I’ve been in this breed for a while now, handling other peoples’ dogs and my own. I’ve run the gamut from showing in conformation exclusively to successfully competing in versatility competitions at Aussie Nationals to actually using my dogs in situations that call for a livestock assistant. I’ve lost dogs tragically to illness and sensitivities and I’ve had my share of behavior issues and management. I’ve also had some of the best mentors in this breed someone could ask for. And this, currently, is what I look for in a dog.
Health – Having a dog shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg, nor stress you out. If the dog doesn’t thrive on basic, quality dog kibble, that’s a problem. We expect our dogs to live more than the average for Aussies (about 10-13) and do it functionally – so that you’ll have your working partner as long as possible. They should be free of drug sensitivities, sound sensitivities, and chronic diseases. Should something come up that we know is a problem in the lines, we will announce it as such in litter announcements and to our puppy buyers as it comes. In deference to people’s privacy, we cannot post it publicly here, but just ask – we’re honest and we believe (and were early adopters of) in the Ask + Tell movement.
Ability – No point in having a healthy dog if it doesn’t do what you want it to. Our lines are guaranteed to demonstrate working instinct and ability or we will replace the puppy. That doesn’t mean every dog is a winner or fits what you need, but we’ll do our best to help you find the right dog for you, even if it’s not with us.
We breed for cattle dogs. They’ll have bite to them to back up the bark (though we prefer quiet working dogs), and they’ll be a bit pushy compared to other lines, but for the average rancher or farmer with a herd that doesn’t get moved a lot, you’ll need that power and confidence to work un dog broke stock.
We like high drive dogs – which means they can be a LOT of work. There’s a great video put out by Leerburg Training that illustrates this here. Some of the pups in our litter will be mellow. We wait before assigning pups to see what their basic temperament is turning into to ensure you get a good match. Puppies change with age, but I sincerely believe you can see a lot of the adult dog in a young puppy.
Temperament – Good temperament means different things to different people. We strive for confident dogs that you can park in one spot and keep themselves entertained most of the time : the off-switch. They may be busy puppies, but as adults, we expect them to tolerate the general human lifestyle and that doesn’t mean needing to constantly be stimulated. They should be able to go anywhere with you, but they probably won’t be super friendly. The old-school reserve of a good cattle dog means they make friends when they make friends – sometimes its quick for the right person, sometimes never for the wrong one. They tolerate high pressure situations involving ignorant people and dogs not respecting their space, but if you do not respect that need, you should not have a Tara Aussie.
These dogs are extremely loyal – I don’t expect them to work or handle for other people like they will for their owners. They do best in the same room with you at all times, I do not favor homes that keep them in yards or kennel them, though they should not exhibit separation anxiety.
They should be enthusiastic. We’re people that like doing big adventures, not just stock work, and a dog that doesn’t want to go for a 20 mile hike or extended day backpacking is just not right for us. They make fun performance dogs once they’re motivated (some may be self motivated, others won’t).
They will be hard-headed (as opposed to soft). I’m a heavy-handed trainer and I like dogs that work with that well. We have some softness in the lines but I’m avoiding it as I can. We like some bravery and self-thinking. It’s cool with me if my dogs don’t robotically take commands as long as they think they’re on to something.
They should get along with other animals. We don’t tolerate killers of domestic animals. The herding behaviors we look for are distinct and come in many different combinations. The kill instinct is one thing that won’t get continued in our line should it show up (it hasn’t, in case you’re wondering). We don’t mind the hunting of vermin, however, as that’s a pretty handy skill in the hills around here (or even in the cupboards of our kitchen from time to time).
Looks/Conformation – I’ll be honest, folks. I shave a thing for a good looking dog. Ideally, I’d produce dogs that could kill it in the conformation ring, but that particular goal is a bottom priority (literally, see it here, at the bottom). I would rather have straighter angles and a healthy dog with the ability I want day to day than the alternative. And so far, unfortunately, it’s hard to have everything.
Our dogs might end up with high ears and pink noses. They’ll probably be straighter in their angles than your ideal show dog. But, they’re sound enough to do their job into their second decade and they’re nice looking, too – because we all like the charge of a stranger telling you you’ve got a cute dog. That’s the bonus of Aussies – rugged, useful, but cute. I won’t deny it.