A smart and focused breed, the Australian Shepherd was derived from British herding breeds and is popular in the United States for their sheep herding abilities. The Australian Shepherd is partly responsible for the creation of many different breeds throughout the world, including the German Shepherd, the Border Collie, and the Shetland Sheepdog.
18 – 23 inches
35 – 70 pounds
13 – 15 years
Black, red, merle, red merle, blue merle, tricolor
Homes with yards, families with and without kids
Friendly, loyal, affectionate, playful, intelligent, trainable
These dogs are lively, fun-loving, intelligent, loyal, and hard-working. They can be trained to do all kinds of things, and they rarely disobey their masters. These dogs are strong, agile, and fast. They can impress on the farm, while hunting, and when competing in agility or show events. There is much to learn about this interesting breed! Read on to learn more about the Australian Shepherd and what it means to be responsible for one.
Australian Shepherd Characteristics
Australian Shepherd Puppies
Australian Shepherds are adorable when they are puppies, but they grow up to be strong, highly active dogs that need plenty of opportunities for exercising and adventure. Here is a snapshot of what you should know before deciding whether to adopt one of these puppies.
As you can see, they are very energetic dogs. Australian Shepherd owners have to be ready to commit enough time and energy to give enough physical and mental stimulation to their dogs to avoid boredom. They need plenty of space to run around in and will enjoy playing with their owners. Australian Shepherds are very affectionate and will create strong bonds with their families, especially with children.
Temperament & Intelligence of the Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent, easy-going dog that likes nothing more than pleasing their human companions. These dogs get along well with just about everyone, but they are driven and serious when put to a task on the job. Whether they are herding sheep, as they were designed for, hunting, showing, competing in agility, or just playing, these dogs are a joy to watch.
These dogs are territorial over their family members and properties, so owners should not be surprised if they bark and alert everyone when someone enters their property, even if the visitors have been to their place before. Their natural herding instincts may bleed into the household as they try and keep other animals of the house in check. However, they are not aggressive dogs and typically get along well with most other animals.
Are These Dogs Good for Families? 👪
Australian Shepherds are typically awesome family dogs. They love playing with children and will protect them at any cost. They are loyal to their owners and will protect them as much as they would a child. These dogs have tons of drive and energy, so they require daily exercise in the form of walks, hikes, and playing in the park or yard, which is something families with kids are the most likely to provide.
Does This Breed Get Along With Other Pets?
While the Australian Shepherd is driven and loyal to family, they are surprisingly open and interactive with other animals that may or may not live within their household. They tend to get along well with other dogs, so they do great at dog parks and when visiting others who also have dogs as pets. They can share a household with cats and even hamsters or ferrets.
Things to Know When Owning an Australian Shepherd
There are many things to know about owning an Australian Shepherd, especially when it comes to their day-to-day needs. Here, we lay out all the basic care requirements of an Australian Shepherd so you can determine if you would be the right fit as an owner.
Food & Diet Requirements 🦴
Because Australian Shepherds are so active, they should be offered high-protein commercial dog food, whether wet or dry. The food that they eat should contain real meat, chicken, turkey, or fish as the first ingredient. It should also include at least one quality source of complex carbohydrates, such as barley, brown rice, squash, pumpkin, and berries. There should never be fillers like soy and corn in the ingredients list.
This dog breed can eat shredded carrots, chopped leafy greens, and broccoli as snacks to supplement their nutrition. They should eat between 3 and 4 cups of dry food or the equivalent of wet feed each day to maintain a healthy weight and ensure proper nutrition. Two meals a day is better than one to help support proper digestion. These dogs should have access to fresh, clean water throughout the day too.
The Australian Shepherd needs plenty of exercise every day and should have an opportunity to get outside for walks, hikes, and playtime for at least an hour a day. They will also want to play while spending time indoors too, so there should always be safe toys available. If household members do not have time for daily walks, a dog walker should be hired. Otherwise, the dog can become bored, frustrated, and destructive when left at home alone.
Aussies are extremely smart and love to learn new things. They also like to please their human companions, which makes them relatively easy to work with when it comes to training. Obedience training can be started as early as 6 months of age but should only be done after a hefty exercise session to ensure calmness and attentiveness. While obedience training is essential to ensure proper behavior, there are other types of training that Australian Shepherds tend to be good at learning, such as agility and hunting. It is always a good idea to work with a professional trainer when teaching new skills to an Australian Shepherd.
This breed has a thick double coat that is long enough to develop knots and tangles if it is not properly cared for as they age. Owners should brush their Australian Shepherds at least twice a week to keep their coats shiny and free of knots. During the summer, these dogs tend to shed frequently, so brushing daily may be necessary, and the vacuum will likely get used more often.
Their leg hair can get quite long and can be trimmed with a pair of shears for easier maintenance as time goes on. Nails usually do not need to be trimmed because their high activity levels tend to do the job naturally. Bathing should take place about once a month to keep “doggy smells” away. It is a good idea to blow-dry the hair after a bath because it may take hours or even days to dry on its own due to its thickness.
Health and Conditions 🏥
Australian Shepherds are generally healthy throughout their lives, though there are a few conditions that owners should be aware of, so signs of illness development can be spotted quickly.
Male vs. Female
There are a couple of physical differences between male and female Australian Shepherds to be aware of. First and foremost, females tend to be a little smaller than males, which is easily noticeable when both sexes are standing side by side. Second, females have shorter, less dense coats of hair than their male counterparts do.
A few personality differences can typically be observed between males and females too. First, males love to please their human companions and show their love and affection whenever possible. On the other hand, females like to wait for their human companions to show love before offering up affection. Males are generally less moody and more active too.
3 Little-Known Facts About the Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherds are interesting dogs that harbor intriguing characteristics. You may not know one or more of the following little-known facts about this breed.
1. They Have Been Called Many Names
Australian Shepherds have been referred to by multiple different names in the past and even sometimes now. Popular names for the breed have included Spanish Shepherds, Bob-tail dogs, Blue Heelers, Pastor Dogs, and California Shepherds.
2. They Usually Have Different Colored Eyes
These dogs usually have two different colored eyes, although this is not a rule. If the eyes are different colors, one is typically blue, green, or hazel, while the other is typically brown. If the eyes are the same, they could be any of these colors.
3. They Shed Frequently
The most common grievance among Australian Shepherd owners is that these dogs shed a ton. They need to be brushed regularly, and the house must still be vacuumed frequently to keep up with the shedding of this agile, athletic dog breed.
The Australian Shepherd is an amazing breed of dog that families of all types should consider as a pet. They are loving and intelligent and can make good watchdogs if trained to do so. They are highly active and require tons of work and attention, though. These factors should be considered when deciding whether to adopt one of these fun-loving dogs for your household.
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Featured Image Credit: Nordwind, Pixabay