Australian Shepherd Dog Breed Information: Personality, Training, Diet, and More

australian-shepherd-posing-herding

If you have an Australian Shepherd, you may already know that they are great companions. Loyal, smart, and perfect hunting dogs, Australian Shepherds may be the best pet for you and your family. 

If you are looking to get an Australian Shepherd or simply want to learn more about your dog and its breed, then this is the guide for you.

Breed Overview

Group: Herding Dogs

Height: 18-23 inches

Weight: 35-70 pounds

Size: Medium

Temperament: High-energy, loyal, friendly

Lifespan: 13-15 years

Coat length: Medium

Coat colors: Red, blue, black, white, brown

Coat patterns: Merle, tri-color, bi-color

Country of origin: United States

Intelligence: High

History of the Australian Shepherd

Despite their name, the Australian Shepherd does not come from Australia. Their breed has its origin located in the United States around the 1800s.

Due to breeding and other environmental factors, the Australian Shepherd we know today is deferrable from the first of its kind. These dogs are believed to have come from a region in Spain known as the Basque region.

The herding dogs were used in Spain, Australia, and the United States. Since they were brought from Australia to the U.S., people referred to them as Australian Shepherds despite their true origins in Europe.

They were then used largely in the Western states for their notable herding ability. Later, people began to love the breed for its many appearances in rodeos.

Characteristics of the Australian Shepherd

No two dogs are alike, but when it comes to breed-specific characteristics there are a few traits that many dogs within a breed will share. Your dog may be different from what is frequently described of the breed, but more often than not, a dog’s true nature stems from genetics and its background as a breed.

Breed Appearance

Australian Shepherds have a range of appearances. These factors may change based upon their family tree’s region and the genetics within them. They have a variety of colors and coat patterns from the beloved merle pattern to one solid color.

The American Kennel Club formally notes four Australian Shepherd breed colors. The colors they recognize are:

  • Black
  • Red
  • Blue-merle
  • Red-merle

To be considered a pure-bred Australian Shepherd, your dog must have one of these coat patterns. However, due to breed mixing, many Australian Shepherds will have coats of other colors and patterns such as white, brown, or tan.

These herding dogs also have a strong appearance to their medium builds with medium-length hair. They will typically not exceed a medium size but may be smaller or larger in some cases.

Lastly, you may be lucky enough to have an Australian Shepherd with two different colored eyes. The breed is commonly known to have the condition known as heterochromia, which causes one eye to appear lighter than the other.

Temperament

Australian Shepherds may be some of the most perfect dogs for you if you have a family or young children. Friendly and affectionate, these dogs love to please and are great with kids.

They also tend to be highly intelligent. If given the training and commitment, Australian Shepherds may be quick learners and remember tricks easily.

Due to their nature as herders, these dogs are strong, high-energy, loyal, and love to exercise. They will spend plenty of time running and playtime is necessary with this breed.

Personality

Personality will differ greatly from dog to dog when looking at any breed. Typically, Australian Shepherds are loving, affectionate, and love attention. 

These dogs will be an attention hog if given the love they desire and will bask in the glory of their owner’s attention. 

They are also intelligent dogs with high emotions and can be a great contender for a service animal. Their loyal, loving, and intelligent nature makes them perfect for the job.

Some dogs may be a bit more reserved than others with this breed. Often, they are outgoing but question strangers more than some breeds. They are quick to accept people but may be shyer upon first meeting.

Living Needs

Since they are a herding breed, Australian Shepherds will need a lot of exercise or land to roam. If you live in a neighborhood, a fenced-in yard and lots of walks will be required. If you live on a large space like a ranch or farm, these dogs will be perfect for your home.

Just as you like to be pampered, your Australian Shepherd may also appreciate it. They shed frequently and need to be brushed and groomed more often. Having a good brush or de-shedder is a great item to think about when adopting this breed.

Australian Shepherds thrive on working as well. Giving them jobs like farm work is perfect mental stimulation and physical exercise. These dogs benefit greatly from having jobs to do.

Life Expectancy

Similar to other dogs, Australian Shepherds have a relatively long lifespan. Although you may never have enough time with your dog, this breed has an average lifespan of 13-15 years. 

Some dogs may also exceed this life expectancy or unfortunately, develop health issues and precede it. It is vital to ensure your dog is at its healthiest to give them the longest and best quality of life possible.

Australian Shepherd Care

Basic care guidelines are similar for many dogs, but specifics like training, socialization, and grooming tend to be breed-specific.

Training & Exercise Needs

Australian Shepherds are high-energy herding dogs with a need for work and exercise. This dog requires as much physical exercise as it does mental exercise. Ideally, you should provide your Australian Shepherd with 1 to 2 hours of activity each day.

Giving an Australian Shepherd a job to do, like herding livestock, is one of the best ways to train and exercise them. It is vital to provide them with these activities because their physical and mental health can decline drastically without it.

Some good exercises to give your dog are:

  • Herding
  • Frisbee
  • Walking or running
  • Swimming
  • Agility courses

These exercises are especially important for young Australian Shepherds to keep them busy and establish discipline.

Socialization

Being social is essential to dogs as it is to humans. Australian Shepherds do great when exposed to other dogs, animals, children, and adults.

Bringing your dog to a dog park or doggy daycare is a great way to expose them to other dogs and ensure they are friendly with their canine counterparts.

Having other animals in or around your home is another good way to expose Australian Shepherds socially. This allows them to interact with others positively and can stimulate them mentally.

Grooming

Keeping your dog looking its best will also make them feel its best. Australian Shepherds have a medium coat length that can quickly become damaged with dirt or matting. Their love of the outdoors may become your enemy when it comes to keeping your dog clean.

Weekly brushing is crucial to avoiding damage to your dog’s coat, like knots and matting. This will also brush away any debris your dog has gathered during the week. Sometimes this may need to be done daily, depending on the dog.

They will also need their nails and coat trimmed occasionally to avoid becoming too long. Dogs may be hesitant to nail trimming, so it is crucial to have patience and avoid clipping too short. They will also need sensitive areas like britches, ears, and stomach areas trimmed.

If you are uncomfortable grooming your dog or if they are tricky, it may be best to take them to a professional groomer to have this done.

Health

Your dog’s health is one of the most important things to keep them living long and healthy. Australian Shepherds, unfortunately, are prone to different diseases and ailments. The most common health issues related to Australian Shepherds are

  • Joint and bone problems
  • Cancer
  • Blindness
  • Heart problems
  • Thyroid problems
  • Drug sensitivity

Keeping up with your dog’s health is essential; the best way to do so is to consult your vet for screenings and annual checkups at a minimum.

Diet and Nutrition

Feeding your dog the correct diet is vital to their health and nutrition. Australian Shepherds need a high protein diet due to their medium size and active lives.

Aim to give your dog 20% to 30% crude protein daily with high-quality carbohydrates and fats. Avoid giving them highly processed foods and look for high-quality dry foods.

You may also opt to raw feed your dog. Providing your dog with high-quality lean protein like lamb, beef, chicken, and oily fish is a perfect protein source.

 Like all dogs, there are foods you must always avoid when feeding. Some of these foods are

  • Grapes and raisins
  • Chocolate
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Xylitol
  • Onions
  • Garlic

There are many foods your Australian Shepherd should not have. Be sure to consult your vet before adding new foods to their diet.

FAQ

We’ve also gathered some common questions about this breed so that you don’t miss out on any information.

Are Australian Shepherds good with cats?

Australian Shepherds do well with cats, provided they are introduced at a young age. If they are not, they may become aggressive or herd smaller animals.

Should I crate my Australian Shepherd?

Australian Shepherds may become bored or agitated if left alone too long and may chew their belongings. If you are gone for extended periods, it may be best to crate train them.

What are the most common jobs for Australian Shepherds?

Due to their intelligence, Australian Shepherds often have jobs like service animals or drug sniffing. If they are family pets, their job is typically working with herding animals.

Summary

Australian Shepherds make great family pets but do require a substantial amount of work and dedication. They must have adequate exercise daily as well as proper feeding and nutrition.

An Australian Shepherd thrives upon being active and working. These dogs can have a variety of different jobs and should be provided with them. Work such as farm work and service work will benefit them most.

Keeping your Australian Shepherd active and healthy is key to extending your dog’s life. With correct preparation and dedication to your pet, having an Australian Shepherd can be a perfect addition to your family.