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Australian Shepherd Dog: Breed profile

Australian Shepherd lying on picnic table looking at camera
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Despite its name, the Australian Shepherd dog, or Aussie, originated in the borderlands between France and Spain. There it was known as a Pyrenean Shepherd, helping to herd animals in the Pyrenees Mountains. In the early 1800s, many of the Basque shepherds set sail for Australia, taking their dogs with them where they crossbred them with Border Collies to get the Australian Shepherd we know and love today.

Because of their years spent herding across the rugged and harsh Australian landscape, Aussies are active and energetic working dogs that need a lot of exercise. They have high levels of stamina and intelligence and without regular physical and mental stimulation, they can become frustrated and demanding. 

When matched with active owners who like running and hiking or when put to work on a farm or ranch, Australian Shepherds are loving and loyal companions who are utterly devoted to their human family. While their protectiveness is generally an asset, they can be wary of strangers and require socialization from a young age to ensure they are not overly shy or aggressive around people they don’t know. 

A highly trainable dog with not too many health issues and a love of children, the Australian Shepherd makes the ideal family furkid for those who love the outdoor lifestyle. 

How much exercise does a Australian Shepherd need?

QUICK STATS

Life expectancy: 12-15 years
Average weight: Male: 50-65 lbs/22-29kg Female: 40-55lbs/18-25kg
About the same: as a small bale of hay
Exercise level: High (at least 1-2 hours a day)

Australian Shepherd dogs were bred to work hard all day long and are highly intelligent, so they need a ton of exercise that doesn’t just burn off physical energy but also mentally stimulates them.

As a minimum, these dogs require 1-2 hours of exercise every day in the form of running, long walks, hiking, and other high-energy activities like chasing frisbees and playing with interactive dog toys that challenge them mentally, such as puzzles. They also love fetching and tug of war, so investing in a few of the best rope dog toys will help keep them occupied.

You’ll want to ensure that you have a large fenced property that this dog can run about in during the day or a farm or ranch where they’re put to work herding livestock. Because they respond so well to training, obedience or agility events are another great way to keep this breed fit and healthy.

Petsport USA Mega Tuff Ball Tug Dog Toy
Designed for active dogs who love to play and fetch, this combination rope and ball toy guarantees hours of fun. Made from extra-thick natural rubber and available in two sizes, the large option is perfect for the strong and active Aussie.

Australian Shepherd playing with a stick

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Are Australian Shepherds easy to train?

FACTS FOR POTENTIAL OWNERS

Suitable for: Active people who want a smart, energetic, and trainable dog
Not suitable for: People with small yards and sedentary lifestyles
Temperament: Intelligent, work-orientated, exuberant, protective, loyal
Shedding: Medium
Also consider: German Shepherd

Australian Shepherds are happiest when they’re putting both their brains and their bodies to work. One of the main reasons this breed finds itself in rescue situations is because many owners don’t know how to constructively channel an Aussie's energy. Early socialization and obedience training is a must for this energetic dog, and the good news is that their high intelligence levels make training easy.

You’ll want to begin training your Aussie as soon as you get them and one of the best ways is to find a reputable trainer and take them to regular obedience classes. This will not only help them learn to socialize with other dogs and people, but it will teach them basic commands. You can carry on this training outside of class during your daily walk by keeping them on a lead and practicing commands such as ‘sit,’ ‘stay,’ ‘heel,’ ‘down’’ and ‘come’. 

Aussies respond best to reward-based training that positively reinforces good behavior. A combination of praise and dog treats is a great way to let this breed know when they’ve done something correctly. Aim for around 1 hour a day of training with your new Aussie and you’ll very quickly find yourself with an eager to please, responsive, and obedient canine companion. 

Are Australian Shepherd's good with kids?

Aussies are loyal and protective with a sound temperament, making them wonderful family pets. They adore their humans, form strong bonds, and are great with children. For the most part, they do well around both kids and other animals but it pays to remember they have natural herding instincts and may require training to stop them from trying to round up all the smaller members of the family! 

Although many Aussies are friendly with everyone, the breed as a whole is known to be reserved and cautious around strangers. If you have an Aussie who is a little more introverted make sure they get plenty of socialization from a young age to expose them to new faces, but don’t force interactions. They tend to guard their family and their territory but they are not considered aggressive.

What should you feed your Australian Shepherd?

Australian Shepherd dog running

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If your Aussie is very active, you’ll need a dog food that has the right ratio of fats, carbohydrates, and protein to ensure they have a consistent supply of energy throughout the day. Aussies have big appetites, but they aren’t picky eaters, which will make your life a lot easier.

Look for a high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient with a moderate to high fat content and high protein levels. Keep the carbohydrate level on the lower side and ensure this comes from whole grains, fruits, and starchy vegetables.

The FDA is currently investigating a link between grain-free diets and heart problems, so unless your veterinarian recommends an allergy or digestive issue, we recommend sticking with foods containing grains.

Choose brands that use wholesome and natural ingredients for a clean source of energy, and avoid animal by-products, fillers, and artificial additives. The shorter the ingredient list, the better it will be for your Aussie. We recommend Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Adult Dry Dog Food as it has everything your energetic Aussie needs to thrive. 

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Natural Adult Dry Dog Food
A natural and high-quality kibble that uses only the best ingredients and comes packed full of protein and healthy fats. Ideal for active dogs, this single-protein kibble is gentle on the digestive system and is free from many known allergens. 

Do Australian Shepherds shed a lot?

GROOMING AND HEALTH INFO

Amount Of Shedding: Medium
Easy To Groom: Yes
General Health: Good
Potential For Weight Gain: Medium

Aussies are easy to groom and most of the time a weekly brushing is all that’s needed to keep this breed’s double-layer coat in tip-top condition. The only exception is during the spring shedding season when twice-weekly brushings are needed to remove the abundant dead hair. This is best done with an undercoat rake and followed up with a wire brush.

Being so high in energy and loving to play, Aussies will often come home looking dirtier than when you left the house with them but try and avoid bathing them too frequently unless it’s really necessary. Their weather-proof coat needs its natural oils, so an occasional bath once and a while is all that’s needed. Like any breed, you’ll want to give their nails a trim on a regular basis.

Pet Teezer De-Shedding & Dog Grooming Brush
Ideal for the double-coated Aussie, the two-tiered teeth on this brush remove embedded dirt and loose hair. Designed to be soft on the skin, it's compact and portable for maximum convenience. This is a superior de-shedding and de-matting brush that can be used on both wet and dry hair. 

How healthy are Australian Shepherds?

Aussies are generally healthy dogs but like with any other breed they are prone to their own set of potential issues. The most common are hip dysplasia, eye diseases, and epilepsy, and severe cases of these may require surgery and can be expensive to treat. 

Not all of these health problems are detectable in young puppy’s but some issues, such as eye diseases, are passed down genetically and a responsible breeder will have tested the parents for these. Before you bring your Aussie home, ask to see the certificate that shows your new furkid comes from healthy breeding stock.

Multiple Drug Sensitivity (MDS) can also affect Australian Shepherds. Dogs with MDS can have potentially fatal reactions to many common veterinary drugs, but the good news is this can be easily picked up both before parents breed and in puppies through a simple swab.

Even with the best breeding practices, health issues can still arise but there are some crucial things you can do at home to prevent these. Obesity is a common cause of hip dysplasia, so making sure your Aussie gets plenty of exercise and eats the right portions for their energy output, can help prevent this. 

Veterinarian doctor is making a check up of a australian shepherd dog with stethoscope

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Should I get an Australian Shepherd Dog?

If you want a hardworking, loyal, and intelligent dog who will serve your family faithfully, then an Australian Shepherd is hard to beat. Protective and loving, this active and energetic breed forms strong bonds with the adults and children it lives with and has a playful and adaptable nature.

Easy to train and requiring minimal weekly grooming, Aussies are best suited to those with plenty of time to provide them with the high levels of mental and physical stimulation they need to thrive. Those that can do this will find themselves rewarded with the most faithful of companions.

Also consider: German Shepherd