What’s In This Guide
If you’ve been thinking about welcoming an Australian shepherd dog into your home, you’ve come to the right place.
Australian Shepherd FAQs
Check out our readers’ most frequently asked questions about the Australian Shepherd.
- Are Australian Shepherds good family dogs?
- Do Australian Shepherds shed a lot?
- Are Australian Shepherds aggressive?
- Are Australian Shepherds affectionate?
Breed At A Glance
- Popularity:17th most popular dog in the USA
- Purpose: Herding
- Temperament:Active, clever, devoted
Australian Shepherd Breed Review: Contents
- History and original purpose of the Australian Shepherd
- Fascinating facts about the Australian Shepherd
- Australian Shepherd appearance
- Australian Shepherd temperament
- Training and exercising your Aussie
- Aussie health and care
- Do Australian Shepherds make good family pets?
- Rescuing an Australian Shepherd
- Finding an good Aussie breeder
- Choosing an Australian Shepherd puppy
- Popular Aussie breed mixes
- Australian Shepherd products and accessories
History and original purpose of the Australian Shepherd
The Aussie originated in the Basque region of Europe, accompanied emigrating Europeans to Australia and arrived in America from down under with pioneering Australian settlers.
They quickly became the dog of choice for ranchers and cowboys in the emerging communities of the American Wild West. And are still popular farm dogs today
The Aussie’s popularity as an active pet has grown in recent years, and they are now one of the top twenty most popular breeds in America
Fascinating facts about the Australian Shepherd
- Some Aussies are born with a bobtail – a naturally short tail.
- The Australian Shepherd Club of America was founded in 1957. And the British Australian Shepherd Dog Club was founded in 1986.
- Two merle Aussies must never be bred together as double merle puppies can be blind and or deaf
- The Australian Shepherd became part of the American Kennel Club’s herding group in 1993
- An Aussie won best in show at Crufts in 2006
- Unusual eye colors are common in the breed and Aussies can have eyes of different colors (heterochromia)
- An Aussie called Holster won the Masters Agility Championship in 2016
- Amanda Seyfried and Steven Spielberg are both Aussie owners
Australian Shepherd appearance
Australian Shepherds stand anywhere between 18 and 23 inches tall.
Typically, males weigh between 50 and 65 pounds, while females are slightly smaller, at between 40 and 55 pounds.
The coat is medium length, with some feathering on legs, chest, and tail. The Australian shepherd has a double coat—a straight or wavy outer coat that is weather-resistant, and a soft, dense undercoat.
The outer coat keeps hot or cool air from reaching the dog’s body, while the dense undercoat traps warm air between their bodies and their environment.
Traditionally the Australian Shepherd was a docked breed but the practice of docking is dying out, and in many areas including the UK, is now banned for most breeds
The Australian shepherd comes in four main colors: blue merle, red, red merle, and black.
Australian Shepherd temperament
Along with the other sheepdog breeds, Australian shepherds belong to the herding group.
Generally, dogs in this group have a strong instinctive drive to herd, and are very energetic.
Are Australian Shepherds affectionate?
This is a very affectionate and devoted breed. But there is a downside
As they love to play with, and be with, their owners, so leaving an Australian shepherd alone at home for long periods of time is not a good idea.
Are Australian Shepherds aggressive?
Initially, the Australian shepherd can be a bit aloof when meeting strangers.
Once they feel comfortable around someone, however, they can be very protective and make excellent watch dogs.
In any dog this tendency to guard or protect can spill over into aggression if the dog is not thoroughly socialized. We’ll look at socialization in a moment
Australian Shepherds are an intelligent breed and have been successfully trained as guide dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, as well as therapy and service dogs.
Training and exercising your Australian Shepherd
Like many herding dogs, Australian Shepherds can be protective and reserved with strangers. Without proper socialisation, that reservation can tip over into nervousness or aggression.
All puppies need to be socialized but it is crucial that your Australian shepherd is socialized early and very thoroughly to prevent unwanted aggressiveness or fear.
This means taking your Aussie pup everywhere with you, and exposing them to lots of new experiences in the first three months of their lives.
You’ll also need to obedience train your puppy and in general, Australian Shepherds thrive in a training environment.
They love to learn,are very eager-to-please, highly intelligent, and will gladly perform a task until it’s done.
As with other dogs, they respond very well to positive reinforcement, clicker training.
All of the principles of good dog training—consistency, good communication, and teaching according to how dogs learn—will apply here.
How much exercise does an Aussie need?
To keep them from channeling their pent-up energy by destroying your home, Australian shepherds need at least 30 minutes of intense exercise a day.
This could come in the form of agility training, flyball, as a companion on your morning run, or playing frisbee in your yard.
If jogging is your thing your Aussie will be glad to accompany you. And they will soak up any training that you can offer them.
This can be as simple as teaching them to put their toys away or as useful as teaching them to load dirty laundry into the washing machine as demonstrated by Emmi in the video below
Even better, get involved in a sport or activity like agility.
Australian Shepherd health and care
The Australian shepherd is a well constructed dog. However, the breed is prone to hip dysplasia.
This is a heritable condition in which the hip joint fails to develop properly.
While passed down from parent to puppy, hip dysplasia is also exacerbated by conditions such as obesity, inadequate nutrition, and irregular growth.
Australian shepherds may also be prone to a blood clotting disorder called Von Willebrand’s disease.
Dogs with this disease lack the necessary adhesive glycoprotein in their blood to help it clot properly, and may suffer excessive bleeding after trauma or medical procedures.
Australian shepherds can suffer from thyroid disease. It is very common in this breed and can be associated with Von Willebrand’s disease.
The typical signs of this autoimmune disorder are unexplained weight gain, skin conditions, and a tendency to seek heat.
Australian Shepherd Life Expectancy
Various sources claim that the Australian shepherd dog lives to between 12 and 15 years of age. A study published in the UK in 2010 put the median age of death at 9 years. It was a small sample (22 deaths) of dogs and the leading cause of death was cancer (31%)
Lifespan will vary according to nutrition and other environmental factors. You can help give your dog the best chance of a long life by keeping them slim and active
Australian Shepherd Shedding
The Australian shepherd dog is very prone to shedding.
In order to keep this shedding to a minimum and maintain a healthy coat and skin, you’ll need to brush your Australian shepherd dog at least once a week with a slicker brush and an undercoat rake.
Depending on the climate, an Australian shepherd’s undercoat can vary in thickness.
If not properly groomed and cared for, it can become tangled and a nightmare to brush.
As it is so dense, infrequent brushing, and the pooch’s tendency to play in grass and the outdoors, can leave the undercoat very matted. Regular brushing should avoid too much matting close to the skin.
But, should larger matts occur, you may need to take your dog to a professional groomer.
Do Australian Shepherds make good family pets
Aussies can make brilliant pets in the right homes but are not suitable for all families. Due to their high energy levels, Australian shepherds need a job to do or plenty of physical exercise to prevent behavioral issues.
Before you adopt a full grown Aussie, consider whether you can provide the necessary mental and physical stimulation.
Rescuing an Australian Shepherd Dog
To avoid the work of housebreaking and offering a new chance to an older dog, you could consider an Australian shepherd rescue from an animal shelter.
As with looking for reputable breeders, your veterinarian is always a good place to start here.
The Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline is a non-profit organization that rescues Australian shepherds and helps potential owners.
Australian Shepherd Breeders
If you’re looking for a reputable breeder, you can ask your veterinarian if they know any local to your area.
When you’re looking at a potential breeder, make sure to observe both of the puppy’s parents.
In doing so, you’ll be better able to assess your potential puppy’s size and temperament.
Pay close attention to how their puppies interact with one another.
Make sure that both parents have undergone health checks and that the puppy has had the required shots.
This should avoid buying a puppy with a predisposition to genetic disorders common to Australian shepherds. You can find a comprehensive guide to choosing a puppy on this website. Unless you are very experienced we recommend you read it before visiting a litter
Please do not buy your Australian shepherd from a pet shop that sources their dogs from a puppy mill.
Although the price may be cheaper, these puppies may have grown up in extremely cramped and inhumane conditions.
Australian Shepherd Puppies
If you want to buy an Australian shepherd puppy from a reputable breeder, you can expect to spend at least $1,600 for each puppy.
Before you take the puppy home, make sure to spend a bit of time with its parents.
By observing the parents, you’ll be able to more accurately gauge your new puppy’s temperament.
All puppies should be subject to a vet check before they leave their breeders’ home.
Australian shepherd pups should also have hip, elbow, and ophthalmologist screening for some of the breed’s common health conditions.
Some prospective puppy buyers look for an Australian Shepherd Mix rather than a purebred dog. The idea is that this will help avoid some of the health issues associated with the smaller gene pool of the pedigree dog
Popular Australian Shepherd breed mixes
Some of the most popular Australian Shepherd Mixes are listed below
- The Aussidoodle – Australian Shepherd Poodle Mix
- Border Collie Australian Shepherd Mix
- German Shepherd Australian Shepherd Mix
- Labrador Australian Shepherd Mix
Australian Shepherd products and accessories
You’ll want to feed your Aussie a high quality food suited to their active lifestyle and weight
Pros And Cons of Getting An Australian Shepherd
Cons: Without exercise and mental stimulation, Australian shepherds can quickly become bored. This may lead to constant barking and chewing up your furniture. And, as they were bred to herd livestock, they may try this with small children, animals, and even cars if they are bored.
Australian shepherds can become suspicious and fearful if not properly socialized. Despite the breed’s typical confidence and self-assurance, a poorly socialized dog may be reluctant to interact with strangers. In the most extreme cases, this fear and timidity can lead to aggressive behavior or fear aggression.
So for owners who have small children, or are out at work all day, the Aussie is not a great choice.
Pros: This is a lively intelligent and very trainable breed that can provide the right family with a huge amount of fun. At the same time the Aussie will be a good watchdog and a loyal companion. For very active families with older children, this breed is worth considering. In homes where there is someone at home for part of the day, or that can afford a place in a good doggy daycare center the Aussie should be happy. And in homes where there is also someone interested in some kind of dog sport and activity, this could be a great choice
Many of the herding breeds are similar in temperament and energy to one another. You might also want to consider:
Australian Shepherd Breed Rescues
A list of breed rescues in USA, UK, Australia and Canada
- Aussie Rescue And Placement Helpline (USA)
- Australian Shepherd Rescue (UK)
- Australian Shepherd rescue Midwest (Australia)
If you would like to be added to this list, just drop your organisation’s name into the comments box below
References And Resources
- Gough A, Thomas A, O’Neill D. 2018 Breed Predispositions to Disease In Dogs and Cats. Wiley Blackwell
- The Australian Shepherd, The United States Australian Shepherd Association
- Personality and Character, Australian Shepherd Club of America
- Official Standard of the Australian Shepherd, The American Kennel Club
- Grooming, Australian Shepherds Forever
- Arnold, J, The Ideal Dog, Psychology Today, 2015
- Rettenmaier, JL, et al., PREVALENCE OF CANINE HIP DYSPLASIA IN A VETERINARY TEACHING HOSPITAL POPULATION, Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound, 2002
- Kealy, RD, et al. Effects of limited food consumption on the incidence of hip dysplasia in growing dogs, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 1992
- Greco, DS, et al., Disorders of the Thyroid Gland in Dogs, The Merck Veterinary Manual
- Thyroid Disease, Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute, 2013
- The American Kennel Club
- The Kennel Club (UK)
- O’Neill et al. 2013. Longevity and Mortality of Dogs Owned In England. The Veterinary Journal