Australian Shepherd Dog Breed

Blue Merle Australian Shepherd
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  • Other names:
  • Aussie
  • Australian Sheepdog
  • Australischer Schaferhund
  • Little Blue Dog
  • View all 4...
Overview

Australian shepherds are among the smartest dog breeds in the world and are renowned for their sporting and herding skills. Despite the breed's name, the Australian shepherd actually originated in the Western United States and got the name because of its association with the Australian sheepherders in the United States.

Like other highly intelligent working dog breeds, Australian shepherds dislike downtime. They are not the dog to sleep on the floor while you watch TV. Instead the breed's instincts make them anxious without tasks to complete or a job to do. Because of this, Australian shepherds need a family that is very active or one that enjoys teaching their aussie tricks as bored or unchallenged Australian shepherds will often find mischievous ways to entertain themselves.

Australian Shepherd Breed Details

Breed Specs
TypeLifespanHeightWeight
Purebred12-15 yrs.18-23 in.40-65 lbs
  • Friendliness
  • Overall
  • Family Friendly
  • Kid Friendly
  • Pet Friendly
  • Stranger Friendly
  • Maintenance
  • Easy to Groom
  • Energy Level
  • Exercise Needs
  • General Health
  • Shedding Amount
  • Behavior
  • Barks / Howls
  • Easy to Train
  • Guard Dog
  • Playfulness
  • Watch Dog
  • Ownership
  • Apartment Friendly
  • Can Be Alone
  • Good for Busy Owners
  • Good for Novice Owners
  • Intelligence
* The more green the stronger the trait.

Below are the characteristics and traits of the Australian shepherd dog breed.

Australian Shepherd Breed Description

Australian shepherds are a medium to large sized dog breed. Their slender body allows them to excel at agility and makes them ideal for quickly corralling sheep. It is not uncommon to see miniaturized versions of the breed, however the Australian shepherd only comes in one standard size, so there is no guarantee that miniature aussies will have the same behavior or traits.

Aussies need leadership and if they can't find pack leadership qualities in their owners, they will assume the role. Because of this, it is important for owners to display confident leadership with Australian shepherds otherwise the dog may ignore your commands. The breed does well in family environments, but may attempt to corral wandering children back to their parents which can intimidate younger kids. The breed also does well with pets, but may attempt to herd them into a group due to the breed's instincts.

The breed sheds year round, but sheds heaviest after winter so brushing your aussie's coat daily is necessary to keep it free of detached hair and tangles. Australian shepherds have a waterproof coat which keeps them cleaner than most dogs, so they only need to be bathed when dirty. The breed is high energy and will need at least 45-60 minutes of dedicated exercise per day. Play time in the back yard will only work if the dog is playing a game which involves large amount of energy.

Australian Shepherd Breed History

"Where are Australian shepherds from?" Though it seems obvious, if your answer is the land Down Under, you'd be incorrect. The Australian shepherd origin actually begins in the western United States in the mid-1800s, when livestock farmers there needed a breed capable of driving large herds. During that time, a lot of the U.S. livestock was imported from Australia--and the Aussie importers brought various Collie- and shepherd-type dog breeds with them on their trips to the States. It is believed that these breeds formed the foundation from which the Australian shepherd was developed (and is the reason this shepherd has "Australian" in its name).

To continue some Australian shepherd history: as the decades passed, the Aussie shepherd remained popular with cowboys in the Old West, particularly because of its ability to herd livestock (and also because it was fast enough to keep up with trotting horses!). Cut to the post-World War II years, when western horseback riding (and in turn, rodeos) became popular. Horseback and rodeo enthusiasts were amazed by the Aussie shepherd's natural abilities working alongside the cowboys--so the breed's popularity further skyrocketed. New Aussie shepherd owners everywhere also discovered that these dogs, in addition to their farming skills, made affectionate, enthusiastic, intelligent family pets.

Despite its nation- and worldwide adoration, the Australian Shepherd breed wasn't officially recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1993. A member of the AKC's Herding Group, the Aussie quickly shot up through the popularity ranks, and today is 16th out of 193 recognized AKC breeds.

Australian Shepherd Appearance

The Australian shepherd is normally lean and rugged-looking, and its overall appearance is almost a cliche of a "cowboy dog."

The Australian shepherd's body is normally a bit greater in length than in height. It's head is wedge-shaped, and Australian shepherd ears are triangular, medium-length, and hanging. Australian shepherd eyes can be an assortment of colors: for the Australian shepherd, blue eyes are common--but brown, hazel, green, and amber are also possible. Also, for the Australian Shepherd eye color change exists--meaning the two eyes can be different colors, or even two colors "swirled" within one eye. Australian shepherds have tails with differing lengths too: An Australian shepherd with tail docked, Australian shepherd with long tail--the Australian Shepherd tail docking length varies depending on the puppy.

Australian shepherd coats have some variation as well, especially in color--but most Australian shepherd coat types are thick, medium-length, and double-layered.

Australian Shepherd Coloring

Below are the standard colors for the Australian shepherd dog breed.

Australian Shepherd Size

Australian shepherd size is as follows: Australian shepherd height is 20-23 inches at the shoulders for males, and 18-21 inches for females. The weight of Australian Shepherd dogs is normally 50-65 pounds for males and 40-55 pounds for females.

Potential owners often ask: "Just how big does an Australian shepherd get?" Though they can potentially reach 25 inches and 70 pounds, for the full-size Australian shepherd average weight is 55 pounds, and average height is 21 inches.

Average Adult Height

18-23 in
*Height is measured in inches from the front paws to the top of the shoulder while the dog is standing on all four legs.

Average Adult Weight

40-65 lbs

Australian Shepherd Variations

Technically speaking, multiple Australian shepherd types do not exist. Though Australian shepherd miniature dogs are actually well-known, the Miniature Australian shepherd is not recognized by the United States Australian Shepherd Association, and can only be registered with the AKC as a separate, small Australian shepherd breed. Within the standard Australian shepherd breed, individual features like head size and leg length can vary some from dog to dog, but these are naturally occurring and do not signify a distinct sub-type.

While always fluffy, Australian shepherd hair or fur length can vary a bit, but for the most part these dogs have medium-length, double-layered coats. A short haired Australian shepherd--or at least one that appears to be so--is possible, especially for dogs living in warmer climates.

Again, the Australian shepherd toy dog is fairly popular, but is a completely separate breed. The "Minnie Australian Shepherd," as it's sometimes called, was developed starting in the 1960s by selectively breeding smaller standard Australian shepherd types. And these dogs are indeed smaller: Australian shepherd teacup or toy size averages 15 inches in height and 30 pounds in weight.

Australian Shepherd Temperament

Super-intelligent, task-oriented, friendly, and at times a bit dominant, the Australian shepherd temperament is one of work mixed with with plenty of affection. Dogs of this breed are whip-smart, and are at their best when they have a job to do. Because of their history as livestock dogs, one of the keenest Australian shepherd personality traits is its work ethic. (In other words: the herding instinct is strong with this one, as Yoda would say.) With a lack of frequent stimulation of both mind and body, these dogs will become destructive and bark nonstop, and their herding instincts will make them try to "control" moving objects like people, animals, and bicyclists. The key to balancing Australian shepherd behavior, vets and breed experts say, is socialization in a variety of environments and situations.

"When do Australian shepherds calm down?" owners often ask. Australian shepherd puppy behavior is often that of hyperactivity during the dog's first couple of years of life. Usually after about 24 months, the Australian shepherd dog temperament is less active. Again, the key to maintaining the young Australian shepherd disposition is socialization: take your Aussie puppy to dog parks and to malls or stores that allow animals, and have the pup interact with a variety of people.

One of the most prized Australian shepherd characteristics is the breed's ease of training. These dogs are extremely willing to learn, and can understand tasks and commands with very few repetitions. Obedience training--well into an Aussie's adult years, according to experts--is a great way to channel the breed's busy mind and body.

Another excellent aspect of the Australian shepherd temperament: it's protective. These dogs are alert and curious, so they're great watchdogs, and will usually sound a loud (and frequent!) vocal alarm if they detect a potential threat.

Australian Shepherd and Children

Are Australian shepherds good family dogs? Overall, they're fantastic ones--but there's a bit of a wrinkle: to an Australian shepherd, kids can seem like a part of its "flock," so an Aussie will instinctively chase and "nip" at children to try and control them. It's highly recommended that owners train their Aussies, starting when the dogs are young, to not try and "herd" the children. Once this kid-herding behavior is trained out of an Aussie, though, the phrase "Australian shepherd good with kids" is a huge understatement! Once the dog matures and calms down, the Australian Shepherd and kids are a terrific match.

Australian Shepherd and Other Pets

Owners also ask, "Are Australian shepherds good with cats and other dogs?" Again, the answer is yes--but like with kids, an Aussie may instinctively try to control or herd them. (And as cat owners know, the feline won't like this at all!) As to other dogs, Australian shepherds get along with them just fine. The whole "Australian shepherd with cats" relationship, though, is a tricky one--because in addition to its herding instincts, an Aussie has a pretty high prey drive, and might chase a cat due to that.

Australian Shepherd Photos

Below are pictures of the Australian Shepherd dog breed.

Australian Shepherd Puppy
Australian Shepherd Puppy
Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherd Dog Breed
Australian Shepherd
Blue Merle Australian Shepherd
Blue Merle Australian Shepherd
Blue Merle Australian Shepherd Puppy
Red Australian Shepherd

Living Requirements

Those considering having an Australian shepherd as a pet: these dogs require moderate care and maintenance. They can be destructive and will bark often, especially if bored or left alone inside. Aussies also need a good bit of daily exercise, preferably from activities that stimulate them both physically and mentally.

Speaking of exercise: dogs of this breed are best suited to life in homes with larger fenced yards. Aussies will need to live inside with their human "flocks," but will need to have daily opportunities to run outdoors--and since Aussies are excellent escape artists, a fenced yard is recommended. Just note that when your Aussie is inside, it will try to chase and "herd" kids and animals unless trained not to do so.

"Are Australian shepherds hypoallergenic?" Australian shepherd dogs are not. They shed regularly, and more heavily in the spring--so Australian shepherd owners who are allergy sufferers won't be very happy.

Australian Shepherd Health

Below are health issues and concerns most common in Australian Shepherds

  • Allergies
  • Cancer
  • Cataracts
  • Collie Eye Anomaly
  • Deafness
  • Detached Retina
  • Distichiasis
  • Drug Sensitivity
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Epilepsy
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Nasal Solar Dermatitis
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans
  • Persistent Pupillary Membranes
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
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Australian Shepherd Breed Recognition

The following dog breed registries and organizations recognize the Australian Shepherd as a dog breed:

  • American Canine Registry
  • American Kennel Club
  • America's Pet Registry
  • Continental Kennel Club
  • Dog Registry of America Inc.
  • National Kennel Club
  • New Zealand Kennel Club
  • North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • United Kennel Club
  • American Canine Association, Inc.
  • Australian Shepherd Club Of America
  • View all 11...