Here we hope to offer you some advise on training your koolie dogs. Be aware that koolies are extremely active (physically and mentally) dogs which are a working or herding breed. They have been bred over more than 150 years to work stock. It takes an extremely active and intelligent dog to be able to work long hours sometimes for days at a time, in all kinds of conditions, not stopping for rest or relaxation until the job at hand is done. These dogs are mentally capable of working out for themselves what job needs to be done, then going on and doing it before needing to be commanded, things like finding fly blown sheep in a mob and cutting them out and holding them for treatment or collecting a working horse when told which one by name, proves that their mental needs are a lot more than basic sit stay commands and they need regular interaction (more than once a day pat with the feed bowl).
As a working dog koolies are seen as indispensable by farmers, truckies, drovers, stock agents and station hands alike once they have worked with them for a short while. Many people who have used other breeds all their lives, once trying a koolie will never go back. It is fair to say a koolie chooses to work beside you, because if he does something to make you happy he is happy himself. This will see koolies working long hard days mustering in yard or paddock not leaving his masters side until the job is done or his master has a break. They are proficient workers of sheep, beef cattle, dairy cattle, bulls, goats, deer, horses, calves and lambs. Many will work more than one type of stock adjusting their style to the stock at hand, prepared to stand tall against beef weaners or bulls, but work gently behind dairy cows, ready to nip and push up stubborn calves or able to work off lambs using their own presence to manoeuvre the stock where they want. They will also back sheep.
As a companion dog a well trained koolie will become a treasured member of your family. No training or mental stimulation, will give his instincts free rein and see your koolie become bored, frustrated and probably take over your family’s happiness, your garden and your sanity. Because he will not see you as a leader, he will take the job on himself and train you very well. Koolies can live very well in the companionship of other household pets once trained in respect of their manners to that pet, if not given the boundaries required he will attempt to make his own.
Because koolies are extremely active dogs they are good companions for active people, joggers, walkers, bike riders horse riders, but just tiring your dog out dogs not compensate for good training and interaction.
As an agility or obedience dog koolies do extremely well as long as they are given challenges. Repetitive exercises that are basic commands soon become almost an offence to a koolie. They will quickly ask “why am I still doing this” then go on to “do it yourself if it’s so important, I have better things to do”. But given a variety of exercises, some challenges and fun koolies usually will excel at all sorts of dog sports, including agility, obedience, flyball, tracking, dancing, therapy work, rescue and even as sniffer dogs.
NOTE: All information is the writers point of view only and is not necessarily endorsed by the committee or members of the Koolie Club of Australia. Please understand the information offered here is suggestion only, the committee and members of the Koolie Club of Australia offer no guarantee of their success
Companion Koolie Training
First thing if you have decided you would like a Koolie, – if you have ideas it will be some in-ornate object to help decorate your back yard forget it, they need plenty of mental stimulation as well as physical, they like to have plenty to occupy there brain, or they will finish up yard crazy.
We still want a koolie, o.k. before we go on I would like to say when I refer to the dog it is referring to either sex unless otherwise stated, the best age to purchase your pup is 8 to 10 weeks, no younger, enquire around for a reputable breeder, if possible have a look at the litter, their parents too if you can or a photo is better than nothing, when you look at the litter, if you have kids leave them home, it is best to leave your heart home as well. This pup is going to be a family member for the next 12 or 14 years may be more so it needs a lot of thought, I might add that if you don’t take to the pup don’t buy it, look to other breeders.
When you take your pup home give him time to settle in this sometimes takes a couple of weeks, get him used to his name, the breeder would have told you what they have been feeding the pups on. If you are going to change things do it gradually over several days even a week is not too long, if your pup hasn’t been immunised get that done as soon as possible.
I would suggest that about now you make up your mind to start as you mean to continue. Now he has had his needles a light collar and lead or line if you don’t have a lead, now find a nice clean park take the little one on to the oval if you can, let him follow you about keep changing directions as you go so he has to watch you, use his name and call him to you as you go, plenty of praise, when he is running to wards you and when he catches up a treat is in order, the main thing to achieve this way is teaching the pup to watch you, follow, and to respond to his name, I believe in the positive reinforcement method of handling your dog, so when he is doing things right let him know plenty of praise and your pup will respond, remember your dog can’t understand English, it will take a while till he works out what it is you want from him, keep him involved with the family and soon you will see they appear to know every thing that’s going on, in fact my last Koolie dog was nick named “the dog in charge of every thing”.
One other point I would like to make about now, don’t over do the exercise he also needs lots of sleep. When he can manage to drag the light lead or line around at the park let him have it on at home for short periods around the yard when there is someone there to watch he doesn’t get himself tangled, it is surprising just what they can manage to get caught up in, the idea of doing this is to get him used to the collar and lead, also if you need to tie him up when he is older this will help him get used to the pull of the collar on his neck. Remember if you brought your pup home at 8 weeks you really have only another 8 weeks to have reasonable control over him, and I must say at this period he will be growing like lightning. It is a steep learning curve for him and his brain will be developing very fast, your pup will be learning to read your body language, and there is a need for you to learn his. So might I suggest when training the pup, be happy, smile, talk to the little fella, you are his leader, and always with the dog part of the body language is your facial expressions, remember soft eyes when things are going fine, hard eyes only when you growl at him, don’t scowl only when you are cranky with what he is doing, don’t bear grudges either. Once you have corrected him carry on like nothing had happened (be happy).
There will be times when he may be able to do an exercise very well, then you try the same thing the very next day and it is like he was never shown what was required of him. That happens to all of us, I would suggest training sessions be kept short to 10 minutes twice a day should be plenty, twenty minutes once a day is pushing him for my way of thinking it takes a little while for information to transfer in to the long term memory.
The other point I must mention is when you finish your 10 minutes training it is play time for you and your pup, this is a good time to play fetch, a soft toy is most probably the best. However what ever happens to be his favourite at the time will do. Remember, be happy, if he won’t bring the toy back just hook on a light line and encourage him to return with it. What ever you do don’t growl at him, if you yell at him he thinks that he is not allowed to have it even though you had told him to fetch it, confusing isn’t it? But I must say I have seen a number of dogs that chucked it in just for that reason so long as he brings it in to you is all that’s needed at this time. Why suggest starting the fetch at this time as well as a game after training? There are a lot of things that branch off from this later, such as, seek and find, sniffer dogs, tracking, even herding.
One other point to make at this time try not to bend over your pup, to him this is a very threatening position as far as dogs are concerned far better to go down to your dogs level to show what you are after.