Other Names: Aussie
Country Of Origin: USA
Dog Group: Herding dog
Recommended For: Families, couples, single owners
Maintenance Level: Medium
Lifespan: 13-16 years
Temperament: Energetic, intelligent, kind, cautious
Good For First-Time Owner: Yes
Good With Children: Yes
Good With Other Animals: Yes
Good With Strangers: No
Good For Apartments: No
Exercise Requirements: Daily walking
Can Live In Hot Weather: Yes
Can Live In Cold Weather: Yes
Can Tolerate Being Left Alone: Yes
Despite being called the Australian Shepherd, the breed actually originates in the USA, and there is some dispute as to how it got its name.
Traditionally used on ranches as a herding dog, the breed is now popular as a competition dog, and as a family pet.
Australian Shepherds are known for their intelligence and energy levels, and require plenty of mental and physical stimulation.
They became very popular after World War 2, and have featured in a number of Disney films.
Color: Tri-color (black, red, blue), bi-color, blue merle, red merle
Height: Males – 20-23 inches, females – 18-21 inches
Weight: Males – 40-50lbs, females – 30-45lbs
Personality And Temperament:
Australian Shepherds are a very energetic breed, and are favored as pets because of their intelligence and playful nature.
They thrive on human attention, and love to be part of the action, regardless of whether this is working or playing.
They are very adaptable when it comes to working roles, and can be used for herding a wide range of different livestock.
Although the breed is very friendly, one of the purposes they were bred for was guarding property, and so they can be quite cautious.
As a result, the Australian Shepherd isn’t good with strangers, although there’s much less chance of them barking or being aggressive if their owners are present.
You should just be conscious that the dog might feel threatened if a stranger comes to the home, but this also makes them excellent guard dogs.
The Australian Shepherd is good with children, and they make excellent family pets.
Their friendly nature makes them ideal for keeping with children of all ages, and the breed is naturally playful too.
Of course, owners should always be wary of leaving a dog unattended around small children, and socializing should be started from an early age to ensure success.
Similarly, the Aussie is good around other animals, both dogs and other pets.
Owners might find that their natural herding instinct kicks in if the dog is playing, but this should present little problem because they don’t herd through biting, like some other breeds.
Again, socialization should be started from a young age, but obedience training classes are an ideal place to do this.
When it comes to obedience training, the Aussie can pick up commands very quickly.
Their role as herding dogs meant they needed to learn a wide range of complex commands, often with little or no instruction from their owner.
This means that the breed picks up training very quickly, and is capable of learning very complex commands. On the reverse of this, owners might find the dog being stubborn if it doesn’t want to learn.
Australian Shepherds were bred to spend most of their day working, and so need plenty of exercise.
They should be walked for a minimum of an hour a day, but multiple long walks are best if you want to keep the dog’s energy levels down.
This should also be supplemented with play while at home, and plenty of toys to provide mental stimulation. The breed is very clever, and so can get bored very easily.
For this reason, and others, the Aussie isn’t suitable for apartment living. They have far too much energy to be contained in a small living space, and their tendency to bark can also become a problem for neighbors when you live in such close quarters.
The ideal situation for an Aussie is a house with plenty of land that’s secure enough for the dog to roam unaccompanied. However, you should always make sure your dog is microchipped just to be on the safe side.
Australian Shepherds are quite low maintenance overall, and so make a good choice for first-time owners.
The only thing inexperienced owners will have to deal with is the breed’s energy levels, but this is quite a small thing in comparison to some other breeds.
Aussies were bred for use in the USA, and so can tolerate generally warm climates. Their coat also means they can deal with cold climates too, as they would have been left outside overnight, and so are designed for temperature fluctuations.
However, owners might find they need to clip the dog’s coat in the hot summer months, and should avoid walking them during the hottest hours of the day.
Although Australian Shepherds love human attention, they can also be left alone for longer periods of time. This is again due to their role as a herding dog, as they could often be left to guard livestock while their owner wasn’t around. However, they shouldn’t be left for too long, and should be given plenty of attention after. It makes little difference whether they’re left alone or with other dogs.
Australian Shepherds shed a lot, and so need plenty of regular brushing to minimize the amount of hair loss around the home. Their fur is medium-length, and is naturally water resistant.
You should aim to brush it weekly with a slicker brush or short bristle brush, and this should be done more regularly in the spring, when they shed to remove their winter coat.
You should aim to bathe an Aussie as little as possible. The natural oils in their coat make it water resistant, and so too much bathing will strip these out and leave the fur looking dull.
Bathing should be saved for when the dog gets particularly dirty, and a good brush should solve most other problems.
As with all other breeds, you should brush an Aussie’s teeth several times a week to reduce the risk of dental issues.
Similarly, you should trim their nails every few weeks, although this won’t need to be done as often if they get plenty of exercise. Walking will help wear the nails down, but still check them just to make sure.
Common Diseases and Conditions:
Overall, the Australian Shepherd is a generally healthy breed, and suffers from few hereditary conditions.
However, one of the most prevalent in merle-to-merle dogs is an increased risk of blindness or deafness. There is a relationship between the genes for coloration and these conditions, and they’ll present from birth.
Aussies are also known to suffer from common pedigree conditions, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, and luxating patella. These are tested for by responsible breeders, so always check this has been done before adopting a puppy.
The breed is also known to suffer from epilepsy and progressive retinal atrophy, but these are less common conditions.
These are again tested for during puppyhood, although PTA has a greater chance of arising later in life. You should have your dog tested regularly for all major conditions, and always be wary of changes in their coordination and overall health.
The history of the Australian Shepherd isn’t very well known, and is the main reason for the misnaming of the breed.
Some experts believe the breed has some Basque roots, and were brought to the USA via Spain, however this is mostly speculation.
All that’s really known is that the breed was first noticed and developed in the USA during the 19th century, where it was used as a herding dog for livestock.
It was favored by herders in the Rocky Mountains because it appears unaffected by altitude. This also means it has excellent stamina in almost any environment, hence why it became so popular as a herding dog.
Although breeds as we know them weren’t around at the time of the breed’s creation, the Aussie is an excellent example of the selective breeding that led to our modern breeds.
They had to handle a wide range of conditions, while still being intelligent and able to work. Since the decline in American ranching, the Aussie took off as a popular family pet, helped in part by its place in American culture.
Australian Shepherd Facts & Figures
Did You Know?
- The American Kennel Club recognized the Aussie as the 17th most popular breed in America in 2016.
- US Vice President Mike Pence adopted an Aussie in 2017. It’s called Harley.
- The Aussie’s intelligence and agility have seen it star in a number of films, including Stub: The Greatest Cowdog in the West, and the 2012 version of Famous Five and its sequels.
- The breed is very popular in agility and show competitions, and often does very well.
- A smaller breed, the Miniature Australian Shepherd, was developed for breeders who wanted everything the Aussie could offer, but in a smaller package.
- The Australian Shepherd soared in popularity after WW2 thanks to their place in rodeo performances. The same Aussie was used on the Jay Sisler show and the early Disney films.