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It has been a long held belief that working breed dogs do not make suitable suburban pets due to the lack of exercise and their drive to work stock.
You do not need lots of acres for your dog to run. This is an important point because even if supplied with hundreds of acres, unless you go with them, they'll just lie near the back door doing exactly the same as they would do in a city environment. In fact as I write this I have three Koolies (5yrs, 4 yrs and 2 yrs) lying quietly next to my computer chair because that is where i am. Therefore a big backyard is not as important as you might think. Dogs rarely exercise themselves much in a backyard. Koolies want to be with you and will be bored if just left alone in the yard all of the time. Being part of your family is far more important to a Koolies well being. They love to be around people and don't like to be left out of things. Koolies are highly intelligent dogs that do need to be stimulated mentally as well as physically. This is why they do so well at obedience and agility. So how does the average family provide the required stimulation to keep a Koolie happy and establish the sort of bond that makes for a dog that can be a truly loved, valued member of the family?
Well as with any young dog some form of training is advisable. Even if you do not wish to undertake formal obedience competitions, a period of time undertaking obedience lessons at your local club with your young Koolie will make him/her a joy to be around and a family member that you can take pride in and really enjoy sharing time with. Obviously it is also a good idea to walk your dog on a regular basis and dogs are a great motivation for a daily walk – ideal for your own health and well-being. Take your dog out with you when you and your family go places. A great idea is to go for a run in the park or along a beach as a family outing on a weekend. If you drop into the Video store, you can usually clip your dog up somewhere outside. Every time out with you or a member of the family consider if it is suitable for your dog to go along.
INSIDE OR OUTSIDE DOG?
The Koolie has been bred to be very comfortable sleeping outdoors providing it has some shelter from sun, wind, rain or draughts. So your dog will be happy if taught that when bedtime comes its place is outside. However, if you want a dog as purely an outside dog (never allowed inside) please ask yourself why it is you want a dog and if your lifestyle one that would allow you to spend enough time with your dog every day if it is limited only to your backyard. If you are someone who spends a lot of time inside, like every weekday night in winter after you have been away at work all day, then the amount of time that you would be spending with an outdoor dog would be minimal. Teach your Koolie to lie on its own mat in the living room, whilst your family is watching TV, or sharing other family time together. Your dog will be much happier quietly lying in the same room as you than it would be left alone outside, no matter how big your backyard is.
Whilst usually giving the appearance of confidence, Koolies actually have sensitive natures and they will not stand for harsh treatment. Forceful treatment can make a Koolie shy and unresponsive and display avoidance behaviours when around people. Whilst firm training is required, this must be done with positive kind reinforcement.
The Koolie, is a loyal dog that loves to ‘work’ and therefore is a dog that loves to be fully involved in life and sharing experiences with its people.
This is an active breed and there are a wide variety of activities that you can share with your dog. Koolie’s excel at Herding, Obedience, Agility and Flyball.
SHARING YOUR LIFE WITH A KOOLIE – ISSUES/TIME AND COMMITMENTS
According to a variety of research into canine breeding and behaviour approximately 40 to 35% of a dogs ultimate behavioural makeup is genetic and the rest (60 to 65%) is attributed to its upbringing, training, socialisation, nutrition and health care.
Temperament should be extremely important to breeders, with only dogs with good sound temperaments bred from. Breeders should spend a lot of time with puppies in their earliest days giving them the best start in life that they can. Before being placed in new homes puppies should be well socialised with people and other animals in their early weeks of life. Ideally the will have been handled daily and have been gently introduced to a wide range of noises and experiences to help them become a happy, relaxed, outgoing and well adjusted dog throughout adult life.
It is important that socialising of each puppy continues, especially during the early but extremely critical period in its development, as this time will form the basis for all that each dog will become in the future.
The more chances a puppy has to be exposed to new things and experiences the less bothered it will be throughout its life when faced with new or stressful situations. Unsocialised dogs can become shy, fearful, and defensive and can even become aggressive (fear aggression).
As with many breeds it is important that Koolie owners do have an understanding and appreciation of the basic instincts that drive this breed along with other characteristics that might be seen as problematic by ill informed owners.
I’m sure you have all read and heard the golden rule that a pet is a commitment for the life of that pet. How true this is! But just is important is that you understand the specific commitment you need to make in the initial period, particularly in the first year or so of your pets life with you. Young dogs require a good deal of your time and energy to enable its role in your family to be one that you can all enjoy. A dog cannot know how to behave in the way you wish it to all by itself; it looks to you for guidance in its behaviour. A well-trained dog is a happy dog, as it is one that knows what is expected of it and who gains pleasure from pleasing you. I can assure you also that if you take the time to train your dog you will also be a much happier owner as well.
EXERCISE AND ATTENTION
The Koolie is an active dog and it does require some exercise to expend this energy, otherwise you risk your dog displaying destructive behaviours. Despite popular belief this need not be a huge amount of exercise, short periods of regular play is adequate. Running around its own yard (no matter how large this yard may be) day and night will not suffice for this is a breed which requires mental stimulation as much as physical exercise and what it really craves is that you spend time sharing your life with it.
Many behavioural problems such as barking, tearing washing from the line and digging stem from boredom.
The real issue for preventing boredom is how you provide opportunities for your dog that stimulate its mind. Some of this will be your spending quality time with your dog (a dog is not an accessory to leave in your backyard alone all day and night), some of it will be taking your dog for walks or on family trips (do try to ‘share’ your life and its adventures with your newest family member), and some of this will be the things you provide to occupy your dog when it must be without your company.
Many people go overboard and buy huge numbers of toys, which they scatter around their house and yard, and wonder why these lie abandoned after a few days while your dog looks for something else to take it interest.
We advocate the use of a ‘toy box’ for dog toys. Large numbers of toys are unnecessary but dogs do bore of toys easily after a few days. Give your dog a few toys and after a few days remove these and put them away in their toy box, giving your dog a new set of toys. A few days latter these toys are removed and the original toys returned. Your dog will treat these toys, which it has not seen for a few days as new and exciting again. You will still need to introduce new toys at times but they will last a lot longer using this technique.
The pet industry now has huge numbers of ‘toys’ designed to get your dog thinking while it plays, through being occupied with specific tasks such as home alone tug of war toys (which hang in trees), to the very successful Kong chew toys and treat balls. (Be careful with Kong toys that have a small round hole as this has been known to suction on to the dogs tongue and has caused a few deaths)
We have found treat balls particularly helpful for dogs that are by themselves as they make your dog ‘work’ for its food. With such devices remember to include any food placed in the treat ball within your calculations for the dog’s daily food allowance, otherwise you might find it rapidly putting on excess weight. ‘Aussie dog’ produces a range of toys especially good for stimulating the minds of working breeds left alone during the day whilst owners are at work. We have found these particular good for breeds such as Koolies.
The one thing that a Koolie does require above all else is large doses of companionship. If you do not feel able to devote a significant amount of time to your dog, and to share your life and activities with it the Koolie may not be the dog for you.
Although adapted for Australian conditions your dog should always have access to fresh water and shade. (No dog should ever be left out in the sun without access to adequate shade!) Most Koolies love water so paddling pools or similar which your dog can stand in or play in are fabulous. Koolies also usually love trips to the beach.
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By Sophia Yin, DVM, MS March 9, 2009
Photo by M. Morris
"The client, an elderly couple, had a 6-year-old male, neutered Rhodesian Ridgeback that was aggressive to dogs" describes Dr. Jennie Jamtgaard, an applied animal behavior consultant and behavior instructor at Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine. "They had watched Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan and seen Millan place aggressive dogs in with his group of dogs and then hold them down on their sides or back if they were aggressive. So they brought their dog to the dog park and basically flooded him [immersed him in the aggression-inducing situation]."
Not surprisingly, they didn't get far. "The female owner was trying to make the dog lie down while she stood on the leash, while all the dogs came up to hover and sniff. Her dog growled, then another dog growled back, and her dog (who probably weighed the same as she did) started to lunge and she couldn't stop it. Then she was bitten while breaking up the fight that ensued. She could not have done an alpha roll if she had wanted to, though she did lament her obvious lack of being in the 'pack leader' role."
In this case, the bite was an accident. But it's not always so.
Jamtgaard describes another case, an Australian Cattledog mix with severe aggression (lunging, growling, barking) directed at other dogs whenever they came into view, even hundreds of feet away:
"The dog was fine with people and had never been aggressive to people before this bite. The owners were Millan-watchers, and dealt with the dog in a completely punishment-based way. They thought this was what they were supposed to do, but felt uncomfortable and frustrated. They repeatedly tried to physically subdue the dog whenever it was aggressive, a technique they had done for months. They admitted to knowing things weren't improving, but didn't have other ideas. Finally, at PetSmart, the dog growled and lunged, and when the female owner—5 months pregnant at the time—tried to force the dog down, she was bitten on the arm. The bite was tooth depth punctures. That was when they called me."
Bite Incidences Come as No Surprise
Unfortunately, these bite incidences are not surprising. According to a new veterinary study published in The Journal of Applied Animal Behavior (2009), if you're aggressive to your dog, your dog will be aggressive, too.
Says Meghan Herron, DVM, lead author of the study, "Nationwide, the number-one reason why dog owners take their dog to a veterinary behaviorist is to manage aggressive behavior. Our study demonstrated that many confrontational training methods, whether staring down dogs, striking them, or intimidating them with physical manipulation, do little to correct improper behavior and can elicit aggressive responses."
Indeed, the use of such confrontational training techniques can provoke fear in the dog and lead to defensively aggressive behavior toward the person administering the aversive action.
For the study, Herron, Frances S. Shofer and Ilana R. Reisner, veterinarians with the Department of Clinical Studies at University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, produced a 30-item survey for dog owners who made behavioral service appointments at Penn Vet. In the questionnaire, dog owners were asked how they had previously treated aggressive behavior, whether there was a positive, negative or neutral effect on the dogs' behavior, and whether aggressive responses resulted from the method they used. Owners were also asked where they learned of the training technique they employed. 140 surveys were completed.
Some Techniques Triggered Aggression
The highest frequency of aggression occurred in response to aversive (or punishing) interventions, even when the intervention was indirect:
• Hitting or kicking the dog (41% of owners reported aggression)
• Growling at the dog (41%)
• Forcing the dog to release an item from its mouth (38%)
• "Alpha roll" (forcing the dog onto its back and holding it down) (31%)
• "Dominance down" (forcing the dog onto its side) (29%)
• Grabbing the jowls or scruff (26%)
• Staring the dog down (staring at the dog until it looks away) (30%)
• Spraying the dog with water pistol or spray bottle (20%)
• Yelling "no" (15%)
• Forced exposure (forcibly exposing the dog to a stimulus – such as tile floors, noise or people – that frightens the dog) (12%)
In contrast, non-aversive methods resulted in much lower frequency of aggressive responses:
• Training the dog to sit for everything it wants (only 2% of owners reported aggression)
• Rewarding the dog for eye contact (2%)
• Food exchange for an item in its mouth instead of forcing the item out (6%)
• Rewarding the dog for "watch me" (0%)
Who Uses Punishment-Based Techniques?
"This study highlights the risk of dominance-based training, which has been made popular by television programs, books, and other punishment-based training advocates," says Herron.
For instance, Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan – the popular National Geographic Channel television series – routinely demonstrates alpha rolls, dominance downs and forced exposure, and has depicted Millan restraining dogs or performing physical corrections in order to take valued possessions away from them.
And like their previous bestselling books, Divine Canine by the Monks of New Skete focuses on correcting bad behaviors using choke chain and pinch collar corrections rather than proven non-aversive techniques.
These sources attribute undesirable or aggressive behavior in dogs to the dogs striving to gain social dominance or to a lack of dominance displayed by the owner. Advocates of this theory therefore suggest owners establish an "alpha" or pack-leader role.
But veterinary behaviorists, Ph.D. behaviorists and the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB) – through its position statement on The Use of Dominance Theory in Animal Behavior Modification – attribute undesirable behaviors to inadvertent rewarding of undesirable behaviors and lack of consistent rewarding of desirable behaviors.
Herron stresses, "Studies on canine aggression in the last decade have shown that canine aggression and other behavior problems are not a result of dominant behavior or the lack of the owner's 'alpha' status, but rather a result of fear (self-defense) or underlying anxiety problems. Aversive techniques can elicit an aggressive response in dogs because they can increase the fear and arousal in the dog, especially in those that are already defensive."
Owners Often Fail to See the Connection
Herron points out that, interestingly, not all owners reporting an aggressive response to a particular aversive technique felt that the training method had a negative effect on their dog's behavior. For instance, while 43% of owners who hit or kicked their dog reported aggression directed toward them as a result, only 35% of owners felt that the technique had a negative effect.
Herron explains that one reason owners may have difficulty making the connection is that aversive techniques may temporarily inhibit reactive or undesirable behaviors – so that it appears the behavior has improved – but it's not a long-term fix. In addition, owners may not have recognized non-aggressive fearful responses to the correction and may have felt the technique was indeed helpful in the particular context. However, increasing the dog's fear can also increase defensive aggression in the same or other situations.
What Methods Can Be Used Instead?
These results highlight the importance of using positive reinforcement and other non-aversive methods when working with dogs, especially dogs with a history of aggression. Indeed, such non-aversive methods, which focus on rewarding desirable behaviors and changing the dog's emotional state, work well for aggressive dogs. (See video links below for examples of positive reinforcement.)
So what about the Australian Cattledog and Rhodesian Ridgeback we met at the beginning of this post?
Says Jamtgaard about her cases, "The Australian Cattledog improved dramatically at our consultation, being calm during situations the owners had never witnessed before, such as the neighbor dogs barking at her only a few feet away. I think seeing what just a few minutes of work could accomplish by changing approach gave them the hope that it could work.
Within 4-6 weeks they began to be able to go on normal walks with her, with dogs at normal distances. I continued following up by phone with the owners every few days at first, then weekly for the first 3 months. They felt so good that they could treat her differently (more kindly). The owner now competes with her dog in weight-pulling contests and can be in close contact with other dogs they meet during contests and on the street, whereas before, the dog was reactive from over a hundred feet."
This calm behavior has continued well beyond the first months of training. Jamtgaard states, "I saw the owner 2 years after the consult, with toddler in tow, and things were continuing to go well."
"The elderly couple with the Rhodesian Ridgeback also achieved their goals in that 6-8 week range, structured similarly to the above as far as consults," says Jamtgaard. They were able to walk their dog safely and have him remain calm when they encounter other dogs. The dog can sit while they talk to the other dog owners. They do walk him on a Gentle Leader, but that helps with the safety issue of his size relative to their weight, should a situation happen. At last communication, approximately 6 months after our initial consult, things had continued to go well."
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The Koolie or Coolie (also known as the Australian Koolie or by the misnomer German Koolie) is an Australian dog breed. The Koolie is a working or herding dog which has existed in Australia since the early 19th century when it was bred from imported British working dogs. Robert Kaleski, in an article on Cattle Dogs in the August 1903 issue of the Agricultural Gazette of New South Wales, describes the "Welsh heeler or merle, erroneously known as the German collie," as a "blue-gray dog about the size and build of a smooth-haired collie, generally with wall eyes." The British background predominated in the dogs that came to be associated with the "German collie" name.
There is substantial variation in the Koolie population, as Koolies were bred to exhibit different characteristics in different regions. The Koolie Club of Australia defines the breed based on its ability to work rather than on its conformation. However, most Koolie breeders refer to the Koolie as a breed rather than as a type, and assert that it "breeds true", with various types or strains.
The Koolie is a 'heading dog', one which has a natural instinct to cast out (i.e., circle widely), round sheep and bring them back to their owner. Koolies are known as silent, upright, working dogs. They are used for "heading" sheep and also for quiet careful work at close quarters at lambing time or for "shedding" (cutting out) sheep.
The Koolie is as diverse as the country it originates from, Australia. In the north of Queensland and New South Wales they are tall, medium boned and agile, bred for mustering Simmental cattle and Brahma over many miles. In The Hunter Valley region and Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, they're thicker set and shorter to flush low lying cattle from the dense bush and gullies. In Victoria, one finds the smallest variety of the Koolie. Koolies are bred to meet the needs of the stockman, grazier and farmer, all agile, all with the same ability to adapt to any situation, all with a strong willingness drive. The Koolie vary from 40 to 60 centimetres (16 to 24 in) in size and are a contrast of coat, colour and body type, although they are merled coat pattern. The solid red or black Koolie are often mistaken for Kelpies, and some bi coloured Koolie have been taken for Border Collies by the general public, rarely if ever by breeders. As all of these breeds share Collie ancestry, they resemble each other.