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The History of Australian Shepherds


Chapter VI:  Jay Sisler


Jay Sisler with John, Joker Greta and Silver
Photo Courtesy Jay Sisler / Larry Lansbaugh


Jay Sisler, a rancher and rodeo competitor from Idaho entertained rodeo audiences during the 1950s and 1960s with his Australian Shepherds and their amazing tricks.  When he was a little boy, he wanted to be a sled driver in Alaska.  Jay taught his father’s bird dog and some of the family’s cow dogs to pull him around the ranch on a cart.  Jay’s professional career as a dog trainer began by accident.  He was working with horses when he got stepped on and broke his ankle.  While he was healing, he taught his two young cow dogs tricks.


He divided each task into small segments and used leftover pancakes, petting, and kind words to teach the pups to balance on bars, stand on their heads, jump rope, walk on their front legs, play leap frog while hopping on their hind legs, and feign an injured leg, among countless other tricks.  Stub and Shorty were eager to please.  As the pups grew he phased out the pancakes.  In that way the dogs worked for him and not for the food reward.  Though he trained many dogs over the years, Jay said, “If I hadn’t had real good dogs when I started, I probably never would have learned to train dogs.  I’m sure that some of the dogs I’ve trained since would have discouraged me before I got started.”


All of his training was done without the use of a leash.  Jay’s philosophy was to never force a dog to do something but to persuade it to do the behavior voluntarily. For example, if to teach a dog to stand, he wouldn’t lift him into position; instead, he coaxed the dog into position.  He believed that you had to take the necessary time to teach a pup slowly.  He felt if you pushed a dog into something he couldn’t do or understand, he would become discouraged and wouldn’t be able to do what was expected of him.


Jay got his first job in 1949, when a promoter offered him $10 to perform at a rodeo in Star, Idaho.  That launched his rodeo career and opened the door into show business.  Besides performing at many of the largest arenas in the United States and Canada, he toured with Roy Rogers and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.  His dogs were featured in several Walt Disney productions: Cow Dog (1956); Run, Appaloosa, Run (1967); and Stub: Best Cow Dog in the West (1973), featuring his Australian Shepherds, Stub, Shorty, and Queen, performing their trademark tricks and working an ornery 1,800-pound horned Brahma bull in the picturesque Santa Inez Valley.


In 1959 Jay purchased the 300-acre property he had worked as a boy and paid for it with the earnings from his highly successful rodeo act - he said it was “a ranch the dogs bought.”  Part of the property is set on a plateau overlooking a valley bordered by the Payette River on the south.  Jay was called to greener pastures in 1995, but his extraordinary way with animals will continue to inspire generations to come.



Jay Sisler jumping rope with Stub and Shorty.
Photo Courtesy Floyd McCall 1954


Jay Sisler


Sisler's Silver in
Run, Appaloosa, Run



Copyright © 2010 by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor. All Rights Reserved.


No part of the material covered by this copyright may be reproduced in any form without written permission from the author.


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Chapter I:

The Australian Shepherd and Breeds From a Common Root

Chapter II:

Timeline:  Breed Development From Obscurity Into Mainstream Popularity

Chapter III:  Australian Shepherd History Revisited: Part I: Influence of the Basques  
Chapter IV: Australian Shepherd History Revisited, Part II: Documented Early Imports  
Chapter V: Australian Shepherds and Sheep Ranching on the Open Range  
Chapter VI: Jay Sisler  

For more historical information about Aussies, click on any of the links below:

The History of Las Rocosa Aussies

The History of the Australian Shepherd Club of America


For a much more detailed account of the origin and history, richly documented with historic photos, please see the book:

The Total Australian Shepherd:  Beyond the Beginning
by Carol Ann Hartnagle & Ernest Hartnagle


Telephone: 303.659.6597
Fax: 303.659.6552
Breeding Sound Versatile Aussies Since 1955
Founding/Lifetime Members ASCA and USASA

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Las Rocosa Australian Shepherds & cannot be reproduced without written consent. All Rights Reserved.

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