If you’re considering buying an Australian Shepherd pup, or are thinking about adopting an adult Aussie, you’re probably wondering what you need to know before you bring your new pet home.
The good news is that Australian Shepherds make wonderful, easygoing companions… with a little foreknowledge and guidance along the way, you’ll have your new pet eating out of you hand (quite literally!) in no time at all.
But remember… buying an Aussie (or indeed, any pet) is a big step: to help you prepare, let’s look at some of the key information you need to know about Australian Shepherds breed info.
Highlights of the Breed
The Australian Shepherd is, in its essence, a hardworking, loyal, tenacious and friendly little creature, who makes an excellent all-round family pet.
Let’s look at some of the key highlights of the breed.
- Adaptable to different climates
- Child friendly
- Good with other dogs
- Highly intelligent
- High energy (an average of 30 – 60 minutes of daily exercise is needed)
- Responds well to training and agility classes
- Requires lots of mental and physical stimulation to avoid boredom
- Requires a firm and experienced owner
- Can be aloof around strangers
- A herder by nature
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Despite sharing many physical similarities with the English Shepherd and Border Collie, the Australian Shepherd has a unique heritage and a multitude of exceptional characteristics.
Since its introduction to the US in the late 19th/ early 20th Century, Australian Shepherd have become the 17th most popular dog breed in the United States.
Let’s delve a little deeper into what makes this friendly breed so special.
Despite their deceptive name, Australian Shepherds do not, in fact, originate from Australia.
Although the exact reason for their title is unknown, the common consensus suggests they picked the name up from the imported sheep they were bred to herd in the early part of last century.
The Australian Shepherd has been known by many names throughout history, including Spanish Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Bob-Tail, New Mexican Shepherd, California Shepherd, and Austrian Shepherd.
These days, the breed tends to go by the simple nickname “Aussie”, or occasionally, “Little Blue Dog”.
History & Area of Origin
The history of the Australian Shepherd breed is somewhat contentious, with different historians having quite different ideas about its origins.
The most commonly accepted theory is that the breed was developed in the Basque region of Spain, where it was used by shepherds as a working dog.
Those same shepherds emigrated to the US in the late 19th and early 20th Century (taking their trusted companions with them, of course!), at which point the breed began to increase in popularity as ranch hands and cattle herders.
Australian Shepherd Size
The Australian Shepherd is a well-proportioned breed with a medium build.
Obviously, all dogs are unique, and size will vary from dog to dog- however, the average Australian Shepherd will tend to fall into certain height and weight ranges, as we’ll see next.
Although heights can vary, the average Australian Shepherd male stands between 20 and 23 inches (50- 59 cm) tall.
The average female will stand 18 to 21 inches (45- 54 cm) tall.
A pup’s height will vary dramatically (sometimes even by the week) as they age. As such, weight tends to be the preferred marker of healthy growth, rather than height.
If you have any concerns that you pup is not growing as it should, consult your vet.
An average Australian Shepherd male will usually weigh between 50 and 65 pounds (22- 30 kg).
Female Australian Shepherds tend to weigh 40 to 55 pounds (20 – 25 kg)
3 months: 6.5-9.7 kg
6 months: 11.9 – 18kg
1 year: 15.5- 24.2 kg
3 months: 9.7 -11.9 kg
6 months: 18– 23kg
1 year: 24.2- 30kg
Australian Shepherd Dog Breed Purity: PureBred or Mixed?
In its essence, the Australian Shepherd is a functional, working dog capable of working in all kinds of tough conditions and climates to gather stock.
While it may originally have had its origins in a combination of different breeds, these days, it’s all about the lineage… if you want a championship dog, you’ll need to trace its ancestry to ensure there are no suspicious deviations lurking in its family tree.
Most breeders will be happy to share a pup’s heritage with you, but be sure to request documentation of pedigree if you intent to show your new pet in championships.
The choice of whether to opt for a pure bred or a crossbreed is an entirely personal decision, and will depend (at least to an extent), on what you want from your pet.
If you’re looking for a future dog show champion, a pure bred will be the way to go…. as it will if you intent to breed.
However, if you want nothing more from a pet than a friendly family companion, a mixed breed is certainly worth considering.
In terms of health, a cross can sometimes be the healthiest option, as the introduction of another breed into the mix can help erase some of the genetic condition’s purebreds are predisposed too.
However, be aware that a mixed breed can inherit traits from both sides of the genetic lineage, making them far less predictable in terms of both personality and appearance.
Behavior and Temperament
Aussies make fabulously loyal, dependable and easygoing companions.
Easy to train and eager to learn, they respond well to commands and adapt well to other pets and family members.
With high intelligence and equally high energy levels, they need lots of mental and physical stimulation to avoid becoming bored and destructive.
Let’s take a look at some of the other keys features of the Australian Shepherd.
Australian Shepherds were bred as herding dogs and are innately watchful and alert to possible dangers.
Naturally protective of their human family, Aussie’s will make sure to alert you to any potential threats.
Australian Shepherds can be a little aloof at first, but bond quickly and easily.
Show them a little affection and they’ll be your friend for life in no time.
While Australian Shepherds tend to keep their puppy- like personalities and love of fun throughout their lives, you can be sure their play will never get too rough.
Aussies tend to be gentle by nature, making them great family pets.
Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent and require lots of metal stimulation to keep them entertained.
They perform exceptionally well in obedience and training classes and will usually pick up new tricks and commands without any problem.
While very friendly towards their human family, Aussie’s can be aloof when it comes to strangers.
They do, however, respond well to socialization, so make sure to give them lots of contact with strangers, family and friends to prevent any issues developing.
Affectionate, curious, loyal, intelligent, easy to train… the list of the Aussie’s positive personality traits is endless.
If you’re looking for a wonderful companion for you and your family, the Australian shepherd makes a great choice.
An Assie has two distinct parts to their coat: the topcoat is usually of moderate length, straight and water resistant, while the undercoat is usually dense and soft.
Show dogs tends to have longer, silkier coats (given that they are bred to a standard), while working or family pets tend to have shorter, coarser coats.
An Aussie’s coat is a thing of beauty: coloring can vary from blue merle to black, from red merle to solid red.
Along with its striking color, it’s common for an Aussie’s coat to have distinct white or copper markings.
An Aussie’s eyes are one if its most striking features, and can be blue, brown, gold, or even a combination of colors!
Along with their unusual color, it’s common for Aussie’s to have flecks or marbling in the eyes.
The Aussie’s muzzle is rounded and relatively straight, with minimal tapering from base to nose.
The color of the nose will vary according to general coloring: blue merles and black.
Australian Shepherds usually have black pigmentation on their noses, while red merles and solids reds will typically have brown pigmentation on the snouts.
While some Aussie are born with a naturally bobbed or partially bobbed tail, most are born with long, full tails.
The Australian Shepherd standard, meanwhile, calls for a tail that is either naturally bobbed or docked, and not exceeding 4 inches in length.
Average Litter Size
The typical liter size of an Aussie is 6 to 9 pups.
Smaller litters tend to result in bigger dogs (although this depends to some extent on genetics).
Average Life Span
The average lifespan for Australian Shepherds is between 11 and 13 years old, which is typical for a breed of this size.
A 1998 survey of 614 Aussie found the average lifespan to be 12.5 years, although this has declined in recent years.
General Care Requirements
- Minimum 30-minute daily walk (keep your dog leashed if they are unable to control their herding instincts)
- Minimum 30 minute daily “game time” (e.g. a game of Frisbee or agility classes)
- Obedience classes
- Regular mental stimulation (games, puzzles and interactive toys)
- Weekly grooming sessions
- Consistent training
- Constant access to fresh water
- A high-quality diet
Aim to groom your pet weekly. Spritz their coat with dog hair conditioner to prevent pulling.
Use a slicker brush to stroke in the direction of hair growth.
Remove any excess hair with an undercoat rake.
Use a stripping comb to remove any mats. Trim nails on a regular basis.
Clean ears as directed by your vet with a specialized dog ear cleanser.
Australian Shepherds require plenty of exercise. Aim for a minimum of 30-60 minutes of vigorous activity a day, and if possible, allow them to romp around in the garden (if fenced) to burn off any surplus energy.
Bear in mind that an Aussie can become destructive if they don’t get the exercise they need: if you notice them frantically digging holes or tearing up the furniture, you may need to up their workouts.
While Australian Shepherds are generally healthy, they are prone to certain conditions.
To prevent problems down the line, always ask your breeder if they have been cleared of the following: –
- Hip Dysplasia (a genetic condition that can cause arthritis, lameness, and pain)
- Elbow Dysplasia (a heritable condition common to large breeds that can cause lameness)
- Epilepsy (a seizure disorder that can be managed (but not cured) by proper medication and diet)
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (a degenerative eye disorder that can lead to blindness)
- Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) (a painful stiffening of the joints caused by improper growth in the cartilage)
Health Care Requirements
- Confirm health clearances by checking the OFA website (offa.org)
- Do not allow puppies to jump or run on hard surfaces until they are at least one year old – this will help prevent future joint problems
- Ensure a proper mineral balance diet to prevent bone and joint problems
- Avoid overfeeding “growth formula” puppy foods or an excessively high protein diet
- Provide at least 30-60 minutes of daily activity to avoid weight gain
Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent creatures and respond well to training.
It’s important to start training from a young age so your pup develops good habits sooner rather than later.
As Aussies can be aloof around strangers, training will help socialize them and prevent the problem escalating.
Equally, training will help nip any problems arising from the breeds inherent herding tendencies (nipping, wandering etc.) from developing.
As well as being vital to good behavior, training will also provide lots of mental stimulation, preventing them becoming bored or even destructive.
Don’t be fooled by their cute faces… this breed requires a lot of hard work and training, but the rewards of a well-behaved dog will be more than worth the effort.
Training Care Requirements
Proper puppy socialization is essential, right from the beginning.
Even very young pups will soon learn the basic commands of sit, come, stay, and down.
As Aussies are herders by nature, the most important command to teach your pet (especially if you walk them unleashed) is the recall command- this will make sure they never venture too far in their efforts to “round up’ any passing people, pets or otherwise!
As Aussies love a good chew (regardless of what it is they’re chomping on), proper chew toy training and bite inhibition instruction can prove very handy.
Characteristics of Australian Shepherds
Of course, all dogs are unique, but there are some characteristics that are common across the breed.
If you’re considering buying your first Aussie, make sure to brush up on your knowledge of their known traits before deciding if it’s the breed for you.
Australian Shepherds score a low- medium on adaptability.
The breed tends not to fare well in apartment living, nor does it not tolerate being left alone for long periods of time.
In addition, Aussies can be sensitive and are not suited to novice pet owners.
On the plus side, the breed adapts well to both cold and hot climates.
Australian Shepherds are extremely well inclined to other dogs and are known for their excellent sociability.
If you have a household of pets, an Australian Shepherd will have no problem fitting in.
Australian Shepherds score a medium for shedding.
You should expect some amount of shedding, but you won’t have to deal with the constant snowstorm of hair you’d experience with certain other breeds.
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Australian Shepherds make great family pets and are characterized by their affectionate personalizes.
A typical Aussie will bond easily and quickly with their new owner, especially if they were raised in a family home (rather than a kennel).
Remember that Australian Shepherds were bred as working dogs- even if yours has never seen a sheep in its life, it’s still going to have some demanding exercise needs.
The breed is best suited to active, outdoorsy people who can offer their pet plenty of regular exercise.
Australian Shepherds are highly sociable and don’t do well left alone for extended periods; they are most definitely companion dogs and do best with owners who can dedicate plenty of time and energy to their needs.
Australian Shepherds don’t do well in apartments due to their high energy needs.
Most benefit from at least a small garden or yard to help them expend some of their relentless energy.
The Australian Shepherd has a medium length coat which requires a good amount of grooming, particularly in shedding season.
Brush your Australian Shepherd weekly to avoid matting.
Bathing isn’t quite so crucial; if you keep them well groomed, you shouldn’t need to bathe them unless they’re dirty.
The Australian Shepherd can be wary and aloof around strangers unless they are socialized well as a pup.
Prevent any problems from developing by making sure your Aussie has lots of interaction with family, friends and strangers from a young age.
Australian Shepherds don’t do well if left alone for long periods and may become destructive and bark for long stretches if they aren’t provided with enough social contact or mental and physical stimulation.
Avoid problems by giving them plenty of exercise and stimulating brain workouts.
Australian Shepherds tend to be healthy but can be predisposed to certain genetic problems such as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand’s disease.
To minimize risks, make sure to buy your pup from a reputable breeder and always check they been cleared of the above conditions.
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Australian Shepherds tend to form close bonds with their owners, which can result in territorial habits.
To prevent any issues from developing, make sure to socialize your dog from an early age by bringing them into contact with friends, family, and strangers.
Australian Shepherds tend to get along well with other pets, including cats.
However, if their herding instincts take over, they may try to “herd” other animals… a habit that rarely goes down well with cats!
Keep a close eye on their interactions so you can stop any potential problems before they become an issue.
Aussies are a highly intelligent breed and need plenty of mental stimulation to prevent them becoming bored.
Keep them entertained with puzzles, agility classes and interactive dog toys..
Australian Shepherds are highly trainable.
They tend to do best with training methods that use positive reinforcement, such as praise, petting and treats … a few pieces of kibble will do wonders at getting them to follow orders!
While very friendly, Australian Shepherds are herders by nature- as such, you may find them trying to “herd” your kids (or even giving them an occasional nip to bring them into line).
Be sure to nip such problems firmly in the bud with appropriate training: once you do, you’ll find the breed makes a wonderful playmate to your kids.
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The Australian Shepherd is extremely playful and will retain its puppylike desire for games and frolics throughout its life.
While this can be charming, it can also be demanding; think about how much time and energy you have to play with your pet before making any decisions about getting one.
Australian Shepherds make great watchdogs and will be sure to warn you if they see or hear anything suspicious.
Despite their normally friendly disposition, they will guard you and your family with surprising fierceness if they feel you are under threat.
Australian Shepherds are very sociable creatures and tend to adapt well to other pets.
However, remember they have herding tendencies built into their genes; if you find they start trying to herd or nip your other pets to bring them into line, a few obedience classes may be needed.
Australian Shepherds do best on a well- balanced, high quality dog food. Diets should be appropriate to your pet’s age, health condition and weight.
As Australian Shepherds can be prone to weight gain, monitor the calorie consumption carefully, and avoid treating them to too many snacks.
Australian Shepherd Puppies
Your pup’s calorie need’s will change as they age. As a general indication, aim for the following amounts… while remembering it’s best to spread their food over 3 -4 meals a day: –
- Four to five months of age: 1 ¾ to 3 ⅓ cups.
- Six to eight months:1⅓ to 3 ¼ cups.
- Nine to eleven months: 2⅓ to 4 cups.
- One to two years old: 2⅓ to 5 ¼ cups each day.
Australian Shepherd Adults
The needs of adult Australian Shepherds can vary greatly, depending on their activity levels.
According to Pawster, a standard Aussie weighing 50 pounds with normal exercise habits will need about 1312 calories per day.
A working or highly active dog will need closer to 2915 calories.
A neutered and sedentary Aussie, on the other hand, might need as little as 1166 calories.
Famous Australian Shepherds
You might be surprised to know the Australian Shepherd breed has some famous names in its mix.
From film stars to rodeo performers, this breed has them all. Let’s take a look at some of the key players:
Bunk rose to fame as the blue merle Australian Shepherd companion of silent film star, Jack Hoxie.
The pair appeared together in the 101 Ranch Wild West Shows and Downie Brothers Circus.
Magic was a black and white Australian Shepherd who performed alongside Peter Bloeme, co-founder of Hyperflite, at various sporting events in the 1990’s.
#3 Shortie, Queenie, Joker, Silver and John.
This pack of Aussies appeared alongside rodeo competitor Jay Sisler at rodeos up and down the country.
Stub and Shortie also had the distinction of appearing in 2 Disney films- 1967’s Run, Appaloosa, Run and 1973’s Stub: Best Cow Dog in the West.
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Tips on Buying an Australian Shepherd
Research: Before committing to a new pet, research the breed thoroughly to ensure it’s the right match for your home, family, and lifestyle.
Find a Reputable Breeder: A good breeder will match you with the right pup and make sure your new pet has been screened for any health conditions.
Ask Questions: Ask about the pup’s family history, temperament, health clearances and any other concerns you might have – a good breeder will welcome your interest!
How Much Does an Australian Shepherd Cost?
The cost of an Australian Shepherd can vary by anything from $350 to $1800. As an average, you can expect to pay between $650-$850.
Prices will usually come down to one or more of the following factors: –
Breeder Reputation. Not all breeders are created equal. Expect to pay more for dogs from reputable, knowledgeable breeders.
Color. Some breeders will charge extra for dogs of a particular color.
Tri-colored or merle Australian Shepherds tend to be in greater demand, so will usually sell for a higher price.
Pedigree. Pedigree comes at a price – the more champions in a puppy’s family tree, the higher they tend to be sold for.
Location. Markets vary be region: a pup that retails at $700 in one state may go for $300 dollars or more in another.
The Australian Shepherd is a member of the Herding Group, a category characterized by excellent stamina, great agility, high intelligence, and an aptitude for working closely with people.
Herding Group (AKC:1991)
The Australian Shepherd is the AKC’s 135th recognized breed.
If you want to find out more about the breed or connect to other Australian Shepherd owners in your area, visit their webpage at AKC.
Herding Dog Breeds (UKC)
The Australian Shepherd has been recognized by the United Kennel Club since 1979.
For more information on the breed standard, visit their Australian Shepherd homepage at UKCdogs.
National Breed Clubs
For more information about the breed, or details about local rescue centers, one of the following breed clubs or organizations is a great place to start:
- United States Australian Shepherd Association
- National Australian Shepherd Association
- The Australian Shepherd Club of America
If you’re looking to adopt or foster an Australian Shepherd, there are many national and regional adoption centers able to help.
If none of the below centers service your area, the national breed club should be able to point you in the right direction.
- Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline, Inc
- Second Time Around Aussie Rescue, Inc
- Aussie Rescue Canada
- Australian Shepherd Rescue Page
Share your thoughts
As we’ve seen, Australian Shepherds can be a handful, and are certainly not for everyone.
If you want a balanced, well- trained pet, you’re going to have to put in the effort.
If you do, the rewards of a well-behaved, happy dog will more than make up for the effort.
Hopefully, you’ve found the information in today’s post useful (whether that’s in helping you decide whether an Aussie is the pet for you, or picking up some useful tips on the one you already have).
If you feel the advice could benefit other pet owners, feel free to share the link.
If you have any of your own experiences or stories about Australian Shepherds to share (or any other breed for that matter), I’d love to hear them in the comments section below.