Other names: Aussie
The Australian Shepherd entered the top 10 dog breed rankings with a bang several years ago, and these dogs haven’t stopped delighting those looking for an affectionate, playful, intelligent and dynamic companion ever since. Particularly skilled in a number of canine sports (agility, treibball, dog dancing, canicross, etc.), the breed is able to adapt to a number of lifestyles as long as his physical and mental needs are respected and met.
Key facts about the Australian Shepherd
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Origins and history
While many theories exist regarding the origin of the Australian Shepherd, the breed was principally bred in the United States. The “Australian” association was attributed to the dog after the arrival of the sheepdog in the United States from Australia in the 19th century.
It wasn’t until the mid 1980s that this sheepdog came to the UK, and over the years, he became the popular dog that we know and love today.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 1 - Sheepdogs and Cattledogs (except Swiss Cattledogs)
Section 1 : Sheepdogs
Physical characteristics of the Australian Shepherd
Female : Between 18 and 21 in
Male : Between 20 and 23 in
Female : Between 42 and 57 lb
Male : Between 55 and 75 lb
The sheepdog’s coat colours can vary, but white will never be the principal colour of his fur:
- Tri-colour black or two-tone black with white and fawn markings
- All-over red, tri-colour red or two-tone red with white and fawn markings
- Blue merle with or without white and fawn markings
- Red merle with or without white and fawn markings
Type of coat
Fairly dense fur, either straight or slightly wavy with an undercoat that changes with the seasons.
The eyes can be different colours: brown, blue, green or amber.
The Australian Shepherd can also have odd-coloured or multi-coloured eyes. This means that the dog can have eyes with different colours, or even eyes with markings of various colours.
An intelligent, dynamic and active sheepdog. He is medium-sized, slightly taller than wider, with a muscular but not overly heavy physique. With an insatiable playfulness, this dog will bring to both young and old people a lot of joy thanks to his abundant energy and unwavering joviality.
Good to know
The Australian Shepherd is actually anything but Australian, originating from the United States. His little “brother”, initially named the miniature Australian Shepherd or dwarf Australian Shepherd, was renamed as the American Shepherd.
This dog has a very pleasant character: he is very loyal to his owners and knows how to prove his love for them.
Naturally very playful, this sheepdog knows how to befriend both young and old people. He will appreciate playtime to unwind more than anything, both that of the physical variety but occasionally mental too, especially when he is able to spend time with members of his social group.
This dog is overflowing with energy and will have a hard time staying put, especially if he isn’t sufficiently exercised. He will need regular walks and things to do to be able to keep him satisfied and calm in the house.
Like any good working dog, the Australian Shepherd is very intelligent and particularly receptive to his owner’s demands.
This dog is very skilled in a number of disciplines and excels particularly in agility, treibball and dog dancing competitions, as well as in sheep and cattle herding.
Naturally therefore, the Australian Shepherd would be a good fit for a cattle or sheep breeder looking for some canine help to herd them.
This pup won’t go out on a limb to hunt anything and everything - even if he is capable of pursuing smaller prey - especially if he wasn’t socialised early enough around cats or other small domestic animals.
Conversely, since he is meant for cattle/sheep herding, the Australian Shepherd prefers to regroup animals rather than hunt them.
Fearful / wary of strangers
This sheepdog is naturally very sociable and friendly, but he may occasionally seem reserved around strangers.
Being a sheepdog, as his name suggests, he will tend to protect his social group and be distrustful of strangers - even violent - if an intruder comes into contact with his owner, or if he senses a threat.
This dog is very close to his social group, so independence isn’t part of his natural temperament.
He will sometimes take initiative in his work, notably when herding sheep/cattle, however, he is very attached to his owners.
Behaviour of the Australian Shepherd
His intense attachment to his social group can be advantageous, but it can also pose disadvantages since it only allows for a small amount of solitude and means that he usually prefers to be in company rather than alone.
From a very young age, it is therefore a good idea to get this dog used to peaceful absences from his owner. You can try turning the absence into a positive experience, for example by offering him fun things to do during these times apart.
Easy to train / obedience
Like many sheepdogs, the Australian Shepherd is very keen to please his owner and respond to his demands.
However, it is still necessary to train him in a way that is adapted to his character and respectful of the principles of positive education.
This companion will be very easy to train if the relationship is based on trust and mutual respect. To achieve this, training must be firm, coherent and precocious.
He may sometimes seem stubborn, but training him in many areas from an early age and reinforcing the owner/dog relationship will be the keys to successful training and a harmonious cohabitation.
The Australian Shepherd may bark in certain situations, for example if he is not able to get the herd moving while herding sheep/cattle, or if he feels his owner has been absent for a long time.
In short, this pup may bark if he doesn’t get what he wants, if he’s very excited, or if he’s bored. However, this personality trait can vary depending on training, the attitude of his owners as well as the correct response to his needs.
Tendency to run away
Like any normal sheepdog, the Australian Shepherd prefers to stay with his social group, rather than running away to see what’s going on elsewhere.
Nevertheless, if this energetic dog isn’t properly exercised, it is possible he might try to escape to do a lap of the block.
As a very active and dynamic dog, if he isn’t sufficiently stimulated, the Australian Shepherd could become destructive, in an attempt to compensate for his lack of exercise.
Moreover, since he only enjoys a very limited time alone, he may take his frustration out on anything that passes in front of his nose by chewing it up.
However, once again, proper training and an adapted response to his need for exercise will allow you to significantly reduce, or even totally eliminate, problems with the destruction of objects.
Greedy / Gluttony
This pet is very greedy and will never pass up the opportunity of a good treat. When it comes to training, being greedy will be very favourable as food will serve as a great incentive for him to pay attention, which is especially useful when it comes to needing him to hold his concentration and getting him to listen.
Despite this definite advantage, it is advised to use treats sparingly and instead provide this lovely dog with a high-quality diet, avoiding to feed him outside of normal meal times.
Sheepdogs are guardians by definition, since they are very close and protective of their social groups. Although this Australian pup might not be the most deterring sheepdog, he will still have the heart and personality to protect his group.
This dog, being very popular for several years in the UK, is one of the most popular dog that someone adopts, not least because of his physical attributes.
If this dog appeals to you, it is important to take into account his exercise needs and natural instincts, in order to allow him to develop in the most balanced and adapted way.
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Australian Shepherd in a flat
Rarely appreciating solitude and full of energy, this active dog will only be suited to life in an apartment if his owners are present and available to be able to provide him with the maximum amount of exercise, games and playtime.
This dog will always be happiest with a garden, but he should still be taken outside every day to keep his physical and mental state in check.
Therefore, life in an apartment isn’t ideal for this companion, especially if his owners are at work all day.
Need for exercise / Sporty
As an unyielding worker and outstanding competitor with an insatiable playfulness, this dog is perfect for active and sporty owners. The Australian Shepherd’s spirit will be limited if he has sedentary owners who like to stay in the house.
It is essential to provide this precious dog with stimulating daily outings, whether they are physical, mental, olfactory or social.
Travelling / easy to transport
With proper training, this medium-sized pet will be able to accompany you anywhere without any problems. However, it is still important to respect the sensitivity of this dog, who may not like large crowds, for example.
If you’re travelling by car, you should opt for one of the three following transportation options:
- a transport cage
- the boot of the car with a divider
- securing your dog in with a seatbelt
On the train, his size means that you will need to put a muzzle on him and keep him on a leash. You will have to pay for his ticket, but note that you won’t gain an extra seat in doing so.
If you’re flying, it will be necessary to put him in the hold luggage, in a transport case that is compliant with the security reglementation of your chosen airline.
Australian Shepherd and cats
If they have been brought up together from a young age, a cat and a dog can happily live together. This sheepdog won’t have any issues getting along with a cat, but his need for calm should still be respected.
While this pet will get along just fine with a cat in the house, it is possible that he might still chase stray cats in the garden.
Australian Shepherd and dogs
This playful pup will get along very well with his canine counterparts most of the time. While this dog does not have a reputation for being aggressive, you should still set up first encounters that are positive, controlled and well thought out.
So, if he’s been socialised from a young age and crosses other dogs on a regular basis, this dog will be a great companion for his peers.
However, it is important to note that his abundant energy can sometimes be taken the wrong way by dogs that are more reserved.
Australian Shepherd and children
Playful, full of energy, friendly and jovial, the Australian Shepherd is the perfect pet for a family with children.
In any case, it is still necessary to follow certain basic rules to ensure a happy and safe cohabitation.
Australian Shepherd and the elderly
Since this dog needs to be engaged in constant activities thanks to his abundant amount of energy, inactive elderly people might not make ideal owners of this animal.
Being so lively and active, he is better suited to a dynamic owner who often engages in sporty activities that the dog can join in on.
The price of an Australian Shepherd varies depending on its origins. You should budget around £1000 for a dog registered at the Kennel Club. The price will also depend on the sex, breeding and age of the dog.
For a monthly budget, you should be looking to set aside between £35 and £45 to meet the needs of an Australian Shepherd, to be able to provide him with a high-quality diet and keep him in good health.
The mid-length hair of this dog won’t be difficult to maintain if he is brushed regularly. This regularity will reduce the likelihood of knots, but most importantly will allow you to maintain the beauty and protective qualities of his lovely coat.
This mid length-haired dog sheds a significant amount, notably due to the density of his coat. He will shed the most during the two annual moulting periods (spring and autumn).
Nutrition of the Australian Shepherd
This companion will need a diet adapted to his lifestyle, whether raw or dry. A diet principally made up of wet (tinned) food is not suited to this dog.
It is necessary to provide him with all the nutrients he needs, especially if he engages in intense daily physical activity.
The sheepdog puppy will need a diet that provides him with all he needs for a healthy development and growth.
Health of the Australian Shepherd
The lifespan of this dog is between 13 and 15 years.
Strong / robust
This dog is resilient and solid. He can happily work all day at his owner’s side and will prove his impressive endurance in doing so.
This sheepdog can adapt to a number of climates but will not be able to handle extreme temperatures.
Thanks to his impressive undercoat that changes with the seasons, this dog is well adapted to cold climates, with the exception of extremely cold temperatures.
Tendency to put on weight
His (ideally) regular and stimulating physical activity prevents him from easily putting on weight, despite his greediness. However, it’s necessary to be vigilant by providing him with a balanced diet that responds to his demanding exercise needs.
Several health problems can affect the Australian Shepherd, particularly problems related to the back, hips and eyes. The breed is also linked to epilepsy.
Moreover, studies have shown that the mating of two merle dogs can result in 25% of the litter being at risk of blindness/deafness. This type of mating should therefore be avoided.
Finally, it is recommended to test your dog for the MDR1 gene. Just like Collie dogs, they are potential carriers of this gene. This test is very important as carrying this gene means that certain treatments/substances are fatal and thus to be prohibited.