Tag Archives: Australian Shepherd

Puppy Blues with an Australian Shepherd Puppy:

For anyone who has ever endeavored to raise a puppy and has been fortunate enough to not experience the puppy blues, I applaud you. With Maple, I had a very serious case of the puppy blues! Maple is a typical puppy: bouncy, bitey, and bad, and after having well-behaved adult dogs for over ten years, I was not mentally prepared for how much work Maple is. I have had her for a little over 2 months now, and my puppy blues are basically gone. Here, I am going to talk about what the puppy blues are, what I experienced, and most importantly talk about the fact that the puppy blues do go away!

What are the Puppy Blues?

The puppy blues refer to the feelings of guilt, regret, dismay, depression, frustration, and sleep deprivation that come along with having a new puppy. Many people (like me) aren’t even sure they like their new family member. Puppies are baby animals with no impulse control and razor sharp needles for teeth who explore the world by biting everything. As such, many people become overwhelmed when a new puppy comes into the home, and experience many of the emotions listed above.

Don’t feel guilty about having some of these thoughts! Puppies are a ton of work. The day you bring your puppy home, your whole world changes, and that shift can make anyone feel down.

When Maple came home, I was surprised at how stressed and frustrated I was over the situation. I have cared for dogs for 15 years and have been through many ups and downs with them. Lady and Oscar had health conditions in their later years, and close to the end Lady required around the clock care. While giving her this care was tasking emotionally, I never felt frustrated with her. Being that I had cared for Lady, along with other sick pets over the years, I felt I was ready for the commitment of raising a puppy. It was shocking to experience feelings of wanted to get away from Maple. She was my new pet, and I had waited so long to get her, but once I had her I was always waiting for her to take a nap so I could just step away for a minute. I felt so guilty, why didn’t I like being around my own puppy?!

 I personally feel the hardest part of dealing with a new puppy’s antics is the fact that the bond isn’t established. Caring for a pet with tons of needs is easy when there is a deep love between owner and dog. But with a new puppy, it can be hard to bond. It is hard to love something who bites your hand each time you try to pet it but cries when you walk away. Some people might instantly bond with their new puppy, I just didn’t. Looking back, it took time to bond to most of my pets; the bond only instantly happened for me with Raina. So, if you feel as if you don’t like your new puppy, don’t worry, you are not a terrible human being! Bonding takes time, and it takes some people longer than others.

Bringing Home Maple:

As stated above, I was shocked by how much Maple May bites. Raina was the rare pup who never mouthed or chewed anything other than her toys. Also, I was not prepared to handle a puppy who didn’t know when she needed a nap. Maple gets overly-tired, and when that happens, she is impossible to deal with. For the first week, I had no idea why she would get into fits of chasing me, jumping on me, and biting my clothes and hands hard enough to tear and break skin. Then, I read a little bit of other people’s experiences, and discovered that she was probably not sleeping enough. Sure enough, next time she got in “alligator mode,” I popped her in her crate, and after five minutes of throwing a hissy fit, she crashed and slept for over an hour.

For the first month, I really didn’t like Maple. I know that sounds horrible, but it is not as bad as it sounds. I felt protective of her and I would have done anything for her if she was sick. In short, I didn’t dislike her, but I did not like being around her.

Does it get Better?

Yes! Maple is by no means a well-behaved dog yet, but I am not nearly as stressed as I was the first week she came home. While she has improved in some areas, the biggest change is that I am bonded to her now. I love her, and I am happy she is in my life.

As for how long it can take, it just depends on the owner and the puppy. I had Maple for over a month before one day I was playing with her and I realized I was actually playing with her because I enjoyed her company. Prior to this, I was counting down the minutes I spent interacting with her, ready for her to need to be put down for a nap.

Tips to Help it get Better:

  • Don’t compare your puppy to previous pets! This puppy is an individual, it’s not fair to expect them to be something they are not.
  • Forced naps! These are a life saver. Many puppies should only be up for an hour or two at a time, and then they should be taking a nap. Remember, puppies should be sleeping 14 – 18 hours a day.
  • Remember your puppy is just a baby. When I get really annoyed with Maple, I remind myself that she is just a puppy and that she hasn’t been on this planet very long. It really isn’t fair to expect a puppy to behave when they don’t even know what behaving is. When puppies bite, whine, and poop on the rug they are not being bad, they are just being puppies. It is up to us to teach them how to live in our world, and learning for them takes time.
  • Google “puppy blues” and read about what other people struggle with. It really helps to go on dog forums and read other people talk about the hard parts of bringing home a new dog.
  • Get away from you new dog. Remember to take time to get out a bit. Even leaving the house for an hour or two helped me so much. If you can, have a friend come over and spend time with the puppy while you take a break. Most people love puppies, so it is a win-win situation.
  • Crate Train. Once your puppy is crate trained, they are much easier to put down for a nap. When the puppy is in his/her crate, you can step away from them without worry that they will get into something bad.
  • Training classes. Puppy kindergarten is a great place to see that there is no such thing as a perfect puppy, and that you are not a failure of a pet parent. Most people in puppy school will be going through the same things you are, and not feeling alone is very powerful for changing your mood and emotions.

I hope these tips help. Adding a puppy to your life can be really difficult, but also incredibly rewarding. Stick it out, put the work in, take breaks, and someday your bad puppy will turn into a great dog!

Maple May Where Did your Tail Go? The Docking of Australian Shepherd Tails.

So far, every single family member and friend to meet Maple has had the same question: “Where is her tail?” or my personal favorite, “Does she get a tail?” For anyone who doesn’t know, most Australian Shepherds do not have a natural bobtail, but are instead docked. Docking is performed on puppies when they are under 5 days old. Many common dog breeds are docked, including Dobermans, Rottweilers, Brittany Spaniels, Poodles, German Pointers, Schnauzers, Cocker Spaniels, Airedale terriers and others. There are many arguments on the ethics of docking and why docking is performed. In today’s post, we will look at why Aussies are docked while other herding breeds are not, the process of docking, whether or not docking is painful for the pups, and why docking is done in working dogs and pets.

Why are Aussies Docked but Border Collies are Not?

Australian Shepherds have been historically docked, with the argument being that Aussies are prone to injuring their tails while herding cattle. Some ask the question why Border Collies, a breed often seen as similar to Aussies, are not docked as well. The answer given to this is that Border Collies herd differently than Aussies and Border Collies are sheep dogs, no cattle dogs. It is easy to find videos of Border Collies herding sheep and Aussies herding cattle, and the difference is very apparent. Aussies get very close to the stock and nip the heels, whereas Border Collies mostly herd with their strong eye. As such, comparing the two is akin to comparing apples and oranges.

Still, Australian Cattle Dogs are not docked, so it would seem a dog can be a cattle dog without being at a great risk of injuring their tail. It could be that their herding styles differ enough that they are not at risk for the same kind of injuries. The difference in herding styles between Border Collies and Aussies is apparent to me just from watching a couple of videos, but I don’t know enough of working cattle dogs to see a great difference in the Australian Cattle Dogs and Australian Shepherds herd stock.

Process of Docking:

Docking is performed at under 5 days of age. One of two methods can be used: either a constriction band is placed to cut off blood supply, or a scalpel is used to remove the tail. When the former method is used, the tail falls off after a few days of the band being in place. Generally no pain medication is used because the puppies are so young when the procedure is done that use of local anesthetics would be dangerous. This differs from older dogs, as when an older puppy or adult dog requires tail amputation general anesthetic is required.

Does Docking Hurt:

Many argue that docking does not hurt puppies, as their nervous systems are not fully developed. I have watched videos of puppies being docked online, and let me tell you, the pups definitely seem to feel their little tails being chopped off. So, even if studies say their nervous systems are not developed enough for the puppy to feel anything, I wouldn’t believe them.

Often, I have read the argument made that because docked puppies quickly go back to nursing, they are not in pain from the procedure. I don’t take this as evidence that the puppy doesn’t feel anything, only that it is likely momentary pain. An adult dog with a fully developed tail would most probably be in much more pain than a 1 day old puppy, because the nervous system of an adult dog is fully developed. Still, this does not mean that the puppy feels no pain at all, but it only that they feel less pain than an adult dog or older puppy would with the same procedure.

In summary, as far as I can tell, yes, docking hurts. While it does hurt, the pain seems to be momentary, much like circumcision for a baby boy. Whether or not this momentary pain is justifiable will be discussed next.

For Working Dogs:

There studies on working breeds that show that dogs who are traditionally docked are at greater risk of sustaining injuries to their tails when undocked (http://theses.gla.ac.uk/5629/1/2014lederermvm.pdf). Still, others argue that working dogs are not at a greater risk of injury to their tails (https://petozy.com/blogs/about-dogs/dogs-and-their-tails-a-q-a). In addition to these more scholarly sources, simply perusing dog forums it is easy to find people speaking of their working dogs’ tails being injured in the field, so tail injuries do happen.

An interesting note is that some argue that docking of dogs was not originally done to prevent injury in working dogs, but instead to signify that the dog was a working dog. If the dog was a working dog, the person did not have to pay taxes on their dog, so owners would dock them to avoid additional taxes (https://www.australian-shepherd-lovers.com/australian-shepherds-and-tails.html). I have never been able to find a good source to decipher if this is true or not.

Since tail injuries in an adult dog can be so detrimental, to me it seems reasonable to dock working dogs’ tails if they work in such a way that they are at a higher risk than the average dog of sustaining a tail injury.

For Pets and Show Dogs:

For pets and show dogs, docking is cosmetic. Many in the dog show community are adamant that the docking of dogs is not harmful. From the Australian Shepherd Club of America’s (ASCA) website:

“The Australian Shepherd Club of America will not condone the policy of any individual, group, or proposed legislation which restricts the practice of tail docking or removal of dewclaws for cosmetic or health reasons. We find this policy to be a detriment to the welfare of the Australian Shepherd breed as a whole and an infringement on the rights of the owners, breeders, trainers, and exhibitors of all domesticated animals.”

While laws against docking would most definitely infringe on the rights of owners, breeders, trainers, and exhibitors who want docked dogs, I do not see how ending the practice of tail docking for pets and show dogs would be detrimental to Australian Shepherds. However, many breeders who show their Aussies also compete in herding trials with them, and many still work their dogs on their farms. In these cases, it makes sense to dock the dogs. Since breeders do not know which pups they will keep when they are only 5 days old, all pups from these litters would need to be docked in these situations.

When it comes to infringing on the rights of owners, I don’t know why the ASCA doesn’t allow for dogs with tails to be shown. If they really wanted owners of the breed to have the most freedom to choose what to do with their dogs, they would allow Aussies with tails to compete in conformation events. I believe their hard stance on the issue is most likely in retaliation to animal rights groups like PETA who want to end the docking of all dogs for any and all reasons.

My Opinion:

Docking is not a painless procedure, but for true working dogs the benefits of docking outweigh the pain the puppy feels when the procedure is performed. I do not support legislation that outright bans docking, but I believe the breed clubs of all docked dogs, including the Australian Shepherd Club of America, should rewrite their breed standard definition so breeders who do not wish to work their dogs have the option of leaving their tails intact while still being able to show their dogs in conformation. There is no point in cutting off a dog’s tail if the dog is going to be a pet or show dog.

Adding an Australian Shepherd Puppy to a House with Other Pets

Adding an Australian Shepherd Puppy to a House with Other Pets:

It has been over 10 years since I have raised a puppy, and Maple, my new Australian Shepherd puppy, is only the second puppy I have ever owned. All of my previous dogs other than her and Raina came to me as adults. As stated in an earlier post, Maple is very different from how Raina was as a puppy. Raina was a very easy puppy, and Maple is quite the handful. Here are my experiences so far with introductions and how I plan to deal with some issues I am currently experiencing with Maple, along with things I wish I would have been aware of before bringing her home.

Maple and the Cats:

While Maple is my first Australian Shepherd puppy, she is not my first herding-type dog. Lady was a herding mix, and she adjusted to life with our cats very well, but like Maple’s interactions with the cats so far, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Maple wants to chase the cats in the worst way, and I think this is an important point to make. Much of what I read of Aussies said that they do well with cats for the most part, but I really think it depends on the dog and the cat. I think Maple would be doing well with a neutral cat, but Tiger, the elderly calico, goes out of her way to get in Maple’s face, and then swat and hiss at her, so it has been tricky to teach Maple to leave her be. Here is what I have been doing and what I plan to do:

  • Management: this is honestly the biggest part. Maple is just starting to seem to have some impulse control development at 15 weeks of age, so up to this point when Maple is out, Tiger is away, and when Maple is in the crate Tiger has free run of the house. Thankfully, Tiger is not as active as she once was, so she sleeps most of the day anyway. She has a bedroom that is her room that the puppy is not allowed to enter. This is SO important for other pets in the house, especially older cats and dogs.
  • Teaching “leave it:” This is going reasonably well with using a toy as the object Maple must leave. I have mostly been doing this motivationally up to this point, and I have avoided using it when the cat is present simply because I think Maple does not have enough self-control to comply.
  • When Maple matures a little, I am going to introduce leash corrections to enforce the “leave it” command. I plan on using a prong collar when she is old enough to wear one.

While it has been tricky dealing with Maple’s desire to chase cats, Lady was also very insistent on chasing every new cat that came to live in my home, and she learned to leave our cats alone. Almost in the same way, Raina wants to chase cats she doesn’t know, but she is very good with the cats of the house, and is friends with one of them. So at this point, I think the combo of Maple being a herding dog and being an immature puppy is making things difficult, but I am confident she will learn the rules of the house. Still, I would recommend people wanting to add an Aussie to the family to be aware that they WILL try to chase cats, and potential owners must be ready to manage the environment and make sure their cat has a safe space to escape to that is completely off-limits to the pup.

Maple and Raina:

Maple wants desperately to play with Raina, and she flat out ignores Raina’s growls to back off. This means that in addition to managing Maple’s access to the cats, her access to Raina is also managed. Here is what I have been doing so far:

  • When Raina is around Maple, I give Maple a high value chew, and this keeps her pretty occupied most of the time. As with all things, when Maple is overly tired this really doesn’t work, and at that point the only thing that will calm her down is a forced nap.
  • This is something else to keep in mind when introducing a puppy into a home with an older dog. Raina is 12, and she really doesn’t want to put up with an annoying pup in her face. It is imperative the older dog can escape the puppy. Raina likes going in the basement, and the puppy doesn’t go down there. I know, it might seem weird, but between the de-humidifier and other appliances down there, there is plenty of white noise to block out noises such as gun fire, fireworks, and thunder, and Raina has many noise phobias, so the basement is a place she goes on her own. Also, my room is a favorite of Raina’s, and the puppy doesn’t go in there. These escapes are so important.
  • Along with Raina’s own space, I also spend time with Raina without the puppy around so she knows she is still my best bud. I was originally planning to walk Raina everyday, just her and me, but the slipped disc stopped that until a couple days ago when the vet gave her the ok to go on short walks again.
  • Raina always comes first. When I get home, I greet Raina first, and I have visitors do the same. I feed Raina first and put her out to potty first.
    • Note: with going out to potty, I would take them out at nearly the same time early on since Maple had a bit of a weak bladder. Now that she is a little better at holding it even when excited, she stays in her crate while Raina goes in the yard when I get home from outings, except for first thing in the morning. At that time, I wake up earlier than when I just had Raina, and Raina likes sleeping in, so for this trip, Maple technically goes out first most mornings, but Raina has no objections.
  • When I take Maple out for socialization, I give Raina a food stuffed toy or chew-type treat to keep her busy.  
Make sure you spend plenty of time with your other pets when introducing a new puppy.

Something important to keep in mind is that your older dog may suddenly become very needy when a new dog is introduced. I felt comfortable introducing a puppy to the mix largely because Raina has been very independent most of her life. I often joke she is like a cat that needs a daily walk. Sure, she would previously want to walk, want to play a bit, and want some petting, but she was always the kind of dog that would get up and walk off if petted for more than a minute or two. Raina is rarely cuddly, preferring instead to simply be around me, but she has never needed to be in my lap. Since bringing home Maple, Raina has become very needy, and she constantly gets in my face and wants lots of attention. So, even if you have an independent dog, expect their needs to escalate when bringing home a new puppy of any breed.

Overall, Maple is making improvements from her first week home, but we still have a long way to go. Don’t let your pup be obnoxious to your other pets, and make sure all pets have safe spaces to escape. This stands true for any puppy, but can be extra important when raising a head-strong Australian Shepherd pup!

Life with Maple: Raising an Australian Shepherd Puppy

Life with Maple:

Everybody’s first days and weeks with their puppy are going to be a little different, as every puppy is unique. Here is my experience with my Australian Shepherd puppy, Maple, up to 15 weeks of age.

First day:

We picked up Maple and had a 3-hour drive with her home. She did very well with the car ride and slept most of the way. Upon coming home, she met Raina. Their interaction was uneventful. Raina really did not have much interest in the pup, and when she did initiate play Maple got spooked and rolled over! The cats seemed confused by her, but not very effected.

The biggest issue on the first day was peeing. Maple did NOT want to pee! I took her outside multiple times, but she just didn’t want to go. Little Maple May finally went late in the afternoon. She also wasn’t very hungry, but she ate a little and finally drank some water. She did not like being left alone, and seemed quite upset that her littermates were no longer with her. She did very well sleeping through the first night. Overall, she seemed overwhelmed in her new situation.

First week:

I was planning to document how each day went individually, but Maple is quite the handful, so that did not happen! Also complicating matters is the fact that my older dog, Raina, developed a pinched nerve this week. So, between Raina not feeling well and the Maple being extremely exuberant, this first week was challenging to say the least.

As an Australian Shepherd, Maple is VERY mouthy. Prior to bringing her home, I read about how mouthy Australian Shepherd puppies can be, but I was taken aback by just how much this puppy likes to bite. Her worst moments are first thing in the morning. It is as if she recharges all night and awakens a tiny alligator, ready to grab whatever and whoever is in her path. The spray bottle helps somewhat, but when she is really in the zone the best solution has been putting her in her playpen crate (the play pen didn’t work for long, she learned how to climb the sides).

Also, she despises being left alone, but this can be pretty typical for an 8 – 9-week-old puppy. Thankfully, she is progressing well with her crate training, and is slowly getting used to being on her own from time to time. Relatively quickly she seemed to understand that when I take her outside, she needs to pee, but she still does not completely understand that she shouldn’t pee in the house, so housetraining is a work in progress.

People say that these dogs need both mental stimulation and physical exercise. This is absolutely the case! Maple needs lots of playtime, but she behaves and settles the best if she also gets mental stimulation in addition to physical exercise.

Week 2 and 3:

Maple’s personality has come out more and more. She is very strong willed, and constantly wants to go after the cat, Tiger, as well as Raina. True to being a puppy, in particular an Australian Shepherd puppy, Maple still likes to mouth, bite, and nip. Of particular trouble is that Raina still is having issues with her back, and she does not like being confined, but confining her is necessary so she heals. Rotating time with the puppy and with Raina has been challenging, but making matters easier is the fact that Maple is crate trained, and will sleep in her crate now for at least an hour at a time without issue.

Forced naps are an absolute necessity! Maple gets very, very bitey and uncontrollable when she gets too tired, and she doesn’t know if she needs to sleep.

15 weeks old!

Maple is now 15 weeks old! Time has gone by pretty quickly, and she has grown considerably in the past several weeks. She is probably about 22 – 23 pounds, and is very strong even though she is only about half of her adult size. She will let me know when she needs outside, and she hasn’t had an accident in at least two weeks, but I watch her closely and don’t leave her in fully carpeted areas unattended, so I am not sure if she would hold her bladder if she had access to carpet. She started puppy kindergarten last week and had her second lesson today. Currently, she knows sit, down, stay, shake, and come, but she is not completely reliable with any of these, as she is just a pup and her attention span isn’t the best.


  • She was crate-trained at around 10/11 weeks.
  • Between 13/14 weeks she was able to sleep through the night.


  • Maple doesn’t like to sit still… ever. She was vomiting many of her meals, mostly because she would eat and run around if given the opportunity. Now, I keep her in the crate for at least 15 minutes after feeding, and this seems to stop her from throwing up her dinner.
  • Always wanting to get Raina: I have discovered that if she is involved with gnawing on a spiral bully stick, she will leave Raina alone. Other than that, I have used gates to keep them apart, or should I say, keep Raina safely away. Raina likes to walk right over and stand where Maple’s tether reaches, and then she gets upset if Maple pounces her. Maple doesn’t seem to get that a bark and growl mean, “leave me be.”
  • Maple’s mouthiness has been tough, but she has slowly but surely been improving.

Comparisons to other dogs:

Even owning dogs for the past 15 years, I was not prepared for just how much work an 8-week-old Australian Shepherd puppy would be. Raina came to me as a puppy, but she was already 12 weeks old, and I am starting to realize just how much of a difference there is between an 8-week-old and a 12-week-old puppy. Raina, I now believe, was also and exceptionally calm puppy. She did not mouth at people or try to destroy the furniture. She never had any issues with being put in a play pen, and if Raina was told not to do something once, she stopped and never tried it again. She went after the broom one time, I told her no, gave a pop on the leash, and that was the end of that. Raina also had an exceptionally long attention span; from a very young age she would focus on training for 20 – 30 minutes at a time. Unlike this, Maple is a typical pup, 5 – 10 minutes is her maximum limit. One issue I did have with Raina was the fact that she was very difficult to house break. Raina just didn’t seem to understand not to potty in the house, but other than that, she was a very easy puppy.


Maple is a bit leery of new situations and people. She comfortably sits in a crate when visiting stores, but was initially nervous to walk about on the ground. With more exposure and trips, she has become more confident with this. New people are hit or miss; she is chill with some people but tries to avoid others. Overall, she does not run up to new people, but upon second meeting she will get excited to see familiar, friendly faces. This is an area she is similar to Raina in, as Raina also has always preferred her family, and has never been super eager to meet new people. Unlike Raina, she has done pretty well with loud noises thus far, as we had some bad thunderstorms shortly after bringing her home, and she really didn’t seem fazed. She doesn’t like the vacuum cleaner, so we are still working on that. Car rides have gone very well so far, with her only becoming car sick once, and she is always happy to get in the car, where she sits calmly or sleeps in her crate.

I can’t speak to how helpful the crate has been for car rides, as well as socialization. I took her over a family get together, and Maple seemed a bit overwhelmed. I brought her crate with us, and she quietly settled in there and took a nap when she had enough of the new people and dog. This is just one of the many benefits to using a crate, as once trained to it the dog will generally see it as a safe space.

What I have learned:

A puppy will be a puppy, don’t expect too much from them, they haven’t been on the planet long, and they don’t know their place in this world yet! This was a hard thing for me to get used to after having nothing but adult dogs for over 10 years, and having extremely well behaved dogs for the past 8 years. I was getting frustrated with Maple, and I had to take a step back and realize that she is just doing the things that the vast majority of puppies do. Don’t take their biting personally, and when they really act up, it is probably because they need a nap.