Sunday, March 30, 2014

Mini Aussies are the BEST Adventure dogs!

Here's Indie and I kayaking as part of the Lyon College LEAP Adventure race this past weekend.  Of course, I'm holding him with my legs to keep him from leaping out of the kayak. He was resistant to going in there at first, but the great thing about Aussies is that they are fearless and get over things quickly. I just plopped him in there, held with my legs, and paddled off and he just calmed right down.

Now that the weather is better, Indie and I have been getting back out for some adventures exploring the beautiful Ozark Mountains of Arkansas. Well, after getting stopped by a guy out hiking who was admiring Indie and asking lots of questions about this breed, it reminded me about all the reasons Mini Aussies are the best adventure dogs. PERIOD.  Not a day goes by where I am not glad I got a mini instead of a regular size Aussie. Seriously. Everything about them is easier, cheaper, and better and they can do all the same miles as a bigger dog. Sometimes I wonder why people even get bigger dogs...they seem like such a hassle to me! Don't you think? Lol! Well, I guess that's why we're Mini people, huh! Every day I get people coming up to me saying "Wow, he's the perfect size!" or "I wish I had gotten a dog that size *sigh*."

The analogy I like to use is that Mini's are the "ultra-light gear" of the dog world: they perform the same as the other stuff, except they take up less space and are lighter and easier to deal with.  If you are the same kind of adventurer as me, you are a minimalist. You like function and efficiency. Well, that's my Indie. Ultra light, ultra minimal, without sacrificing endurance or athleticism.

Here's my reasons why I think a Mini Aussie is the PERFECT Adventure junky dog:
1) Indie doesn't need much water because his smaller frame is exponentially more efficient at heating and cooling, so I don't have to lug around a lot of water or a huge bowl. When I hike with bigger dogs, my god, they are always chugging down tons of water. And Indie and I are just sitting their waiting on 'em...ready to go. Usually we can share one Nalgene worth of water.

2) I can hop into a crowded car to catch ride back from a trail head without worrying whether we'll fit or not: he can sit in my lap. You never know what's going to happen, and I like knowing my dog is not going to limit my options.

3) He eats barely anything so packing food for him is negligible.

4) He can go for miles and miles without tiring, so we have not been limited in distance by his size.

5) They are fearless dogs and are not afraid of any challenge! They can rock hop and be easily carried if the going gets rough. Easy peasy. I just pack him under my arm like a football.

6) Wet dog in the car. Indie is so tiny, even if he is muddy/wet he can be easily contained in the car and doesn't make a huge mess.

7) Speaking of mess....Hello: Bath-time. Just think about it. What would you rather deal with? 60lbs or 20? This one is a no brainer!

Here's a few pics of us enjoying Arkansas recently! Just look at my boy go: such an adventure pup. He has perfect body structure and form, he's so beautiful to look at!


  1. Awesome post! I love the photos! I'm also very glad you got him that bright vest! Now, I have a couple questions for you:

    1) Indie seems to love water. Did he always like it or did you have to teach him to? Aussies are supposed to love water, but my Tesla isn't too fond. She used to refuse to even walk in wet grass! Now she will step into a pool with about 2 inches of water, but it requires lots of treats and praise. Any advice on how to get her to love water? Unfortunately we don't have a river nearby... If we did, I would have taken her to small streams from when she was young!

    2) I see you have Indie off leash. How good is he at staying nearby? Tesla was really good about it until she entered her teenage years (~6 months) and now she's still ok but sometimes her nose get's the better of her. She is currently 11 months old & I'd like her to be better and sticking close. Was wondering what your experience with Indie was and if he went through a similar stage. Honestly, I'm not so much worried about her running away. I'm more worried she will get her nose into something and I will be too far away to see what it is/effectively call her off. The photo of him walking on the trail looks like what she does: when we go on a hike, she likes to lead the way and always be around 20 ft ahead of us.

    Thanks for posting! I always love seeing what you're up to! :)

    1. Thanks Timi! Did you see the photo of us in the kayak? I just added that tonight since they finally posted the pics of the race. I just got a new job as director of a program so I haven't been able to update as often here or reply in a timely fashion.

      Anyhoo....We got him that orange vest thanks to your advice! I'm so glad I have it too. Even though right now it's not hunting season anymore, I make him wear it when we're out because, like you said, he's always out in front of me and I can see him more easily this way.

      Similar to Tesla, when Indie got older (6 months and above) he started going farther out from us on hikes. At first I was worried, but I quickly saw that he always came back to check in and wasn't going to run off. Now I let him has a little freedom. This is due in large part because I worked tirelessly with him on recall when he was young. I trust him 100%. One of the things I did this was when he was young is I would stop and secretly hide. Then he would come running back, nervous when he didn't see me. Then I would call him (if he didn't see me) and he was so glad to find me. Also, for a long time I carried treats and called him back every few minutes and gave him a treat and sent him off again.

      I think because of that training early on, he checks in with me every few minutes now on hikes -RELIGIOUSLY. I always have my leash with me as there are times I have wanted to be sure he stayed close. Otherwise, I love being able to have him off leash, it's fun for both of us. Question: If you stop walking, does Tesla come back and find you? Or, if you call her randomly while she's out front, does she come back reliably? If the answers are yes, then I wouldn't worry too much. Aussies are programmed to want to keep track of us and be "near" us so unlike other dogs, say hounds, they stay within 75 feet. It seems far to us, but it's really not for a dog...most dogs can't be offleash period. This is one of the perks of an aussie, I think, is that they want to stay near us for the most part (except for to chase squirrels! lol!).

      In terms of loving water, I specifically asked my breeder about this when we picked up Indie (because I wanted a water dog) and she said that you have to start them young. So that's what we did, starting at 3 months old. Indie liked splashing around in a creek, but it took a while for him to get the hang of swimming. If you check out our youtube channel (linked on the videos page) you can see the progression as my husband and I started teaching him to swim. At first, we threw a toy or stick just a liiiiiiitle bit in and then increased from there, so he had to go ever so farther out to get it. Then he had to take all fours off the ground. Then he was swimming. Now he loves it and runs to water anywhere and does flying jumps off rocks. Honestly, I wouldn't say he LOVES water by nature, but he loves cooling off when he's hot and fetching in it. Indie also does not like to go out when it's wet or if it's recently rained either, I have to drag him then he's ok, and he HATES baths. So, I think our training got him to be a water loving dog, and not the other way around. He also doesn't like being physically wet, he'll try to rub the water off, say after a bath.

      Instead of treats, I find that Indie is often more motivated by toys (specifically balls and sticks). Maybe Tesla is like that too? If Indie is playing, he forgets about anything else. That's how we got him in the water...we threw things in there. Some dogs, I've even known some labs, just never enjoy water. The best way to get them used to it is to find a place that has a gradual slope into the a river beach or an ocean beach. Also, like you said, a hike that involves stream crossings. It takes a lot of time, small advancements, and tons of happy excited yelling. I hope this helps!! :)

    2. Ooops, I got off in la la land while I was writing and talked about recall, when your question was about Tesla eating something or getting into something and not being able to see what it was. Yeah, that's a concern for sure! In general I don't let Indie get out of my sight for long. As soon as he disappears around a bend, I'll call him back. For the most part though, unless he's chasing a squirrel, he stays on the trail. I'm surprised how good he is at just staying on trail come to think of it. Indie is also not a big eater. We've passed dead animals and whatnot and he doesn't go for it, or even roll in it. My biggest worry right now is snakes! I need to do snake training with him. I think if he saw one, he might try to sniff it. Then we'd be in a heap of trouble!!!

      I tend towards being a paranoid/control freak and I'm trying to learn to "let go" a big more. Indie is 1 yr 5 mos and I'm definitely trusting him more and relaxing on hikes. I figure that there is only so much I can really control and the point is to have fun. It would not be fun for either of us for him to be on a leash. That being said, the best alternative is to get one of those retractable leashes. I have one and love it for times he needs to be walked on leash, but I want to give him the "feeling" of freedom. Otherwise, I have a front clip harness, because he pulls since he prefers to walk out front.

    3. Thanks for the reply! Lots of good info! For the recall, she's very good at coming back (sometimes her nose does get the better of her though), and in "scary" situations she has an emergency recall which she will come to at full speed.

      I really like the idea of hiding! I've played hide and seek with her in the apartment, but you can imagine that in a 1 bedroom it's not too challenging. I actually took her on her first hike in December and, like you, was astounded at how well she stayed on the trail. Similar to Indie, she does not like to be out of sight for long and I'm glad to know he too likes to go ahead and then check back in. At one point we stopped to see if she would come back and the second she couldn't see us she sprinted back. I was just wondering if Indie was the run around/explore kind of dog or the heeling type, because we definitely have the former. The only thing I actually worry about is if there are other people or dogs on the trail, because it's very difficult for her to control her wiggly butt. :P I've called her away from dogs before and she usually very, very begrudgingly listens.

      As for the water, I really, really need to find a creek. I honestly think she would like to chase a toy into the water and she could learn to like it. I just need the ideal environment to teach her! :) I too wanted a water/frisbee dog. We are getting pretty good with the frisbee (honestly I need the work not her).

      Thank you for all the advice and omg I love the kayak picture so much and was very jealous for the rest of the day after I saw it :)

    4. Yep, he's definitely the go out in front type too. So glad to know other aussies are that way as well!!! I read all about how if a dog does that they think they are the "pack leader," but honestly, I don't believe that in our case. I think it's just his personality. He has a very active brain, even for an aussie, so I think he just likes to operate at a faster pace!

      Yes, I hope you find a creek!!! It's so fun for them! And thank you for the input, advice and feedback...I'm no expert and I love hearing about other people's mini's. Seriously, it helps so much and I appreciate the community feeling :)

  2. I love these pics of Indie! Such a handsome boy. I can relate to both of Timi's questions above. My 9-month-old mini (Huck) doesn't really swim just for the heck of it yet, but he does love to wade in to cool off and splash around a bit. Actually, the first time he went ALL the way in was a complete accident -- it was hilarious. He was racing around the riverbank like a maniac after a long hike (he tends to lose his brain a little when he gets tired), and he took an impromptu turn and just sprinted full-speed into the water. I don't think he meant to run more than a foot or two into the water, but his momentum carried him past the point where his paws could touch bottom. Then he turned and looked at me with this SHOCKED look on his face, and then swam back to shore. I was laughing so hard. He's not afraid of water at all, though, so I don't think I'll have much problem getting him to gradually fetch sticks and things from the water, now that it's getting warmer and I can take him swimming more often.

    As for the recall, yeah I agree with you about the traits of the breed. I'm fully confident that, even if his recall isn't perfect when he's distracted by something (squirrels, interesting smells, etc.), he wouldn't leave a certain perimeter during a hike, and would always return to "check up on me." Where I live, though, the hiking trails are pretty well-populated, and Huck loves, loves, LOVES other dogs, so I'm afraid to take him off leash because I don't want him to charge up to other hikers and annoy the crap out of them and their dogs before I can get him under control. Basically, my plan is to find some more remote trails to practice his recall, where other hikers would hopefully be less of an issue, and then hopefully eventually I'll be able to trust him off-leash in more populated scenarios. That, and practice recall (with treats) at places like the dog park, where he can practice returning to me, if only for a split-second, during situations when he's around other dogs and people.

    1. Ha ha ha, that is TOO funny!!! I can picture that look of utter shock. Sounds like you are going really well with training, way to go! It's SO worth the effort. I mean, Indie is not perfect and sometimes he doesn't come when called (like if he's chasing a squirrel), but in general it's so rewarding to have a dog you can trust and to achieve that level of communication with them. I just love it!

  3. I thought I'd post a water-related update, since we were on the topic of getting our little Aussies to swim. We spent a day last weekend at a friend's lake house, which is pretty remote and about a 20-minute drive away from any public roads, houses, or businesses. So Huck was able to spend ALL day completely off-leash and unconfined, and he did so great! We just left the door to the cabin open so that he could run inside and outside as he pleased -- I was pleasantly surprised that he stayed within a certain perimeter of the house the whole time, and always came running up to the porch to "check" on us and give us some kisses before running back to the field to frolic.

    Anyway, I took him down to the lake, thinking that I could find some sticks to throw in the shallow part of the water to coax him to swim -- he had gone swimming one time before, but only about 2 or 3 feet from where he could touch bottom. Before I could even start looking for sticks, though, he had already started wading into the water. Before I knew it, his paws had left the bottom and he was just spontaneously swimming away! He swam so far -- at least 30 or 40 feet into the lake -- that I started to get worried that he would reach his limit before he would even think to turn around and head back to shore, and I was hoping that I wouldn't have to jump in and fish him out. At some point, though, he turned around and swam right back, and he was SO excited when he reached the shore -- he just ran around like a little maniac. I guess he decided that he's a water dog! So, at intervals throughout the rest of the day, I threw sticks FAR into the water -- basically as far as I can physically throw -- and he swam through the lake to fetch them without any hesitation whatsoever, and then waited impatiently for me to throw them again and again. What a little weirdo. (He still HATES HATES HATES baths, though. He basically thinks he's being water-boarded.)

    Also, since then I've been taking him on little "trial" hikes off-leash, and he's been doing pretty well! It still makes me a bit nervous, because he loves to run out in front of me and race around the bends in the trail, and I'm kind of paranoid when he's not in my sights. He does (so far) always come back when I stop and call for him, but it still freaks me out a little when I can't see him. Maybe I just need to learn to calm down more about it and trust him, though. Like Indie, he is VERY good at staying on the trail; he just likes to race ahead way in front. At nearly 11 months old, maybe he's just at that "wandering" teenager age. From the other comments on this page, it looks like this is an Aussie trait!

    1. Wow, what an awesome update Emma! Sorry for my late reply here...things got hectic for me all of a sudden. Took on a new job, got married, etc. Got a new post up about that stuff :) Anyways, Huck sounds EXACTLY like Indie...who also loves water, yet hates baths. Aren't they such a weirdos? Ha ha! Indie does that too, where he zooms out in front on trails. I get nervous every now and then, worrying that he'll get into trouble, or hurt himself and I won't know where he is. The second I feel nervous, I call him back and wait right where I am. I noticed that around 9-11 months he started wandering farther from me on trails, which is definitely a symptom of teenager-hood. He is now 2 and I can tell you he still goes just as far, so it hasn't changed.

      I do have one trick though...I will periodically hide behind a tree or bush and watch him. Sometimes I'll make a little noise, like a whistle or chirp, to get his attention and make him realize he doesn't know where I am. Then I watch him panic. Usually, he will run back and sometime run right by me as I'm slightly off trail behind a tree!! I let him freak out a little bit and then call him to where I am. If you do that a couple times, they will not run as far away....muah ha ha! So evil. But, effective.

      Sounds like Huck is just doing great and I'm so thrilled for you that is swimming. It's a fantastic way to burn off the energy!! Keep me posted, I love hearing these stories :)

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