These are the questions that I feel like I answer every week and have fairly repetitive answers. They are my opinion and even these can vary by situation. This is a quick summary of some things for basic understanding. If anyone would like to discuss these further, I am more than willing to visit in person as well.
Aussies vs. Border Collie I cannot possibly list all of the differences between Border Collies and Aussies, but can point out a few of the biggest differences that I have noticed in our personal dogs. Not all lines of Border Collie‘s are the same and not all lines of Aussies are the same, so this may not hold true for other breeders. For size, I do not have border collies that are as small as our Aussies, but we do still get Border Collie‘s that are smaller than some of our Aussies. I will have many people say they’ve always had Border Collies but want an Aussie this time because they want a smaller dog, but not all of our litters of Aussies would be smaller than Border Collies. Once again, it completely depends upon which cross and which puppy you are looking at. Our aussies have been 12-20' with most being 14-17" tall and our Border Collies have been 15-22" with most bbeing 17-20". The aussies are usually heavier built than our Border Collies, so they commonly weigh as much or more than the Border Collies. All of our Aussies are rough coats. I do not expect any of them to have easy coats. Some will be more medium than others, but even those tend to get pretty rough coated by the time they are four or five years old. Our Border Collies can be smooth, medium, or rough coated with most being medium. Our Border Collies Come in medium or high drive. Our Aussies can come in low to high drive. I have never produced a Border Collie that has low drive to my knowledge. Although some are less crazy than others and easier to live with and I would consider those a medium drive. They all have toy drive and love to play. Most of our border collies are high drive. We definitely have some Aussie’s that are very low drive and some that are absolutely insane so there’s a much wider range of personalities there. Not all of our aussies have toy drive, but they do seem to all be food driven. Assume that all Border Collies will need a lot of exercise and most aussies will as well, but some may not be as high of energy. I have always claimed my Aussies all come with a naughty gene. My Border Collies live to please. The Aussies have that exact same willingness, but once I leave the house they are much more likely to get in that garbage or pantry. Almost all of their naughtiness tends to be based around food because they tend to have a never ending stomach. They are the ones that will break into the pantry or hop up on the table to grab something. This is something that can easily be trained away from, but definitely seems to take a little bit more work than the Border Collies, who tend to not be as food motivated anyway. I do believe at least some of this is how they learn. I can leave the gate open and teach my Border Collies as puppies that they’re not allowed to go through that gate unless we give them permission. This teaches them to just stay in the fence even as we have a gate open and are going in and out. We can teach the exact same thing to an Aussie, but they will try twelve other ways of getting out of the fence before deciding that I mean that they have to stay in the fence. This means hopping over the fence, digging under the fence, trying to rip through the fence, going to another gate... They love to problem solve and escaping is just a fun puzzle to them. If something doesn’t work one way, they will immediately tried five different ways of doing it. My Border Collie’s are much more likely to try the same thing a few times before considering another option. This makes the Border Collies easier to live with for certain things because they are less likely to push my buttons when it comes to doing things I don’t want them to do. But this can also make them harder to train in other areas where I want them to do something other than the most instinctual way. My aussies are much better trick dogs and do better in new environments for this reason. My Border Collie’s are extremely serious dogs. They have the goofy moments, especially the boys, and love to play, but they definitely are much more serious about their job in life. They are skulky and use their eye (also known as the Force in this house) to make things happen. Many people comment on how Border Collies always look like they are in trouble-head and tail down and skulking, but that can actually be their natural stance when relaxed. They can hand you a ball and stare at it forever waiting for it to be thrown. My Aussies definitely tend to be more goofballs. They have a natural bounce in their step and love to bounce everywhere they go. They are always excited, happy, and vibrant. They can be very serious when working, but can also be goofballs when working as well. They work with more attitude, bite, and bark. They hand you a ball and bark at you to throw it. We call aussies the class clown around here because they make us laugh so often. Especially as they are laying across the back of the couch or trying to lay in some weird place because they think they are part cat. Based off of their climbing ability, they do seem to think they are part cat at times. They love proving they can get places that dogs shouldn't be able to get to-good or bad. They can stand in one place and bounce 6 foot in the air repetitively. They are born with springs in their steps. Their frog style sleeping, excessive rolling in the grass or snow, and ability to body slam and roll with all contact make them a constant source of amusement. With the aussie attitude comes the bark. Aussies yell at you when the get excited or frustrated. Many aussies bark whenever they are playing ball, doing agility, herding, or just having fun. We often say they are yelling at us. some aussies bark when excited, some when protecting their property, some when nervous in new situations or with new people... Our Border Collies do not bark very often and I don't even recognize their voice. I know every single one of the aussies barks. When playing, my Border Collies love to chase. It is all about that Border Collie line up, the eye, and then somebody taking off and the chase is on. I can throw a frisbee in the yard with ten Border Collies and not have a single one of them have each other because they weave in and out of each other effortlessly. Once I add in the Aussies, it all changes. If there are only 2 aussies playing, they find ways to run into each other. They love to play by wrestling and bodyslamming. I can put in one or two Aussies into the pack to play frisbee and they have learned that they can just hit the Border Collies full speed and they will drop the toy so they can steal it. Not a big deal when it’s a 15 pound Aussie, the Border Collies laugh at it. But when it’s a 40 or 50 pound Aussie, the Border Collies will quit playing. The Aussies have a hard time greeting you without doing a swimmers turn off of you or bodyslamming you when they’re coming at you full speed and running in the fields. That is how they played with each other and it is sometimes hard to teach them to not use their body to slam into us because my knees don’t appreciate it. I rarely get run into by a Border Collie because they will swerve and just barely missed me. They weave amongst each other with very few crashes. The Aussies are known for their wiggle butts. They have a whole body wiggle when they are happy or greeting people, which is why they are called wiggle butts. They commonly have their body shaped in a C and walk sideways as they wiggle. They live for a butt scratch and will always offer their back end for more scratches. This is not due to not having a tail, since the ones with tails do it as well, but seems to be a behavior bred into the breed. Aussies are usually very upright but can also be slinky when working. The borders are known for their slinkiness. They can get very low to the ground when they are working or playing, known as having a lot of style. The skulkiness is bred in and seems to come naturally to them, although some lines have more style than others.
Food We feed our dogs primarily Pro Plan dog food. We do find that our dogs do absolutely amazing on this food and we get large healthy litters of puppies. Our dogs tend to be extremely healthy dogs that live long lives and thrive on this food. We get many comments about the muscling and coats on our dogs. We push our dogs in competition as well as every day life to get a lot of exercise and mental stimulation, so they need a food that can give them plenty of energy to work with. We get a ton of comments about how agile our dogs are, even the veterans. Many people do not believe how old some of our dogs are. A great deal of this is due to keeping them lean and exercised well throughout life, but some is also a credit to the food that we feed. We have not found a food that supports this lifestyle that is better than Pro Plan. We have tried multiple other foods through the years, but always come back to Pro Plan. We also feed our dogs a variety of treats, snacks, and extras. This includes various organ meats from when we butcher, chicken, garden goodies (our dogs LOVE tomatoes and steal more than we get), as well as glucosamine supplements. We feed a variety of bones, rawhides, and chewies. All of this changes from week to week and we rarely do a specific brand. For training treats we love kibble, Zuke's, Biljac, cheese, lunch meat, liver, jerkey, and Nature's Variety rolls. Anything new and exciting that is somewhat healthy will work for us. I will even feed different brands of dog food for treats. Some brands I would never feed full time, but am not against feeding for an occasional treat. We choose to not feed our dogs raw or completely homemade diets. Many people do make dog food at home and do a wonderful job, but many people making a homemade diet take shortcuts and end up with health problems in their dogs due to these shortcuts. This is not a small task to undertake and is very time consuming to do well. It can be much cheaper than feeding a good processed food, just like it is for people, and can be a very good diet if done correctly. We are constantly answering the question of how much food should I feed my dog. There are so many different things out there telling you how much to feed your dog, but they all assume the exact same metabolism, exercise, and lifestyle for every dog. That is like saying that every adult person out there to eat the exact same amount of food every day. It doesn’t work and it’s not fair to the dogs that are being over or under fed. We feed as much as each individual dog needs to maintain a healthy body weight. I have had a 25 pound dog eat a quarter of a cup of food a day and maintain a chubby weight on that amount of food. That amount of food may give the dog the calories it needs, but may not have enough nutrition for that dog. We started doing extra activities, also known as fat camp at our house, for these dogs so that they could get more food and a day but had to work for it. Examples of this are doing stairs or tricks to earn their food. We also increased walks, ball and disc time, and swimming. The amount extra I feed depends on the activity and how much energy they use. I have also had a 22 pound dog that could eat 6 to 8 cups of food a day and be too skinny most of the time. These dogs tend to get a little bacon grease or Dyne on their food to keep them at a good body weight. In general, we feed pro plan sport to our dogs, but that does not include all of the dogs who are too easy of keepers. Performance food can be way too high calorie for some of the dogs who have weight problems. So for those dogs we switch to a different diet so they get a little more kibble. That is not always the same diet all of the time or the same diet for each dog. Every dog is different, just like every person is different, and we find a fit that works best for them to try to keep them lean. How we feed our dogs varies a lot. All of our dogs eat in a group setting with supervision. Some of our leaner dogs that slowly eat get their food in dishes or in piles so it is quick and easy to eat. Those that love to inhale their food get their food thrown on the stairs or outside in the grass. We also own multiple maze bowls and toys that help slow them down and make meal time take much longer. We also do this with the puppies so that eating takes a larger portion of their day and gives them some mental exercise as well.
Coowns Coowns are dogs that do not live at our house permanently, but may still get bred by us or be used in our breeding program. Most of these dogs live with somebody else and we either get a puppy back for our program or we raise litters out of them. We do not coown with just anybody and most of our coowns are close family and friends. But occasionally a dog is something that we would love to keep in our program but does not fit what our current coowns are looking for. In that situation, I will either offer that dog available with breeding rights to an outside breeder or look for a new coown home. We have multiple different types of contracts for that, but prefer these dogs are in homes where they will at minimum get a lot of training so we can know their strengths and weaknesses, and preferably be in a home where they will be competing. Some of those dogs are in homes where they compete at the 4-H level, with people that are not extremely competitive but enjoy just doing some local shows, dogs trained for public show like fairs, and working farm dogs. But even with that we can tell a lot of the different strengths and weaknesses of the dogs and whether or not we would actually want to use it in our breeding program. Every year we coown multiple dogs, but we only use a couple of these dogs in our breeding program. Doing this allows us to be a little more selective of which dogs we will keep in our program for breeding and allows us to have more litters. This also allows us to keep a wider variety of lines and types in our breeding program. This also allows us to have a much larger breeding program, but not take away as much time from our personal dogs. That way we can still compete and train as much as we used to, but are now also offering more from a breeding standpoint. Despite the numbers of dogs, they can live in a home with a family rather than in a kennel environment.
Dog Parks Dog parks are an extremely hot topic with a lot of pros and cons that people need to take into account before making a decision. I, personally, consider dog parks to be the equivalent of sending your child to day care. Great for socialization, but with a higher risk of illness and not all kids thrive in a daycare setting or are ready for it. The most important thing for these settings is to make sure you are doing what is best for your dog. Yes, your dog will be exposed to multiple illnesses that they would not necessarily be exposed to if they stayed at home. This does tend to be in the beginning when you’re new to the dog park community, but will always be a slightly higher risk. This is the same as every time people go out in public they risk being exposed to more illnesses. Many illnesses will be avoided with proper vaccinations, but not all illnesses or parasites are covered with basic vet care. This can also be said for training places and any other place where multiple dogs are found. Dog parks can be an absolutely amazing place to get exercise and socialization for your dog. Many owners do not have multiple dogs for a chance to get the dog places where they may have access to a variety of dogs in their lifetime. Not all dogs enjoy having doggy friends, but many absolutely love having friends that they get to play with. These dogs will commonly have the same doggy friends they will wrestle with for hours. Many dog parks have the same people around the same time every day so the dogs do have best friends with time. The hard part is making sure that you are getting your dog the interactions it needs, not the ones you think it needs. Not all dogs love meeting strange dogs or cannot handle the overly aggressive greeters. Some dogs hate having other dogs near them and are easily intimidated. These dogs don't want to play at a dog park with tons of dogs running up to greet them. Just like people, not all dogs love being in social settings. This does not feel like exercise to these dogs and is more traumatic than social for them. Not all people are good enough at reading dog cues to really recognize the difference. For those people, doggie daycare is a much better option since most good doggie daycares have a dog person watching over the interactions and acting accordingly for each dog. Prices for doggie daycare vary a lot, but it can still be a lot cheaper than vet bills accrued from one fight or illness from a dog park. Every owner needs to make sure that your dog is staying safe. Many times, going to a dog park can mean just you, your dog and a large play area with no one else about. But the busy dog parks can be full of dogs and not all the dogs have great social skills. Dog fights can be very common in these situations and it can be hard to recognize all the dogs coming and going to watch for the dogs that may be aggressive. When parks get that busy, we avoid them completely. They can be more stress than fun at that time. It is better to come during hours when the park is less populated to play. Fights can vary from minor to life threatening. Some dog parks are extremely small with very little space for the dogs to actually get out and run, have no grass or Enrichment and are usually dirt fields policy sees that nobody ever picks up. These are not great places to visit. Some dog parks are absolutely huge and offer multiple areas where you can play ball or disc with your dog and may even have Agility equipment or docks that you can train your dog on. Some have beaches for those water loving dogs. We have visited many dog parks over the years for training purposes of our dogs. They can be an amazing place to work basic obedience, recall, focus, and socialization skills. They can even be a great place to work reactive dogs as you are at the end of your training with them. But they can also be an absolute nightmare when somebody shows up with a dog that is not properly socialized, hates other dogs, or is out right aggressive with other dogs. Not all dogs are good candidates for dog parks. Unfortunately, many owners are not able to recognize when it is not safe to have the dog at a dog park. When we lived in an area where there was a huge dog park in a great place to socialize our dogs, we would go every day at lunch. Just gave the dogs one to two hours to go and run and play. Unfortunately, there were days that we would pull up at the dog park and realize that there were dogs there that I did not trust around my dogs. On those days, we turned around and went elsewhere. This drove my dogs absolutely crazy since they were used to the routine of going and running for a while. But it is not worth having that access to a dog park if your dogs are not safe when they are there playing. When using dog parks it is extremely important to be an advocate for your dog and recognize when they are better off staying home or just going for a long walk. Examples of dog parks we have visited and loved: 1) Huge dog park (hundreds of acres) that is all fenced in with hiking trails and a lake for swimming. We meet people with their dogs as we hike, but it is not overly populated. This is a great place to go with dogs and be offleash. 2) A couple of acres in town that is mostly dirt and fenced in. Small and large dog area with some basic agility equipment for training. Commonly has 5-20 dogs running and playing. We learned to wrap feet when we visited here since the dogs would run their pads off playing ball. Rarely saw a dog that was aggressive or sick here. Owners have a mom's club, book club, and chess club that meet here. There are most likely other clubs, but these are the ones I saw and participated in. 3) Couple of acres on the ocean that was not fenced in. Some areas were extremely congested, but if we walked a way we could find areas with more room. Our dogs had a TON of fun and swam for hours in the ocean. Multiple toys were lost to the ocean that day and multiple we didn't come with showed up. 4) A couple of acres of beach on a lake that was fenced in for the dog area. Reasonably full of people but spread out enough you could find a place alone if you wanted to. Most people just laying out and enjoying the beach while their dogs played in the water. 5) Small place on pea gravel with agility and obedience equipment for training. Small fee for using facility to train. Usually a couple of dogs training in different areas. Great place to learn from different people and watch different training methods.