The Australian Shephard is the 17th most popular breed in North America, Aussie’s are active, intelligent, hard working, and versatile. They make for terrific family companions and thrive in home environments where their energy and intelligence can be put to work. Aussie’s are at their best when they have a job to do, as herding dogs their most ideal day would be rounding up a herd of sheep, but for most dog owners that’s not possible. An Aussie will love to learn how to help out with chores around the house and is a top contender in all levels of obedience, agility, flyball, and herding tests. They are also commonly used as guide dogs, hearing dogs, assistance dogs, police dogs, and search and rescue dogs.
Australian Shepherds have plenty of energy to burn and therefore need between 1-2 hours of exercise per day, preferably with high-energy activities such as running, swimming, and chasing either a ball or Frisbee. An Aussie will not do well if limited to backyard time and a few daily walks around the neighbourhood. These high energy working dogs will quickly become bored, destructive, and loud when neglected of their daily exercise requirements. If you live in an apartment, or don’t have the time to commit to training and 1-2 hours of outdoor activity per day, the Australian Shepherd is not the breed for you.
Despite their name, the Australian Shepherd is not Australian by origin, the breed actually originated in the western United Stated in the 1840’s. These dogs were bred and used to herd sheep in the Rocky Mountains, they are relatively unaffected by altitude and perform well in severe weather conditions. There legendary abilities to herd sheep caught the attention of ranchers from all over North America. Selective breeding for many generations gave these dogs great speed, athleticism, energy, endurance, as well as intelligence, obedience, and independence.
The Australian Shepherd is a beautiful, medium-sized breed weighing in between 35 and 70 pounds. Their medium length coats are generally bi-color or tricolor with any combination of black, red, blue merle, and red merle with white, copper, and tan markings. One of their most distinct characteristics is their eye color, which can be dark brown, yellow, blue, green, or amber. Some Aussies have multicolored eyes, and those with light blue eyes were nicknamed “Ghost Eyed” in early days. The second most distinct characteristic is their docked tail, Aussies are born with full long tails, but breeders generally dock the tail when the puppies are born.
The Australian Shepherd is a highly intelligent, versatile, and energetic dog that was bred to use their mind. Expect to spend plenty of time training an Australian Shepherd to ensure they receive enough mental stimulation as puppies and learn enough to keep themselves occupied when alone. Aussies can be wary of strangers, even with plenty of socialization some Australian Shepherds never lose their protective, standoffish disposition. It’s best to expose an Aussie to as many new dogs and experiences as possible in their first year of life, without adequate socialization this breed can become shy or aggressive with new people or dogs.
Aussies working and herding tendencies can carry over into the household, and less experienced owners can find their dog assuming a dominant role. It’s important to start training as soon as you bring home this breed as a puppy, the longer you wait the more stubborn and headstrong the dog will become. Australian Shepherds are full of wonderful characteristics, but they don’t develop on their own, they must be nurtured and supported by consistent routine and training.
The Australian Shepherd is a high-energy, athletic dog that was originally bred to herd sheep, Aussies require at least 1 hour of rigorous exercise per day, but it’s recommended they receive 2 hours. These are not apartment dogs, they should have a large, fenced in backyard and receive 1-2 hours of backyard time per day on top of their daily walks. Once an Aussie leaves puppyhood, they make for great running companions, but prefer even higher energy activities such as swimming and chasing either a ball or Frisbee. Because current Aussies are a descendant from high-energy working dogs, they will become bored, destructive, and loud when they don’t receive enough exercise.
While it’s not enough to exclusively rely on Spot’s on-leash dog walking services for your Australian Shepherd, Spot can help break up up your Aussies day home alone when you leave for work. Most of Spot’s Aussie pet parents supplement the mid-day on-leash walks by taking their pup to the off-leash park before or after work. Spot walks are all private and on-leash to ensure your Australian Shepherd is always receiving the one-on-one attention they deserve. Dog walks are also conveniently available on your schedule, on-demand walkers are available with as little as 90-minutes notices, while a Spot recurring walker will provide consistency and can be booked on a weekly ongoing basis. So whether you need a dog walker every month or every day, Spot is always just a few clicks away.
Australian Shepherds respond best to positive reinforcement training methods that use praise, play, and treats as rewards. Having a fenced in backyard is an absolute must with an Aussie, it must be secure, high enough they can’t jump over it, and reinforced so they can’t dig under it. This breed’s natural desire is to find an open field full of sheep to herd, therefore it’s best to start training on-leash until you’re confident your Aussie can resist the temptation to run away. These dogs need at least 60-minutes of stimulating activity per day, and love having toys, dog puzzles, and games to help occupy their time inside. When herding, Australian Shepherds use nipping and chasing to coral the sheep, so it’s important this habit is trained out of Aussie’s as early as possible.
Australian Shepherds are generally very health dogs with an average lifespan of 12-15 years. In fact, the oldest ever known dog (according to Guinness) was an Australian Shepherd named bluey, who lived to the ripe old age of 29 years and 5 months! A responsible breeder will test their stock for health concerns such as hip dysplasia, epilepsy, cataracts and certain forms of cancer. Other minor health concerns for an ageing Aussies include CHD, nasal solar dermatitis, Pelger-Huet syndrome, iris coloboma, CEA, hypothyroidism.
The Australian Shepherd is full of medium length hair, their coat requires regular maintenance, but nothing too overwhelming. To prevent hair from matting, it’s recommended that owners brush weekly, and trim wherever needed. Aussies shed year-round, but twice per year their shedding is significant. Between bi-annual shedding, warm baths and blow drying every month should keep extra shedding under control. Aside from their coat, caring for an Australian Shepard is basic. They wear their nails down naturally, but it’s always good to double check every few weeks and trim any excess. It’s recommended that you brush their teeth, and frequently check and clean their ears.