The Australian Shepherd is known as an American ranch dog, often also used on farms.
This herding breed can grow to between 40 and 65 pounds, between 18 and 23 inches tall.
These dogs are intelligent, energetic, and loving. They are a relatively healthy breed, but need lots of mental and physical stimulation to stay happy
Ready to welcome an Australian Shepherd dog into your home? Or not quite sure yet?
This complete guide to the Aussie Shepherd will help you decide.
What’s In This Guide
- Australian Shepherd At A Glance
- In-depth Breed Review
- Australian Shepherd Training And Care
- Pros And Cons Of Getting An Australian Shepherd
If you’re wondering what this breed is like, from their temperament to their health and feeding needs, you’ve come to the right place.
Australian Shepherd FAQs
Check out our readers’ frequently asked questions.
All about your Australian Shepherd puppy.
- Are Australian Shepherds good family dogs?
- Do Australian Shepherds shed a lot?
- Are Australian Shepherds aggressive?
- Are Australian Shepherds affectionate?
In this guide, we’ll be talk about the Aussie’s good points and bad.
You’ll also find facts on lifespan, health and much more!
Breed At A Glance
- Popularity: 17th most popular dog in the USA
- Purpose: Herding
- Weight: 40-65lbs
- Temperament: Active, clever, devoted
Let’s take a closer look at this lovely breed!
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
Oddly enough, this is not an Australian dog breed.
Let’s look at where they came from.
History and original purpose of the Australian Shepherd
The 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.
The Ranchers’ dog
They became the dog of choice for ranchers in the American Wild West and are still popular farm dogs today.
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.
Fascinating facts about the Australian Shepherd
- 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 may also 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.
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!
Australian Shepherd appearance
Australian Shepherds can be between 18 and 23 inches tall.
Typically, males weigh between 50 and 65 pounds.
Females on the other hand, are slightly smaller. They weigh between 40 and 55 pounds. If you’re interested in learning about puppy growth stages, check out this article!
Their have a double coat that is mid length.
They have some longer fur on legs, chest and tail.
This popular pup also makes a contender for our cutest dog breed!
The double coat
So, what is a double coat? What does this mean for your Aussie Shepherd?
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. On the other hand, coats on dogs bred for show are usually longer.
Tail, eyes and coat color
For decades, the Australian Shepherd was a docked breed.
However, docking is dying out. In many areas including the UK, it is now banned for most breeds. As such, it has become common to see Aussies with full tails.
The Australian shepherd comes in four main colors.
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!
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.
Be sure to read our full guide to Australian Shepherd temperament.
Are Australian Shepherds affectionate?
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.
Are Australian Shepherds aggressive?
These dogs can be a bit aloof, especially when meeting strangers.
Once they get to know someone, however, they are not unfriendly.
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.
Australian Shepherds are a clever breed. They even work as service dogs. This includes working as guide dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, and as therapy dogs.
Training: Australian Shepherd puppy socialization
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.
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 respond very well to positive training methods.
Clicker training is a great example.
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
Australian Shepherd Exercise
You’ll want to keep your Aussie from using their pent-up energy.
It will 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.
Brain games for Aussies
These dogs also need to work their brains.
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.
Don’t miss the demo by Emmi in the video below
Even better, get involved in a sport or activity like agility.
This will give your clever dog a chance to shine.
Something that will occupy their mind as well as their body!
Australian Shepherd health and care
The Australian shepherd is a well built dog with a healthy body shape.
However, the breed is prone to hip dysplasia (HD).
This is a condition in which the hip joint fails to develop properly.
HD is painful and can make dogs lame.
But there are steps you can take to reduce the risk.
Let’s take a look.
Avoiding hip problems
The tendency to hip problems is passed down from parent to puppy.
But bad hips can appear or be made worse for other reasons, such as rapid growth or over exercise.
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.
Avoiding hard exercise, and jumping or climbing in young pups may also help.
Ensure that puppies are only ever bred from dogs that have been tested for HD.
Australian shepherds may also be prone to a blood clotting disorder.
This is called Von Willebrand’s disease. 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 and 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.
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.
A good breeder is one that carries out all the right health tests and who breeds from lines of dogs that live to a ripe old age. Finding the right breeder can be daunting so be sure to check out our guide here
Australian Shepherd: Shedding
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.
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!
Grooming your Aussie
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.
It’s worth noting that shaved dogs can get sunburn.
Feeding your Australian Shepherd
There are many options when it comes to feeding your dog. Puppies require a different diet to adult dogs. If you’re wondering what kind of food to feed your Aussie pup, head on over to our article: Choosing the right food for Aussie puppies
You’ll want to feed your adult Aussie a high quality diet. But what kind of food? First and foremost, it’s important that you cater to any special requirements your dog may have.
Your vet is the best person to consult about special diets for your Aussie.
It’s important to find a diet that is suited to their active lifestyle and weight. To that end, there are four main types of food you can feed your dog.
These are broken down into: kibble, wet food, biologically appropriate raw food (BARF) and last but not least, homemade diets. You can read our guides to all of these and more here:
- Best Wet Dog Food – A Complete Guide to Finding What’s Best for Your Dog
- Best Dog Food for Senior Dogs with Sensitive Stomachs
- Feeding your puppy commercial dog food: the pros and cons of kibble
- Raw Food for Puppies: How to Feed Your Puppy on Natural Raw Food
- Best Inexpensive Dog Food
- 9 Great ideas for natural raw dog food
Each of these kinds of food comes with their own benefits and drawbacks. If you’re still curious, you can head over to our rundown of the best food for adult Australian Shepherds.
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.
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. 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.
Miniature Australian Shepherd
If the larger Aussie sounds like a bit too much dog to handle, you might consider the mini version!
Believe it or not, the Miniature Australian Shepherd is itself a pure breed!
These dogs require plenty of exercise and good socialization. Fortunately they are happy to be trained.
They come in all the same coat colors as their larger counterparts. This means the merle colored minis are also prone to the same health conditions.
Weighing somewhere in the range of 20-40 pounds, these diminutive dogs stand between 13 – 18 inches tall.
You can read all about them in our guide to the Miniature Australian Shepherd.
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.
Check out the Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline .
It is a non-profit organization that rescues Australian shepherds and helps match dogs with new owners.
Finding an Australian Shepherd puppy
The Australian Shepherd Clubs in your region are 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 breeders near you!
Here are a few to get you started:
Raising an Australian Shepherd 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. You’ll find them listed on our puppy training guides.
Visiting a breeder
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. In doing so, you’ll be better able 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 on this website.
Avoiding puppy mills
Please 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 Puppies
Australian Shepherd puppies cost at least $1,600.
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 best not to buy two puppies at once.
Remember that tests are available for hip, elbow, and eye problems. Ask to see certificates!
Some puppy buyers look for an Australian Shepherd Mix instead.
Popular Australian Shepherd breed mixes
There are are pros and cons to choosing a mix breed over a purebred dog.
It’s worth reading our breed mix reviews below for the whole story:
- 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
We compare the Australian Shepherd vs the Australian Cattle Dog in this great guide! Which one will you prefer?
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
Share your story in the comments section below!
Pros And Cons of Getting An Australian Shepherd
The beautiful Australian Shepherd has great appeal. But isn’t right for every home.
Here’s a quick summary of what we have covered here today.
- Australian shepherds can quickly become bored. Lack of the exercise and boredom may lead to barking and chewing.
- Farmers have bred these dogs for generations to herd livestock. Some Aussies may try this with small children, animals. Even cars if they are bored!
- Australian shepherds can also become suspicious and fearful if not properly socialized.
- This can lead to aggressive behavior.
- You can often avoid these problems with the right input and training at an early age. But that takes time.
- So for owners with small kids, or who work all day, the Aussie is not a great choice.
- This is a lively, intelligent, and very trainable breed
- An Australian Shepherd 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.
- There is not doubt that for very active families with older children, this breed can fit in well.
- In homes where there is someone at home for part of the day, the Aussie should be happy.
- A place in a good doggy daycare center can work for some dogs and their families.
- And in active homes, this breed could be a great choice.
Australian Shepherd products and accessories
Australian Shepherds are smart and they are active. So, you’ll want to provide them with stimulating toys to keep them happy!
- Best Interactive Dog Toys
- Best Kong Dog Toys – Reviews and Tips for Choosing – Kong toys are great for the pooch who loves to chew and chew and chew!
- Puppy Toys: The Best Dog Toys For Puppies
- Best Dog Puzzle Toys for Clever Dogs
While it’s important not to clip or close shave your Aussie, there are still plenty of great grooming products you can buy.
Australian Shepherd Breed Rescues
A list of breed rescues in USA, UK, Australia and Canada
- Australian Shepherd Rescue Midwest
- Aussie & Me
- NorCal Aussie Recuse
- New Spirit For Aussie Rescue
- Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline
- Lone Star Aussie Rescue
We are always happy to add dog rescues to our pages. Just drop your details into the comments box below.
This article has been extensively revised for 2019.
References And Resources
- Gough A, Thomas A, O’Neill D. 2018 Breed Predispositions to Disease In Dogs and Cats. Wiley Blackwell
- O’Neill et al. 2013. Longevity and Mortality of Dogs Owned In England. The Veterinary Journal
- Schalamon et al. 2006. Analysis of Dog Bites In Children Who Are Younger Than 17 Years. Pediatrics
- Duffy D et al. Breed differences in canine aggression. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 2008
- Strain G. Deafness prevalence and pigmentation and gender associations in dog breeds at risk. The Veterinary Journal 2004
- Packer et al. 2015. Impact of Facial Conformation On Canine Health. PlosOne
- Adams VJ, et al. 2010. Results of a Survey of UK Purebred Dogs. Journal of Small Animal Practice.
- The United States Australian Shepherd Association.
- Personality and Character. Australian Shepherd Club of America.
- Official Standard of the Australian Shepherd.
- 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.
- 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)
- Robots as dogs?: children’s interactions with the robotic dog AIBO and a live australian shepherd, Research Gate, 2005