If you’re wanting to get an Australian Cattle Dog as your next family pet, you will want to know if they’re aggressive. And if they are, what can you do about it? Do Australian Cattle Dogs get along well with children? Other animals? Visitors? Let’s find out!
So, are Australian Cattle Dogs aggressive? Australian Cattle Dogs are generally not aggressive towards their people, although they have been bred to be suspicious of strangers. They are courageous and will do what’s needed to protect their territory. They are usually aggressive or want to dominate other dogs of the same sex. Australian Cattle Dogs also have a strong prey drive, so they will chase (and catch) cats and other animals who may run away from them.
The truth is, whether or not an Australian Cattle dog will display aggressive behaviors or show their instinctual aggressive tendencies is going to depend a lot on the circumstances.
We’ll soon be exploring this, so keep reading.
But before then, let us take a look at the typical temperament of the breed and whether this makes them a suitable family dog.
What Is The Typical Australian Cattle Dog Temperament?
The average Australian Cattle dog is loyal and obedient, yet protective and brave. That generally makes for a dog that is well-behaved around the people they know and love, yet cautious and wary of those who are unfamiliar to them.
With this in mind, here are the essentials of this particular breed.
Very Loyal To Their Families
Your Australian Cattle Dog will be very loyal to you once you have earned his respect.
Your dog will bond with you, but these dogs do have strong wills of their own. They need firm owners who will be clear with boundaries and expectations.
Once you show him you are worthy of him and that you are the leader of his pack, he will love you and protect you for the rest of his life.
Like the famous late dog Skidboot (part Australian Cattle Dog), he will even perform with you in some cases!
These dogs make excellent therapy dogs or service dogs – some work in the police, including customs agencies who use them to detect drugs.
Wary Of Strangers
Australian Cattle Dogs have been bred to nip at the heels of herd animals as well as protect people and property.
Your dog will quickly alert you if any strangers approach you or your property: his instinct will be to protect you.
These dogs do tend to be extra wary of strangers, so they need to be socialized as puppies.
It’s also never a good idea to leave your dog (or any dog) in your yard unsupervised.
Australian Cattle Dogs were bred as working dogs, so they love having jobs to do.
They are extremely intelligent – in fact, they are one of the most intelligent dog breeds. Your dog will need physical as well as mental workouts every day.
If you have a very sporty lifestyle with plenty of opportunities for your dog to run and play, an Australian Cattle Dog could be an excellent choice.
However, know that these dogs need much more exercise than most other breeds. Expect to give your dog two to three hours a day of vigorous activity – they have a lot of stamina!
Do Australian Cattle Dogs Bite?
When they are properly socialized as puppies, Australian Cattle Dogs don’t tend to bite out of aggression. They are, however, mouthy dogs who have a natural instinct to nip or bite when herding other animals.
Your dog will instinctively want to nip anything they see moving: not just cattle or sheep, but cars, other pets, and small children.
However, you can teach your dog not to nip you (see below).
Is An Australian Cattle Dog A Good Family Dog?
Your Australian Cattle Dog can be a good family dog as long as you teach him who your family members are. He can be very good with children, though perhaps not very small children, as he does have the instinct to want to nip at the heels of smaller creatures who are running in front of him!
If you raise your dog amongst your children and teach both the dog and the children how to play with each other, they can be excellent companions.
Because these dogs love to run and play, they will happily burn off some of their excess energy with your family by romping about wherever possible.
Make sure you have outdoor space for your dog to explore.
Australian Cattle Dogs were bred for farm work, so they don’t do well in apartments.
And if you do have sheep or other herd animals, even better! You’ll be amazed at your dog’s skill in rounding up these animals.
If you don’t have farm animals, there are other jobs you can get your dog to do to keep him busy.
If you have other pets, your Australian Cattle Dog can get along well with them as long as he has been raised with them.
You will need to teach him not to herd them, though, which can be challenging if you have smaller animals such as rabbits or cats.
Be sure to provide hiding places for cats: some Australian Cattle Dogs will have a stronger herding instinct.
Your feline needs to be sure there’s a safe place to go where he can escape all that enthusiasm!
Although very protective of their families, these dogs don’t bark as much as other breeds. They will alert you in different ways if they think something (or someone) needs your attention.
What Can Make Australian Cattle Dogs Aggressive?
Several things can make an Australian Cattle Dog aggressive – the same things that will make any dog unhappy.
Lack of Stimulation
If your Australian Cattle Dog doesn’t get enough physical or mental exercise, he will be miserable (and therefore destructive). These are extremely intelligent dogs who need to run, jump, play, and think.
Anxiety Or Fear
If your dog feels he cannot escape from something he feels is dangerous, he will fight in order to feel safe. Fear is the most common cause for aggression, not just in Australian Cattle Dogs but in dogs generally.
Wanting To Protect Territory
Australian Cattle Dogs are highly protective, so he will want to protect both you and his territory. He will do what it takes to keep intruders away from his loved ones and from what he perceives as his (or yours!)
Wanting To Guard Resources
Dogs naturally will want to protect their resources in order to survive.
If your dog feels something or someone is threatening his food, toys, or other resources, he may want to guard these resources to feel safe.
Resource guarding is closely related to fear.
Collecting resources also comes under your dog’s predatory instincts. Dogs are predators, after all, and Australian Cattle Dogs have a strong drive to chase and capture smaller animals.
Pain Or Distress
It could be that your dog is in physical pain or distress. This is why you must never leave small children alone with dogs under any circumstances.
We all tend to want to lash out when we aren’t feeling well, and dogs are no different. Unfortunately, they can’t tell us when something hurts.
If your dog suddenly displays more aggressive or fearful behavior, a trip to the vet is usually the first thing to do.
How To Prevent Aggression In Australian Cattle Dogs
There are several ways to prevent aggression in Australian Cattle Dogs.
Socialize Him As A Puppy
Young dogs need to get used to being around unfamiliar people, situations, and animals.
Take your Australian Cattle Dog to obedience classes, dog parks, group hikes, and other places where he will be likely to be around new stimuli.
Teach your dog how to be with your family: because this is a mouthy breed, have chew toys handy to satisfy his need to have something in his mouth that isn’t your hand or fingers!
Train your dog right from puppyhood that nipping hands isn’t acceptable behavior. Let him have chew toys and play fetch games with them.
Get your dog used to visitors and let him know how you want him to behave.
Let him learn how ‘safe’ visitors behave to sense the difference between people who are welcome and those who are not.
Consistent Training Right From The Start
From the first day your dog comes home with you, it’s crucial to train him well. Your dog will need to know that you are in charge: you make the decisions and set the boundaries.
Continue to have regular training sessions with your dog to remind him who the pack leader is. He will enjoy it, and you’ll be surprised at how much he can learn!
Only use positive training with your dog.
Australian Cattle Dogs are very clever, and once they’ve figured out what you want them to do, they will usually comply if you’ve earned their respect.
Satisfy His Desire To Herd Animals
Australian Cattle Dogs were bred to herd other animals, so you will need to satisfy his herding desire in some way.
Some people try to suppress this herding instinct, which isn’t fair to the dog.
Give your dog jobs with a structure and boundaries, or try some of these activities:
- Fetch – like Frisbee fetch (lots of it! Your dog loves to fetch and carry things)
- Horseback riding (give him his own horse, though!)
- Tetherball games
- Herding trials (some dog clubs have these)
- Agility training
- Obstacle courses
- Together sports like skijoring (your dog can pull you on skis)
- Hiking (you can give your dog a backpack containing gear: 10 to 20 percent of his body weight, which can have a calming effect)
As you can see, the Australian Cattle dog can make quite an addition to the family.
And the good news is, aggressive behaviors are typically rare in the breed when they are cared for and raised correctly.
That being said, you do need to be mindful and cautious with this breed.
They are typically best for an experienced owner, or family that is used to dogs with the know-how of establishing a family hierarchy where the dog does not rule the roost.
And at the same time, you do need to consider when and where you take them.
You need to be in command and in control, should you encounter a stranger on a walk for instance.
Nevertheless, if you keep your dog engaged, active, train and socialize them properly from the time that they are a young puppy, there is no reason why aggression should be witnessed in your dog.
At least regularly or to the point where it becomes a real issue.
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.