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
If you have some information you would like to pass on regarding training a koolie, we would appreciate your input. Please email to email@example.com for inclusion on this page. Also see our links page for some relevant articles elsewhere on the web.
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
A FEW WORDS ON TRAINING THE COMPANION KOOLIE DOG.
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, then off to the pound or worse still the collar is removed and they are shown the gate.
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 7 to 8 weeks, no younger, enquire around for a reputable breeder, not the local pet shop, 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.
Another thing I have found with our koolie dogs is they don't train well on choker chains, the best results have been achieved with training on a leather buckle up collar.
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.
Koolies As Companions
Koolies were bred to be working dogs but that does not rule them out as companion dogs. I was going to say 'mere' companion dogs but there is nothing in anyway mere about a dog that is a true companion as thousands of dog lovers worldwide can testify.
In a recent survey of dog breeds and their overall relative intelligence it was not the German Shepherd or the smart little Poodle that came out on top but the Border Collie. For Border Collie read Koolie for Koolies were developed predominantly from collies from the border region in Britain to do the same work. They are sometimes called German Koolies because much of the work in developing the breed was done by German farming settlers here in Australia.
ALL working dogs are highly intelligent, they also have a bump of independence, they can think for themselves. A good working dog has to have this. A working dog that 'goes wrong' can be a serious problem. If you want a cute lap dog, if you are the sort of person who thinks dogs are born ready made as well-behaved automatons, if you need a dog to boost your own self esteem or just to patrol the backyard, worse live on a chain. If you do not have the time, patience and determination to bring out the best in your dog, for God's sake don't have a Koolie.
Dogs are for life – not till they chew up your best shoes – dig up the garden or you want to go on holiday. All dogs, Koolies included, go through an adolescent phase and this is when most of them end up in the local shelter. They are no longer cute, cuddly puppies but boisterous, cocky, destructive monsters. However it is a phase and they will grow out of it. It is during this most difficult period that the qualities of the owner are put to the test. It is also a time when deep bonds of respect and affection can be forged between dog and person.
Think of a young Koolie as a five-year-old child with a similar I.Q and boundless energy. Imagine the level of boredom if it is confined to a small area with very little attention and few, if any, toys. It needs above all attention; it needs to learn basic good manners and respect for its owner and self-respect.
Showing a dog you are pack leader does not mean bawling at it or hitting it. You show you are the one to be respected by simple things, not letting it leap all over you. This is annoying to adults and dangerous for small children, waiting quietly, preferably sitting, while you place its food down, not pushing through a doorway in front of you; barging past you in doorways can be dangerous and stopping it is a very simple way of teaching respect. It must also learn your house rules, whatever they are. If you don't want dogs on the furniture then don't allow it from day one. But you have to fair, if your Koolie is banned from your armchairs then you must provide a comfortable bed, washable foam beds are excellent, and respect it. It belongs to the dog and no-one else. Go To Bed is one of the first commands to be learned by a housedog.
It is a mistake to think that Koolies require acreage to be happy. A dog is not going to go out into a fifty-acre paddock and trot round it because you tell it to. You have to be prepared to trot round too. It is common to see Koolies and other working breeds advertised in the papers as 'Needing space' and similar such comments. This is not so, what the Koolie needs is an owner prepared to give it the exercise it needs, to walk with it. Cheaper and more enjoyable than the Gym any day! And of course there are other ways of exercising, once you have taught a Koolie to retrieve and/or catch a ball all you have to do is sit on a garden chair and throw.
Because Koolies are so highly intelligent they need their brains exercising too. My companion Koolie, Morty has learned to fetch me things, my hat, my shoes, his lead etc., and to pick up things and bring them to me. I also taught him to find objects hidden round the house. He only has to be shown the object, and prevented from watching where you hide it, and he will happily search the room until he retrieves it. I am not sure who enjoys this game most when he plays it with my four-year-old grandson.
Koolies are not aggressive dogs; Club meetings where they all run free happily socialising with each other with very few spats indeed bears witness to this. This means that once they have been taught to walk well on a lead exercising them round suburban streets is no problem. Invest in an extending lead and your Koolie can take about five times as much exercise as you even in city parks were leads are obligatory.
Koolies, particularly the smooth coated versions, are low maintenance dogs. The occasional brush keeps them looking good. They do not need expensive trips to the local dog beauty parlour. Because there is nothing exaggerated about them, no squashed in noses, bowed legs, too long backs or extra long ears they are a healthy dog. They have been bred to work, not to look beautiful in a show ring. They are very affectionate, loving and faithful companions. They may have stamina and energy but they are not at all averse to spells of luxury and idleness, just so long as they are sharing it with you. They can also be good guards in that they tell you when strangers are around without threatening to eat visitors.
There are a great many Koolies born who will never become working dogs. This is no slur on either their Koolie qualities or their intelligence. In today's mechanised world there is simply a limit on the number of working dogs required. Many puppies unhappily are destined to be discarded as adolescents and will turn up in animal shelters. Those who are found by the right people become companion dogs. If you are looking for a dog and think you could take on one of these be sure you know exactly what a Koolie looks like as most shelters do not. They call them Kelpie cross, Blue Heeler cross or Border Collie cross, but very seldom Koolie. Also remember that 'second-hand' dogs very often come with emotional baggage. Security and love usually disposes of this.
Finally, adopting a dog, like having a child, means you are responsible for its physical and emotional care and its education for the rest of its life. The question every would be dog owner should ask is; 'Am I good enough for this dog?' Not 'Is this dog good enough for me?'
Although a Koolie owner for over 30 years, Michelle has only been involved in stockdog training of both her Koolies and Kelpies for the last 10 years, so offers a unique and fresh perspective without expectations of any results or outcomes. Her ambition was to train her working dogs in the practical application of working stock and for yard, three sheep and utility trials, along the way she discovered what is involved in training working dogs with natural talent for the work they were bred for.
Currently I own and work my Koolies on sheep and cattle.
I believe while all working breeds are to be respected, Koolies do have different working styles, ethics and approaches.
Chance is a gentle soul and has a natural talent, his handicap with everything has always been me, but; he loves me through to his core as I do him. Couldn't imagine my life without him. We started out green together, working sheep when he was 4months old. I was lucky as he had the natural ability to go around his sheep, that is step no.1.
If your dog won't go around stock properly, you have quite an amount of work ahead of you. If they can't get around 10 head of stock and always be on the lookout for a breakaway how will they ever work a large mob.?? I attended Koolie Club workshops on stock handling (I myself just being a pet person) really enjoyed the teamwork of doing a job together. When Chance was five years old I was given a blue/tan kelpie, she is now 5 years.
Koolie vs Kelpie - they are so different. The Koolie is so devoted to their owners that they tend to always look for that thank you. Their natures are much more sensitive than the Kelpie. The Koolie doesn't have as much eye as a Kelpie but what they lack in eye they make up for in strength. The Koolie even if he is calm likes to get the job done quickly, in my opinion they lack patience at times so they need to be steadied down.
My Kelpie isn't strong eyed but has enough to get the job done. Both my Koolie and Kelpie are very good at reading stock. They both have a walk up, Demi is more natural. (But she has me already as a trained handler Chance had to suffer my ignorance).
Because the Koolie is so keen to work at times they can tend to forget their introduction to stock on the cast and tend to sometimes startle the stock.
There are good and bad workers in each breed, and it all comes down to what you require for yourself as far as stock goes. My other Koolie I owned was totally wild on stock it was always a big game to him. He dropped stock and would just let them go and always looked for the opportunity to bite uncalled for needless to say he doesn't work stock now.
I trial both my dogs in yard trials and utility. I am in suburbia so don't have access to stock as much as I would like to. The Kelpie is very independent in everything she does, that is in her genetic makeup. My Koolie is my shadow.
I prefer the Koolie as he is calm and nothing much ruffles his feathers.
Where Demi is a 'flibbity gibbet' she just can't keep still, and has to be moving and working all the time, no off button (she'll even work the other dogs when there are no sheep). Demi will work sheep for anyone if she knows they are in charge whereas Chance has to know you before he will go to work for you. Working ability does come back to breeding, Chance's daughter Fleck is a natural backing dog where her dad needed to be taught.
I feel everyone would get some benefit from attending at least one sheepdog workshop experience with their Koolie. We selected very experienced trainers that have owned Koolie's previous, and manage large sheep and cattle stations and they also judge at sheep and cattle trials.
The Koolie Temperment
Australian Koolies have been worked on stock in Australia since the early 1800's.
In order to keep up with the demands of the grazier and stockman the Koolie needed to have stamina for 14 hour days, ability to move from one type of job to another, be it droving cattle on the long mile, or backing sheep in the race, the Koolie had to do it all.
Their ability allowed them to be gentle and calm around the ewes and lambs yet still know when to use their bite on mongrel bulls and steers. The Koolie needed to be agile and quick, able to jump, dodge, chase, hold and drive and do it well and the Koolie has.
Not all pups are workers and these pups make terrific companions.
But it needs to be understood.
Take an Australian Koolie from the work it has been bred for and expect it to be happy in a suburban yard and nearly every time you will get trouble.
Non-working Koolies still retain the stamina, ability and agility.
Many non-working Koolies have been late bloomers, displaying their natural instincts as late as two years old.
The Koolie Club of Australia has addressed this issue by discovering activities which the Koolie is suited to.
These are Search & Rescue, Pets as Therapy, Responsible Pet ownership educators, Quarantine, Special needs providers, Tracking, Agility, and all Obedience & Herding disciplines.
The Koolie has a brain which needs to be stimulated, beyond simple obedience commands, its working frame requires regular work and exercise.
This is not a breed that will happily remain hours on end in a backyard alone.
We continue to warn the well meaning public, who continue to buy cute unknown puppy breeds from pet shops and then discover too late that they have invited an Olympic swimmer, jumper or runner into their beloved home.
Just listing a few average samples, supplied by our Koolie Rescue Service gives a good clear picture of the problems which will occur.
A lady thought she was doing a good deed when on impulse she bought a little Koolie girl from a farmer she was visiting, the pup was runty, full of worms and looked like it needed a good feed, her mother had been put back to work and the pup was only five weeks old, she felt sure the pup would die if left.
That is just what breeders for profit and puppy farmers like the general public to think, the sympathy deal, works every time. Instead of turning the farmer into the local shelter and putting a stop to his harmful practices, she bought the pup, only to hand it into our rescue six months later, because the little cute baby, tore her clothes from the line, dug up every garden she ever planted, pooed and wet where ever she pleased and rounded up the children of the neighborhood after scaling their fences. We placed her back on a farm where she has learned to work the stock.
A young man saw and bought a cute fluffy, blue eyed, mostly white Koolie pup from a pet shop for his sweetheart on Valentines day, she was in love the moment he presented her with the pup. At first they never noticed the pup didn't jump at sudden noises or in thunderstorms, it didn't bark when the dog next door started up, didn't turn his head when they entered the room, around twelve weeks the couple noticed that he never came when they called but always came when he saw them, then finally while doing the dishes one night some were dropped and smashed, the dog continued to eat his bone with his back to the kitchen, and they realized their special bundle of joy was deaf.
Through getting in touch with our Rescue we were able to support them and help them train their deaf Koolie and they have never regretted getting him, now five year old.
These are just two incidents that are possible for the Koolie breed, the majority of our Rescues are around ten weeks to six months old, pups from disreputable breeders who can't find homes for their unwanted pups so send them to pet shops or impulse purchases who have discovered the error of their choice.
The Best choice the general public can make is to enquire through the club for that breed, the Koolie Club of Australia and our breeders promote and adhere to the Koolie code of ethics, a copy of which can be found here: Code of Ethics.