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Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd: The Differences (With Pictures)

Written by: Brooke Billingsley

Last Updated on April 17, 2024 by Dogster Team

Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd: The Differences (With Pictures)

Border Collies and Australian Shepherds are both fantastic breeds of dogs that are full of energy and are well known for their intelligence and trainability. If you’re in the market for an active, smart pup, you may have found yourself torn between these two breeds.

Although often compared to each other, these two breeds have notable differences between them, so it’s important to understand the differences when choosing between the two. You’ll need to consider which breed will fit in best with your family, your pets, and your lifestyle.

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Visual Differences

Border Collie vs Australian Shepherd - Visual Differences
Image Credit: Left – TheOtherKev, Pixabay | Right – Vera Zinkova, Shutterstock

At a Glance

Border Collie
  • Average height (adult): 18–22 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 27–45 pounds
  • Lifespan: 12–15 years
  • Exercise: 2+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Often
  • Other pet-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: High
Australian Shepherd
  • Average height (adult): 18–23 inches
  • Average weight (adult): 30–65 pounds
  • Lifespan: 13–15 years
  • Exercise: 1+ hours a day
  • Grooming needs: Moderate
  • Family-friendly: Yes
  • Other pet-friendly: Often
  • Trainability: High


Border Collie Overview


Border Collies are extremely loyal dogs that tend to bond very closely with their human family. They are often good with children but may become nippy and poorly behaved if not given enough exercise. This breed is known for being wary of strangers, so it is likely to be protective of children, but may be uncomfortable with visitors to the home, including children.

They are highly energetic and trainable, though, often excelling in a variety of activities and sports. They have a strong herding instinct bred into them, so helping appease this instinct through games and activities will help maintain your Border Collie’s social and loving nature.

female border collie lying on grass
Image by: Elayne Massaini, Shutterstock


This breed is exceptionally trainable due to their high level of intelligence. In fact, Border Collies often rank among the top most intelligent dog breeds. They have a strong herding instinct, which can make herding work a snap to train.

While they are trainable and intelligent, it doesn’t mean that all training will be easy with a Border Collie. They typically aim to please, making them compliant and willing to listen to commands, but they also may be distracted by things that “need” herding.

Keep in mind that this herding instinct can come out with anything from lawnmowers to trash to children. Sometimes, they may nip at the heels of children or other pets. Some people interpret this as an aggressive behavior, and while it is undesirable, it is not aggression.

lilac border collie dog lying down on the grass at the park
Image by: Susan McQuade, Shutterstock

Exercise Needs

If you want a happy and cooperative Border Collie, aim to give your dog at least 2 hours of exercise every day. They are great companions for jogging, biking, and hiking, making this breed a good option for more active households. This is not a breed whose exercise needs are appeased with a walk or two around the block.

Due to their trainability and intelligence, Border Collies excel at essentially any sports and games they’re trained to do. They tend to do very well in agility trials, but can also do well with obedience, dock diving, cani-cross, and more. If you have an interest in search and rescue, Border Collies are also a suitable breed for certain types of search and rescue.


Border Collies have a double coat that does require routine maintenance. It’s generally recommended to get them a grooming visit every 4–6 weeks. However, since they don’t usually need haircuts, grooming can usually be done at home if you feel up to it.

A good bath and brushing can do wonders for a double coat. Plan to brush your Border Collie at least once per week, but more frequently is ideal to maintain the coat between baths and grooming visits. Expect an increase in shedding and brushing needs during the spring and fall when your dog’s coat is changing between seasons.

female border collie standing on grass
Image by: Arnold.Petersen, Shutterstock

Suitable For:

Border Collies can be good dogs for families, but they are not the best dog for a large number of families. Their high exercise needs and energy levels, as well as their standoffishness with strangers, can make them a difficult dog to have in a home with frequent visitors or a home that isn’t extremely active. A bored or under-exercised Border Collie is likely to become anxious and begin to act out.


Australian Shepherd Overview


Australian Shepherds typically have a no-nonsense personality that is up for an adventure. They tend to be loyal and loving with their family and are often good with other pets. They have an easygoing temperament, and they often love playing with people, including children. They tend to be tolerant of small children, although it’s important to teach your child to properly handle the dog to avoid any nipping.

Aussies are usually friendly and outgoing, and they lack the wariness with strangers that the Border Collie often exhibits, although they may be a little shy with strangers at first. They are fiercely loyal dogs that usually bond with all of the people in the family, and they are known to be very protective of their people and their home.

Adorable Blue merle Australian shepherd dog posing in the park in autumn
Image by: Vera Reva, Shutterstock


This breed is extremely intelligent and highly trainable, although its intelligence often clocks in slightly below the Border Collie. They have a strong herding instinct that makes training herding quite easy, but they are also usually pretty easy to train with just about anything. They are known to do very well at dog sports, and they can learn how to solve puzzles and play games.

Some Aussies have a little bit of a stubborn streak, which can make training a challenge until you work out an effective training technique for your dog. They are usually motivated by high-value rewards, which can be treats or toys. They don’t tend to be very distractible, but they are curious and protective enough that they may become distracted by what the other animals or people in the home are doing.

Australian Shepherds playing
Image by: Christian Mueller, Shutterstock

Exercise Needs

Aussies have slightly lower exercise needs than Border Collies, but this isn’t true of every Aussie. At a minimum, this breed needs 1 hour of exercise per day, but 2 hours or more is ideal. They are great running and hiking partners, and their sense of adventure can make them fun to have with you.

This breed does need high-energy activity. Going for a walk, even two or three walks per day is usually not going to be enough. However, there are some breeding lines of Aussies that are a little less energetic than others. If you’re looking into getting this breed, you may ask your breeder what type of energy level their dogs typically have so you can prepare for the appropriate amount of exercise.


Australian Shepherds have a medium-length coat that is somewhat silky in texture. It requires routine brushing to maintain, and it can become tangled or matted in some areas if not properly cared for. Plan to brush your Aussie at least twice per week, but more may be necessary, especially during shedding seasons.

You should plan to get your Aussie to a groomer or give them a good bath every 4–6 weeks. This will help maintain the health of the skin and coat, as well as help distribute the natural oils on the skin across the coat. This breed rarely requires trims and it isn’t recommended to shave them since their silky coat helps insulate them.

Australian Shepherd
Image by: Jan Havlicek, Shutterstock

Suitable For:

Although there is the potential for shyness with strangers, Aussies are generally friendly and outgoing dogs. They are protective of their people but are known to be gentle and loving with children. This breed usually gets along with other pets, and although they are known to nip at heels and attempt to herd like Border Collies are, it is typically less common.


The Specifics of Owning Herding Breeds

Both the Border Collie and Australian Shepherd are herding dog breeds. They were bred for farm work and dealing with livestock, like sheep and cows. It has been deeply ingrained in their DNA to herd, and if they see some kind of grouping or pattern, they may feel very strongly that they need to start herding.

This herding behavior can be unusual and confusing for someone who has never owned a herding breed before. If you search the internet, you’ll find all sorts of videos of Border Collies and Aussies herding or attempting to herd machines, small animals, large animals, other pets in their home, people, and even trash.

When they are herding, they may nip at the heels of whatever they’re herding, which is how they would herd livestock. For people unfamiliar with the behavior, it can be frightening the first time they see their dog nipping at their children’s heels. It is a perfectly normal behavior for a herding dog, but it isn’t an ideal behavior to encourage.

If your dog is trained to perform a herding task, then it’s important to train them to restrict their herding behavior to doing that specific job and nothing else. If your dog is just a family pet without a herding job, you might have to get creative in helping them burn off their strong desire to herd. Some people prefer to provide other outlets for their dog’s energy, like running and doing dog sports. Other people may try to come up with things for their dog to herd, with some people finding toys and balls to be effective options for providing a herding activity.


Which Breed Is Right for You?

When trying to choose between the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd, you should take a very honest look at the activity level of your home. The Aussie tends to be a better fit for more families than the Border Collie, although both dogs can be lovely additions to homes that are willing to meet their needs. Without proper exercise, both breeds can become bored, anxious, and destructive.

When taking an honest look at your activity level, you may realize that your home isn’t appropriate for either breed, and that is OK. They are not suitable for homes where everyone is gone for long periods. If you’re willing to put in the time, both breeds are exceptional dogs that will constantly amaze you with their trainability and intelligence. Although, if you’re looking for a dog who can learn new tricks in seemingly no time flat, then the Border Collie may be your top pick.

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Featured Image Credit: Top – Eric Isselee, Shutterstock | Bottom – xkunclova, Shutterstock

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