The Australian Shepherd — also known as the Aussie was developed in California, America, to herd sheep. The breed was imported with Shepherds that came from Australia in the 1800s, hence the name.
Thanks to their lively and loyal nature, they make a beloved household pet for experienced owners that can match their energy. Their intelligence also allows them to learn new tricks with ease, making them fun dogs to have around.
Find out everything you need to know about this loveable breed with our in-depth guide.
How much does Australian Shepherd insurance cost?
In 2022, the average cost to insure an Australian Shepherd with ManyPets was £997.42 Our average dog insurance cost for all our breeds was £412.25, so Australian Shepherds on average cost over twice as much to insure compared to other breeds.
Australian Shepherd training
Australian Shepherds are smart dogs that pick things up quite quickly, so training is considered easy in experienced hands.
However, due to their intelligence, Aussies can learn bad habits as quickly as they learn new tricks. Therefore, consistency and boundary setting is needed in puppyhood for training success.
Breed bad habits
Australian Shepherds are a high-energy breed, so behavioural issues tend to arise when their physical and mental needs aren’t met. This can result in hyperactivity and excessive barking, or they can resort to destructive behaviour around the house.
Due to their herding instincts, Aussies can’t help but chase anything that moves quickly. This can be an issue if you’ve got young children or other animals running around.
As working dogs, Australian Shepherds behave best when they are told to follow instructions. Getting your pup involved in activities like dog sports or pet therapy will help them channel their energy into work they love, reducing bad behaviour.
“Australian Shepherds were bred to herd sheep, so they like to act as watchdogs, often barking at strangers as they approach their home,” says professional dog trainer. “These protective instincts can also cause them to be reserved or defensive around new people.”
“The good news is that Aussies are easy to train, thanks to their intelligence, so combating these issues shouldn’t be too complicated. Proper socialisation from puppyhood will prevent any behavioural problems before they begin.
As well as the essential obedience training, teaching your Australian Shepherd new tricks will help them burn energy and keep them interested in training. This can prevent destructive behaviour due to boredom or lack of proper stimulation.”
Australian Shepherd gender differences
The most significant difference between female and male Australian Shepherds is size: males are often considerably larger with a longer, denser coat.
Gender usually impacts temperament, but how your pup is raised and trained in puppyhood will be more of a determining factor.
Female Australian Shepherds tend to be more independent and laid back than their male counterparts. They may therefore be less attached to their owner.
Although both genders are relatively straightforward to train, females usually reach maturity quicker than males, so getting them to focus may be easier.
Female size information
Height: 46-53 cm
Weight: 18-25 kg
Male Australian Shepherds are generally considered more eager to please and are motivated by food and praise. Although this may give the impression that they are easier to train, males have a short attention span, so tend to lose interest more quickly than females. Mentally stimulating games and removing distractions like other dogs or people will keep them engaged and focused during training.
Males may also be more territorial and reluctant to share their space with other dogs. However, with proper socialisation, this shouldn’t be an issue.
Male size information
Height: 51-58 cm
Weight: 23-29 kg
Australian Shepherd breed health
Australian Shepherds are generally healthy dogs. However, there are a few hereditary conditions to be aware of.
Healthy Australian Shepherds live for an average of 12 to 15 years.
Common health problems
The most common health problems that Australian Shepherds are prone to include:
Hip and elbow dysplasia — Large dog breeds, including Australian Shepherds, can suffer from hip and elbow dysplasia — a hereditary condition when the joints form abnormally. Symptoms are often noticeable from puppyhood, including limping, stiffness, or an unwillingness to exercise. Your pup may be in pain, so you'll need to visit the vet if you notice any of these symptoms. Although incurable, changes in exercise and diet to encourage maintaining a healthy weight can reduce pressure on the joints, helping to alleviate symptoms. In more severe cases, surgery may be required.
Cataracts — A disease that causes cloudiness in the eye, impairing vision — cataracts is one of Australian Shepherds' common genetic conditions. However, it can also occur due to various reasons like old age, diabetes, and injury. While some pets are managed by keeping a routine around the home, others may elect to solve the problem with surgery to remove cataracts by a vet ophthalmologist.
Epilepsy — Although any breed of dog can develop epilepsy, Australian Shepherds are more prone to inheriting it due to their genetic makeup. The neurological disease can cause seizures, and although incurable, it can often be well managed with medications to reduce the frequency and severity of episodes.
Collie eye anomaly — A genetic disease that affects several dog breeds, including Australian Shepherds: collie eye anomaly can cause vision impairment and blindness in severe cases. It can usually be seen in puppies when the eye develops at around six to eight weeks. Blindness may not occur in all cases, but currently, there is no cure for collie eye anomaly. However, procedures may improve this condition to alleviate discomfort.
Cobalamin malabsorption — Australian Shepherds can be affected by cobalamin malabsorption, also known as vitamin B12 malabsorption. Affected dogs may be unable to make enough protein to absorb adequate amounts of vitamins such as B12 in the gut. This can result in poor energy levels, weakness, and blood issues. Thankfully, this condition is treatable with regular supplementation of cobalamin.
MDR-1 gene mutation — Herding breeds like Australian Shepherds are prone to inheriting an MDR1-gene mutation, causing sensitivity to specific medications. The mutation causes an inactive P-glycoprotein: a protein which prevents drugs and toxins from building up in the brain. Therefore, if given drugs like ivermectin or loperamide, dogs with the mutation can display neurological symptoms like seizures, weakness, uncoordinated movement, and blindness. Your vet must be aware of your pup's condition to avoid medications that cause sensitivity.
“Australian Shepherds are lively and healthy dogs, but there are a few genetic conditions to watch out for,” says Dr. Kirsten Ronngren, DVM MRCVS.
“I always have a chat with Aussie owners about the implications of owning a breed that may be affected by the MDR-1 gene mutation. These dogs can potentially be more sensitive to drugs in the ivermectin family. People are most familiar with the ones that come in some of today’s common parasite preventatives. We choose our drugs a bit more cautiously in these breeds, but luckily there are lots of safe options! Genetic testing is also available to determine if your pup is affected by the MDR-1 gene mutation.
“Another topic I like to touch on with Aussie owners is joint disease and activity levels. It’s important for owners to provide adequate levels of activity for these busy pups but concurrently watch out for signs of pain or lameness. If they note any signs of discomfort, I like to see their pet sooner rather than later to investigate and address their concerns!”
Australian Shepherd colours and variants
There are two types of this breed based on size: the Standard American Shepherd and the Miniature American Shepherd. Although The American Kennel Club recognised the Standard American Shepherd in 1991, the smaller variation was accepted in 2015.
The standard colours for Australian Shepherds include:
All these colours can be seen with or without white or copper/tan markings.
Australian Shepherds also have various eye colours, the standard being: brown, blue and amber. Their eyes can also be different colours and can have marbling or multiple colours within one eye.
Caring for Australian Shepherds
Australian Shepherds need a lot of attention and care, particularly when it comes to exercise. If you’re looking for a calm lap dog, this breed won’t be the one for you!
Australian Shepherds are active dogs that need one to two hours of exercise daily, whether that's walking, running, or playing games like fetch. Puzzles are also a great way to keep them mentally stimulated.
If not given the right amount of exercise, Aussies can become bored or hyperactive, resorting to excessive barking or destroying things around the home.
As herding dogs, Australian Shepherds like to chase things that move fast. They can reach up to 30 mph when sprinting.
Australian Shepherds are very athletic dogs, so they'll need a diet rich in protein and fat to support their high energy levels. Vegetables and grains also provide essential nutrients. However, how much food they need will depend on daily activity, size, age, and other factors.
Building a balanced diet on your own can be tricky, so it's best to consult your vet for nutritional advice. This will ensure your pup's dietary needs are being met.
Australian Shepherds need around 12 to 14 hours of sleep daily, depending on the energy burned during the day. Although puppies are little bundles of energy, they need 18 to 20 hours to support their growth and development.
It is common for Aussies to sleep on their backs with their legs up in the air to regulate their body temperature. This also shows they’re comfortable around you: the ultimate sign of trust!
“Aussies are active dogs that tend to burn a lot of energy in the day. Therefore, getting enough rest is just as crucial for this breed to recharge and get ready for the next day,” says Dr. Kirsten.
“A nutritionally balanced diet and committed exercise routine will also help your dog sleep, control their weight, and keep them thriving. If your Aussie is constantly running circles, it may be worth considering a sporting or working dog diet to provide the nutrients they need. Chatting with your vet or a veterinary nutritionist can help determine what’s the best for your pup!”
Australian Shepherd temperament
How good are Australian Shepherds with kids?
Not only are Australian Shepherds great working dogs, but they’re also excellent family pets thanks to their fun and easy-going nature.
However, they may be better playmates for older children. Aussies have natural herding instincts, so they can sometimes try to chase small kids who may be running around.
Although, with the proper training and socialisation from puppyhood, a dog-child bond can be very strong. Channelling your pup’s herding instincts and energy into games and activities will usually limit this. As well as training your Aussie, you must teach your children to respect boundaries and supervise them at all times to prevent any accidents.
How affectionate are Australian Shepherds?
Australian Shepherds are affectionate with their family members and people they trust. They tend to show they love you by sitting on you, nudging you with their nose, and rolling over to show their bellies. It's also common for them to bring you toys!
Aussies are typically cautious around strangers, so they may not be affectionate with new people.
How territorial are Australian Shepherds?
Australian Shepherds are naturally protective of their territory and family, often barking at strangers and other dogs during walks or when they approach their home. Training and gentle introductions with new people can help them feel comfortable.
How friendly are Australian Shepherds with other dogs?
Australian Shepherds can get on excellently with other dogs with the correct training.
It’s common to see males being defensive over territory, so they may get on best with the opposite gender. However, if socialised from puppyhood, this is less likely to be an issue.
How much will Australian Shepherds tolerate other pets?
Australian Shepherds have an easy-going temperament and tend to get along well with other pets.
However, they can attempt to herd other animals, especially those smaller than them: a behaviour that cats may not respond well to. Aussies love to chase things and cats usually run away when they feel threatened, so training will be required to limit this.
How much attention do Australian Shepherds need?
A breed that loves human companionship: Australian Shepherds need plenty of attention. Although they are lively dogs, they also have a sensitive side and shouldn’t be left alone for more than four hours. Therefore, they’re best suited to owners that have a lot of free time in the day or who may work from home.
Australian Shepherd coat and grooming
The Australian Shepherd has a double coat: the top coat has medium-length hair, which is straight or wavy, and the undercoat is thick and dense.
Australian Shepherds are heavy shedders all year round due to their double coats. They tend to shed more during spring when losing their thick winter coat.
How often do I need to groom Australian Shepherds?
Due to their thick, double-layered coat, Aussies require frequent brushing at least one or two times a week to prevent matting. This should be done more frequently during spring, when shedding increases, to eliminate loose hairs.
An Australian Shepherd's coat is reasonably weather-resistant, so bathing is only necessary when they get muddy. Aussies love to be outdoors, so this could be more frequent than you think. However, remember not to bathe your pet excessively, as this could irritate the skin, doing more harm than good!
Your dog's ears will need cleaning around once a month, as a debris build-up could cause infection. Long nails can also cause pain for your pup, so it's essential to trim them regularly. These tasks can be accomplished routinely at home with dog-safe equipment or at a dog groomers.
Are Australian Shepherds hypoallergenic?
No, Australian Shepherds are not hypoallergenic. They are heavy shedders, so dander in the hair can spread easily, causing a reaction in people who are allergic.
Australian Shepherd bark sound
Australian Shepherds have a high tendency to bark due to their herding background: they must be vocal with livestock to keep them in check and safe.
The breed is also known for having a loud bark, which could be problematic with neighbours if not kept under control.
Like many herding dogs, Australian Shepherds can bark a lot, especially when not given enough attention or exercise. It is recommended to only leave your dog alone for four hours at most; they can resort to excessive barking when bored or lonely.
Aussies react by barking at or chasing anything that moves fast, from cars and bikes to children and other dogs. Due to their territorial instincts, they can also bark at strangers approaching or coming toward the home. This is in their nature, so getting them to stop is almost impossible. However, the breed is intelligent and eager to please, so consistent training should help to limit barking.