One of the reasons that we invested in Australian Shepherds was because we wanted a higher-than-average chance of them succeeding in farm life. We didn't want them to have to stay in the yard, away from all the animals. We wanted them to be able to be out on the farm with us. Our yard is a fenced three-acre plot which is quite adequate for a dog. But we really wanted them to have the run of the farm.
We did not get these dogs to be animal guardian dogs. A guardian dog is more of a worker than a family member -- this means that they aren't present with the family (as much). We wanted family dogs that could also help make their presence known around the farm for animal and people protection.
However, during the first year of their lives, we had many not-so-good run-ins with the animals. The dogs killed a guinea, nearly killed a chicken, Ritter attacked a sheep (who survived), etc. However, I have continued to work with them and it does appear that they have it down!
Let me be more specific: Arabelle seems to have it down perfectly. She is flawless with the animals and can be trusted nearly completely.
Ritter is still a bit more challenging. He mostly has it, but when he comes out with me, I put him on shock collar. I've never had to use it, but I don't trust him completely. He isn't as "chill" near the animals as Arabelle is yet, but he is very close.
I do NOT take the dogs out together. Their listening skills drop exponentially when they are both out so they go out on the farm with me one at a time. Today, I did animal chores all day so Arabelle came with me two times and Ritter came with me two times. They did great. Here's a video of Arabelle showing how chill she is with our free-range, pasture-raised chickens:
Arabelle continues to want to be out with me. She sees it as her job and it is the highlight of her day. Ritter still prefers just being loved on and staying at home. He will go with me, but he will choose a belly rub over anything.
Arabelle definitely sees me as her person, and chooses me over almost everyone else. Ritter chooses anyone who will love him (and especially anyone who will give him a belly rub.)
When a new person comes to the farm, Arabelle barks and takes a few minutes to trust the person. Ritter immediately rolls over on his back for the new person to rub his belly.
While both dogs are still a little jumpy with kids, they are doing fantastic. We plan to breed them one time only so if you are interested in an amazing dog, let me know!
Yes I said that I would never have another indoor dog. These dogs are still about 50/50 inside and outside, but they spend a lot of time indoors, and I love having them inside with us. There is a different relationship with a dog who lives inside.
All the kids love the dogs, but Sidge definitely loves them the most. He absolutely adores them and says that his favorite dogs in order are: (1) Ritter (2) Arabelle (3) Scrubs.
Aaaahhhh Scrubs. I think of him often. But I don't cry anymore when I think of him. These dogs have managed to nestle their way into my heart, and that makes me a bit sad -- as if Scrubs has lost a corner of my heart to them. But I think he would want it that way. He wouldn't want me to be sad. And, there is no question that Scrubs will always remain the "best dog ever" in my heart.
The kids, who did not grow up with Scrubs as a puppy, are definitely more attached to these new dogs -- as they should be. I truly hope these dogs can usher them into their teenage years and maybe even into adulthood!