfect manners. Our training has become more interesting and intense (which he still adores) and is what inspired me to start this blog. On a regular basis, Trooper’s behavior has me in stitches and his intelligence makes me glow with pride. For all those Aussie owners out there who enjoy a similar relationship with their pet, I hope you enjoy these accounts of Aussie antics and Trooper training.


  1. I watched your video trying to get Sydney not to bark. THANK YOU! Having had “low maintenance” dogs over the years, I was completely unprepared for Frankie who we got from a pet resuce and had had 3 previous homes. For the first year he barked at every noise, every sound, every shadow. He stalked house visitors, trying to nip their heels and barking incessently in their faces until either they fled or he was timed out. I eventually learned by intuition how to introduce new visitors to the house and his barking has reduced tremendously, however, noises such as the mailman and the little yapper next door (who barks incessently) still send him into an uncontrollable barking frenzy. Since what he wants is for the other noises (or perceived threats) to go away, I’m not sure that the instruction in your video will help my barker, but it was so refreshing to see a dog trainer who did not magically cure her dog in one easy step but showed instead that even for the trained and gifted it can take time. Love your blog. Thanks for giving a struggling dog owner HOPE!

  2. Thank you! I watched almost all of your youtube videos, and they were very helpful. I have an aussie who likes to get into all sorts of trouble. She likes to eat my family’s stuff, and can’t do the leave it command. She’s a little over one years old, and is in dog obedience, but we can’t do the leave it command. Do you have any suggestions? She also likes to bark at our neighbor’s dog, and anything she sees that moves, when she’s alone. We have gotten complaints from the neighbors about all her barking and we don’t know what to do. We can bring her into her kennel, but she hates the kennel and it only makes her bark louder. Do you have any tricks that might work?

    • Hi Noelle,
      Thank you for watching! I’m sorry to hear your aussie is giving you so much trouble. She is very very young – I know they say dogs age 7 human years for every year of their life, but I feel like that doesn’t kick in until their 3ish.

      Trooper, who is my shining star, was a hellion when he was younger. He ate everything and barked at cars. Here’s what I would suggest –

      *Make the crate a really positive experience – when she’s in there, magic hot dog pieces spring from the air and get tossed in, huge praise happens and she gets lots of attention. Put the crate in the living room where you watch TV, ask her to go in it, leave the door open and give her rewards. Let her know it’s her calm, consistent, positive space. Be consistent. Maybe all snacks happen only in the crate.

      *Start teaching her that barking is not acceptable. When you get a moment of silence, click and reward it. She is really young, so be very patient. If she’s barking, she should get NOTHING that she wants. She has to learn the proper way to communicate, which is not being a loudmouth.

      *Exercise her as intensely as you can tolerate. Go on a huge hike or take her for a jog. If you have a farm nearby and a patient farmer, maybe you could train her to herd. A young dog has a LOT of energy and needs an outlet. If she’s wired all the time and you’re expecting her to listen to the crate or no-barking training, then you may be asking for too much. When you exhaust (and satisfy) her with exercise, she’ll be happy and she’ll present you with good behavior opportunities that you can reward.

      Good luck and let me know how it goes!


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