Understand the breed, but know your dog
If I’m in the room, Trooper is always aware of what I’m doing and checks on me regularly. Sydney does her own thing.
Aussies are known for their intelligence and connection to their owners (hence the nickname, “Velcro dog”). While working with this breed, you wouldn’t be surprised if they learned a new trick in 2 minutes or less, if they created a permanent association between two objects (i.e. running pants and time to go for a run), if they ran quickly in circles or if they followed you from room to room with a relaxed grin on their face, happy to be your shadow. These traits have always been typical of Trooper and have caused me to believe that they were innate features of the breed, not of the individual. However, since adopting Sydney, I have discovered that having Aussie tendencies is not an automatic result of them being an Aussie.
Some differences between Trooper & Sydney
*Trooper is a true velcro dog. He follows me around and will come searching for me if I happen to slip into a different room while he is outside. Sydney can often be found in rooms where there are no people, either sleeping between the couch and the coffee table or sitting by the backdoor, looking outside.
*Trooper takes meal times very seriously. He will eat with focus and finish whatever you give him. Sydney will become so distracted by the proximity of a frisbee, that she will turn her back on her raw drumstick to keep tabs on the frisbee.
*Trooper loves learning new tricks and only stops training sessions when he’s mentally taxed. Sydney starts looking around or walking away within a few minutes of starting a session.
*Sydney likes playing frisbee and retrieving things we throw for her, while Trooper just looks at us like, “Are you kidding?”
*Trooper loves people, is very polite in greeting and remains calm in new situations. Sydney loves people, can sometimes be polite in greeting but gets herself worked up into barking or nervous avoidance fits.
*Sydney does not disobey rules in the house once she is told not to do them (ie. Get your fluffy butt out of the kitchen). Trooper will repeatedly push his luck and try to make the rule ‘flexible’ by smiling while breaking it.
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree
The Family Dog: Energetic but obedient and happy to hang out
In describing the differences between my two Aussies, I have realized that for certain traits, I am no longer certain which dog is acting more like the stereotype of the breed. For each point listed above, I listed the dog first whom I thought more closely exhibited characteristics of the breed, but perhaps all of the descriptions fit the breed, maybe within two categories of Aussie. There is the Family Dog: Always with people, treated like a family member, pampered with training classes, exercise and interaction. And then there is the Working Dog: Left to their own devices, loved but not the center of attention, might have gone to one or few training classes.
Trooper remains calm with people and “people situations” because he has always been the center of my attention and has received a lot of socializing with dogs and people in both training and real world environments. Sydney might be nervous and fine by herself, because she grew up having to keep herself occupied and being very independent.
The Working Dog: Likes people but doesn’t need them, more intense in demeanor and content when left alone
I had been planning on training Sydney myself and perhaps not attending a training class for awhile, but I have changed my mind. It is very possible that her nervous and solo tendencies are not habits at all, but products of having been moved from one family into another. I think we would benefit from being in a class environment where there are several qualified trainers available from whom I can seek advice. Some of her habits are things I have never encountered before, like barking directly into my face without stopping. Hopefully, the bonding experience of working in a training environment together will help her transition into our family and begin to see us as her people.