Whether you regularly hunt as a hobby or occupation (and provided that hunting is perfectly legal in your jurisdiction), there’s a high chance that you already have a perfect hunting dog breed. Or maybe you’re considering adopting one but aren’t sure what qualities to look out for.
In your search for an ideal hunting dog breed, you’ll stumble upon many publications recommending the Australian Shepherd.
However, you may be hesitant about adopting the Australian Shepherd for use in your hunting expeditions. That’s especially considering that the dog was originally bred for herding and not hunting.
But as you may already know, most dog breeds are incredibly versatile and can fit numerous roles. Which brings us back to our question, do Australian Shepherds make good hunting dogs?
The short answer is yes, Australian Shepherds can make excellent hunting dogs. These dogs possess numerous features required in an ideal hunting dog breed. However, the fact that Australian Shepherds were bred primarily for herding means the dogs may require some training and conditioning before they can become adept at hunting.
Read on for more insights into the possibility of using Australian Shepherds for hunting purposes.
More About Australian Shepherds
Australian Shepherds, also known as Aussies, are a dog breed originally developed for herding. Despite his name, the Australian Shepherd was not developed in Australia. The dog traces his origin to California in the United States.
The Australian Shepherd reportedly descended from various herding breeds like collies, which were imported into California alongside sheep brought into North America from Australia and New Zealand. The breed eventually took its name from the former place of origin.
|Official Name:||Australian Shepherd|
|Place Developed:||California, United States|
|Period Developed:||In the 19th century|
|Breed Classification:||Working Dog|
|Height at the Withers:||20 to 23 inches (51 to 58 centimeters) for dogs and 18 to 21 inches (46 to 53 centimeters) for bitches|
|Weight:||35 to 70 pounds (16 to 32 kilograms)|
|Coat Characteristics:||Fairly long and double|
|Coat Color:||Blue or red merle and Solid black or red (with white markings, tan points, and/or a combination of both)|
|Temperament:||Intelligent, Active, Loyal, and Protective|
|Common Health Problems:||Hip dysplasia, vision problems (such as cataracts, glaucoma, conjunctivitis, ectropion, and entropion), hypothyroidism, epilepsy, and allergies|
|Average Lifespan:||11 to 13 Years|
|Year Recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC):||In the 1990s|
The modern Australian Shepherd was developed in California, United States, in the 1990s. The breed was reportedly created from pastoral dogs brought to herd Spanish sheep in North America from as far back as the 16th century. One of the breed’s descendants was collies brought in from Australia and New Zealand, with the dog getting its name from the former country.
Although originally bred for herding, the Australian Shepherd has since become one of the most popular companion dog breeds in the world. In 2019, the dog was ranked #13 on AKC’s list of the most popular dog breeds in the United States.
The Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized working dog breed best known for his athletic body. Males measure 20 to 23 inches (51 to 58 centimeters) at the withers while females measure 18 to 21 inches (46 to 53 centimeters). Both genders weigh approximately 35 to 70 pounds (16 to 32 kilograms).
In terms of coat characteristics, the Australian Shepherd sports a moderately long, double coat. Aussies’ undercoats are denser whereas their topcoats are coarse. Coat colors range from blue or red merle to solid black or red, with white markings and tan points in between.
Are Aussies Good Hunting Dogs?
The best way to determine whether Australian Shepherds make good hunting dogs is by digging deeper into the breed’s personality.
The following qualities may play a huge role in making Aussies excellent hunting dogs;
1. Australian Shepherds Love the Outdoors
The Australian Shepherd was bred for herding. The dog’s original role predisposed him to life in the outdoors.
Well, that’s not to say that your Aussie cannot become a couch potato. But compared to many other breeds, Australian Shepherds are a big fan of the outdoors, a feature that makes it easy to tag them along while hunting.
Also, as they were developed for herding, Aussies can easily chase prey and corner it into a tight space. That’s pretty much what they did to wayward members of their flocks back then.
2. Australian Shepherds Have A High Prey Drive
This is another important trait Australian Shepherds needed to fit into their original herding role. A high prey drive allowed the dogs to closely follow the flock they were guarding, sometimes nipping on their heels to instil good behavior.
When it comes to hunting, a high prey drive will help an Australian Shepherd dog to quickly spring into action at the slightest hint of moving prey.
So, perhaps you’ve been wondering, do Australian Shepherds have a high prey drive?
As we’ve just pointed out, Aussies have powerful prey instincts.
And having said that, can an older Australian Shepherd become a hunting dog?
He sure can. Due to their high prey drive, it’s easier to train even older Aussies to become skilled hunters.
3. Australian Shepherds Are Intelligent
Australian Shepherds are one of the world’s most intelligent dog breeds. Intelligence allowed these dogs to differentiate between the flock they were herding and potential predators.
Expectedly, a hunting dog breed needs to be incredibly smart too.
The dog should be able to use his intelligence in conjunction with his sense of smell to sniff out game. He should also be smart enough to know what type of prey to go after.
4. Australian Shepherds Are Strong and Active
Aussies are generally boisterous and energy-filled. The dog also boasts an athletic body.
These features work synergistically in making the Australian Shepherd a legendary hunter.
High energy levels and streamlined physique make it possible for Aussies to maintain stamina when chasing after fast-sprinting game across rugged landscapes.
5. Australian Shepherds Are Loyal and Obedient
A reliable hunting dog isn’t only one that actively accompanies you on your hunting expeditions. It also entails a dog that can go out there, nail prey, and bring the dead game to you so you can decide what to do with it. But that requires loyalty.
Being an extremely loyal breed, the Australian Shepherd dedicates his life trying to please his human parents. One way the dog may choose to please you is by bringing home game obtained from self-commissioned hunting trips.
Aussies are obedient too. The dog will diligently follow your commands on when to chase after prey and when to back off, depending on the situation at hand.
6. Australian Shepherds Are Adaptable
Adaptability is all about acclimatizing to new environments and fitting into unfamiliar roles. This can happen naturally or with adequate training.
Australian Shepherds are highly adaptable, which explains why dogs bred in California are now widely distributed worldwide. With proper training, Aussies who were originally bred for herding can easily become adept at hunting too.
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What Game Can Australian Shepherds Hunt?
Australian Shepherds are endowed with certain qualities that make it remarkably easy to hunt different types of game. Some of those features include intelligence, alertness, strength & ability, heightened sense of smell, and high prey drive.
Are Australian Shepherds Good Duck Hunting Dogs?
Australian Shepherds are great duck hunters. Since they have a natural love for the outdoors, Aussies don’t mind getting their paws dirty. The dogs will be happy to chase ducks straight into their muddy puddles.
Can Australian Shepherds Hunt Birds?
Australian Shepherds are good bird hunters too. The dogs have an incredible sense of smell and can sniff out any bird from its hideouts. And despite their relatively large size, Aussies can leap exceptionally high. This allows them to pin down a bird before it can fly out of reach.
Can You Train An Aussie To Hunt?
We’ve just gone over numerous features that qualify Australian Shepherds as excellent hunters. But you could still be wondering, can you train an Australian Shepherd to duck hunt?
You can certainly train an Aussie to hunt, not only ducks but any prey.
Here are a few hunting methods you can teach your Australia Shepherd dog;
1. The Freedom Method
The freedom method is recommended for locations that contain the prey you’re targeting. The method involves utilizing the scent of a previously hunted game as a way of piquing your Aussie’s interest. This allows the dog to start tracking the game.
Whenever your Australian Shepherd finds the prey, encourage the dog by issuing a barking command or by rewarding him with his favorite treats.
To further succeed in this method, it would be best if the prey was out of your dog’s sight but not out of reach. Also, gradually increase your hunting range.
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2. The Tracking Method
You can improve your Australian Shepherd’s prey tracking skills further using the tracking method.
Start by placing your Aussie’s favorite treats on the floor in different locations and allow the dog to find them using his sense of smell and sight. Gradually, you can douse the treats in the scent of prey that your dog is familiar with, perhaps a rabbit or deer. Then, hide the treats out of sight and allow your dog to use his sense of sight to locate them.
Reward the dog each time he’s able to find the treats. With time, the animal will associate tracking a similarly-scented prey with a reward.
3. The Brace Method
The brace method requires introducing a budding hunter to an experienced hunting dog called a ‘brace.’ You then take the two dogs to open hunting grounds and let the brace lead the way in sniffing out prey.
The budding hunter will be able to pick up the brace’s hunting techniques and instinctively incorporate those methods into his own behavior.
Remember to choose two dogs that already get along. Besides, it’s best to ensure the trainee dog is younger or submissive to the experienced hunter.
Australian Shepherds may have been bred primarily for herding. But these dogs can also make excellent hunters.
What’s more, there are several tips on how to train your Australian Shepherd to hunt like a pro even if he wasn’t born a natural hunter.
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