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The Australian Shepherd is a well-known herding dog that has been around since the 19th century. Despite their name, this breed was developed in the United States. However, their ancestors include collies imported from Australia, which is how their name came about.
Australian Shepherds, affectionately called “Aussies”, are working dogs that find fulfilment in having a task to do. Even so, they make fabulous companions for families as you can channel their high energy into play and exercise. These gorgeous pups become loyal, loving, and protective when well looked after.
Learn more about Australian Shepherd Breed
Meet the Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd is a medium sized dog weighing between 35 to 65 pounds and standing 18 to 23 inches tall. They have a very muscular yet agile body that is powerful enough to work all day but fast enough to change direction or speed instantly. Females are almost always noticeably smaller than males but remain just as strong and speedy.
Their most distinctive feature is the long double coat, which is weather-resistant to protect them from the elements while out in the field. The undercoat is dense, the outer hairs are coarse, and their fur can be straight or wavy. Their hair is short on their faces, thick and long on their necks and chests, and well feathered on the rear of their legs.
Australian Shepherds are also known for their unique colouring and patterns, with each pup looking different from the others. The breed’s colours include blue merle, red merle, solid black or solid red, with or without white markings. The unique merle patchwork pattern consists of dark blotches against a lighter background. Thus, blue merle is black patches on grey, and red merle is red patches on beige. Interstestly, this pattern tends to darken with age.
Australian Shepherds are heavy shedders all year round, and their long coats can matt. Therefore, you’ll need to brush them once or twice a week. To avoid bathing them regularly, you can spray them with diluted dog conditioner before brushing to help detangle their fur.
Healthy Australian Shepherds will live for 12 to 16 years. However, it’s helpful to know that this breed, like most pedigrees, are susceptible to several health problems. Hearing and vision problems, epilepsy, and hip dysplasia are common medical issues for Aussie dogs.
The temperament of an Australian Shepherd
The Australian Shepherd is highly active and intelligent, meaning this breed needs plenty of exercise, play and interaction. They are responsive and keen to learn, so they are fantastic dogs to teach tricks and commands, and they excel in agility training. They love to play ball games, and they need long walks, jogs or hikes every day, too. If they do not receive adequate exercise, they can become destructive.
Although modern day Australian Shepherds are bred to be pets rather than working animals, they maintain their herding instincts. Some may try to herd other animals they live with or even small children. Therefore, spending time with them doing regular obedience training and herding trials is vital.
As herding dogs, Australian Shepherds are naturally protective and loyal to their owners, but as a result, they can be standoffish towards strangers. Although they need an outdoor space, they like to be with their owners rather than outside on their own. Moreover, their protective instinct means they will bark to warn you about something. However, with their needs met, their barking should not be excessive.
10 reasons to add an Australian Shepherd to your family
- They are loyal companions - Loyalty is one quality ingrained in this breed and something you’ll notice instantly.
- They make good guard dogs - Along with being devoted, an Australian Shepherd will be very protective of their family. If their owners are at risk, they will bark at intruders and show a surprising fierceness.
- They are very gentle with their owners - These sweet dogs would not think of harming their owners, though and do not tend to bite.
- They are highly intelligent - These smart pups are super trainable and will quickly learn a host of ball games, dog sports and even advanced tricks.
- You can teach them to do chores - The Aussie dogs intelligence combined with their working heritage means you can teach them to bring things to you, such as the paper or TV remote.
- They are playful - This is a dog that will certainly keep you active, so if you’re looking to spend less time on the couch, your Aussie will help you stay fit.
- They are sweet and affectionate - Australian Shepherds want to be near their owners at all times. They are known to sit by the feet of their favourite humans and lean against their legs.
- They have beautiful, unique coats - Their long hair and merle patterning make them one gorgeous canine.
- They are super fluffy puppies - As puppies, Australian Shepherds are so soft and fluffy, they look like giant cotton balls!
- They ooze joy - Aussie dogs display and spread happiness with their wagging tails and affectionate cuddles.
Best homes for a Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherds are not a recommended canine for first-time dog owners as their high energy and herding instinct means they require thorough training. This is because, without firm leadership, they can take a dominant role in the home. They are also not the best choice for homes with young children or other pets as if they are not well-trained, they may nip at their ankles trying to herd them.
Australian Shepherds do best with an experienced owner who will take the time to train them and show them who’s boss. They will also thrive with you if you’re naturally active and will take them on your walks, hikes, and runs. It takes a lot to tire this breed, so there is no concern that they won’t keep up, although perhaps the problem will be the other way around!
This dog will do great in a home with an enclosed garden where it can release its energy. However, they are not one to stay outside all day on their own. Therefore, providing you take them on long walks every day and give dedicated playtime, they can adapt to various home environments.