The Australian Shepherd is one of the most popular breeds in the U.S. This may be surprising for a breed specifically called an “Aussie.” However, these dogs actually originated in the Bosque region of France, were taken to Australia, and then honed in California.
The Aussies make sublime ranch dogs, and even family pets for owners that can provide them with enough exercise and mental stimulation. They are especially popular with dog sport competitors thanks to their incredible love of activity and play. Read on to learn more about the Australian Shepherd.
Description of the Australian Shepherd
These dogs are beautiful creatures. Of medium size, they have an impressive amount of hair that comes in a variety of colors. They are most famous for the merle coloration, which includes flecks of color on a patch of fur. They can also be black or red, and often have tan points around their eyebrows and feet.
The Australian Shepherd is known for their kind, sparkling eyes peeking out from behind their shaggy coats.
They were bred as farm dogs, and they truly are herders at heart. These dogs can be busy bodies, and may even resort to herding other family pets or children.
Although this breed can be handful, in need of plenty of channels for their energy, they are also loyal and friendly. It’s hard to overstate their enthusiasm for life. Indeed, their whole bodies often wiggle with excitement when they meet new people.
Life Expectancy and Size
These dogs are quite a convenient size, both large enough to exude athleticism, and small enough to fit comfortably in the back seat of a car. They generally stand between 18 and 24 inches tall, and weigh between 40 and 60 pounds.
Although Australian Shepherds do have some health issues, they are still usually long lived. Most Aussies live between 12 and 15 years.
This breed is not necessarily a guard dog. They may be effective as watchdogs thanks to their tendency to bark, but are generally too friendly to do much about an intruder. Some Aussies are a bit territorial, and most are quite loyal. Still, these dogs should not be chosen simply for their protective abilities.
The Australian Shepherd is usually very easy to train. However, because they are quite popular, separate lines show significant differences. Some individuals may be too smart for their owners’ good!
Still, these dogs are usually quite responsive. They love play, and are often fanatical about playing training games with their people. This breed does well with a rewards-based approach. A positive training regimen will help them to excel quickly.
Some Aussies have important jobs as service animals. Others perform impressive tricks in the rodeo. This breed does well with a job to do. Aussies also excel at agility, dock diving, and obedience. There isn’t much this breed can’t do!
These are high-energy dogs. Too many owners choose the Australian Shepherd because of their impressive good looks. Many later find that they cannot keep up with their energy needs. When under-stimulated, these dogs can be nervous, destructive, or hyperactive. A sad number end up homeless because their owners simply cannot handle them.
Providing the Aussie with a specific job can be a great way to channel their energy. They regularly take the prize in canine sports like agility. For active owners, they can also make good running or biking partners.
What Living with an Australian Shepherd is Like
There’s a reason this dog is a popular choice in America. They are fun, gorgeous, and extremely loyal. As former farm dogs, they are more adaptable than some working breeds. Although they require a lot of exercise and mental stimulation, their energy can be channeled in a variety of ways.
Behavior problems usually arise when these dogs are bored or undersocialized. These dogs do not hide the stress they feel when they don’t have enough to do or are uncertain about a new situation.
Although Aussies can live for up to 15 years, they do have some serious health issues. Some of these can be avoided by a reputable breeder. It is worthwhile to research a few lines, because these dogs have quite a bit of variation in temperament, too. For example, an Aussie bred for competitive agility will generally be much more intense to live with than an Aussie bred for good looks and easygoing companionship.
The Australian Shepherd is good with kids, and usually other dogs too. They make joyful companions for athletic owners that have enough time to spend with them.
Care of the Australian Shepherd
These dogs require some specific routines, especially when it comes to exercise and grooming. For owners that can provide them with the care they need, they offer dynamic companionship.
This shaggy breed is quite tough in winter. Indeed, they love being outdoors at all times of the year. Unlike some daintier breeds, they appreciate being outdoors even in inclement weather. For this reason, it’s advisable to have a large yard for the Aussie to run in. They’re used to being ranch dogs, with endless area to explore.
As a herding dog, the Australian Shepherd still requires adequate exercise. Though they enjoy being outside, hours alone in the yard simply won’t cut it for this social breed. They need much more social and mental enrichment than that! Walks, training, games, puzzle toys, and classes should be part of your Aussie’s daily routine.
These dogs particularly enjoy having a job. This doesn’t necessarily need to be something as specific as agility, although they do excel in canine sports. They may enjoy accompanying active owners on bike rides or dynamic hikes. Simple backyard games like Frisbee can also keep them quite happy.
It is important to commit to providing enough exercise and stimulation if you choose to live with an Aussie. This often means spending at least an hour or so with your dog every day.
Shedding and Grooming
The Aussie’s beautiful coat requires a good amount of care. They need to be brushed at least once a week to remove loose hair and avoid matting.
Shedding occurs year round, but is particularly heavy during one or two periods a year. They may require additional brushing at these times.
Bathing needs vary depending on the home environment. They do not need baths more than once a month unless they get into sticky (or smelly!) situations. As adventurous outdoorsmen, this is not uncommon!
Ideal Home Environment
This breed is a joy for an active owner. They bond closely with their family, and can do well with kids or other dogs.
Active is the key word. This breed is incredibly adaptable when they are given a job. However, they can also be sensitive and hyperactive when under-stimulated. There exercise requirements should not be taken lightly; many owners can simply not handle them.
They are not recommended for apartment or city life, unless they have regular access to a space where they can run around or provide training. It really is advisable to have a safe place for them to use up energy at all times of the day or night.
This breed does have some serious health concerns. Working with a reputable breeder can mitigate most of them, and many Aussies do live long and happy lives.