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What Were Australian Shepherds Bred For? History of the Australian Shepherds

australian shepherd enjoying the outdoors during autumn

The Australian Shepherd is a breed of herding dog that, despite its name, has a very American origin story. It is likely that the breed originated from Collies that came over with livestock and herders from Australia, hence its name, but it was breeders in the western US that took existing Australian breeds and created what we now know as the Australian Shepherd.

Today, it is still used to herd livestock in countries throughout the world, but this active dog has also become a popular pet, although potential owners need to be aware that it will need considerable amounts of exercise and is unlikely to be happy with just an occasional walk.

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The First Australian Shepherds

There are no documented records to show exactly where the first Australian Shepherds were bred, but it is believed that they originate from herding dogs that came over to the US from Australia and that were originally from the Basques region of Spain. Once in the US, breeders tried to breed even better herding attributes, ultimately making them more intelligent and hard working.

Following World War II, the renewed interest in horseback riding and rodeos meant that the breed really took off in popularity. However, despite this renewed popularity, it wasn’t actually until 1993 that the dog was accepted into the American Kennel Club and breed standards were established.

Australian Shepherd
Image Credit: Jan Havlicek, Shutterstock

The Aussie of Today

The breed hasn’t changed much since WWII. It is still a highly energetic, very intelligent, hard-working breed that is happy on the ranch and in the fields, effectively working with ranchers to manage sheep and other livestock. The Aussie nips at the heels of larger animals and uses herding techniques to control its quarry. It also has what ranchers call an “eye” that stares at the livestock in such a manner to let them know it is in charge and that they need to do what the dog says.

While the Aussie is still a popular working dog and has all the attributes that make a good herder, it is also a very popular pet. It does need a lot of exercise as well as mental stimulation, and it will need training from a young age to discourage nipping and herding habits. Even with this training, you may find an Aussie attempting to round up smaller animals and even children.

Do Australian Shepherds Make Good Pets?

Australian Shepherds can make very good pets. They tend to be loyal, do not require too much fuss, and are very intelligent and eager to work, so they can be trained easily by an experienced handler. However, they do require constant training and exercise, or they can become bored. And be prepared for the fact that what you think of as a long walk will barely even be a warm up for an Aussie. As working dogs, they will be in the field for hours every day and still be ready for a run at night.

A bored Aussie is more likely to show signs of destructive behavior, which tends to manifest as chewing and worrying. Be prepared to go on long walks, ideally runs, and enroll in canine sports classes to give your Australian Shepherd an outlet for its intelligence and physical demands.

australian shepherd standing in grass
Image Credit: JitkaP, Shutterstock

Do Australian Shepherds Bark A Lot?

Barking is one technique that an Australian Shepherd uses to help control its livestock, and it will use this same technique when trying to communicate with you and your family. This is one breed that will bark, so you will need to teach the speak command so that you have a means of encouraging and discouraging noise. Also be aware that a bored Aussie is more likely to bark, and if yours is especially protective over you, your family, or your home, it will be more likely to make noise and bark.

Do Australian Shepherds Shed A Lot?

Australian Shepherds have beautiful medium-length coats. They are considered average shedders and the coat will need some ongoing attention to help ensure that it is kept in good condition, especially if yours spends a lot of time outdoors laying in the grass or jumping around in mud. Weekly brushing will help prevent the coat from becoming matted and knotted, and you may need to give it an occasional trim to really keep your Aussie looking its best.

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Conclusion

The Australian Shepherd is instantly recognizable thanks to its medium-length coat of many colors and its distinctive eye color that can range from amber to blue. It is a very hardworking dog that was originally bred in the US from Australian herding dogs, hence its name, and it retains many of the characteristics of a herding dog today. It is a popular pet, although it requires a lot of heavy exercise and some maintenance on its coat, while training is essential to prevent herding and barking.

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Featured Image Credit: dodafoto, Shutterstock

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