Australian Shepherd Owner’s Guide

Australian Shepherd Dog Breed Guide

Commonly known as an ‘Aussies’, Australian Shepherds are a medium-sized working dog that were bred to herd livestock. A working dog at heart, they are sociable, energetic, intelligent and want nothing more than to be part of a loving family. Topics Covered:

History of the Australian Shepherd

Funnily enough, the Australian Shepherd does not originally come from Australia. Rather, they have English roots, sharing similarities with English Border Collies and sheepdogs. It’s not exactly clear where the Australian moniker came from, but it seems that the name originates from travellers who observed these dogs on Australian cattle and sheep farms.

It was more formally recognised as its own breed during the early 20th century. They’re herders, meaning that they have been recognised the world over for their ability to herd sheep and other livestock.

The Aussie Shepherd Personality

The Australian Shepherd is a very trainable dog, being very intelligent and enjoying the ability to bond with their human family. As a result, they love to learn tricks and skills. They are very responsive to positive reinforcement, making toilet training and other training relatively easy to master.

They’re very active and energetic, and love to run and play with both kids and adults. Australian Shepherds love the attention that playtime brings. They’re also generally quite placid and easy-going!

Their instinctual desire to herd livestock makes them very protective. They are not an aggressive dog, but they have a strong desire to protect their family and their territory.

Australian Shepherd

 Australian Shepherds’ Size

Classed as medium in size, Australian Shepherds can grow to stand around 46-58 centimetres tall, however sizes will vary. They can also weigh between 16 and 32kg, with females being slightly lighter and smaller in overall frame.

Australian Shepherds’ Common Health Conditions

Generally, Aussie Shepherds are a healthy breed. They don’t suffer from a whole host of common conditions, but there are some that we will touch on.

Vision problems are not uncommon in Australian Shepherds, being a collie breed they can also suffer from hereditary eye conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy, retinal detachment, abnormal development of the eye, cataracts and collie eye anomaly. All prospective puppy owners should request to see the parents’ eye certificates as all breeding dogs should be screened for these inherited conditions.

Hip dysplasia is another unfortunately common ailment for Aussies, with abnormal formation of hip sockets sometimes causing a slow degradation in their joints. This can lead to lameness and painful arthritis with age. This is another condition the parents should be screened for, and the results of testing should be made available to potential puppy buyers. Nutrition and being careful with exercise in early life help slow down the progression of hip problems. Keeping adult dogs in the healthy weight range, and physiotherapy are also essential to slowing down the development of osteoarthritis. Speak to your local vet team for more information about how you can keep your Australian Shepherd healthy.

Double merle Australian Shepherds are offspring that inherit two copies of the dominant merle gene. The practice of breeding merle Australian Shepherds is a debated topic, as these puppies are much more likely to suffer from developmental issues with their vision, hearing, and general wellbeing. These dogs often suffer from partial or full blindness and deafness, among other common genetic conditions.

If your Aussie Shepherd is showing any signs of sickness or bad health, the team at Greencross Vets can help! Contact us today and find your nearest clinic.

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Living with an Australian Shepherd

Living with an Aussie is best suited to people with access to outdoor spaces to run, play and exercise. Apartment living is typically not suited to a breed as energetic as an Australian Shepherd. Exercising your Australian Shepherd should be a daily occurrence!

Aussies are also liable to get into mischief when they are not being stimulated adequately. As such an active dog, they may turn to destructive or other unhealthy behaviours out of boredom if left alone for extended periods.

Australian Shepherds shed. They are often referred to as a moderate or average shedder, meaning that you may have to spend some time cleaning up their fur from the surfaces in your home and car. They’ll also require weekly brushes to prevent matting in their fur and to keep their coat looking shiny and healthy.

Feeding & Diet

The seemingly endless supply of energy that your Aussie naturally has requires some carefully considered food to keep them at their healthiest. As a result of their high energy needs, Aussies naturally have a good appetite and will overeat if you’re not careful!

Be sure to buy your Australian Shepherd dog food that is high in nutrients and lower in calories. Look out for dog food that list proteins such chicken, beef or lamb, along with healthy fats and nutrients. Dry dog food, wet dog food or a combination of the two can work for your Aussie! Speak with your local vet team to discuss appropriate food for your pet.

Looks, Colours & Markings

One of the many appealing features of an Australian Shepherd is their beautiful, shiny coat that comes in a number of colours. You can find Aussies in any combination of blacks, whites, copper reds and browns.

Merle patterned Australian Shepherds are especially striking, with a speckled merle pattern that covers their coat. Merle Aussies may also have two different coloured eyes, also known as heterochromia. In most cases this will make one eye colour a piercing light blue, and the other a darker colour such as brown.

The Australian Shepherd look similar to both Border Collies and English Shepherds in terms of their coat and overall size. After all, they’re thought to be closely related! They have a similarly shaggy coat that often fluffs up slightly around the neck and the back of their legs. They also have a naturally short tail in most cases.


Children & Other Pets

Due to their generally placid and easy-going nature, they are a great family dog. They can get along well with kids due to their active and energetic lifestyle and can make for a really great companion. This makes them a great companion for a family with kids. Regardless of the breed of dog, we strongly recommend supervising all interactions with children and pets.

Owning other pets is also not typically an issue with Aussies, as they socialise well with other breeds well. Their herding instincts often kick in during playtime, making them great fun for both kids and other dogs. If you are concerned about your pet’s behaviour, contact your vet for training tips and further advice.

Australian Shepherd FAQs

What health problems are Australian Shepherds prone to?

Australian Shepherds are generally healthy dogs, but all dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems. The most common health problems for Australian Shepherds to develop include hip dysplasia, various eye diseases, sensitivity to certain drugs, and epilepsy. This means your Australian Shepherd may require regular eye and hip exams to monitor their health.

How long do Australian Shepherds live?

Australian Shepherds generally live for between 13 and 15 years depending on the health of the individual puppy.

When do Australian Shepherds stop growing?

The typical Australian Shepherd stops growing at 12-13 months of age, generally reaching an average height of 53 centimetres at the shoulders and 25kg in weight.

Where does the Australian Shepherd come from?

Despite its name, it’s a topic of debate about where the Australian Shepherd actually originates from. Some say the Western United States, not Australia, while others will say they rose to prominence in the United Kingdom alongside Border Collies.

How many puppies can an Australian Shepherd have?

Australian Shepherds have an average litter size of about 6-7 pups, though sometimes they can have smaller litters.

How much exercise does an Australian Shepherd need?

Australian Shepherds require an extensive amount of exercise compared to other breeds to stay happy and healthy. If they are not going to be used as a working dog, they require more than 2 hours of exercise daily as they are an extremely active breed.

Can Australian Shepherds be left alone?

Australian Shepherds were raised to live alongside their owners and like to be connected with people. Australian Shepherds are not well suited to being left alone for long periods of time and may act out through destructive behaviours. As an intelligent and active breed, they do not handle boredom well which may also contribute to significant separation anxiety.

Do Aussies bark a lot?

Australian Shepherds were raised as working dogs and would use their bark to direct livestock. This means Aussies can bark a lot when they are moving stock, warning their owner of danger, or if they are startled. Barking can also become an issue if they are neglected or become bored when left alone for too long or not given adequate exercise and mental stimulation. However, by keeping Australian Shepherds busy and active their barking can be effectively managed.

Is Australian Shepherd a good family dog?

Australian Shepherds are very good with children and tend to get along well with other pets. They have a very easy-going temperament, making them great family pets as well as herding animals.

Speak to your local Greencross Vets for advice on finding the right dog breed for you and your family.

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