Australian Shepherd: Dog Breed Info

Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd is an exceptional and highly intelligent dog breed known for its athleticism, devotion, and intelligence. They were initially bred for the purpose of herding sheep and continue to be widely employed as working dogs on ranches. However, they have also become popular pets due to their loving and loyal nature. With a medium-sized, athletic body and strong bones, Australian Shepherds are built for endurance and agility. Their effortless movements allow them to quickly change directions or accelerate.

This breed has a dual-layered coat that can withstand various weather conditions. To avoid boredom and destructive behavior, it is crucial to ensure that they are adequately engaged in both physical activity and mental stimulation. Australian Shepherds excel in performing tricks, stunts, and agility trials due to their competitive nature. They stand out with their attractive appearance, medium-length coat, and diverse eye colors. This versatile breed is a perfect fit for active families seeking an adventurous and affectionate companion.

Australian Shepherd Appearance

The Australian Shepherd is a visually stunning breed with distinct features. They have a perceptive expression and a dense, soft double coat that covers their lean bodies. Their tails can either be naturally bobbed or docked. While their eye color can vary, Australian Shepherds are often known for their expressive and occasionally asymmetrical light blue eyes.

These dogs are medium-sized, typically measuring between 18 to 23 inches in height and weighing 35 to 70 pounds, though slight deviations are allowed. Their coat is moderately long and wavy, with a thick undercoat and coarse topcoat. Australian Shepherds have various coat color possibilities, including blue merle, red merle, solid black, or solid red, with or without white markings and tan points.

In the past, long tails were docked, but some countries have prohibited this practice, allowing long-tailed or partially bob-tailed Australian Shepherds in exhibitions.

History of the Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd actually originated in the Basque region of Spain, not Australia. Bred for their herding abilities near the Pyrenees Mountains, they were brought to Australia by Basque migrants in the 19th century. There, they were interbred with Border Collies and other herding breeds. As migration continued, these dogs, mistakenly believed to be from Australia, were taken to the United States and named Australian Shepherds. The breed was further developed in the U.S. and gained popularity as a ranch dog in the Western U.S.

The American Kennel Club officially recognized Australian Shepherds in 1993. They are now frequently seen on ranches and farms worldwide, serving as service dogs, therapy dogs and participating in search and rescue missions.

In the 1960s, a smaller version called the Miniature Australian Shepherd was created in California, though their lineage is uncertain due to breeding with unregistered dogs. In 2015, they were recognized as the Miniature American Shepherd by the AKC.

Australian Shepherd Temperament

Australian Shepherds are known for their calm and easy-going nature, which they maintain even as adults. They are intelligent, loyal, and playful, making them great canines for active individuals and families with children. While they have herding instincts, they can be easily trained and are gentle towards humans. Nonetheless, plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation are necessary to keep them entertained and prevent any potential behavioral problems. Playing games, especially fetch, is a great way to keep them engaged and help them expend their energy.

Australian Shepherds are devoted and loyal, always eager to please their owners. They are also protective and make good watchdogs, but proper socialization is important to avoid any suspicion of strangers. Working lines of Australian Shepherds may be too energetic for those with a moderately active lifestyle. Overall, they are diligent and quiet workers who are usually not aggressive toward other dogs.

How to Care for an Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd can be an excellent addition to a suitable family, as it typically adjusts well to various types of energetic households, provided that they receive adequate exercise and training. Regular grooming is also necessary for Aussies.


Australian Shepherds need regular exercise to prevent boredom and hyperactivity. They require at least two hours of exercise each day, including two long walks in a secure area. Mental and physical stimulation can be provided through puzzle games and training sessions. These energetic dogs excel in canine sports like flyball and agility. When walking in rural areas with livestock, it is important to keep them on a leash due to their herding instincts.


Regular grooming is vital for Australian Shepherds because of their thick double coat, which sheds year-round. To maintain their grooming, brushing their coat regularly to remove loose hair and dirt is essential to prevent matting. Additionally, regularly checking for ticks and fleas is crucial, as these pests can harm their health if left untreated. Cleaning their ears on a weekly basis and trimming their nails every few weeks are also necessary for optimal health and comfort.

Training and Socialization

Australian Shepherds are recognized for their high intelligence and readiness to learn. Effective training can make them extremely obedient, but it should be positive and reward-based. However, Aussies can be challenging due to their need for activity and stimulation, so prior experience with the breed is recommended. First-time owners or those needing extra help should consider enrolling their Australian Shepherds in accredited training courses.

Early socialization is vital for their development, involving exposure to different people, dogs, and experiences. Despite their energetic nature, they generally have a calm demeanor.

Once the basics are mastered, engaging them with advanced tricks and competitive sports like agility or flyball can help them harness their energy and intelligence effectively.

Ideal Environment

Australians are happy as long as they have access to the outdoors, but they can also live in city apartments with mental stimulation. They need puzzle feeders, games, and outdoor runs. Australians do well in lively family settings but may try to herd small children and other pets. They are best suited for responsible older children who can keep up with their energy.

Owners should devote at least an hour a day to exercise, not including casual walks. Engaging in dog sports like agility and flyball can entertain them and strengthen their bond. They can get along with other animals but may nip at heels due to their herding instinct.

Diet and Nutrition

Australian Shepherds are energetic dogs that need more calories than less active breeds. It’s important to feed them dog food that meets the nutritional standards set by AAFCO. Some Aussies may have food allergies, which can cause itchy or dry skin. If you notice these symptoms, talk to your vet. They may recommend hypoallergenic or specially formulated foods for sensitive skin. Regularly monitoring your dog’s weight is crucial for their overall health. Remember to provide fresh water at all times, especially during hot weather and exercise.

Common Australian Shepherd Health Issues

The most common health problems for Australian Shepherds include anxiety, skin and eye problems, joint dysplasia, Multiple Drug Sensitivity, and epilepsy. Familiarize yourself with these conditions to ensure your Aussie can enjoy a long and healthy life.


Australian Shepherds are intelligent and energetic dogs known for their ability to excel in tasks like herding cows and participating in dog shows. They are sensitive to their owner’s emotions and can become anxious if their environment is chaotic or if they lack stimulation. Signs of anxiety in Aussies include aggression, destruction, restlessness, compulsive licking, drooling, and indoor accidents. To address their anxiety, provide them with play, exercise, and mental stimulation. Avoid reinforcing their anxiety by reacting with concern.

Eye Disease

Eye problems in Australian Shepherds are more prevalent compared to other dog breeds. Common issues include Collie Eye Anomaly, cataracts, and others. It is advised to have your Aussie undergo an annual eye examination by a specialized veterinarian to ensure regular care and evaluation.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Dysplasia is a condition where a dog’s hip or elbow sockets don’t develop properly, causing the thigh bones to rub against the sockets, leading to inflammation and wear. This can result in arthritis and daily discomfort. Diagnosing dysplasia requires an X-ray performed on dogs at least two years old. Treatment options, such as medication or joint replacement surgery, should be discussed with a veterinarian.

Skin Problems

Australian Shepherds have a distinctive merle coat but are prone to skin allergies and infections. Detecting these problems is challenging due to their thick fur. Signs of allergies include red ears, paws, excessive scratching, and hair loss. Changing the diet may be necessary if a food allergy is suspected. Fleas and contact with allergens can also cause skin irritations. Regular grooming and bathing can help prevent these issues. Treating wounds and getting veterinary treatment for infections is essential.

Multiple Drug Sensitivity

Aussies are one of the dog breeds that can have an inherited disease, which can be fatal if they are given certain veterinary drugs like ivermectin. However, a cheek swab test can easily determine if your Aussie has this disease, and your vet can take the necessary precautions. It is important to inform your vet about this condition so they avoid prescribing medication that may harm your pup.


Australian Shepherds are at risk of developing epilepsy, a condition that causes seizures. Typically, if an Aussie has epilepsy, they will have their first seizure before the age of three. If they haven’t had any seizures by that age, it is unlikely that they have epilepsy. However, if they do have epilepsy, there are medications and blood tests that can be used to manage the condition and ensure a happy and healthy life for your pet.

Final Thoughts

The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent and athletic dog breed known for its devotion and herding abilities. They are medium-sized, with a medium-length coat and varied eye colors. Australian Shepherds were initially bred for herding sheep and continue to be used as working dogs on ranches. However, they have also become popular as pets due to their loving nature and loyalty. This breed requires physical activity and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behavior. They excel in performing tricks and agility trials.

Australian Shepherds are calm and easy-going, making them great companions for active individuals and families. They require regular exercise, grooming, training, and socialization. Common health issues in Australian Shepherds include anxiety, skin and eye problems, hip and elbow dysplasia, Multiple Drug Sensitivity, and epilepsy. With proper care and attention, Australian Shepherds can live long and healthy lives.

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