The Australian Shepherd dog breed is intelligent, energetic, and loving. They need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy.
The Aussie Shepherd is an American ranch dog that is often found on farms. But now, more than ever, the breed is also being kept as a loving, devoted family pet.
Quick Stats: Australian Shepherd
|Popularity:||17th most popular dog in the USA|
|Weight:||40 – 65 lbs|
|Height:||18 – 23 inches|
|Temperament:||Intelligent, energetic, devoted|
|Coat:||Double, weather resistant coat|
Common Aussie Shepherd Questions
Follow the links to find out more!
|Are Australian Shepherds good family dogs?||They are great family dogs for active, devoted homes with plenty of time to give.|
|How Much Is an Australian Shepherd Puppy?||$800 – $2500 on average|
|Do Australian Shepherds shed a lot?||Yes, they shed moderately all year and heavily during shedding seasons.|
|Do Australian Shepherds Bark?||They may bark if not getting enough exercise and mental stimulation.|
|Are Australian Shepherd dogs aggressive?||Often aloof with strangers, can be aggressive if not properly socialized.|
Pros And Cons of Getting An Australian Shepherd Dog
|Intelligent and easy to train||Easily bored – needs lots of entertainment|
|Will get on well with older children||May try to herd small kids or other pets|
|Very loyal to close family||Can be aggressive and fearful if not well socialized|
|Great fit for active families||Prone to barking and chewing if exercise needs aren’t met|
What Else Is In This Guide?
- History of the Aussie Shepherd
- Fun facts about the Australian Shepherd dog
- Training and exercising your Aussie
- Australian Shepherd health
- Rescuing an Australian Shepherd
- Finding an Australian Shepherd puppy
History and Original Purpose
Oddly enough, this is not an Australian dog breed. Aussie origins lie in the Basque region of Europe.
These working dogs crossed the world with their owners.
Some went to Australia first and some most likely arrived in America. They made the long journey from down under with the first Australian settlers.
They became the dog of choice for ranchers in the American Wild West and are still popular farm dogs today.
Fun Facts About Australian Shepherds
The Aussie’s fan base has grown over the years. This breed has become one of the top twenty most loved in America, ranking 17th in the American Kennel Club’s popularity list.
An Australian Shepherd was part of some research with Sony’s robotic dog AIBO. Part of the experiment was to find out whether children preferred playing with the real dog or the robot.
Guess who won? The Aussie of course!
Here are some other fun facts about this lovable breed:
- Some Aussies are born with a bobtail.
- The Australian Shepherd Club of America was founded in 1957.
- Two merle Aussies must never be bred.
- Double merle puppies can be blind and or deaf.
- Aussies with a lot of white fur are also more likely to be deaf.
- The breed became part of the AKC’s herding group in 1993.
- An Aussie Shepherd won best in show at Crufts in 2006.
- Unusual eye colors are common in the breed.
- Aussies can have eyes of different colors (heterochromia).
- An Aussie Shepherd called Holster won the Masters Agility Championship in 2016.
- Amanda Seyfried and Steven Spielberg are both Aussie owners.
Australian Shepherd Dog Appearance
|Height:||18 – 23 inches|
|Weight:||50 – 65 lbs (males)|
40 – 55 lbs (females)
|Markings:||Merle and tri-color coats are popular in this breed|
|Coat Type:||Doubled layered coat, can be straight or wavy|
A Closer Look at the Aussie Coat
The Australian Shepherd dog has a mid-length double coat. They have some longer fur on their legs, chest and tail.
Their fur has a straight or wavy outer coat. That layer is weather resistant. Perfect for hardy working dogs.
They also have a soft, dense undercoat.
So, the outer coat keeps hot or cool air from reaching the dog’s body. And meanwhile, the dense undercoat traps warm air close to their skin.
The coat on dogs from working lines tends to be shorter. But, coats on dogs bred for show are usually longer.
Tails and Eyes
For decades, the Australian Shepherd was a docked breed.
But, docking is dying out. In many areas including the UK, it is now banned for most breeds. So, it has become common to see Aussies with full tails.
Their eyes are perhaps their most striking feature. They range in color from blue, to amber, to brown.
Sometimes they may have two different colored eyes. This is a condition called Heterochromia. Humans can get it too!
The Australian shepherd comes in four main colors. These are:
Click here to read all about these colors.
Or here to find out about the rarer tri-color variations.
Australian Shepherd Temperament
Australian shepherds belong to the herding group.
Dogs in this group have a strong herding instinct. This is what makes them attractive as working dogs for ranchers and shepherds.
They are also very energetic, needing lots of exercise. The dog’s temperament is well-suited to an active life.
Alert, smart, and loyal, this breed can make an excellent companion provided they are socialized well.
High Social Needs
This is a very loving and devoted breed. But there is a downside to that love and loyalty.
Aussies want to play with, and be with, their owners. Of course this can be a great thing as long as there is someone around to play with them.
Leaving an Aussie alone at home alone all day can lead to trouble.
They can become worried and have behavioral problems. As a result it is best not to leave them alone for long, or to shut them out in the yard or kennel.
Australian Shepherds are clever dogs that often work as service dogs. This includes working as guide dogs, search and rescue dogs, and therapy dogs.
So, you may assume that they will be friendly with everyone they meet. And, if socialized well, they should be!
However, Aussies can sometimes be aloof, especially when meeting strangers for the first time.
Their reserve with strangers means that the breed can make good watch dogs. The downside is that this urge to guard or protect can spill over into aggression.
This should not be a problem if the dog is fully socialized as a pup.
It is crucial that your Australian shepherd puppy is socialized early.
Up to thirteen weeks of age puppies welcome new experiences. Later it becomes harder to raise a friendly pup.
This means taking your Aussie pup everywhere with you. You’ll need to show your puppy lots of new sights and sounds.
Make sure you do this in the first three months of their lives.
Are Aussies Good with Kids and Other Pets?
One of the Australian Shepherd’s defining characteristics is its knack for herding.
Bred to work on the ranch, these dogs are a dab hand at keeping control of flocks and herds.
Herding is a great behavior to have for some working dogs but it also comes with its drawbacks. This is particularly true if you have a young family and are considering an Aussie of your own.
Without proper socialization, an Australian Shepherd may be likely to try to herd members of your family, including other pets. This might mean ‘rounding up’ where the dog will try to put people into a certain space.
While that may sound harmless, one way dogs herd is by nipping or biting at the heels of the animals they are trying to herd. This is why we advise being cautious when it comes to Aussies and children.
You can find out more information on herding dogs here.
Australian Shepherd Barking
In general, Aussies aren’t a very vocal breed. But there are times when they are more likely to bark.
Some Aussies will bark when strangers approach your home, especially if they have not been well socialized.
But, more commonly, Australian Shepherds will bark if they have too much pent up energy that isn’t being adequately burnt off.
As a clever and active breed, Aussies need a lot of physical and mental stimulation.
Training and Exercising Your Australian Shepherd
Along with proper socialization from a young age, you’ll also need to obedience train your puppy.
Luckily, Aussies enjoy training. They love to learn and are very eager-to-please.
The breed responds very well to positive training methods. This is also a great way to strengthen your bond.
Training is vital to stimulate your Aussie’s brain. These dogs will soak up any training you can offer them.
This could 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!
Don’t miss the demo by Emmi in the video below:
Guides to Get You Started
Check out these guides to get you started:
- Best training methods for puppies
- Train your puppy to sit
- 7 ways to improve your dog’s behavior in a week
- How does clicker training work
- Online Training Courses
Australian Shepherd dogs have a lot of energy. Getting enough exercise is key to keep them happy and stop them destroying your home.
The best way is to divert that energy into games or sports. Adult Aussies need at least 30 minutes of intense exercise a day.
This could come in the form of agility training, flyball, or a morning run. Or simply playing Frisbee in your yard.
If you can train them some fun herding techniques, even better!
Aussie Shepherd Health and Care
The Australian Shepherd is a well built dog with a healthy body shape.
If you choose a puppy from a reputable breeder that health tests dogs before breeding, your Aussie could easily live into their mid-teens.
But, like all breeds, there are some common issues that the Aussie is prone to.
Australian Shepherd Health Risks to be Aware Of:
|Eyes:||Collie Eye Anomaly, cataracts|
|Joins:||Hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia|
|Other:||Deafness, von Willebrand’s disease, autoimmune thyroiditis, Multiple Drug Sensitivity|
Epilepsy is a neurological disease in dogs, often characterised by seizures.
One study found that epilepsy and epilepsy connected to movement disorders was a primary concern for Australian Shepherd owners.
Collie Eye Anomaly
The Australian breed is one of the herding breeds that can suffer from Collie Eye Anomaly.
In this condition, the blood vessels in your dog’s retina are underdeveloped. Over time, this issue will lead to blindness.
Hereditary cataracts are another common issue in the Australian Shepherd breed.
This is a problem in which a cloudy film develops over your dog’s eye lens, restricting their sight.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Aussies are also prone to hip dysplasia (HD) and elbow dysplasia.
This is a condition in which the joint at your dog’s hip or elbow fails to develop properly.
HD is painful and can make dogs lame. But there are steps you can take to reduce the risk.
Keeping a dog slim can help hips develop normally. So, can making sure they don’t grow too quickly.
This means avoiding giving a puppy too much food. Stick to their recommended calorie allowance, and speak to your vet for more information.
Avoiding hard exercise, jumping or climbing while puppies are young may also help.
Ensure that puppies are only ever bred from dogs that have been tested for HD.
As we briefly learnt earlier, certain types of Australian Shepherd can be more prone to deafness and hearing problems than others.
Aussies with the double merle gene are more likely to experience hearing related problems.
As are those with large patches of white fur.
von Willebrand’s Disease
Von Willebrand’s Disease is a blood clotting disorder that can occur in Australian Shepherds.
Dogs with this disease lack a glycoprotein in their blood. The protein is needed to help blood clot properly.
Dogs with Von Willebrand’s disease may suffer heavy bleeding. This is especially the case after trauma or surgery.
Australian shepherds can also suffer from thyroid disease. It is very common in this breed and it can occur with Von Willebrand’s disease.
The typical signs of this autoimmune disorder are unexplained weight gain and skin conditions.
Dogs may also feel cold and try to find a warm place to rest.
Multiple Drug Sensitivity
A final common problem that Aussie owners should be aware of is multiple drug sensitivity.
This is a gene mutation that prevents affected dogs from removing certain drugs from their brains.
This can be a fatal problem.
There are many options when it comes to feeding your dog. Puppies require a different diet to adult dogs. This article explains in further detail: Choosing the right food for Aussie puppies.
It’s important to find a diet that is suited to their active lifestyle and weight.
As well as a good diet and regular exercise, you should check your Aussie’s ears and nails regularly.
Clean out any excess wax from their ears to lower the risk of ear infection. And trim their nails when they start getting too long.
The Australian Shepherd Dog is very prone to shedding.
The good news is, grooming often can help to keep this shedding to a minimum. It also helps you bond with your dog!
An Australian shepherd’s undercoat can vary in thickness. If not properly groomed and cared for, it can become tangled. When it becomes tangled it can be a nightmare to brush.
You’ll need to brush your Australian shepherd dog at least once a week. The best tools for this are a slicker brush and an undercoat rake.
If you don’t brush often your dog’s coat may get matted. Matted fur can be hard to cope with at home. You may need to ask a professional groomer to remove them.
It’s important that you don’t shave or close clip your Aussie. This is because the double coat might not grow back in the same way.
What is the 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%)
The lifespan of any dog will vary according to diet and to factors outside your control.
But you can help give your dog the best chance of a long life by keeping them in good shape and active.
Do Australian Shepherds Make Good Family Pets?
Aussies can make brilliant pets in the right homes. But they are not suitable for all families.
Australian shepherds need a job to do or plenty of exercise. This will help to prevent behavior issues.
Before you adopt a full grown Aussie, think about whether you can provide what they need.
You need to be able to offer at least 30 minutes of daily intense exercise and play for your Aussie with an additional hour’s walk.
So if you are not very interested in dog training, and activities, you may wish to explore other breeds.
You also need to be ready to groom your dog weekly, and to fulfil all of their mental stimulation and social needs.
Rescuing an Australian Shepherd Dog
Rescuing often avoids the work of house breaking. It also offers a new chance to an older dog.
It can also be very rewarding to rescue a dog from an animal shelter.
Since Aussie Shepherds are so popular, finding a rescue center is often very easy. We’ve got some links below to get you started on your search.
Finding an Australian Shepherd Rescue Center
Finding an Australian Shepherd Puppy
The Australian Shepherd Clubs in your region are a good place to look for breeders.
National clubs will be able to put you in touch with local clubs. These local clubs will put you in touch with reputable breeders near you!
When you visit a breeder, make sure you meet the puppies with their mom. Ideally it is best to meet both of the puppy’s parents to make sure they are friendly and not nervous.
Check that both parents have had health checks. And do also check that the puppy has had the shots they need. Your vet will tell you what these are in your area.
This should help to reduce the risk of buying a puppy that might get sick.
You can find a clear guide to choosing a puppy here.
Where to Avoid
Don’t buy your Australian Shepherd from a puppy mill or from a pet store.
These stores often get their dogs from puppy mills.
Sadly, puppy mill pups do not have a good start in life. And mother dogs in puppy mills have no life at all.
Australian Shepherd Puppy Price
The price of Aussie Shepherd puppies varies depending on your location, current demand, coat color, and pedigree lineage.
Generally, an Australian Shepherd puppy can cost anywhere from $800 to over $2500.
Those with merle coats often sell for higher prices, since this coloring is so popular.
You should be able to collect your puppy from about 8 weeks of age. Don’t take a puppy any younger than this.
It’s also best not to buy two puppies at once.
Raising an Aussie Puppy
Caring for a vulnerable Australian Shepherd puppy is a big responsibility. There are some great guides to help you with all aspects of puppy care and training.
Popular Australian Shepherd Breed Mixes
Some puppy buyers look for an Australian Shepherd Mix instead. If this is something you’re interested in, take a look at some of other Aussie mix guides:
- Border Collie Australian Shepherd mix
- Australian Shepherd Husky mix
- Aussie German Shepherd mix
- Australian Shepherd Lab mix
- The Aussidoodle – Australian Shepherd Poodle mix
Comparing the Australian Shepherd With Other Breeds
There are a lot of similar breeds to the lovable Aussie. If you’re stuck between an Australian Shepherd and another dog, these guides may help:
Many of the herding breeds are similar to one another. But there are plenty of others with similar traits too.
Perhaps you haven’t made up your mind yet about which breed of dog you like best. If so, you might also want to consider:
- The Border Collie
- The Australian Cattle Dog
- German Shepherd Husky Mix
- The King Shepherd
- Treeing Cur
- Russian Bear Dog
Australian Shepherd Products and Accessories
Aussies need plenty of stimulating toys and high quality grooming products. Here are some guides to help you prepare:
- Puppy Care
- Potty Training Schedules
- Stopping Puppy Biting
- Best Interactive Dog Toys
- Kong Dog Toys – Reviews and Tips for Choosing
- Puppy Toys: The Best Dog Toys For Puppies
- Best Dog Puzzle Toys for Clever Dogs
- Australian Shepherd Grooming Tools
The Australian Shepherd: Summary
Aussies are clever, energetic and loyal dogs that can make a great family pet, or a high quality working dog.
They take a lot of time and effort to care for, so may not suit novice owners. But, you’re guaranteed to have a friend for life.
Do you have an Australian Shepherd dog at home?
References And Resources
- Gough, A. (et al), ‘Breed Predispositions to Disease In Dogs and Cats’, Wiley Blackwell (2018)
- O’Neill, (et al), ‘Longevity and Mortality of Dogs Owned In England’, The Veterinary Journal (2013)
- Schalamon, (et al), ‘Analysis of Dog Bites In Children Who Are Younger Than 17 Years’, Pediatrics (2006)
- Duffy, D. (et al) ‘Breed Differences in Canine Aggression’, Applied Animal Behavior Science (2008)
- Strain, G. ‘Deafness Prevalence and Pigmentation and Gender Associations in Dog Breeds at Risk’, The Veterinary Journal (2004)
- Adams, V. (et al), ‘Results of a Survey of UK Purebred Dogs’, Journal of Small Animal Practice (2010)
- Farrell, L. (et al) ‘The Challenges of Pedigree Dog Health: Approaches to Combating Inherited Disease’, Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2015)
- Oberbauer, A. (et al), ‘Ten Inherited Disorders in Purebred Dogs by Functional Breed Groupings’, Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2015)
- Rettenmaier, J. (et al), ‘Prevalence of Canine Hip Dysplasia in a Veterinary Teaching Hospital Population’, Veterinary Radiology & Ultrasound (2002)
- Greco, D. (et al), ‘Disorders of the Thyroid Gland in Dogs’, The Merck Veterinary Manual
- ‘Thyroid Disease’, Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute (2013)
- Melson, G. ‘ Robots as Dogs?: Children’s Interactions with the Robotic Dog AIBO and a Live Australian Shepherd’, Research Gate (2005)
- Mellersch, C. (et al), ‘Mutation in HSF4 is Associated with Hereditary Cataracts in the Australian Shepherd’, Veterinary Ophthalmology (2009)
- Hesselink, I. ‘Development, Distribution and Analysis of a Health Inventory Questionnaire for the Australian Shepherd as an Indication for Inherited Disorders’, Faculty of Veterinary Medical Theses (2020)