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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi everyone! New to the forum. My SO and I recently rescued an Australian Shepherd from a shelter. He is currently 5mos old. We understood the needs of an Aussie when we adopted him, and we think we're doing a good job of keeping up with his needs. However, he never seems to sit still, even when we think he should be exhausted. So here's a rundown of our situation (sorta long):

-SO wakes up anywhere between 630-730 and takes him out for a walk. I shower in the meantime. We swap spots and I feed him using a puzzle feeder (we have a variety of them and try to rotate). After that, I either do a clicker training session or play fetch or something (given enough time after eating). He gets put in his crate with toys around 930.

-I take him out of the crate around 12 for about an hour to either do clicker training if we skipped morning, fetch, or try some calmness training while I eat lunch at the counter. I usually give him a Kong to work at when I put him back in the crate.

-I take him out around 430-5 to go on a well paced walk (we understand we're not supposed to run him until he's older). I usually try to do ~2miles (40mins or so). After some cooldown (and some zoomies usually), we feed him his second meal. We'll do another clicker training session usually at night. Play some indoor/outdoor fetch. Do some tug, etc.

-This is where the stress/issues come in. He just never seems to sit still. He's definitely teething, so he will go around the looking for things to chew on (even after sitting with a toy for a few minutes). He'll have 'freak out moments' where he goes crazy and starts nipping everyone and ignoring toys and what not. After doing some research I started to wonder if we're over-stimulating him by letting him have free roam of the house. I started crating him for a couple hours at night to give us some free time, and he seems to just plop right down and nap (this will be around 9). No whining or anything. We take him out one last time before we go to bed around midnight and get a quick play session in. He still sleeps through the night with no issues.

So, should we feel bad doing this? I really want him out with us, but I feel like I can just never let my guard down when he's out and it's leading to a really bad case of puppy blues for me. I'm probably forgetting stuff but that's the jist of it. Is this a puppy phase, teething, both? Is there hope for us?
 

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It sounds like you might just be getting some first hand experience about what it's like to be raising a puppy high energy breed, and the terror that is a high energy breed adolescence.

Have you ever heard dog people use the phrase "off switch"? As in "so and so breed doesn't have a good natural off switch"? "off switch" is basically a short hand way of saying that the dog calms down and relaxes when nothing is going on and isn't constantly searching for something to do/bugging you to do something with it. In general, puppies have either no "off switch" or a bad one, and in most breeds they grow into having one. Some breeds- or lines within certain breeds- need to actually be taught to have an off switch, and these are the ones often described as "hyper"/"busy"/as "having endless energy". These are the GOGOGO and ENTERTAIN-ME-ENTERTAIN-ME breeds. Some Aussies have a good natural off switch, and some need to be trained to have an off switch. I just pulled out of the first year with my Boston, which are also a pretty active, busy breed, and a breed that overwhelmingly needs to be taught to have an off switch and doesn't just develop one.

Part of this does sound like normal life with a busy, busy, busy 5 month old puppy. Part of it sounds like he might be a dog that doesn't have a natural off switch, or will and hasn't aged into having one just yet.

How I worked on teaching a dog to relax that didn't naturally just turn off and sleep/lay down/hang out when I stopped actively entertaining her:
- Have a way to distinguish that playing was done for the moment when we've been engaged in tug/fetch. I usually say "no more" and "go play by yourself". If she goes off on her own, she gets to keep the toy and play with it however she wants. If she continues to come over and drop the toy in my lap, I will give a warning ("not now") and then give her a chance to stop. If she doesn't, I put the toy away and ignore her.
- Have a way to communicate to the dog that you aren't going to engage in play right now. If he comes over and drops a toy in your lap, have a specific way to communicate that you can't play right now. With my dog, I say "not now", and her continuing to try to get me to play leads to me taking the toy away.
- If you really need peace, put him in his crate
NOTE: the crate is a great place to stick an over stimulated puppy and give him a chance to calm down, or to put him when you need him more than 3' away from you for a little while. Putting him in his crate doesn't teach him how to calm down around exciting things, though, and always reverting to putting him in there when he's over excited may stick you with an adult dog who has no off switch and has to be crated in order to calm himself down
- Teach him how to be calm around exciting stimulus
When my pup was over exciting and being a nuisance (which for her usually involve scampering all over people's laps and lunging at their faces) I would take a 6' leash and a collar or harness, tell her "chill out" or "calm down" and tether her to me or a piece of furniture, give her a place to lay down (usually her dog bed, or near a rug or piece of furniture) and then go about doing whatever it was I needed to do. Usually, what I needed to do was some kind of work on the computer. Now, when she's worked herself up, I can tell her to "calm down" and she'll usually settle a little bit. If she doesn't (which sometimes she doesn't, because she is still a puppy at just over 1), then I put a leash on her and say it again. I'll usually help her calm down with some petting/massage and speaking calmly to her, as well. The leash stops her from being able to do zoomies (running around like crazy) and from jumping on furniture/people like a demon dog, and at 6' its large enough to roam a little bit but not large enough that she can work herself up further. Eventually, she settles down, and when she does I let her off the leash. If she gets crazy again, she gets put back on. Eventually, you work on fading the leash out. It's helpful because the dog is still contained by the length of the leash, but it is still fairly "free" and can see the things that it's excited about, vs when its contained in a crate.
- Work on teaching impulse control
For a dog that struggles with settling, impulse control can only help. I really like Susan Garett's "Its Yer Choice" game(s)- look into them on Youtube.

Other ideas:
- I find that having one long walk vs two or more shorter walks totaling the same distance can often work a dog up more. With my young dogs, I try to keep walks around 20-30 minutes and do 2-3 a day (if I do 3 a day they might even be 15minutes), instead of one 40-60minute walk. Because I ask my dogs to walk loosely on leash at heel, long walks make me frustrated as well, because eventually they start pulling/forging again and my main method of teaching LLW is not walking if they are pulling. Stopping every 2 steps makes me want to pull my hair out, and then the walk is frustrating for them as well. Perhaps try adding a second/third walk at night, and doing a slightly shorter walk in the beginning of the day. I like to go just far enough that the dog has calmed down and settled into the walk, because I find walks tend to start chaotic, calm down, get chaotic again, calm down, etc. I stop before it gets chaotic again.
- find some good chew toys: bully sticks, deer antlers, himalayan milk chews, sweet potatoe chews, chicken feet, and salmon skin chews are all things to look into.
 

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My 6 month old mini aussie is the exact same way. I even have a very frustrated vent-y thread in the general training forum :eek:

I started keeping him in a playpen during the day, pretty much at all times (unless we are actively playing, walking, training, whatever). Everything I've read and been told says that a cycle of Exercise, Cool Down/Mental Stimulation, Food, and Isolation should eventually get the message across that down-time is down-time. I'm still trying to figure out the right durations for everything. I'm starting to think, as moonstream suggested, that shorter, more frequent "activity" sessions are better, especially during this stage--they're teenagers, they don't have a lot of self-control, they're still learning.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks for the replies! We need to work on that 'off switch' for sure. We have 2 roommates, and he just gets so excited when they're around. Getting him focused can be hard.
 
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