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Australian Shepherd running with a stick in its mouth

Getting to know the Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd (also known as an Aussie) is an enthusiastic, intelligent breed loves to work. A herder by nature, this dog will herd humans, livestock and other pets in the household. This exuberant dog thrives when given a sense of purpose.

The Australian Shepherd’s History and Characteristics

The Australian Shepherd breed, as we know it today, originated in the US and was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1991. It is also known by other names including: Pastor Dog, Spanish Shepherd and Bob-tail. This high-energy medium-sized dog can weigh up to seventy pounds (males) and fifty-five pounds (females) and have a life expectancy of up to fifteen years. It ranks sixteenth in popularity, according to the AKC.

The Australian Shepherd is:

  • Work-oriented
  • Exuberant
  • Highly intelligent
  • Extremely active
  • Good with children and other dogs (with supervision)
  • Requires occasional grooming, and is a seasonal shedder
  • Independent

An Australian Shepherd has a dominant personality and will want to be the alpha: Ask yourself, “Are you prepared to fill that role?” An Aussie will want to please his owner, but his strong drive and work ethic will be difficult to overcome by an owner who is a pushover. An Aussie can “out-think” a novice to the breed and in some cases, may be too much for many owners to handle.

As the pet parent to an Aussie you need to be willing to commit to the enrichment and training of your Aussie well into his adulthood. So, be prepared to train this intelligent dog and be the leader of the pack.

Life with an Australian Shepherd

Here’s what you need to know before you give your heart to an Australian Shepherd:

Get up and get moving. When you are the pet parent to an Australian Shepherd, you need to be as active and dedicated to completing “chores” as this pup is. Being “unemployed” will not sit well with him. Whether it’s playing fetch or herding, this active breed will keep you on your toes.

An agility master. If you’ve been looking for a dog you can train to run agility courses, the Australian Shepherd is ideal.

Note: If you like to spend weeknights and weekends lounging on the couch watching television and reading a book, then you are not the ideal match. if boredom sets in, he may develop destructive behaviors or turn into a chronic barker.

Playing well with others is part of this intelligent breed’s charm. Even though he gets along with children, be advised he may attempt to “herd” them. Smaller children may be knocked over by your Aussie’s enthusiasm. Also, your Aussie may get along with other dogs, if properly supervised—especially if he is well trained or raised around other dogs.

If you’re looking for a constant companion, this is the breed for you. Known as “Velcro Dogs,” Aussies may form an almost fanatical attachment to their family. This can lead to his mistrust of, and misbehavior toward, strangers. It’s important to properly socialize your Aussie as a puppy and to keep introducing him to others outside his immediate family. This breed can become very territorial and this behavior could lead to aggression or shyness, and that could lead to your beloved dog biting someone.

Clean house be gone. The Aussie has a beautiful, thick coat you will need to brush regularly to remove any debris and to prevent his fur from matting. The Aussie is a seasonal shedder, so there are certain times of the year when you will be busier running the vacuum cleaner to eliminate hair from your clothes, furniture and carpets.

Know that even though the Aussie sheds his entire coat seasonally, he will still shed year-round. If you love wearing dark-colored clothes and not wearing dog hair as an accessory, and if you love a spotlessly clean house, you may want to rethink the Aussie!

Understand The Dog Breed (And Yourself)

An Aussie is not what lovers of the breed would consider a “starter dog.” They are enthusiastic and their boundless energy can be overwhelming. They may not do well if they’re left to their own devices for hours at a time. Know your personality, talk with a reputable breeder (or an owner), and plan to attend training classes designed to let you and this affectionate breed live happily together.


Robbi Hess, award-winning author, is multi-petual: She shares her home with two Devon Rex kittens, three adult rescue cats, a mini poodle, a Goldendoodle, three lizards and two ferrets. When not caring for her pets, she is an editor, speaker, time management and productivity guru, content creator, social media manager and blogger. She writes at All Words MatterMy Divas Dish, and is the story editor and chief cat herder at Positively Woof.

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