Australian Shepherd Dogs
Australian Shepherds are loyal, dependable, easygoing companions. When it comes to their love of play, they never really outgrow the puppy stage. For this reason they are excellent with children—and the more active, the better. But they have a gentle nature that prevents their play from ever getting rough. They are also eager to work: Give them a job and they’ll get it done with loads of energy to spare.
Australian Shepherd Pictures
- 50 – 65 pounds | male
40 – 55 pounds | female
- 20 - 23 inches | male
18 - 21 inches | female
Ideal Human Companions
- Outdoorsy types
Australian Shepherds on Dogster
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- Playful and puppy-like
- Bold and loyal
- Easy to train
What They Are Like to Live With
Australian Shepherds can be a little standoffish at first. Given time, however, they will become comfortable with new people and come out of their shells. They have excellent guarding instincts and a strong sense of loyalty to their families. Australian Shepherds will bark when strangers approach the house, and they’ll sometimes run a few laps around the house for good measure.
Things You Should Know
Like most herding breeds, Australian Shepherds have a strong work ethic. They love having a job to do. Left alone indoors for too long, they can go a little batty. For this reason, they are not really suited for apartments. Take them out to work in the field or for a long run in the woods—the activity and mental stimulation will result in a very happy Australian Shepherd.
Some Australian Shepherds retain strong working-dog genes. This makes them more eager to be in the field and less eager to hang out with the family. These dogs are more inclined to herd people and nip at heels to keep everyone moving, but with proper training these quirks can be worked out.
A healthy Australian Shepherd can live as long as 15 years. Common health issues include hip dysplasia, cataracts and hypothyroidism. Australian Shepherds don’t shed excessively and only need occasional brushing.
Australian Shepherd History
The Australian Shepherd we know today was developed mainly in the U.S. In fact, this breed has no real connection to Australia. Originating in the Basque region between Spain and France as a working dog and sheepherder, the breed drew the name “Australian Shepherd” because many of the Basque shepherds came from Australia. Australian Shepherds became more popular in the mid-twentieth century, favorites of ranchers and cowboys for their unique herding talents, but did not enter the AKC Stud Book until 1991.
The Look of a Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherds are vigorous, well-proportioned and rustic dogs—a little longer than tall. Their slightly domed heads and medium-length muzzles are about the same length, with almond-shaped eyes that can be blue, brown or amber. Their ears are triangular and set high, their chests are deep and their tails are straight and naturally short. They have a weather-resistant coat with a moderate texture, creating a little bit of a mane. Their hair is short and soft around the head, ears and front legs. Australian Shepherds can be found in black, blue merle, red merle, solid-red or red with white and/or tan markings. Overall, Australian Shepherds have strong, square, balanced frames.
Talk About Australian Shepherds
A breed for adventure-seekers
Our Australian Shepherd, Cooper, is a great adventurer. In the past month alone he has made two trips by canoe on the BC Coast and has adapted to canoeing very well. We are very proud parents and love Cooper. He is very active but also can switch off at any time. He is very devoted to us as we are to him. I spend 16 hours a day with him and have had since he was 10 weeks old.
~Chris C., owner of an Australian Shepherd
The chess players of the dog world
Australian Shepherds are wonderful companions! I've had two so far and always plan to have one around now! My old Aussie was a wonderful dog that I trained for Search and Rescue work. He was fantastic with people and animals alike and the most gentle-natured, even-tempered dog.
My current Australian Shepherd, Ranger, just turned one. I've had him from a tiny puppy and it's been wonderful watching him grow into such an amazing dog. He has excelled with obedience training and passed his puppy, intermediate, and advanced classes as well as his Canine Good Citizen test all before his first birthday! He is currently in training for agility and also to become a certified therapy dog. He loves to work and excels at any job he's given to do.
Australian Shepherds are incredibly intelligent. They are like the chess players of the dog world, always planning out their next move; so, you have to be two steps ahead of them with training! They learn very quickly with positive reinforcement and train easily. We live in an apartment complex, but since my Aussie is exercised daily and has the companionship of our other dog and cats, he is very calm and well behaved indoors. As far as toys go: interactive (treat dispensing/etc) and durable are the way to go! As a breed, I've found them to be tough on dog toys, so make sure you invest in well made ones!
They seem to be a very healthy breed overall. I've never had any major health concerns with my current or previous Aussie. They can be prone to ear infections however, so routinely cleaning their ears once a week helps to keep them at bay. While they are easy to groom, you should keep an eye out for matting behind their ears and on their hindquarters where their fur is longer. I started taking my Aussie to the groomer as a small puppy for baths/brush-outs so that way he would become acquainted with other people and comfortable being groomed.
If you are considering an Australian Shepherd, do your homework first and make sure you have the time to devote to training, exercise, and attention. They are very social and intelligent dogs and do not need to be left alone all of the time; they want to be with their "people" and they do best when they have a "job" to do! They bond very closely with their owners, but are also accepting of other family members and friends once they are introduced. I've also found Australian Shepherds to be excellent around children and small animals when introduced properly. Australian Shepherds as a breed are sensitive and intelligent; you should always use gentle, positive training techniques with them. They are a wonderful breed and a wonderful dog for the right family!
~Lydia G., owner of an Australian Shepherd
My girl, Ginny, is the sweetest, most loyal little girl in the world. We bonded over a puppy training class in her early months. She was the star pupil of her class and was so easy to train; what a smart dog!
She's very protective of me and I can tell she adores me. If I'm out in the yard, she follows me everywhere and stays by my side, even when the other dogs go off to rough house and play. This breed is one of my favorites. We also have Dachshunds and, though they are smaller than Ginny, they all play well together.
~Lori T., owner of an Australian Shepherd
By far the best dog I've ever had
I wanted an Australian Shepherd for years. Got a new job, which means I'm home with the dog 2 out of 3 days, and my family is home the first day. This is the best dog I've ever had. Very sweet, loves to play. Only 6 months old and already loyal and pretty calm. We got all the traits we wanted in an Aussie.. loyal, loving, a velcro dog (doesn't like to be separated from me), super smart, eager to learn, and so easy to train.
Keep in mind, with an Aussie it's going to take some work. These aren't dogs that do well with being left in a crate for 8-9 hours with minimal exercise. They are active, and enjoy being active. Long walks, fetch, tug-of-war, and dogpuzzles are all necessary for this breed. They do like to chew, and it's not uncommon for an Aussie to want 2 hours of "chew time" a day.
They are great dogs. The moral of the story is they are active dogs and enjoy working or playing. If left alone with not enough exercise or play, they will INVENT things to do. This tend to cause them to be destructive. If you can't invest time each day to keep the Aussie busy, this breed might not be for you.
~Greg M., owner of an Australian Shepherd
My little Velcro dog
Ever since I was little I wanted a dog to call my own. I wanted a bigger dog so I could take her running with me. We fell in love with Nevaeh as soon as we saw her, and I knew she was the one. I slept with her every single night (she was only 8 weeks old). She is so loving and so protective of me. She follows me around the house like my little velcro :)
She has been so easy to train -- she loves learning things and loves being challenged. it only took me a day to get her to lie down on command. She was the star pupil in her puppy class.
Aussies need a lot of exercise. If Nevaeh doesn't get her exercise, she is insanely hyper and will herd and nip (nothing harsh). She does great in her crate. If you don't have a big enough yard or enough time to play with your dog, don't get an Aussie. They are very active.
~Magen B, owner of an Australian Shepherd mix