Australian Shepherd

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Australian Shepherds are known for their tri-colored coats and high energy. Get all the facts in our guide.

Breed Snapshot

Life Expectancy:
12 to 15 years
Size:

Medium

Maintenance Level:

High

Shed Level:

High

Temperament:
All-day EnergyUp-for-anything SidekickIntelligent
Coat Color:
Blue MerleBlackRedRed Merle

Best For

The Australian Shepherd is best for high-energy families with older kids and teens in homes where there is plenty of room to run. They need an experienced pet parent who has the time for training and teaching an Aussie a few over-the-top tricks.

Australian Shepherd Traits

What makes the Australian Shepherd an Australian Shepherd? Let's find out how they stack up.

Australian Shepherd Temperament

Because herding sheep and cattle is in their blood, the Australian Shepherd dog is always looking for a herd to round up, which may include your children or your unsuspecting neighbors on a bike ride. For this reason, it’s important to train your Aussie early so they understand appropriate behaviors and your expectations. Aussies are known for their speed, so keep that in mind before letting your untrained pup off-leash.

While your Aussie’s up-for-anything personality might make you think they are incredibly social, they tend to be more cautious around strangers at first. Start your Australian Shepherd puppy’s training and socialization early to help them get used to new environments and the people they may encounter.

Aussies are super-smart, so don’t be surprised if you get locked in a battle of wits with your pup. Cultivate their natural curiosity by implementing daily training sessions that engage their mind and their bodies. They do want to please you, so consider your daily training sessions as a way to deepen your bond.

Did we mention the Australian Shepherd dog has a lot of energy? It’s one of their best-known characteristics! So, just about any game you invent will be enthusiastically enjoyed by your pup. Aussies adore fetch and can be quite impressive with their skills. They have a well-deserved reputation as canine disc champions, so take a Frisbee with you to the park, and onlookers will be amazed at what your Aussie can do.

Bottom line: Aussies dislike downtime (except when they’re sleeping!), so have plenty of activities in mind and toys at home, including interactive chew toys, discs and balls to keep them loving their “work.”

How to Care for a Australian Shepherd

Hearty dogs bred for life on the farm or ranch, Aussies are a relatively rough-and-tumble breed who don’t require extraordinary maintenance to be healthy and happy. A healthy Aussie is an active Aussie, so make sure their activity level is high no matter the weather or your schedule. Pro tip: Leave a towel by the door to rub them down when they come inside the house after a romp outside, and pay special attention to their paws, which can take a beating from their off-road adventuring. Having a dog paw cleaner can be handy, too.

Australian Shepherd Health

The Australian Shepherd breed has a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years and is generally hearty. They are prone to a few health issues potential pup parents need to be aware of so they can keep their pup healthier for longer.

  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is a painful condition in which the ball of the femur doesn’t properly fit into the hip socket. The condition has genetic and environmental factors, including obesity, so a healthy diet and regular exercise routine are crucial for Aussies. Hip dysplasia can be managed with physical therapy and medication, and in some cases, surgery may be required.
  • Eye Problems: Cataracts are not uncommon in Aussies—about 4 percent will develop them at some point. Aussies are also at risk of other eye defects, including Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), a hereditary disease of the nerve and eye tissue that ultimately leads to blindness. Although cataracts can sometimes be treated with surgery, CEA cannot. Aussies also may be susceptible to distichiasis, a condition in which an
    eyelash grows abnormally and could potentially scratch the eye. Depending on the severity of the condition, treatments range from an eye lubricant to surgery. If you notice anything unusual about your Aussie’s eyes, bring it to the attention of your vet.
  • Cancerous Tumors: Cancer is the most common cause of death in Aussies, with Aussies susceptible to lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma (cancer from the cells that line blood vessels). Keep an eye on your Aussie and let your doctor know if you notice any unusual growths. Some growths may be noncancerous (benign), but others may be cancerous. Treatment options may include surgery, chemotherapy or radiation. Usually, the quicker it is diagnosed, the more avenues you may have for treatment options.
  • Obesity: Even energetic and athletic Aussies can become overweight if they eat more calories than they burn. Because obesity can lead to joint and heart problems, it’s important to catch obesity early and get on track toward a healthy weight. Your vet can help you with a mealtime and exercise strategy to keep your Aussie healthy and happy while losing a few pounds.

Your vet may have other specific things to watch based on your Aussie’s unique traits and their parents’ health (if known). Understanding your Aussies healthy “normal” can help you assess when your Aussie may be behaving atypically. Small changes, like lethargy, lack of interest in food or water or urinating or pooping more or less frequently, may be a sign of a larger issue, so it can be a good idea to get those changes checked right away.

Australian Shepherd History

A misconception about the Australian Shepherd’s history is the fact that they hail from Australia. Believe it or not, the Aussie’s story doesn’t start there; it begins in the Basque region of Spain, near the Pyrenees mountains that border Spain and France. Here, the ancestors of our beloved Aussie were bred for their herding abilities.

As people from the Basque region began to settle in Australia during the 19th century, they brought these working dogs with them. Over time, these shepherds were bred with other herding dogs, like Border Collies, and found homes on Australian ranches.

As the decades progressed and migration continued from Australia to the American West, Australian Shepherds found their footing in California, where the locals assumed Australia was the dogs’ origin. California ranchers admired these dogs for their work ethic and herding abilities, so this working breed added “rodeo performer” to their resumé in short order.

The American Kennel Club added Australian Shepherds to the Herding group in 1993. Today, they are still regularly found on ranches and farms around the world. Not only are they great additions to high-energy families, but Aussies can also be found working as service or therapy dogs and in jobs like search and rescue.

Fun fact: It’s commonly thought there are two types of Aussies: the Australian Shepherd and the Miniature Australian Shepherd. In the 1960s in California, the Miniature Australian Shepherd was bred to put the intelligence and activity level of an Aussie in a smaller body. But the dogs they used were unregistered, so their exact lineage isn’t clear. Today these diminutive dogs are known as the Miniature American Shepherd and entered the AKC Stud Book in 2015.

Are you looking to add an Australian Shepherd to your family? An Australian Shepherd can cost anywhere from $600 to $2,000 for a purebred puppy. But for that, you usually are getting a dog who’s been screened for health and temperament issues, and they might even come with pedigree papers. You can also reach out to Australian Shepherd rescue organizations to adopt an Aussie or keep an eye out for the breed at your local animal shelter. As with all dogs, it’s important to also factor in veterinarian care, training, food, and pet sitting into your budget, as well as the initial cost.

FAQs

Are Australian Shepherds hypoallergenic?

No, Australian Shepherds are not hypoallergenic. Australian Shepherds are heavy shedders, so with all that fur and dander, people with allergies may need to love this breed from a distance.

Are Australian Shepherds smart?

Yes, Australian Shepherds are incredibly smart. One of the key Australian Shepherd traits is their intelligence. Australian Shepherds are naturally smart and curious, and they love a challenge. Training, fulfilling their exercise needs and giving them plenty of attention will help you keep their smarts working for the forces of good.

Are Australian Shepherds good with kids?

Australian Shepherds are good with kids who are older. Aussies literally look for things to herd—it’s one of their quirks—and with small kids and babies around, Aussies will lean into their herding instincts. Aussies can thrive in a family with older kids who have time and energy to play, but it will take training and patience for your Aussie to accept that kids and babies don’t need to be corralled.

Do Australian Shepherds have tails?

Australian Shepherds have tails, and there’s a one-in-five chance that an Aussie will have a naturally bobbed tail since they were bred that way for effective herding. If an Aussie was born with a long tail, it is often docked to protect it from injury.

What are the most popular Australian Shepherd names?

Top names for an Australian Shepherd include Luna, Cooper, Bella, Charlie, Koda, Bear, Sadie, Bailey, Milo, Stella, Lucy, Blue, Max, Finn, Tucker, Daisy, Jax, Lola, Oliver and Penny. For more name inspiration, check out our dog name guide.

What are the most common Australian Shepherd mixes?

The most common Australian Shepherd mixes are:

  • Australian Shepherd-Golden Retriever mix (Golden Aussie or Australian Retriever)
  • Australian Shepherd-Border Collie mix (Border Aussies or Aussie Collies)
  • Australian Shepherd-Husky mix (Aussie Husky or Aussie Siberian)
  • Australian Shepherd-Labrador (Aussiedor)
  • Australian Shepherd-Corgi (Auggie or the Corgherd)
  • Australian Shepherd-German Shepherd (German Australian Shepherd)
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Top Takeaways

With a lot of energy, loyalty and love to give, life with an Australian Shepherd will never be boring. They are ready for any challenge you give them and are head-over-heels excited for competition. If you’re ready to explore the outdoors and form an unforgettable bond with a canine companion, you can’t beat an Australian Shepherd.

Expert input provided by Deb Breitstein, DVM, of Animal Health Care of Marlboro, NJ and Merissa Kriedler, CPDT-KA, KPA CTP, a trainer at Fuzzy Logic Dog Training in Louisa, VA.

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