Australian Shepherd Overview
- Dog Breed:
- Australian Shepherd
- Breed Group:
- Herding Group
- Intelligent, energetic, loyal, affectionate, hard working
- Males=20 to 30 inches; females=18-21 inches
- Males=50 to 65 pounds; females=40 to 55 pounds
- Life Span:
- 12 to 15 years
- Coat Colors:
- Black, blue merle, red, red merle. Markings may be tan or white.
- Area of Origin:
- Basque country along the border separating France and Spain
- Best For:
- Active and experienced owners with lots of fenced property
Australian Shepherd Characteristics
Australian Shepherd Gallery
About The Australian Shepherd
Also known as the “Aussie”
Extremely high energy
Thrives when given a job to do
The Australian Shepherd, a breed often affectionately referred to simply as the “Aussie,” is medium-sized herding dog. Most content when given a job to do, this beloved dog breed possesses a strong work ethic and exceptional intelligence. A true herding breed, the Australian Shepherd will naturally round up any creature in its home, including family pets and children if given the opportunity to do so.
The Australian Shepherd has immense reserves of mental and physical energy which must be expended each day in order to keep the dog healthy and content. This is not a dog breed for someone that prefers a more sedentary lifestyle. Due to the breed’s high intellect, they can be too much for a first-time pet owner to handle, making them best suited to active families with some previous dog experience.
A breed that is best characterized as a natural athlete, watching an Australian Shepherd at work herding livestock is an incredible sight to behold. The Australian Shepherd is well-renowned for its unique stare which it employs along with nipping and barking to move its “flock” into position.
The Australian Shepherd requires vigorous daily exercise. If these needs are not met on a daily basis, the dog will become frustrated which can lead to destructive or neurotic behaviour. Many Australian Shepherds that do not receive proper daily activity resort to creating their own jobs to do, much to the dismay of their owners who later discover the havoc they have wreaked on their home.
A dog type that excels at nearly any type of dog performance sport, the Australian Shepherd possesses the flexible body and mental drive to succeed. Among the most popular activities Australian Shepherds compete in today include agility, obedience, flyball, and herding trials. The breed is also particularly well suited to work as a therapy dog.
The Australian Shepherd needs space to roam, and thus, is not well-suited to apartment living. A home with some fenced acreage is ideal for this active dog breed.
A breed that is known for its love and loyalty towards its family, the Australian Shepherd is affectionate to those it knows and can be standoffish towards newcomers. The Aussie is gentle and patient with children but does often attempt to herd them unless taught not to do so.
Australian Shepherd Breed History
Originated in Europe
Descended from the Pyrenean Shepherd
Breed refinements occurred in Australia and California
Though the Australian Shepherd’s name would lead many to believe it originated in Australia, the breed traces its roots to the Pyrenees Mountain range in Europe. Nestled along the border separating France and Spain, the Basque people practiced the tradition of shepherding, making use of a popular herding dog known as the Pyrenean Shepherd. This dog played an important role in the development of the Australian Shepherd we know and love today.
In the 19th century, many Australian settlers travelled to Basque country where they discovered the shepherds hard at work with their dogs. Impressed by the dogs’ herding ability, they encouraged the Basques to travel to Australia, bringing their dogs with them where they could be put to work herding cattle.
The journey to Australia was long and arduous. The Basque shepherds made use of the time to do some careful breeding between their dogs and dogs of other similar types to help strengthen the working ability. Among the dogs they used were both Collies and Border Collies. Following their time in Australia, the Basque shepherds set their sights on moving on to working fields in California.
It was in California that the breed found its name. Local US farmers who believed the breed hailed from Australia coined the term “Australian Shepherd.” The name has stood the test of time. During their time in America, the breed underwent further development to become the beloved dog we know today.
Australian Shepherd Size & Weight
Males stand from 20” to 23” and weigh from 50 to 65 pounds
Females stand from 18” to 21” and weigh from 40 to 55 pounds
Families must be prepared for a dog with extremely high activity requirements
The average male Australian Shepherd stands between 20” to 23” at the shoulder. The male’s weight ranges from 50 to 65 pounds. Mature females are slightly smaller at 18” to 21” tall and weighing from 40 to 55 pounds.
Though only considered to be a dog of medium size, the Australian Shepherd has very high activity requirements. This dog breed is not for people who prefer a more laidback lifestyle.
Australian Shepherd Personality & Temperament
Aloof with strangers
Loving and affectionate with family and friends
Good with children and other pets
Australian Shepherds have strong personalities, and as a result, require an owner that can provide authoritative leadership. Because of this, they are not well-suited to novice owners. A breed known for its loyalty and love towards its family, the Australian Shepherd remains aloof with strangers.
A herding breed, the Australian Shepherd is a high energy working dog that excels when given a job to do. In the absence of a job, this breed needs vigorous daily exercise to avoid falling into nuisance behaviours and to remain content.
Australian Shepherds are excellent herders and will endeavour to employ this skill at any gathering of creatures; whether they are birds, family pets, or children. Aussies love children and are known to be very patient with them. However, for the safety of the dog and the child, all interactions should be carefully supervised.
The Australian Shepherd typically gets along with other family pets; however, as with children, the breed may attempt to herd them into one central location. To integrate an Australian Shepherd into a home with existing pets, it is best to do all introductions in a neutral setting such as a quiet, public park.
In general, the Australian Shepherd is extremely friendly to those it meets though it approaches new people with caution. They are exceedingly affectionate to their family members and close friends.
A dog that bonds deeply to its people, the Aussie does not enjoy time spent alone but will endure it if left with things to keep its mind occupied. In possession of a thick double coat, the Aussie is well suited to time spent in the great outdoors; whether in spring, summer, winter, or fall.
The Australian Shepherd has high activity requirements, and thus, is not suited to apartment living. A home with some fenced acreage is ideal for this hardy pooch.
Australian Shepherd Health & Grooming
Daily brushing is a must
Typically a healthy breed
Bath on an as needed basis
The Australian Shepherd is a dog breed that normally enjoys excellent health. However, as with all dog breeds, there are certain genetic conditions the breed can be predisposed to. All potential breeding dogs should be carefully screened prior to mating to ensure the health of future offspring. The most common conditions which can affect the Australian Shepherd are hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy, deafness, osteochondrosis dissecans, progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, distichiasis, collie eye anomaly, persistent pupillary membranes, hypothyroidism, allergies, drug sensitivities, cancer, nasal solar dermatitis, and detached retinas.
The Australian Shepherd’s coat consists of two layers to help keep it resistant to rain and cold. The hair is a moderate length that requires regular brushing to keep in good condition.
Australian Shepherds do shed on a daily basis, but a commitment to brushing does help. The breed will blow coat twice yearly. During this time, brushing should be increased.
To help prevent matting, all brushing should be preceded by spraying the coat with a dilute solution of conditioner and water. The coat should be brushed right down to the skin.
Bathing can occur on an as needed basis but is typically limited to only a couple of times yearly. Nails should be trimmed at least once a month. Regular ear and dental care will help keep the Australian Shepherd in tip top shape.
A highly active breed, weight gain is rarely an issue for the Australian Shepherd. The Aussie is not known to be a drooler.
Australian Shepherd Training
An intense desire to please
Easy to train
To help set the Australian Shepherd up for success, it is important to begin the socialization process early. Since the Aussie possesses vast reserves of energy, training sessions will be more productive if the dog is exercised prior to attending the class. Keeping this dog breed well exercised is the key to contentment and learning.
The Australian Shepherd is extremely intelligent and is driven by an intense desire to please its owners. This dog type picks up new skills with ease, typically learning the basic obedience commands in as little as two weeks. The Australian Shepherd responds best to positive reinforcement techniques when training.
The breed can be quite mouthy, and thus, must be taught how to use its mouth appropriately. This can be accomplished by redirecting the dog to a toy, ball, or bone whenever it attempts to nip.
The Australian Shepherd is a prey driven breed and will wander if given the opportunity to do so. The breed can also be prone to howling and barking.
Australian Shepherd Exercise Requirements
An intense desire to please
Easy to train
As a high energy dog, the Australian Shepherd will need vigorous exercise on a daily basis. A fenced yard is also an excellent means for the Aussie to burn off some extra reserves of energy; however, playtime in the backyard should not substitute for daily walks or hikes.
Aussies are very smart at finding ways out of fenced yards, including jumping fences or digging under them. For this reason, fences should be of a sufficient height to prevent jumping and buried several feet beneath the ground to thwart any digging attempts. Supervision when alone outdoors is also a good idea for this breed.
At a bare minimum, the Australian Shepherd requires between half an hour to an hour of activity per day. This can come from playing fetch, walking, hiking, running, or dog performance sports. Mental stimulation is equally as important as physical activity. Families should invest in puzzle toys and brain games to keep their Aussie’s mind engaged.
A highly playful breed, the Australian Shepherd greatly enjoys any time spent in the company of its family.
Australian Shepherd Diet & Feeding
Puppies should eat puppy food
Adults should eat adult food
Adjust portion sizes to reflect activity level
To ensure the correct diet for an Australian Shepherd, it is always an excellent idea to consult the advice of a veterinarian. Generally speaking, all Aussies will do well on a high-quality diet that is balanced and suited to meet the age, activity level, and health of the dog.
Puppies should always be fed a puppy food that is designed to support their unique needs as their bodies develop. Adults should be fed an adult formulation that is best suited to their requirements.
Suggested serving sizes can be found on the side of the bag of food. These can be used as a guideline and adjusted to meet the activity level of each Australian Shepherd. The dog’s appetite and body condition will serve as an excellent guide.