Australian Shepherd Dog Breed: A Great Herding Dog [Ultimate Guide]

Australian Shepherd herding

The Australian Shepherd dog breed is popular in the United States. How could it not be when this dog is American?! (More about that down below)

The Aussie is a herding dog. That means he is smart, agile, loyal, ready to please, and most importantly, hardwired to work.

So, is the Australian Shepherd the right dog for you and your family?

Can you handle him?

What special about him?

Let’s answer all these questions in the article now!

Australian Shepherd Origins

As a future dog owner, knowing the origin and history of the breed you want to have will help you understand half of your dog’s potential character.

Here is what we know about the history of the Australian Shepherd.

It’s NOT Australian

It is understandable to assume that this dog has its roots in Australia. Why wouldn’t you, especially since its name is “Australian”?

However, there is no indication that this dog has been brought from that side of the world. In fact, the Australian Shepherd is at least half American, and the other half remains to be figured out.

So why call it Australian Shepherd and not American?

Again, there is no rhyme or reason for this. There is only speculation on how this breed got its Australian name.

Some say that it was because many dogs were coming to the Americas from Australia at the time when this breed started to gain popularity.

Although this seems pretty logical, there is also a theory saying that it was because of the Australian sheep they were mostly herding.

It remains unclear why this dog breed was named so. The breed was finally recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1991, 40 years after the Australian Shepherd Club of America was created.

Australian Shepherd Breeding

The Australian Shepherd gained popularity in the late 19th century thanks to its great ability to climb rocks. West America needed a dog breed similar to the Border Collie but with more agility and adaptability to the Rocky Mountains.

Although the dog’s name is still a mystery, it is believed that there were many breed mixes between European collies and shepherds with others from Australia and America.

Therefore, the Australian Shepherd is one of the best herding dogs in the world, and probably the very best when it comes to mountains and hard trails.

They are still being used today as herding dogs, but since that job is not popular as much as in the 19th century, people are now using Aussies for different tasks.

They are great rescue dogs with an extensive record of life-saving rescue missions. They are excellent watchdogs and have been used as police dogs in various occasions.

Australian Shepherd origins

That serious look on the face of the Australian Shepherd!

Australian Shepherd Characteristics and Personality

Let’s be clear: every dog owner knows that no two dogs are ever similar.

They may be similar breed, but they are not really alike; at least not in their temperament as it is all due to training and living conditions.

However, here is what to expect from an Aussie to be like.

Aussie Shepherd Temperament

Energy and Intelligence

The Australian Shepherd is like any herding dog; both very active and intelligent. This means that this dog is not that easy to train, but he is ready to take on long training sessions.

In fact, the Aussie will only be the perfect dog for you if you are just as active and intelligent as he is. That is to say that a walk around the neighborhood is not enough. He will need a lot more than that.

You’ll need to be ready to work your dog all day long, or at least assign him a daily job that keeps him busy both physically and mentally. If he is bored, he is too much trouble to handle.

Family-Friendliness

Australian Shepherd types

That’s a cute family!

Again, just like working dogs, he is very loyal. The Australian Shepherd is ready to protect your house and your family. However, there is something to keep in mind:

Make sure he understands you are the Alpha-Dog.

The Australian Shepherd has a tendency to be in control. That comes from his breeding origin. He will require you to show your dominance every day of his puppyhood and when he starts making trouble.

If the Aussie feels in control, you become part of the flock, and he’ll herd you to the dining room all day, every day.

Also, don’t expect a cuddly dog in the Australian Shepherd. He is not at all a lazy dog, and he wants you to be active, too. So, if you want your family to be in shape, gift them an Aussie; he’ll make them work just as hard as he does.

Your Aussie Will Herd Your Kids

The Australian Shepherd is good with children, generally. However, you have to train him not to consider them sheep and livestock. He has a strong instinct to consider anything that moves part of the flock; and hence, he herds everything in your backyard.

Don’t be surprised if one day you come out to your yard and find 5 kids of the neighbors sitting down on the porch and not able to move. That’s the Aussie job; and from his perspective, he is doing a great job.

Therefore, a maximum training and socialization are required. Also, try to stay sharp when the dog is with the kids. You have to supervise their interactions until the Aussie has fully grown and shaped his personality.

The Aussie and Other Pets

Your dog will most likely get along with your others pets, as well as strangers’ pets. That is under one condition:

Train and socialize your Australian Shepherd to be friendly with others pets.

Smaller pets will probably be herded like sheep when your dog is bored. Still, they will be happy to play together and keep each other busy when you are not around.

Australian Shepherd Appearance

When you are looking for a working dog, you are most definitely not paying attention to their outer appearance. However, the purebred Australian Shepherd remains one of the best-looking dogs in the world.

Coat and Colors

The Aussie has a medium-length coat. Still, the dog breed is very adaptable to the climate it lives in. Therefore, if you live in a cold country, your Australian Shepherd’s undercoat will be heavier than those who live in a hotter climate place.

The coat colors that an Australian Shepherd comes in are a wide variations of colors and are controlled by two genes in his DNA. The first gene controls which color the coat will be, either black or red, while the second gene controls whether it will be solid or Merle, sometimes with tan points.

That means you can have a solid coat color, a bicolor, or a tricolor. Here’s a chart for the 16 most color combinations found on the Australian Shepherds.

Australian Shepherd coat colors

The 16 color combinations chart for the Australian Shepherd.

Image credit: australian-shepherd-lovers.com (with modifications)

An Australian Shepherd breeder, or a dog owner who wants to breed Australian Shepherds, needs to understand the genetics behind the colors of an Australian Shepherd, as the lack of such knowledge can end up in breeding blind and deaf Aussie puppies. Please do check here and here for more information on genetics and how they work.

Size of an Australian Shepherd

The Aussie is a medium-size dog with a high agility abilities. He can stand at 20 to 23 inches tall, or 18 to 21 inches if she is a female Australian Shepherd. The average weight of the dog is between 50 and 65 pounds for the male and 45 to 55 pounds for the female.

Lately, there are many advertisements for teacup, miniature, and small size Australian Shepherds. However, the standards do not recognize those as Aussies. The breed is supposed to be a working dog, preferably in the mountains, herding livestock for stretched miles. A miniature Australian Shepherd does none of that.

Types of the Australian Shepherds

Casual dog lovers often ask what type of “insert-dog-breed” this is. Although they sometimes have the right to ask, there are actually no “types” when it comes to the Aussies.

However, people tend to answer that question either based on the coat colors of their puppy or the size and shape of its tail. However, none of that actually matters if the question of “type” is meant to judge personality and temperament of the dog.

As seen above, there are at least 16 color combinations, and the confusion about the dog tail is another long story, too. But in short, there is no actual “correct” form of the tail as each country has its own standards. Tails can be docked or left to grow with different shapes and sizes.

The Australian Shepherd Health and Genetics Institute (ASHGI) does a pretty good job in explaining that.

Living with an Australian Shepherd

Can you handle this dog breed?

I can’t tell you whether you are or not, but keep in mind that 70% of dog owners give up in less than a year after getting their Australian Shepherd. Why? Read to know.

Australian Shepherd Jumping

Some say this is the normal stance for the Australian Shepherd.

Activity Needed At All Times

I mentioned above that this dog is not ready to lay around the house and wait for you to stroke his belly. He won’t let you close enough to do that most of the time.

Instead, he expects you to come home from a long day at work, and be ready to provide at least a two hours of intensive mental and physical exercise. And when you are at work, you better have something to keep him busy at home. If you have none, your furniture, family, and neighbors will do the job.

An Australian Aussie is ready to work if there is anything for him to do. He is just as much willing to create a job for himself to do. That means, trashing your house may become one of his favorite things to do every day.

Enough Space to Lose Energy

If you want to live with your dog in an apartment, don't get an Australian Shepherd. That is for the sake of both you and the dog, and even the dog shelter. Aussies are not considered to be good apartment dogs.

Due to his high instinct to herd, his high energy levels, his above the average intelligence, an apartment is a prison for an Australian Shepherd. Unless you are ready to wake up each day to take him on long hikes outside for extended periods of time ( hours and hours), your apartment will be his American Ninja Circuit. He will show off his agility by jumping from whatever height he can reach, nipping and scratching everything in his way, and bark, bark, bark, and… bark again.

Therefore, get a backyard, put some dog sports equipment in it, and let your dog run around and enjoy training. You can also get a few sheep and let him do his favorite thing in the world: herd. Or, every once in a while, hire people to run around the yard, the Australian Shepherd can’t resist to herd them, too.

Not a Big Fan of Sharing

Sharing is caring, and the Australian Shepherd does not care.

He loves his toys and food, and he is not ready to share with others. When he finally does, it’s like any kid: that toy is his, even when you have it.

When owning other dogs and house pets, the Aussie will always try to show dominance by taking everyone’s toys. When you stop him from that, he’ll definitely let you know that the toy is still his, even he doesn’t have it yet. Why? Because he will outsmart all other pets and get that toy back.

  Quick note:

Australian Shepherds learn very fast and from watching people. Digging the backyard will be the second favorite thing he does after herding. Just show him how to do it. Remember that next time you want to play with dirt in your backyard.

Grooming and Barking

The Australian Shepherd is a heavy shedder. As dog owners like to say: “Australian Shepherds shed twice a year, for six months at a time.”

That simply means that your house is full of fur, and there is probably nothing you can do about it. You will need to brush him daily and keep your house clean. You won’t like this dog breed if you are a clean house person. Owning an Australian Shepherd is admitting that you do not want a clean house and now have a reason not to.

Some dog owners decide to “shave” their Australian Shepherds every once in a while. They just trim their hair to minimize shedding, but the hair grows very fast.

As for barking, the Aussie is an excellent watchdog. Therefore, you will know about any movement, on the ground, in the water, and in the air.

He’ll bark at strangers passing by or coming in. Cats, squirrels, and birds are a danger that you may want to check out. Planes are too far away, but you may want to know a one just passed by.

Here’s a good list of why you should not get an Australian Shepherd, and another one for 10 things only Aussie owners understand.

Australian Shepherd Facts

Australian Shepherd barking

It’s good for the Australian Shepherd to have a sibling.

  • The Australian Shepherd’s lifespan is about 12 to 16 years.
  • He is the smartest dog you have owned unless you have/had a Border Collie.
  • Aussie puppies love to play, but not for fun.
  • Australian Shepherds’ coats are water-resistant.
  • They are the 16th most popular dog breed in U.S. (According to AKC).
  • Frisby is their favorite sport.
  • Herding is an instinct that CANNOT be taken out of them.
  • They are NOT hypoallergenic.
  • Blue eye(s) do not necessarily mean blind.

Training Your Australian Shepherd

The calm, lovable, impressive Australian Shepherd is not easy to “acquire”. You can have the dog breed, but to actually have the best traits in your Aussie, that’s not easy.

You need to train him, and train him hard. An Australian Shepherd has too much energy and can think outside of the box when left alone. That results in many funny situations, most of which the dog is happy and your house is trashed.

A Few Training Tips

To make sure you are doing the training right, here are a few things to consider.

Basic Obedience Training

Your Australian Shepherd is smart beyond denial. However, you cannot expect him to learn the basics of being a house pet by himself. You have to start training him from a young age to be able to understand your command later in his puppy life.

Here is what to focus on when training for basic obedience.

Socialization

Australian Shepherd intelligence

That’s an Aussie who knows we’re talking about him.

You can tone down the herding instinct of your Aussie by letting him interact with other people and pets. That way, he will understand that not everything that moves around needs to be herded. He will be able to control some of his instinct when he is fully grown.

It’s good for the Australian Shepherd to have a sibling.

Otherwise, whenever anything passes by, he will find a place for it in your backyard. You could wake up one day and find squirrels, kids, cats, and adult people in line outside your home. What’s the Australian Shepherd doing? Barking to show dominance and happiness that he is doing a good job.

Advanced Training

You should consider teaching your Australian Shepherd to do tricks. It will be a good exercise for the both of you. The Aussie will have a lot of time and energy to kill while training, and you can enjoy a loving, loyal dog after the session is over.

Training your Aussie for sport is exactly what you need if you do not own a farm and a flock of sheep. He can win some competitions if you train him hard enough and you can make some money out of it, too. It helps cover the expensive cost of owning an Australian Shepherd.

Here a few sources for the best training tips: TrainPetDog’s FREE PDF Guide to training an Australian Shepherd, YourPurebredPuppy multiple training articles.

And here’s a video of an Australian Shepherd being trained.

Australian Shepherd Nutrition & Healthcare

Health

This dog breed is strong and healthy, most of the time. However, there are some health issues that your puppy may face as young pooch or when he grows old. Some of them are inherited health problems, and some are allergies that you discover later in your dog.

Some of the health problems are genetic and can be avoided by testing the purebred parents. Some of them are due the environment and lifestyle of your dog, which means they are entirely your responsibility.

Be Careful!!!

A puppy from two merle purebreds with double dominant merle gene is most likely to be a solid white color coat and is blind and/or deaf. Therefore, avoid breeding from merle parents to minimize health issues in your puppies.

DogTime has a good list of possible health problems, as well as YourPurebredPuppy. You can also check the ASHGI for a more expert opinion on the health of your Australian Shepherd.

Nutrition

An Australian Shepherd puppy is an active, sometimes hyperactive, dog. That is why his diet is mostly protein-based. Such a diet is what an Aussie needs to stay healthy, fit, and ready to perform at all times.

To figure out which dog food is best for your dog, or what to look for in the dog food product section, you need to understand the needs of the Australian Shepherd dog breed in general, and your Aussie’s needs in particular.

Here are a few recommendations and an expert opinion on what to look for in dog food products.

Getting Your Australian Shepherd

If you are up for the challenge, with enough time on your hands, the Australian Shepherd is a dog to consider owning. Or more like adopting.

Rescue an Aussie

As I have mentioned above, 70% of dog owners give up on their Australian Shepherds. This means that rescue centers are full of this dog breed (and other herding dogs) as many owners could not handle such an awesome dog.

Australian Shepherd hypoallergenic

Won’t you want to help this cute little puppy?

Adopting one of the adult Australian Shepherds in the dog shelter next to you is saving a dog life. Usually, the adult dogs are already housebroken, and their personality is fully formed. That means you can see exactly how the dog acts and whether he is a good fit for you and your family.

Is it hard to find a dog shelter near you? Start here!

Buying Your Aussie Puppy

Australian Shepherd blue eyes

He is a cute little one.

The Australian Shepherd is one of the 20 most popular dog breeds in the United States. That means that demands on Aussie puppies increase each year. The price for the puppy also increases, and the breeders tend to overproduce puppies sometimes.

Therefore, the most important question when buying a new puppy (after asking whether you can handle it) is whether the breeder is reputable and can be trusted.

To avoid some of the confusion and the fuss, you can check the American Kennel Club marketplace. You should also have a look at the ASCA’s article on finding breeders.

Price of an Australian Shepherd Puppy

The price for an Australian Shepherd for sale is most likely above $1500. New breeders can still give reduced prices, but anything under $1000 is a red flag.

Australian Shepherd Mixes

Having a hybrid dog is relatively easier to handle than the purebred. That is because when you mix two purebred parents, you are usually looking to increase the adaptability of your pet. However, there is no actual way to foresee how your cross breed puppy will grow as it may show either combination of its parent's characteristics.

Here are the most common Australian Shepherd mixes:

Aussie-Huahua

The mix between a Chihuahua and an Australian Shepherd is small, cute dog with a high ability to bite and chew on everything he comes in contact with. He is, also, a protective, smart house pet.

Australian Shepherd Chihuahua mix

Photo credit: triplejkennels.com

Aussie-Corgi

Australian Shepherd Corgi mix

Photo credit: dogbreedinfo.com

This is a mix between a Pembroke Welsh Corgi and an Australian Shepherd. He is a great family dog, energetic and loving enough to play with children. He is a pretty pet to have at home when you come back from work.

Aussiedoodle

This is the result of mixing the Australian Shepherd with a Poodle. He may come in different sizes, but he usually is a medium size dog. He loves being indoor most of the time and around people all the time. That is why he makes an excellent companion dog.

Australian Shepherd Poodle mix

Photo credit: awesomedoodle.com

Aussiedor

Australian Shepherd Labrador Retriever mix

Photo credit: 101dogbreeds.com

This is a great mix between a Labrador Retriever and an Australian Shepherd. He is a very smart dog with great strength and agility. He can be an ideal watchdog and family protector when he is trained to. He loves nothing more than playing and keeping you and your children safe.

Aussie Pomeranian

This mix between an Australian Shepherd and a Pomeranian dog is one of the most popular breed mixes. On one side, there is a small funny dog; and on the other, there is a large herding dog. Mixing these two gives a loving family dog who does not like to be left alone for long.

Australian Shepherd Pomeranian mix

Photo credit: njpup.com

Aussie Rottie

Australian Shepherd Rottweiler mix

Photo credit: karenshanley.com

The Australian Shepherd and a Rottweiler mix is a rare one in comparison with the rest of the breed crosses. However, this dog is a handful, especially since both parent breeds are intelligent, strong dogs. With the right training, they can become great family dogs.

Aussie Russell

This small dog is a result of a mix between a Jack Russell and an Australian Shepherd. According to dog owners, he is a smart, agile dog who loves to play with children all the time. They love to jump just like both their purebred parents.

Jack Russell Australian Shepherd mix

Photo credit: pautschfarms.weebly.com

Australian Boxherd

Australian Shepherd Boxer mix

Photo credit: petrescuebyjudy.com

The mix between a Boxer and an Australian Shepherd is a scary-looking smart dog. He is intelligent and loving for his owner and their family. When trained appropriately, he can be a good dog that plays with kids while keeping an eye on them.

Australian Retriever

When you mix a Golden Retriever with an Australian Shepherd, you get an awesome, medium to large watch dog. He is intelligent and loving, and sometimes, very protective of his family members and belongings. Therefore, he is a great family dog to play with and keep you safe.

Golden Retriever Australian Shepherd mix

Photo credit: dogbreedinfo.com

Australian Shepherd-Terrier

Australian Shepherd Terrier mix

Photo credit: dailypuppy.com

Some may confuse an Australian Shepherd with an Australian Terrier so you can guess how confusing and rare it is to find an Australian Shepherd Terrier mix. This dog is a lovely, playful pet. He is usually calm and not looking for any trouble.

Border-Aussie

Both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd are excellent herding dogs. Their mix is a perfect farm dog. He is a hard-working, hyperactive, herding dog that only rests when it’s night. He is also super smart thanks to his Border Collie side.

Border Collie Australian Shepherd mix

Photo credit: dogbreedinfo.com

Cotralian

Australian Shepherd Cocker Spaniel mix

Photo credit: dogbreedinfo.com

This hybrid dog is half Australian Shepherd and half Cocker Spaniel. He is one of the cutest results of breed mixing on this list. He’s an easily trained dog to play with around the house, but he will definitely not be a good watchdog.

Chow Shepherd

This is a mix between a Chow Chow and an Australian Shepherd. He is a cute furry pet to have at home. He is a loving, caring dog, who is willing to entertain your kids all day long. The Chow Chow side of this dog is what makes him super cute.

Chow Chow Australian Shepherd mix

Photo credit: dogbreedinfo.com

German Australian Shepherd

German Shepherd Australian Shepherd mix

Photo credit: 101dogbreeds.com

This mix is between two of the largest herding breeds: a German Shepherd and an Australian Shepherd. This dog is a large dog that excels at being a family and home protector. He is a heavy shedder but a great family lover.

Husky Aussie

If you are looking for an ideal guard dog, then a mix between a Husky and an Australian Shepherd is the right fit for you. This dog is a very active and stubborn hybrid dog as it takes most of its characteristics from its Husky purebred parent.

Australian Shepherd Siberian Husky mix

Photo credit: dogbreedinfo.com

Shel-Aussie

Shetland Sheepdog Miniature Australian Shepherd mix

Photo credit: adoptapet.com

This is a mix between a Shetland Sheepdog and a (Miniature) Australian Shepherd. This dog is an excellent watch-dog, police dog, and herding dog. He is super agile and ready to work and please his owner.

Texas Heeler

This a mix between an Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler) and an Australian Shepherd. Both purebred parents are excellent herding dogs, which makes the Texas Heeler one of the best at that job too. He is very agile and can do a lot of tricks if trained to do so.

Australian Cattle Dog (Blue Heeler) Australian Shepherd mix

Photo credit: dogbreedinfo.com

Australian Shepherd Pros and Cons

PROS


  • Intelligent
  • Loyal
  • Active
  • Adaptable
  • Hard working
  • Colorful
  • Excellent watchdog

CONS


  • Heavy shedder
  • Vocal
  • Hyperactive
  • Stubborn
  • Messy
  • Strong herding instinct
  • Not an attack dog

Last Words About the Australian Shepherd

The “American” Australian Shepherd dog breed is an awesome dog for an active owner. He is a great companion whose whole life purpose is to please and work.

He is also a big ball of fur and trouble when you do not take care of him accordingly. He will also let you know about that with his loud barking voice.

So, own this dog at your own risk.

And, as per usual, I’ll end the article by suggesting the best names that go along with the Australian Shepherd dog breed:

  • Boomer: This is a very Australian term referring to a large kangaroo. It fits perfectly for your dog if he is a male Aussie who likes to jump around all day.
  • Maya: This goes with any female dog that is active and hard working.

Do you have a better name for an Aussie? Do you think an Australian Shepherd is the best dog for you? Let us know down below. We'll be happy to answer your questions!

About the Author Youness Bermime

Hi, there! My name is Youness, a professional content writer and marketer. I love dogs, and I think Huskies are, for most of the time, better than humans. I am, also, the owner and editor of WritersDo. I hope you enjoyed reading this blog post because I enjoyed writing it. Don't forget to share it with your friends!

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