9 Things to Know Before Getting an Australian Shepherd

things you should know before getting an australian shepherd

Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the 9 Things You Should Know Before Getting an Australian Shepherd! The Australian Shepherd, often simply called the “Aussie,” is a popular and striking breed known for its intelligence, high energy levels, and dedication to its family.

However, owning an Australian Shepherd is not for everyone, as they have specific needs and characteristics that require a certain level of understanding and commitment.

In this blog post, we will delve into the essential aspects of the breed, from their history and background to their temperament, health, and compatibility with different living situations.

Our aim is to provide potential Aussie owners with a solid foundation of knowledge, enabling them to make an informed decision before welcoming this incredible breed into their homes.

So, without further ado, let’s dive in and explore the world of Australian Shepherds!

History and Background of the Australian Shepherd

Origins of the Australian Shepherd

Despite its name, the Australian Shepherd’s origins can be traced back to the Basque region between France and Spain. In the early 1800s, Basque shepherds migrated to Australia with their herding dogs, which were known for their exceptional herding abilities and striking appearance.

These dogs were then bred with local Australian breeds, resulting in the foundation of the Australian Shepherd we know today.

Read Also: 8 Reasons Australian Shepherds Make Fantastic Pets

Misconceptions about the breed’s origin

It’s a common misconception that the Australian Shepherd hails from Australia, as its name might suggest. However, the breed’s development continued when Basque shepherds and their dogs moved from Australia to the United States during the California Gold Rush in the 1840s.

It was here in the American West that the breed was refined and gained its current name, as well as its popularity as a versatile working dog on ranches and farms.

Breed development and purpose

The Australian Shepherd was primarily bred for herding livestock, particularly sheep and cattle. They are renowned for their ability to control and move large herds with precision and skill, often through challenging terrain.

Over time, the breed became a favorite among ranchers and farmers due to their high intelligence, adaptability, and strong work ethic.

In addition to herding, Australian Shepherds have excelled in various canine sports and activities, including obedience, agility, and search-and-rescue operations.

Today, they continue to serve as working dogs on farms and ranches, while also being cherished companions for active families and individuals who appreciate their unique qualities.

Read Next: Miniature Australian Shepherds vs. Standard Australian Shepherds – What’s the difference?

Appearance and Size of the Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd is known for its striking and diverse coat colors, which can include blue merle, red merle, black, and red. Each color can come with or without white markings and/or tan (copper) points.

Merle patterns, characterized by a marbled appearance with patches of different colors, are especially eye-catching and unique to each individual dog. It’s important to note that responsible breeding practices are essential when it comes to merle-to-merle breeding, as it can result in serious health issues for the offspring.

Australian Shepherds are classified as medium-sized dogs, with males typically standing between 20 and 23 inches tall at the shoulder and weighing between 50 and 65 pounds.

Females are slightly smaller, usually measuring 18 to 21 inches in height and weighing between 40 and 55 pounds. Keep in mind that these ranges are general guidelines, and individual dogs may fall outside of these parameters.

Aussies have a double coat, consisting of a dense, weather-resistant undercoat and a longer, wavy or straight topcoat. This coat helps protect them from various weather conditions and requires regular grooming to maintain its health and appearance.

Brushing your Australian Shepherd at least once or twice a week will help remove loose hair, prevent matting, and keep the coat clean and shiny. During shedding seasons (typically spring and fall), more frequent grooming may be necessary.

Additionally, regular nail trimming, ear cleaning, and dental care are essential components of maintaining your Aussie’s overall health and well-being.

Read Next: 5 Things Owning an Australian Shepherd Says About You

Temperament and Personality of Australian Shepherds

Intelligence and trainability

Australian Shepherds are known for their exceptional intelligence, making them highly trainable and quick to learn new commands and tasks.

They are eager to please and respond well to positive reinforcement training methods, such as praise, treats, and play. Due to their intelligence, it’s important to keep their minds engaged and challenged, as they can become bored and potentially destructive if not properly stimulated.

Energy levels and exercise needs

Aussies are high-energy dogs that require regular physical activity to keep them happy and healthy. They thrive in active homes where they can participate in daily walks, hikes, or play sessions in a securely fenced area.

Ideally, they should receive at least 1 to 2 hours of exercise per day. In addition to physical exercise, mental stimulation is crucial for this breed, as they enjoy problem-solving and using their brains. Interactive toys, puzzle feeders, and training sessions can help keep them mentally engaged.

Herding instincts and drive

As a herding breed, Australian Shepherds possess a strong natural instinct to herd and control the movement of other animals or even people. This can sometimes lead to behaviors like nipping at heels or circling, particularly around children or other pets.

Early training and proper socialization can help manage and redirect these instincts into more appropriate outlets, such as canine sports or herding activities. It’s essential to be aware of these instincts when considering an Aussie, especially if you have young children or other animals in the household.

Socialization and Training

Importance of early socialization

Early socialization is crucial for Australian Shepherds, as it helps them grow into well-rounded, confident adults. Exposing your Aussie to a variety of people, animals, environments, and situations from a young age will help them learn how to adapt and respond appropriately.

Puppy socialization classes, visits to dog-friendly establishments, and controlled interactions with other dogs and people can all contribute to a positive socialization experience.

Training techniques for Australian Shepherds

Positive reinforcement training methods, such as praise, treats, and play, are highly effective for Australian Shepherds.

They respond well to consistency and clear communication, so it’s important to establish a routine and set boundaries from the beginning. Avoid using harsh or aversive training techniques, as these can damage the bond between you and your dog and potentially lead to fear or aggression.

Obedience training should begin at an early age, focusing on basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” and “leave it.” As your Aussie progresses, more advanced training can be introduced, including off-leash work and dog sports like agility, herding, or flyball.

Potential behavior issues and solutions for Australian shepherds

Some common behavior issues in Australian Shepherds include excessive barking, digging, and chewing, often stemming from boredom or lack of mental and physical stimulation. Providing your Aussie with an appropriate outlet for their energy and intelligence can help mitigate these issues. Regular exercise, training sessions, and interactive toys can all help keep your dog engaged and satisfied.

Herding instincts can also lead to issues, such as nipping or circling. To address these behaviors, early training and socialization are key.

Encouraging appropriate play and teaching your Aussie to respect boundaries can help them learn to control their herding instincts in a more suitable manner. Additionally, enrolling your dog in a herding class or participating in canine sports can provide an outlet for their natural drives.

Health and Lifespan

While Australian Shepherds are generally a healthy breed, they can be prone to certain health issues. Some of the most common include:

Hip dysplasia: A genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t develop properly, which can lead to arthritis or joint issues later in life.

Elbow dysplasia: Similar to hip dysplasia, this condition affects the elbow joint and can result in pain, lameness, or arthritis.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): An eye condition that can cause gradual vision loss and eventually lead to blindness.

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA): A congenital eye defect that affects the development of the choroid, which can range from mild to severe vision impairment.

Epilepsy: A neurological disorder that causes seizures, which can be managed with medication and veterinary supervision.

Reputable breeders will screen their breeding stock for these conditions, so it’s important to ask for health clearances and genetic testing results when selecting a puppy.

Lifespan expectations

With proper care and attention to their health, Australian Shepherds typically have a lifespan of 12 to 15 years. Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet, and consistent exercise can all contribute to a long and healthy life for your Aussie.

Preventative care and regular check-ups

To ensure the health and well-being of your Australian Shepherd, schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian, ideally at least once a year. These visits will allow your vet to monitor your dog’s overall health, administer necessary vaccinations, and address any potential health concerns before they become serious issues.

In addition to veterinary care, maintaining a healthy weight, providing consistent exercise, and feeding a high-quality, balanced diet can all contribute to your Aussie’s overall health. Regular grooming, dental care, and parasite prevention are also essential aspects of preventative care.

Living Environment and Adaptability

Ideal living conditions

Australian Shepherds thrive in environments where they have access to ample space for exercise and mental stimulation. A home with a large, securely fenced yard is ideal, as it provides them with a safe area to run, play, and explore.

However, they can adapt to smaller living spaces, such as apartments or townhomes, provided they receive sufficient daily exercise and mental stimulation.

City vs rural living for Australian Shepherds

While Aussies were originally bred for rural life and working on farms or ranches, they can adapt to city living with the right amount of exercise and mental engagement.

When living in urban environments, it’s essential to provide your Aussie with regular outings to dog parks or other open spaces where they can run and play off-leash. Consistent socialization with other dogs and people will also help them feel comfortable and confident in busier urban settings.

Adapting to different environments

Australian Shepherds are versatile dogs that can adapt to various environments and climates, thanks to their double coat, which provides insulation against both hot and cold temperatures.

However, it’s crucial to take precautions during extreme weather conditions, such as providing shade and fresh water during hot weather or limiting time outside during extreme cold.

Regardless of their living environment, the key to a happy and healthy Aussie is ensuring they receive the physical exercise, mental stimulation, and social interaction they need to thrive. By meeting these needs, you’ll help your Australian Shepherd become a well-adjusted and content member of your family, no matter where you live.

Family Compatibility

Australian Shepherds as family pets

Australian Shepherds can make excellent family pets for those who understand and can meet their unique needs. They are known for their loyalty, devotion, and protective nature towards their family members. With proper socialization, they generally get along well with people of all ages, including children.

Compatibility with Children and other pets

While Aussies can be great with children, it’s important to remember their natural herding instincts. They may attempt to herd or nip at children, especially during play. Proper training, socialization, and supervision are essential to ensure safe and positive interactions between your Aussie and children.

Australian Shepherds can also get along well with other pets, including dogs and cats, when properly socialized from a young age. However, due to their herding instincts, they may try to herd or chase smaller animals.

It’s important to monitor interactions and establish boundaries to ensure harmonious relationships among all family members, both human and animal.

Considerations for first-time dog owners

Australian Shepherds can be a challenging breed for first-time dog owners due to their high energy levels, intelligence, and herding instincts. They require consistent training, socialization, and exercise, which may be overwhelming for some inexperienced dog owners.

However, if you’re a first-time owner who’s willing to dedicate the time and effort to understand and meet the needs of this breed, an Aussie can be a rewarding and loyal companion.

Engaging the help of a professional dog trainer or enrolling in obedience classes can provide invaluable support and guidance for new owners navigating the joys and challenges of raising an Australian Shepherd.

Activities and Sports

Popular dog sports for Australian Shepherds

Australian Shepherds excel in various dog sports, thanks to their intelligence, agility, and strong work ethic. Some popular activities and sports that Aussies enjoy include:

Agility: A fast-paced, obstacle-based sport that requires dogs to navigate a course with their handler’s guidance.

Herding trials: A competitive event where dogs showcase their natural herding abilities by moving livestock through a designated course.

Flyball: A relay race in which teams of dogs race against each other to retrieve a tennis ball from a spring-loaded box and return to their starting point.

Obedience trials: Competitions that test a dog’s ability to perform a series of commands and exercises under the direction of their handler.

Rally obedience: A combination of traditional obedience and agility, where dogs and handlers navigate a course with various stations requiring specific obedience tasks.

Dock diving: A sport in which dogs compete to jump the farthest or highest into a body of water to retrieve a toy.

Importance of mental and physical stimulation

Engaging your Australian Shepherd in sports and activities is not only a great way to bond with your dog but also crucial for their overall well-being.

These activities provide mental and physical stimulation, helping to prevent boredom and associated behavior issues. Aussies thrive when given a job to do and challenges to overcome, so incorporating sports and activities into their routine can lead to a happier, healthier, and more fulfilled dog.

Opportunities for bonding and engagement

Participating in activities and sports with your Australian Shepherd allows you to build a strong bond and deepen your connection. Working together as a team helps to establish trust and fosters a sense of mutual understanding.

These experiences not only enrich your dog’s life but also contribute to a rewarding and fulfilling relationship between you and your Aussie.

Responsible Breeding and Adoption

Choosing a reputable Australian Shepherd breeder

If you’ve decided that an Australian Shepherd is the right breed for you, it’s crucial to choose a reputable breeder who prioritizes the health, temperament, and well-being of their dogs. Some key factors to consider when selecting a breeder include:

Health testing: Reputable breeders will perform health screenings and genetic testing on their breeding stock to minimize the risk of passing on hereditary conditions.

Temperament: A responsible breeder will prioritize breeding dogs with stable, well-rounded temperaments, ensuring that their puppies are more likely to be good family pets.

Environment: The breeding environment should be clean, safe, and nurturing, with puppies being well-socialized and exposed to various stimuli from a young age.

Transparency: Breeders should be open and honest about their breeding practices, pedigrees, and the health history of their dogs.

Support: A reputable breeder will provide ongoing support and guidance to new owners, answering questions and addressing concerns throughout the dog’s life.

Adopting an Australian shepherd from a rescue or shelter

Adopting an Australian Shepherd from a rescue organization or shelter is another excellent option for those looking to welcome this breed into their home. There are many Aussies in need of loving homes, and adoption can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience for both you and your new canine companion.

When adopting, it’s important to work closely with the rescue or shelter staff to find a dog that matches your lifestyle, expectations, and experience level.

Keep in mind that some rescue dogs may have specific needs or challenges, such as medical issues, behavioral concerns, or a history of trauma. The rescue organization should provide support and guidance to help you and your adopted Aussie adjust and thrive together.

Importance of responsible pet ownership

Whether you choose to purchase from a breeder or adopt from a rescue, it’s essential to understand the responsibilities and commitment involved in owning an Australian Shepherd.

This breed has specific needs in terms of exercise, mental stimulation, and socialization, which require time, patience, and dedication. By committing to responsible pet ownership and meeting your Aussie’s needs, you’ll help ensure a happy, healthy, and fulfilling life for your canine companion.

Things to Consider Before Getting an Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd is a highly intelligent, energetic, and versatile breed that can make an excellent companion for the right family.

Before bringing an Aussie into your life, it’s essential to understand their unique needs, including their exercise requirements, mental stimulation, and potential herding instincts.

By doing your research and considering factors such as living environment, family compatibility, and responsible breeding or adoption practices, you can make an informed decision about whether this breed is the right fit for you.

If you decide that an Australian Shepherd is the ideal companion for your lifestyle, dedicating the time and effort to meet their needs will result in a strong bond and a rewarding relationship.

From participating in dog sports and activities to maintaining a healthy living environment and seeking ongoing support from breeders or rescue organizations, your commitment to responsible pet ownership will help your Aussie thrive and become a cherished member of your family.


Hi, I'm the owner of Juniper Pets! You can often find me playing fetch with my dogs, working out or cooking up something legendary in the kitchen. Hope you enjoy my blog!

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