Why You Need to Be Sure about Getting an Aussie
Alfie was bred here by Ninebark and MorningDove, and left at 9 weeks to join his new family not far from here. Fast forward 6 months—I received a surprising and alarming message from his owner. Surprising because the sombre contents seemed to come out of the blue, and alarming because of the loaded language: words like “aggressive”, “terrified” grandkids, and the husband wanting him gone.
Sarah and I immediately started looking for a new home for Alfie, one that would have the experience and commitment to turn him around from what seemed like an absence of foundational training. Truth be told, I was nervous about what I’d find once he was returned here. Alfie sounded terrible.
The Situation Gets Complicated
The situation very quickly became complicated by the owners requiring a considerable sum of money returned to them by us in exchange for Alfie, despite the stipulations of our contract, which they had initialed and signed. Our contract, like that of some breeders, requires that a dog be returned without reimbursement after 72 hrs of taking possession of a puppy. After 72 hours, our principal concern is finding a good home for a returned dog - we’re not interested in selling him again or sending money to what’s turned out to be an inadequate home. We might have considered a modest “rehoming fee” but this turned out to be $1500. The owners threatened to sell Alfie themselves failing that—also despite and against our contractual stipulations.
In the end we wanted Alfie back ASAP; we felt his future might become less bright with a lengthy court process or that he might end up in a similarly bad home thanks to Kijiji, and so we unhappily purchased Alfie back from his owners for $1500—hoping we would be able to place him for that amount and recoup our expenditure.
I quickly assessed Alfie upon his surrender, putting him through his paces with some activities that would surely trigger stress points in his bewildered state.
Yes, he jumped on us. Within two hours he was modifying his behaviour, showing responsiveness, smarts, and awareness of praise.
Yes, he lunged and pulled on leash. He quickly showed awareness of corrections and the ability to modify his behaviour with praise alone.
I put him on my grooming table and trimmed his nails, feet, and ears. He was happy and did not show problem behaviour. The grooming table unexpectedly fell over with him on it, and he showed zero reactivity or trauma.
I quickly fell in love with a bright, responsive, sweet, and praise-oriented youngster.
Alfie, Now Walter
Fast forward two weeks this time, and Alfie is now Walter. He lives with two other Aussies and a couple well known in the competitive dock diving world. Sarah and I do wish he had stayed here with us, but we look forward to a productive, stimulating, and loving future for Walter. While we don’t like rewarding people who are financially motivated and don’t have a young dog’s best interests at heart, we feel that Walter deserved his best life, quickly. Now, and not months later.
Walter’s original owners didn’t commit to the training foundation that an active and energetic Australian Shepherd requires on a daily basis. They couldn’t be bothered. Walter grew to 50 pounds and his lack of training became bothersome and irksome. They didn’t want to push through to the other side, which is a young, active boy with a solid foundation of training and the terrible twos of adolescence behind him. They didn’t have the skills and didn’t want to spend money on a professional trainer. It happens often, sadly.
Questions You Should Ask Yourself
If you’re interested in buying an Australian Shepherd puppy, ask yourself:
Can I commit to daily training?
Can I provide an enriched and structured environment for an easily bored and intelligent dog?
Can I push through the Terrible Twos of a dog’s life, which is roughly 7 months to 12-15 months?
Will I reach out—early—to my breeder if I find myself experiencing trouble? Little issues become bigger issues and don't always magically resolve
Will I respect the terms of a contract I sign?
Do I have all the elements in place to properly raise an active puppy and look after an adult?
If you don’t have a fenced yard, if your priorities lie with very young children or grandchildren, if you might consign a dog to a neglectful life in a barn, crate, or kennel, if you might abandon early training in the hopes that a dog will become perfect later, miraculously—then think again. Perhaps look for an older, trained dog.
Walter was a well bred Aussie from wonderful, smart, and loving parents, from a long line of accomplished ancestors. He deserved better. Fortunately, he got a better future thanks to his concerned breeders and a couple who have made several Aussies live long, productive, and super happy lives.