Saturday, February 23, 2013

Personality Traits of the Miniature Australian Shepherd

First, let me just say that Mini's are Aussies, only smaller, so they have the same traits.  Just apply what you read about Aussies to Mini's, such as "intelligent, forthright, athletic" etc.  I just specify Mini's here so it comes up in a Google search. 

Below are what I have seen so far with my little Indie and a description of how I observe it in my dog.  Each dog will be different and dogs that come from strong working lines will have certain Aussie traits in more extreme ways than others, such has the nipping and herding drive.   In general most of the traits are hard wired into all purebred Aussies from high quality breeders.

Mini Aussie Personality Traits
(In no particular Order)
  1.  Loving, sweet, devoted (as they age/mature)
    • As Indie has grown into an adult and begun to mature, he gets sweeter by the day.  Puppies tend to be wild, crazy, and kind of...well...selfish I want to say? Anyways, it's hard to tell with you puppy that they're really "there for you."  But, as they get older you can see them become watchful, protective, contemplative, and sweet.
  2. Willful/Persistent
    • Not in an extreme way, but they will try to do things their way until you make them do otherwise.  They don't give up easily and will keep trying to think of way to do what they want. As puppies, they sometimes they will nip at you when you try and correct them, such as when you are physically moving them. If they want something, like a toy, they will go try and get it. I had to take toys away if Indie was destroying them.  You better put it up high because those sneakers will try over and over to get that toy back!  Now that he's older, he doesn't nip me anymore, but he is persistent.  He'll bock me with his nose and shove toys in my face or drop them in my lap to prompt me to play.
  3. High prey drive
    • This doesn't mean they will kill your cat (but they could if they had no training early on).  What it means is that they will chase anything that moves quickly, like your cat....or a leaf blowing on the ground, a toy, a stick, etc.
    • With their toys (and luckily not the cat) they will shake them violently once caught.  They will happily spend hours ripping things apart.
    • When they chase things into tall grass they pounce like a bouncy rabbit, it's so cute!
  4. Playful, Goofy, & Inquisitive
    • Aussies are silly. They toss balls into the air, invent their own games (like bringing things to the stairs and watching them roll down then chasing after them), and hop around like fluffy wabbits.  
    • They want to see what you are doing and they will not hesitate to go in to investigate.  Forget about trying to paint your nails or knit in the presence of these puppies! They stick their noses into everything (literally)!
  5. Face Lickers
    • You will save money on buying kleenex if you have an Aussie...they will lick, lick, lick your face and deep clean those nostrils if you let 'em!
  6. Intelligent
    • Once they get the game, they change the rules or take shortcuts or decide they're bored and do something else.  You have to stay on your toes to keep them interested.
    • They only see obstacles, not barriers.  They will try, try again to get something they want.
  7. People Oriented
    • Your Aussie is not going to run away and never come back.  They have this thing called "the invisible leash," especially if you work with them on it.  They will stay within 20-50 feet of you at all times, constantly checking back to see where you are.  Inside the house, they want to be in sight of you, follow you around.  They will be play independently, but only near you.
  8. Mouthy/Nippy as puppies
    • They are born to use their mouths to get what they want.  Even if they aren't from a herding oriented breeder, this is one of those "hard-wired" traits that are part of this breed. Some Aussies will have it worse than others.  Ever since day 1 with Indie, I have been working on him to not bite my ankles, legs, slippers, and hands when they are moving.  It's part of the territory.  It disappeared completely by 6-7 months with my training and hard work, but I never this problem with my rescue German Shepherd mix!
    • Another example from puppyhood: Indie will nip back at me when I correct him using my hands (say to move him away from the cat), but it's not hard or violent.  Just a little snap.  The only time he went after my legs/ankles area was when we were out walking and I started to run near him.  He started to grow out of this around 4 months old.
  9. Protective/Property Oriented
    • Aussies keep a look out when someone approaches.  They will stare them down until they either pass, or you say it's nothing to worry about.
    • Aussies are not protective in the way German Shepherds are protective (I've had a GS before, so I speak from that experience).  German Shep's will bark, run back and forth, and even bite.  Aussies protect by being out in front and being aware and alert; giving a single bark to warn you of something looming on the horizon or headed your way.  They will check in with you, like "What do you want me to do about this?" Once you give them the "Okay", the Aussie will be friendly with the "intruder" or "stranger" (Only if you have socialized them properly, that is).
    • Don't ask me how, but Aussies learn the property boundary pretty well.  I think they assign a buffer zone that is proportional to the size of the dwelling and where they know you have been frequently.  Even when we were camping, Indie learned our tent site boundary pretty well!
  10. Slight Obsessive Behaviors
    • Aussies will not just aimlessly rip a toy to shreds. No, no. They will find the weakest part of the toy, work on it meticulously, and then exploit the small opening to get the stuffing out first, then continue to work on tearing little bits off that main opening methodically until the toy is shredded.  One of my bff's has a standard Aussie and hers does this too.  She describes it as "surgical" precision.  
    • Another way their obsessive behavior manifests is returning to the same spots to dig.  Or, if they find a small hole in the carpet or wood floor, working to exploit that tiny hole by licking, pawing, and biting at it.
    • I find that Indie mostly partakes in obsessive behavior when he is tired and needs a nap.   
Okay, so you will notice I did not mention Herding anywhere yet. A lot of people report that their aussie "herds" them or other animals in the home.  I have not seen Indie "herd" anything.  The traits that make dogs good herders are the ones listed above, but mainly: high prey drive.  Indie likes to chase things, that's for sure, but I've never seen him try to group them together and keep them in a circle so-to-speak. That being said, when we put him in a pen with some sheep --holy mother --he was a herdin MACHINE! You never know how the behaviors will manifest.


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  2. Your blog is literally describing my 11 week old mini, we got him at 8 weeks and he has been beyond frustrating and anxiety inducing for me. But I will read every word on this blog because it has proven to be the most informative and reassuring look into both raising a puppy and specifically a mini Aussie I have found. Thank you soooo much for sharing your experiences and I hope you still work on this blog and answer questions because I'm sure I will have several. One in particular is about barking. Mine barks at the cats to play with them (which they don't really want anything to do with him 99% of the time) and at me or my husband for attention- he also barks if we leave him in his crate for work or behind the baby gate to another room(i.e. Attention). He hasn't barked at anything else outside or any loud noise or out he window or anything yet. He does not bark for us when we get home from work tho he pretty much waits "patiently" ( as patiently as a puppy can). Do you have any insight or recommendations for curbing the barking without rewarding him for it and making it worse? Thank you again for this amazing blog you really have no idea how great this is for me!

    1. Britney...I know your pain! The entire reason I made this blog was because I simply could not find anything on the internet about this breed. I have learned that there are some universal aussie traits, but that aussies themselves vary so widely (I guess just like people!). We have one extremely smart, very active aussie -Indie- he was our first, and one very mellow, couch potatoey aussie -Tulsi- our latest addition. I've been meaning to update this post because our new Aussie Tulsi doesn't have any of these traits, lol! I hardly ever got on here to do comments (because it's a hassle due to the way blogger is set up) so the best way to contact me is through a message on the facebook page (link is on the left sidebar) or through the email: Anyways, about the barking. That's a tough one to work on because it's so natural for dogs to bark as a way of communicating! Basically, if a dog has received a reward for the behavior they will keep doing it. In this case, you may not mean to, but somehow your pup has gotten some kind of reward for the barking. Here's an example: if your dog barks at you and your husband and you direct any attention to him for this (whether positive or negative) that shows your dog that they can bark at you to illicit attention or response. So, if your dog is barking and you yell at him, or you pet him to get him to be quiet, or you do basically anything in response to the barking you're teaching him that barking gets him "something." The typical training to reduce barking is to ignore it and not to give any attention whatsoever during the unwanted behavior -hard as that may be. However I say that with a grain of salt, because we all know Aussies have the persistence of a non-erodible rock monolith that can withstand the weathering of millennia. So I would start by simply ignoring your dog when he barks at you. Like literally pretend he doesn't exist, no eye contact nothing. The best way to do it will probably be to put some headphones on and listen to music or turn the TV up real loud and just ignore him. Then, as soon as he is quiet and has been quiet for 30 seconds, go ahead and reward him with some attention like playing or a treat or something. Even a few tugs on the rope.

      Okay about locking your aussie in a crate while you're at work: Please don't do that. Not only is torture for any dog, but it's especially torture for this breed which is meant to work directly with a human all day on a farm. Crating an aussie can turn them into neurotic dogs that are fearful of everything. You need a different set up and you need to leave them with lots of chew toys, and long lasting treat chews such as bully sticks and kongs.

  3. Hi, I'm hoping you will see this! I have a 9 month old Aussie! So smart and loving! But...she licks anything and everything, shakes violently when she has to go in crate but will chew whatever she can reach if we leave her out and lastly, she goes ballistic after we come home from being out or whenever someone comes in the house!

  4. I'm looking into getting a mini aussie, about 6-8 months after my current dog dies who is a pug and she's 13. That might sound a little selfish but I don't think I'd still be alive much longer than that without a dog. My animals have been the biggest thing that have helped with my depression, anxiety and ptsd. A mini aussie would make me get out of the house and go on my walks, which help would with depression. I'm doing as much research as I can before I get my mini.