Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Does your Miniature Australian Shepherd bark a lot?

Thank goodness the answer is: NO! Not to say that all mini aussies are quiet, but mine sure is and I am ever so thankful!  Now, Aussies can become barkers if you're not careful! (See exert below). My understanding is that Aussies, being ranch dogs, are meant to alert their owners with one bark if they sense something and defer to you for further guidance and action.  I find this to be the case with my dog.  We've had one or two instances where a friend came up to our back door and started knocking and Indie barked a few times until I said "It's okay" and let them in.

Here's an exert from the Miniature Australian Shepherd Club that sums up my mini perfectly:

"Are mini Aussies noisy?

No. Most mini Aussies are relatively quiet, unless something extraordinary occurs about which they feel their family should be warned. Usually, a bark or two will suffice so long as their people acknowledge the disturbance. They are not prone to excessive barking, however, are extremely people oriented and tend to suffer when shut out of family life, thereby possibly developing some unusual habits. Appropriate training and exercise will direct behavior."
**I can't emphasize enough that how your raise your dog and what you expose them to at a young age will really determine how they wind up.  A properly and exhaustively socialized Mini Aussie from a good breeder should embody the characteristic traits of the breed: protective and slightly reserved with strangers, but quick to love and accept with the go-ahead from it's owner.  And that pretty much describes Indie! I mean, when he was a baby puppy he went up to EVERYONE no problem.  But I saw this reserve come out as he aged and, to me, it's always been the right amount and never excessive.**

My loyal walking companion!
Indie will not bark his head off, ever.  He's so quiet we can't believe it. At most he gives one, low warning barky-growl thingy and that's it. People can walk by on the street and the mail can be delivered with no reaction from my dog (other than getting up to see who it might be).  The only times he barks are when people knock on the door, but as soon as I tell him to stop he does and when I open the door he's all wiggles -even with delivery men in uniform!

 Now, this can be attributed partly to the innate nature of the Australian Shepherd, but it's also about how I raised Indie as well. I am not one of those people who is scared of everything and also I don't want a dog that is overly protective.  Dogs pick up on when you are scared or hesitant about a person and will react accordingly.  I am very conscious about the energy I project and I have made sure to let Indie know that in general, pretty much everyone -man or woman, uniform, beard, or hat - is okay. 
Never leaves our sides for long
He's always calm in the house

Indie will bark for the following reasons/circumstances:
  • If he's really excited and worked up and we're taunting him with a toy, but not giving it to him, hill bark one sharp little yip, like "Hey! C'mon now!"
  • If someone knocks at the door.
  • If someone he doesn't know approaches me too firmly and suddenly
  • When he's chasing another really fast dog and getting frustrated he can't catch them (mostly just happened when he was a puppy, now he's faster than everyone!)
  • When he's working sheep (and really only when one was giving him a run for his money)
  • When sometime large ad unknown is coming at him: e.g. guy riding a bike with a cooler on it, backpackers on the PCT with large backpacks.  Once I introduce him to it, he gets over it quick.
  • When he senses a dangerous person. This has only happened twice:
Never walk alone again!

Once, I was walking at the lake at the college here in Arkansas and there was a meth head guy stumbling around in the woods adjacent to the walking path.  Now, there is also a disc golf course here so Indie has seen people in the bushes before and never barked.  But this time, I was on the phone and Indie detected this man's presence before I did and started barking his head off.  That's when I knew this was a serious situation because Indie never barks at anyone -period. It's very rare.  Turns out the guy was wacked out of his mind and we had to call the police to have him removed...love my dog!

Nothing escapes the Ghost Eye!

The only other person my dog has never warmed up to was the guy who did maintenance work on occasion in my old neighborhood (cutting trees and doing yard work type things mostly).

I tried and tried to get Indie to warm up to him because I felt awful that Indie barked at him and he was so nice, but Indie never let up. He was the ONLY person my dog has met and not liked.  Usually, if I say the person is okay, Indie lets up.  Now that I've seen him bark at the meth head guy, I think back and wonder if maybe the maintenance dude was an alcoholic or something? I think dogs can detect the different smells people have so perhaps this guy had something weird about him.  Either way, I trust my dog's instinct now 100% so if Indie senses something wrong, I will know he isn't messing around.
In any of the houses he's been in, he's never barked when people were walking by.  However, when I stayed at my dad's apartment (which is especially noisy at 2am), Indie barked when people walked by talking super loud.  Now, this is probably because we lived in a really quiet neighborhood so I imagine that if you raise your mini in an apartment and they are used to the noise level, it probably wouldn't be a problem.  Maybe someone who has experience raising their mini in an apartment can chime in here? Leave a comment!


  1. I just got a male Mini Aussie last Saturday! I'm so thankful to have found your blog, as I've tried to find info on so many topics but come up empty handed! Cooper is 8 weeks tomorrow and 4.8 pounds of fluff and energy! I love him and this breed so much already!

    1. Yay, congratulations on becoming a puppy-parent! Is Cooper a merle or a tri? Oh my gosh, I just love it when they're little cottonballs with legs, he he! So cute. Wow, he's tiny, must be so cute! And thank you so much for leaving a comment. Having a mini and finding time to update a blog is a lot of work, but hearing that it helps people makes it all worthwhile since that's why I started it in the first place! Feel free to ask me any questions at any time and I'll do my best to help (or at least commiserate since I've been there before!). Have fun getting to know your amazing dog. I agree, I LOVE this breed!!!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks! Cooper is a blue merle! I honestly am so excited to have someone to share in my adventures with, I could not even find a website that gave me enough information! I do have a question, the last day and a half, Cooper hasn't seemed as interested in his food, did Indie lose interest in her food? We have him on what the breeder uses, Kirkland adult formula, and I use blue buffalo puppy as a wet topper. I'm not sure if he's just not very hungry, or if I should switch brands of food. Did you use 'pupp' kibbles, or adult?

    1. Hi Kristina! Just wanted to echo what Jiana said with regard to food enthusiasm. My little guy is a little over 4 months old, but when he was that small he wasn't a very big eater either. He was much more interested in exploring the house and playing with everything around him. You could try turning his meal-times into a sort of playtime, by having him nibble out of your hand. Or, one game that my pup has always LOVED to play is for me to take a little handful of kibble and, while he is watching me, toss them one by one across the floor in different directions so that he has to chase them -- start with short distances for your teeny guy. These dogs LOVE to chase things. (This might work best on a non-carpeted floor, because the sound of the kibble rolling across the floor helps keep their puny attention spans piqued long enough to actually "catch" the kibble.) As I toss each piece of kibble, I say "Find it!" in an excited voice. You probably don't want to do this every meal, because your pup might find this way more fun that eating out of a bowl and expect you to do it every time, but it's a good place to start.

      I wouldn't worry too much about his food enthusiasm the first week or so, because your pup is still getting used to his new schedule, surroundings, and being away from his mom and siblings. My 4-month-old pup, Huck, went through that same stage. FYI, he's on Merrick Grain Free (the adult version, in the duck + sweet potato flavor), which does have small kibbles. Not all puppies do great on grain-free because it can lead to issues with their stools being too loose (sorry TMI), but Huck does very well with it.

    2. Oh, I love that idea of throwing the kibbles around so they can chase them and get them. That's great Emma! I also want to second the recommendation for Merrick as well. That's an excellent brand! I originally wanted to go with that. It was the first one I got for Indie and at the time I attributed Indie's lack of enthusiasm to eat it to be that he didn't like the Merrick --now I know he was that way with every food, so go figure! Live and learn I guess (50 brands later....lol!....not quite, but almost ;).

      About the grains. I agree, if you can go grain free, I say do it. Right now I'm not sure because Indie has had a problem with loose stools since he was a puppy and the blue buffalo formula with rice seems to work for us at the moment. I would love to get him on grain free though! We did Acana for a while grain free regionals blend for a while as well. He loved it, then grew tired of it by bag 2.

    3. Haha, these dogs can be such little stinkers with their food! Since Merrick has multiple grain-free kibble flavors (I think there's duck, pork, buffalo, and chicken), I plan to rotate the flavor after he finishes each bag, to keep him from getting bored and picky. I've also read that rotating helps prevent the development of allergies, but who knows. Huck did have loose stools while I was switching from his breeder's food (Fromm's Family, which does have grains) to the grain-free Merrick, but he overcame it after a week or so. Merrick also has zillions of flavors of canned toppers to choose from, but I haven't gotten around to trying them yet.

    4. I've read the same thing about switching foods periodically and that's my plan as well. We've inadvertently been doing that anyways since Indie has been so picky, lol! Who would want to eat the same thing for 15 years!? Another good reason to buy a brand like Merrick of Fromm where they are designed so you can switch between flavors. Sadly, now that I live in rural Arkansas Blue Buffalo is the best brand I can find here (not that I'm complaining, I'm thankful they even have that!). I might try switching to the Blue Buffalo grain free wilderness line and do the same thing by switching around with those flavors. Otherwise, I'd have to drove over 100 miles to find a better pet food store with better brands. Grrrr.

      I have tried a lot of the Merrick wet foods, they are all good as far as I can tell!

    5. I order his food on Amazon, actually! They have pretty much every brand. The prices are actually a bit better than in stores, and shipping is often free.

  4. Also, any favorite brands? Thanks in advance!

    1. Yes, having a community where you can get advice is so wonderful. Hearing other people's stories helps to understand this breed as well and know what is a normal or common problem or question.

      On to your question about food. Yes, this same thing happened to us. I have a post about food here: http://raisingamini.blogspot.com/2013/06/how-to-choose-best-food-for-your.html. And I will tell you that Indie did exactly what Cooper is doing! He would loose interest in food (even the wet food!) and then I would get him a new one and he would it that with gusto for about 2 days and then loose interest again. After discussing this issue with other people it seems that if you let your dog be too picky, then this will keep happening --which is what happened to us.

      I think some puppies can loose interest in their food because they're more into exploring the environment and playing. Because I was so concerned that Indie wasn't getting enough, sometimes I would feed him from my hand just to be sure he was eating. I can tell you now that Indie just eats when he's hungry and it's always at a weird time. He needs to play and run around before eating.

      You don't need to feed Cooper "puppy" specific kibble. In fact, it's recommended we don't for this breed because it can make them grow too fast and be bad for ligament development. However, I did a puppy topper just like you and I think that's good because they eat so little yet they burn so many calories! Kirkland is a good brand, but if the kibbles are too big that could also be why he's not eating it. My favorite food so far has been the Blue Buffalo Small Breed Life Protection Chicken and Rice kibble (it comes in a pink bag). The kibbles are manageable for him and I think he likes that better. I will add various wet food toppers from Blue Buffalo (mainly from the Homestyle and Blue's Stews line).

    2. Cooper is even smaller than Indie it sounds and I remember watching Indie struggle to chomp on those big kibbles. I would definitely try to find something smaller...maybe check if Kirkland has a small breed variety? I can't tell you how much money I spent trying every brand under the sun. Ugh! Even to this day Indie is not very big on food. Sometimes he even refuses the best treats! He is much more motivated by toys and playing. I trained him to do agility using the frisbee and everyone was so blown away at our practice. Good luck, hope this helps and let me know if it doesn't or if you figure something else out, then I can include that info in my food post :)

  5. With regard to the apartment thing, I don't live in an actual apartment building, but I do live in a duplex-type thing. We live on the ground floor and have "neighbors" who live upstairs (separate entrances). It's pretty well sound-proofed, but we can hear them walking around up there sometimes, and we can also hear their main door open and close. Huck hasn't barked at those noises ONCE, even though I know I can tell that he's registering the noise (ears perk up, etc.). I think you're right in that they quickly figure out what is normal and safe, and what they need to alert you to. Like Indie, the only time Huck has ever barked (so far ...) is when he's playing, and that has been relatively infrequent.

    1. Thanks for the info Emma! Gosh, so great to be able to compare notes and hear a different experience with similar results. Same thing with Indie, he "registers" all the noises..ears perked, head following the sound...but he doesn't bark. It's fantastic. My ideal "guard" dog. When I first got him, my neighbor was doing construction on their house and we had all these loud crash and boom sounds. I was so worried Indie would be freaked out, but you know what, he was cool as a cucumber. I love that these dogs are so fearless and confident, yet reserved! I'm watching this chihuahua puppy right now, and she runs and hides every time a car drives by or a door opens. It's kind of annoying. But my little aussie and my neighbors border collie mix just observe, think, and listen. I can see them thinking and processing, it's just amazing.

  6. I 100% agree with this barking post! Also when did Indie start getting more reserved? Tesla is so friendly with everyone and everything even at almost 7 months. Just wondering what to expect! :)

    1. Cool, thanks for corroborating Timi! I'm glad to know that others experience the same thing and it seems to be a true characteristic of this breed.

      Good question and you know what, now that I think about it, I actually I would not describe Indie as being very reserved. Maybe instead I mean he developed a greater sense of wanting to protect us and our home. I guess I should really clarify what I mean there. He's still very friendly with EVERYONE. He likes to go up and sniff people and sometimes brings them his frisbee or ball, and if they are excited he will get excited and wiggle around and "chirps" and jumps around on them. I guess what I should have said is that as he got older he seemed to develop a sense of alertness and reserve from a distance and mostly in association with protecting our property. And that probably started happening by 7 months old I would say. He will watch people intently as they approach or walk by our house and once they are in a certain range and he recognizes them he'll run right up and be excited, but until then he's got an eagle on them. Nothing really too major.

      As a puppy he was SUPER excited to go up to everyone. If he saw someone, he wanted to run over to them. Around 9-10months I want to say he started being slightly more reserved I guess and with some people he would need to inspect the person first by sniffing them, but then he will proceed to do his usual and jump around on them after he's gotten comfortable (like meeting someone while we're at Home Depot, since I get asked all the time if people can pet him). It really depends on how the person approaches him and how big they are, so I'm not even sure if it is a general reservedness associated with this breed, or more of a circumstantial one that could be expected by any dog (or any small dog).

      I hope this clarifies but you got me thinking. I'll probably need to ponder a bit more about to phrase it correctly. Overall, I would not describe Indie as anything but very friendly and we have gone to great lengths to socialize him and let him know we prefer him to be friendly over being protective or reserved. Hope this kind of answered your question!

    2. That definitely answers my question! Thanks!

      Also on a completely different note, I noticed you live in Arkansas now and I just wanted to warn you to be very,very careful letting Indie out of your sight especially if you are on a trail in the woods/near someone else's property. I have some friends who owned a house down in Arkansas and they would go down there every month with their dog to go on float trips, and hike etc. Anyways their dog always walked in front of them when they would walk on trails (never too far ahead but still ahead) and at one point there was a turn and she out of their sight and they heard a gun shot. Some people SHOT their dog! Almost right in front of them! They claimed that "they thought she was a bear" and were "protecting themselves" but it was complete crap. Needless to say they were absolutely heartbroken. Anyways, I don't want to scare you but please be careful! I would never want anything to happen to Indie! Being from the Midwest I know there are quite a few people who will shoot first and ask questions later and it only gets more worse the more south you go...

      I know this was probably a freak accident, but it's better to be vigilant then have something like this happen to you.The bright side of Arkansas versus California is that you can actually own lots of land! I bet Indie is loving it! Sorry, I just wanted to end on a happier note. I've really been enjoying the blog please keep it up! :)

    3. Yikes, thanks for this info and warning, Timi! It's true, all this is a shock to this Cali girl. I've never had to deal with this type of thing before. My goodness, this is so so devastating to hear. I am deeply sorry for your friend and I just can't imagine such a loss. Yea, that sounds like a BS story to me too. People love to shoot things, I just don't get it :-/ I am glad you are telling me this though, it's very important information for us. Sadly, we've also heard about this as well moving here and unfortunately, we don't have to travel far for our dog to be at risk it turns out. While most of my neighbors are cool, apparently this one guy behind us told our other neighbor he would shoot their dog it came onto his property. WTF? I can't believe it. I never let Indie out unsupervised. Soon, we'll build a fenced yard. We haven't explored any hiking here yet, but we plan to get Indie a blaze orange vest for when we do. Now that I hear this story from you, I should probably play it even safer and just keep him on leash to boot. He loves to walk out ahead and jump around (literally, he hops like a rabbit) in the forest chasing squirrels. When I lived in Colorado, my rancher friend said he knew of people who just shoot when they see the slightest movement! Many people, even wearing orange, get shot during deer season. *Le sigh* It's the world we live in down here I guess.

      My experience so far is that there is a different culture down here in the south with regard to animals. Many keep "outside dogs" under the thought that dogs don't need to be petted or loved much, they just "hang out" in the yard. This leads to untold deaths by cars and of course unwanted puppies. Maybe you've seen the pics I posted about Sammie (she's a border collie mix who lives next to us?). Well, she is the "outside dog." She is so sweet. She's Indie's age, a bouncy 1 yr old puppy, and she is SO sad and depressed. She comes over every day and puts her paw on our back door, just waiting for us to come out. It breaks my heart.

      Anyways, thanks again. I am so grateful for all your wonderful contributions and positive encouragement!