Australian Shepherds are becoming more popular as companion canines today. According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the Australian Shepherd is so popular they rank at number 17 out of nearly 200 purebred dog breeds!
But just because the Australian Shepherd dog is popular doesn’t necessarily mean this is the right pet dog for every person or family.
One of the issues with Aussies that can become a problem is their tendency to choose just one family member to prefer over all the others. This can cause problems if you are not prepared to deal with it in positive ways.
In this article, learn why Australian Shepherds are “one person” dogs and how to ease some of this tendency with appropriate positive dog training and socialization.
Are Australian Shepherds a One Person Dog?
The Australian Shepherd dog is one of those breeds that is known to favor one person in the family over the others.
If you are choosing a dog to be a true “family” dog, this may mean the Aussie is not the best choice for your family.
But for single individuals, this means you will literally be your dog’s whole world. For some people, there is no better experience than this in life.
Learn More About Life With an Australian Shepherd
In this owner-made YouTube video, you can learn from the owner of two Australian Shepherd dogs what daily life is like, what to know before you take the plunge, and how to plan.
As she points out, her two Australian Shepherd dogs have very high energy levels and need a lot of your time every single day.
But perhaps most importantly, she points out that both she and her partner spent equal amounts of time in their Aussies, which can help to ensure your dog won’t bond more closely with one family member over the rest.
Understanding the Australian Shepherd Dog Personality
As VetStreet points out, Australian Shepherds score very high in certain traits that can sometimes become problematic in companion canines.
For example, Australian Shepherds are extremely territorial. They need a lot of togetherness time every day with “their” people. They tolerate strangers poorly at best.
Australian Shepherds don’t love other dogs or cats (although they can be taught to tolerate both species and may even enjoy having another canine playmate as long as this isn’t done as a substitute for people time).
And Aussies are very smart and intensely protective. They score off the charts in watchdog abilities and are natural escape artists, especially if they get bored.
In fact, the Australian Shepherd was first bred to herd and guard livestock but later found new work in rodeo circuits as a show dog and trick dog. They love to be the center of attention and crave the spotlight.
Speaking of the spotlight, Australian Shepherds typically don’t just want to be with their people. They want to be on their people – head resting in their people’s lap, paw on their people’s feet, following (and nipping at) their heels everywhere they go.
This especially holds true if an Aussie is allowed to bond more closely with one person in the family over other family members. That family member will literally get no rest from their dog’s constant need to be together.
So before you get an Aussie, it is worth considering if you truly have the time, the energy, and the drive to make your dog the center of your life. Not every dog breed requires this, but the Aussie definitely does.
How to Help Your Dog Bond Equally With Everyone in Your Family
As SitStay Dog Training points out, the Australian Shepherd is not considered an easy dog to train and socialize, even for experienced dog trainers and owners.
First-time dog owners may well benefit from working with a professional K-9 trainer to help their Aussie puppy or rescue dog learn how to settle into life in a family and community.
One of the best ways to help your Australian Shepherd develop a close bond with each family member is to ensure that everyone in your family participates equally in dog activities.
Here are some examples of daily activities and tasks that should be divided up equally between everyone in the family and rotated regularly so each family member has equal time doing each task.
- Training and socialization.
- Exercise and walks.
- Grooming and care.
When your Australian Shepherd consistently experiences that no one family member is more available to them than the others or offers favored experiences like walks or treats more than all the others, there will be less incentive to favor one person.
A Tired Australian Shepherd Is a Happy Dog
As the Australian Shepherd Club of America explains, the Australian Shepherd dog breed was originally developed to stay busy day in and day out for long hours in all kinds of weather.
These dogs were first put to work as herding and livestock guarding dogs. Later, when using dogs to herd livestock was less in demand, Australian Shepherds became entertainers on the rodeo circuit, herding livestock in the ring and doing tricks.
What this basically tells you is that Australian Shepherds all inherit an amazing work ethic. There are no lazy Aussies. These dogs are genetically predisposed to get up early and get to work and stay busy all day and into the night.
Now translate that type of intense working dog schedule into life as a companion canine.
This gives you a great picture of how well an Australian Shepherd dog typically adjusts to being left home alone all day several days per week while their human family members are at school and at work.
Add to it that Aussies are incredibly smart and very independent-minded, and you can see how well the couch cushions and crown molding is likely to hold up if your dog gets bored at home alone.
The prognosis gets even worse if your dog’s favorite family member is the one that is least available because of school or work. Canine boredom is one of the biggest causes of destructive behavior in pet dogs.
This is why one of the main strategies to deal with any problem behavior, whether it be gnawing the table legs or favoring one person in the family, is to simply tire your dog out.
A tired Australian Shepherd is going to be much more likely to be a happy, well-adjusted dog that is far too exhausted to pour extra energy into playing favorites.
Why It Is Dangerous to Let Your Australian Shepherd Be a One Person Dog
Unfortunately, as the Dog Training Secret highlights, it can be dangerous to allow your Australian Shepherd to prefer one person.
The issue crops up when a close healthy bond crosses over into separation anxiety and/or aggression towards anyone else, including other family members.
Not only does this put other innocent people in harm’s way, but it potentially puts you and your dog in a perilous position as well.
Your dog has to endure panic and misery when you are apart. And you have to confront an overly aggressive or needy dog every single time you need to go out, even if only for five minutes.
There is something wonderful about sharing life with a canine best friend, but you don’t want your dog to feel like they are not safe or okay unless you are right there.
In fact, this is the exact remedy many professional dog trainers give to help a one-person dog open up to bonding with other family members.
For example, let’s say you have an Australian Shepherd that prefers you over everyone else. Your Aussie tolerates your kids and doesn’t seem to like your partner.
So you would approach this by changing the level of interaction you have with your dog versus that of your partner and kids.
Your partner would then become the point person for all the favorite activities such as walks and feeding. Your kids would alternate and you would be present but not that involved in these daily chores.
This type of reorganization of interaction can help your dog begin to understand that their wellbeing is a family affair. Even if you do not present all the time, your dog’s needs will still be fully provided.
Should You Choose an Australian Shepherd Dog for Your Pet?
Australian Shepherds are not the easiest dog breed to incorporate into the life of a domestic companion canine.
These are working dogs to their core with an intensely high energy level, an unstoppable work ethic, and a drive to protect, guard, and the herd “their” charges.
But if you take the time to fully understand the breed personality and feel it is a good match with your own lifestyle and interests, you won’t find a more loyal, loving, or people-centric breed than the Australian Shepherd dog.