Australian Shepherd Breed Caring and Family, Social Life, Physical Traits, Diet Info
The Australian Shepherd probably came from the Basque region of Spain. Basque shepherds first took their dogs to Australia and then to the United States, so Americans called the dogs Australian Shepherds. As we know it today, the breed was developed solely in the United States. It is classified as a large breed in the herding group, and its name is popularly abbreviated to Aussie.
In addition to herding dogs, Australian Shepherds serve as Seeing Eye dogs, hearing dogs, drug-sniffing dogs, and search and rescue dogs. Because of their high intelligence, Aussies are well suited to do a wide variety of jobs. Australian Shepherds can live for 12 to 14 years, and the females have 6 to 9 puppies per litter once per year.
The breed is truly an international success story, but it has had a special place in American hearts since it became famous in the West. According to the American Kennel Club, it is still one of the more popular breeds in the United States. Mini and toy versions and the Aussie mix have also become very popular. Other breeds with which it has been mixed include the golden retriever, poodle, corgi, and husky.
Guidelines for naming your Aussie
Choosing a name for your Australian Shepherd involves essential building blocks, including the significance of the sound. The Shepherd’s name will mean something to the humans in the dog’s life, but as far as your canine companion goes, only the sound matters. Australian Shepherds respond best to two-syllable names that are not short enough to be confused with single-syllable command words like “sit,” stay,” “come,” and “down.” However, the names should not be long enough to become puzzling.
It is always a good idea not to rush into choosing a name. Spend a week or so with your new Shepherd pup, and its character traits might be all the inspiration you need. Call out any name-ideas, using different tones and sounds for the two syllables, and watch your puppy’s reaction to the sound. Remember, you must compose a sound that your Aussie will recognize from a distance, among many other sounds. Choose a name that could sound different in regular interaction and yelling or calling your Australian Shepherd.
The Australian Shepherd is one of the most famous breeds in the world. It makes frequent appearances in both fiction and popular culture, which could be used as inspiration when choosing a name for your Aussie.
- In the 1920s and 1930s, a blue merle Australian Shepherd named Bunk was the sidekick of the cowboy actor Jack Hoxie and appeared in several films.
- In the 1950s and 60s, Rodeo contestant Jay Sisler brought his three Aussies, “Queenie,” “Stubby,” and “Shorty” to shows.
- Queenie, Stubby, and Shorty also featured in the 1974 Disney film, Stub: The Greatest Cowdog in the West.
- In the 1970s, an Australian Shepherd named Hyper Hank rose to fame for his Frisbee skills.
- In the 1960s, Aussies starred in Westerns like Run, Appaloosa, Run.
- Stephen Spielberg, the famous director of ET and Schindler’s List, once owned an Australian Shepherd called Harlow.
View Table of Contents
- What is the History of the Australian Shepherd?
- What are the Breed Traits and Characteristics of Australian Shepherds?
- What are the Physical Traits of the Australian Shepherd?
- What is the Average Maintenance Cost for Australian Shepherds?
- What is the best diet for Australian Shepherds?
- Where to Buy or Adopt an Australian Shepherd?
- What Dog Breeds are Similar to the Australian Shepherd?
What is the History of the Australian Shepherd?
Historical reports on the origin of the Australian shepherd vary widely among various sources. According to one theory, Aussies were entirely developed in the United States to work on ranches. Their ancestors may have been Spanish herding dogs that originated in the Basque region of Spain and France and were brought to the United States with herds of Merino sheep during the early colonial days.
The dogs are called Australian shepherds only because they were associated with Basque shepherds that came from Australia to the United States in the 1800s. Besides working as herding animals, Aussies serve as police dogs, narcotics detectors, and competitors in obedience trials. The Australian Shepherd Club of America was founded in 1957 to promote the breed. They also make great family pets. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1993.
What are the Breed Traits and Characteristics of Australian Shepherds?
The Australian Shepherd has been recognized for its exceptional abilities as stock- or herding dogs for many years. Today in Australia, they continue to work as stock dogs and often take part in herding trials. Besides working as herding animals, Aussies serve as police dogs, narcotics detectors, and competitors in obedience trials.
More recently, this working dog breed has been selectively bred to develop both Toy- and Miniature Aussies, and the American Stock Dog Registry recognizes three sizes today.
More traits and characteristics are listed below.
The Australian Shepherd exhibits many excellent traits that appeal to a highly engaged owner. Aussies have outgoing and friendly personalities, keen to express themselves. They are attentive to their owners’ commands and desires.
The Australian Shepherd breed is a model dog with a good sense of diligence and self-control, as long as its loyal and energetic behavior is put to good use. The Aussie’s patient demeanor makes it a great therapy dog, drug detector, and search and rescue dog. Toy and Mini Aussies both exhibit similar behaviors as the standard breed.
Shepherds adapt well to lifestyle changes and different living environments. They don’t mind moving from one place to another with their owner, and they are excellent working dogs that can adapt to all terrains and weather conditions.
The dog’s long double coat should insulate it from heat and cold, but it can become rather uncomfortable in extreme temperatures. On an exceptionally warm day, you should make sure the dog is comfortable and has enough to drink.
Australian Shepherds are slightly more sensitive than other dog breeds, and soft punishment affects them emotionally. Positive reinforcement in this breed works far better than punishment or harsh words, as they can be particularly sensitive to criticism.
Furthermore, Australian Shepherds should not be left alone for long periods. If the dog is separated from its companions, it may become anxious, finding an outlet in destructive behavior around the home. Aussies prefer being with their people for most of the day and may not be the best fit for someone who works long hours due to potential separation anxiety.
Your Aussie is a kind, loving, and devoted pet. He loves his human family and wants to spend lots of time with them. Don’t leave him without human companionship as he craves it and forms strong bonds with his family. Provide him with reasonable care and with lots of fun and games, and you’ve got an exceptional friend for life.
The Aussie is a loyal and playful companion, but it may take some time for the dog to become accustomed to your family. Introduce the dog to your children gradually and let them know where the boundaries are through gentle disapproval.
While they’re not considered aggressive, it’s important to note that the Aussie’s extremely loyal nature means they may be somewhat territorial. They typically shy away from strangers, preferring to stick to their owner’s side. As they were bred to be protective, they’d sound the alarm at the sight of a stranger.
The Australian Shepherd is a loyal companion and excellent playmate, but the first introductions with your children should be carefully thought out and managed. Because of its herding instinct, the Australian Shepherd may initially tend to chase or nip new people it encounters.
Once the dog grows accustomed to your children, though, then they will get along very well with each other. This breed may become quite protective of your children. But it would be best if you taught your children never to tug at the dog’s fur or disturb it while it’s trying to eat.
The Australian Shepherd can tolerate rough play, but it doesn’t want to be annoyed or harassed. It is also never a good idea to leave the dog alone with young children if interactions go poorly.
A well-adjusted Australian shepherd is good with cats, other dogs, and children under supervision, though their herding instincts mean they may try to employ those skills on small children or other pets by nipping at ankles. As with any dog, it’s essential to socialize your Aussie from a young age and teach children to interact with dogs appropriately.
The Australian Shepherd is a high-energy breed that requires at least an hour or two of exercise every single day. If you already have a large yard, then you should be set, but any wide open space should suffice, and the dog should be overjoyed to come with you on walks, hikes, or biking trips. It also loves to perform tricks, agility competitions, and herding tests.
An Aussie is active, energetic, fun, clever, friendly, and playful, but if you have him trained and socialized, he becomes even more of a great family pet. He is intelligent and will require a steady, firm, fair, and consistent owner.
Australian Shepherd herders love to play with children and go for long hikes when not working. Keep plenty of toys available when you cannot devote time to them, or they can become destructive in your home. Being a Shepherd with an innate herding instinct requires a sturdy fence to keep them from trying to herd vehicles, bicycles, or neighborhood children. Early socialization will make them more accepting of new situations and people.
Australian shepherds are great family pets, herding animals, police dogs, and competitors in obedience trials. There’s no doubt about it, Aussies were bred to work. Because these pups historically spent hours alongside their owners in the fields herding sheep and cattle, they require ample daily exercise, mental stimulation, and obedience training to be their happiest. Hiking, running, never-ending games of fetch, and agility course training are great ways to keep your Aussie happy, healthy, and adequately exercised, especially if you’re not planning to herd sheep with them out in the fields all day.
The Australian Shepherd is a highly trainable and obedient dog that takes easily to various skills, commands, sports competitions, jobs, and almost any other task you can imagine. Perhaps no other breed is quite as eager to please. One of the things you should look out for is the dog’s herding instincts like chasing and heel sniffing before they become more serious.
Members of the Australian Shepherd breed are very intelligent herding dogs which means they need a firm, consistent owner. Boredom and loneliness can easily lead to destructive or nuisance behavior. If you have the time to devote to them, they will desire to please you, and training gains will come quickly.
Australian Shepherd dogs communicate both through vocal and non-vocal means. True to their dog nature, they bark loudly when they perceive a threat and warn everybody within reach. However, their barking is not excessive.
What are the Physical Traits of the Australian Shepherd?
The Australian Shepherd has a medium to large-sized build, medium to long hair, and a straight back. The most common colors are solid black, solid red, blue merle, and red merle, with various combinations of white and copper markings all along the body. Most dogs have a full tail, while a few have a bobbed or partially bobbed tail.
Another appealing characteristic is the piercing brown or blue eyes, which once gave this breed the nickname of “ghost-eye dog.” It is not uncommon for this breed to have two different-colored eyes. The Australian Shepherd is one of a few dog breeds that commonly have two different colored eyes, called heterochromia. Aussies might have any combination of brown, blue, hazel, amber, or green eyes. Some Aussies even display more than one color within the same e
Both black and blue merle Australian shepherds usually have black noses, lips, and eye rims. They are about 18 to 23 inches in height and weigh from 40 to 65 pounds. Males generally are taller and heavier than females, and Aussies live about 10 to 12 years.
The Australian Shepherd is a moderate shedder for most of the year, but it will need extra care in the shedding season. Aussies have a lush, medium to long coat that is straight or slightly wavy. They have feathering on the back of the legs and a great mane around the neck.
What is the Average Maintenance Cost for Australian Shepherds?
Australian Shepherds are popular in the United States. The prices of Australian Shepherds range between $500 and $2,500. The cost of a puppy from a registered breeder could vary, depending on the breeder you select, the pedigree, the location, the sex of the puppy, and, of course, the demand for the breed at the time. The bloodline of the puppy and its parents could also affect the price. You will be hard-pressed to find this breed in a shelter, but if you do, the price will typically be based on the cost of care provided while keeping the Australian Shepherd.
It is always best to consider annual expenses related to maintaining your Australian Shepherd and its well-being before purchasing. The first year will be the most expensive, as puppies require extra vet care and more one-time purchases like microchips, spaying or neutering, etc. You can expect to spend about $3,000 for your dog’s first year. After that, the price will go down to about $1,700 a year.
The typical annual costs of having a medium-sized canine such as an Australian Shepherd, food and medical only, excluding toys, food and water bowls, cages, doggy blankets, beds, etc., could cost an average of $650. The most regular annual expenses for dogs similar to the Aussie are listed below.
- Food items
- Veterinary care
- Preventive medicine
- Pet insurance
- Pet Supplies
Other potential expenses include training, socializing, doggy daycare, dog sitters, dog walkers, grooming, etc. The Australian Shepherd does not tend to drool excessively; in fact, the breed hardly ever drools. Drooling is the unintentional saliva flowing outside of the mouth. The Australian Shepherd has a moderate risk of obesity, especially if working dogs become house pets with insufficient exercise. Daily walks should be on schedule. To make your dog happy and fit, feed him with premium quality dry dog food and live an active life together.
What is the best diet for Australian Shepherds?
It is a good idea to find specialized food for your Australian Shepherd’s age (puppies, adults, or seniors). Because it tends to gain weight, you should carefully monitor the dog’s calorie consumption and give treats only sporadically to support its training.
Australian Shepherds may do better eating a limited ingredient or allergy care dog food considering their propensity for allergies and sensitivities. Your dog’s adult size determines its dietary needs through all life stages. Thus, base your Australian Shepherd’s diet on a medium breed’s unique nutritional and digestive needs throughout its different life stages.
It is always a good idea to discuss your dog’s dietary needs with your vet to ensure you are prepared to deal with age-related issues as their Australian Shepherds grow. A veterinarian can advise on diets, portion sizes, meal frequencies, and all nutrition matters to ensure your furry friend lives a long life with optimal health. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times, and some of the essential nutrients are listed below:
- Fatty acids
Avoid feeding your Australian Shepherd from the table; all it does is add weight. Instead, follow the advice below to ensure your Australian Shepherd friend’s optimal health.
The best dog food for Australian Shepherds is Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog Food, available in 25 different recipes. The range contains no soy, corn, or wheat and no peas, lentils, or other legumes used as fillers that can irritate allergy-prone dogs like Australian Shepherds. And since this breed can suffer from Epilepsy, the thiamine, manganese, and copper content protects Australian Shepherds’ nervous systems. There’s taurine and Vitamin A to prevent eye problems, too.
Australian Shepherd puppy’s portion depends on age, but 2 to 3 cups are appropriate. In contrast, an active, healthy adult Australian Shepherd should have 3 to 4 cups, depending on the brand and formula of the food. Feeding Australian Shepherds several meals instead of one meal per day can prevent life-threatening bloat. When in doubt, consult your veterinarian.
A premium dry dog food should form the basis of your Shepherd’s diet. You can add variety by supplementing this food with fresh meat, bones, cooked eggs, canned wet dog food, and even fruits and vegetables, but keep these additions to no more than 10 percent of the dog’s daily diet.
Below is a list of what to look for in the dry dog food formula when choosing the best nutrition for your Australian Shepherd.
- Lasting energy providers: Dog food made with premium meats like chicken, duck, turkey, beef, lamb, salmon, or novel proteins like venison, bison, buffalo, and wild boar. Fiber-rich carbs and highly digestible proteins keep your Shepherd feeling energized and full throughout the day.
- Ingredients for better health: Food that includes powerful superfoods like tomatoes, raspberries, blueberries, along with their immune-boosting properties.
- Optimizing Nutrient Absorption: Recipes with chelated minerals promote mineral attachment to proteins for maximized absorption during the digestive process.
- Immune System Support: Formulas with prebiotics and species-specific probiotics with bacteria naturally found in a dog’s GI tract.
- Perfectly Balanced Omegas: Contains just the correct dose of fatty acids, marine-sourced omega-3 and omega-6 from plant sources.
When Australian Shepherds are healthy and active, every day is an adventure. That’s why Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Adult Grain-Free Dry Dog Food is crafted with everything dogs need to thrive, starting with real protein as the first ingredient.
How Much Should an Australian Shepherd Puppy Eat?
The Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized breed whose pups under 12 weeks should get four bowls of food per day. When Shepherd puppies become three months old, owners can feed them three meals per day until they reach six months, reducing the food intake to 2 meals per day. Only high-quality and branded puppy food is acceptable. Guidance for feeding puppies is listed below.
- Australian Shepherd puppies need slow, sustained growth to help prevent orthopedic problems, such as hip dysplasia. Raise them on a diet designed for medium-breed puppies. Whatever diet you choose shouldn’t overemphasize protein, fat, and calorie levels.
- Aussie pups should be fed according to a schedule, spreading meal times over two or three times per day. Getting the puppy accustomed to meals at specific times is better than leaving food out to allow feeding throughout the day.
- Australian Shepherds with medical conditions like hypoglycemia or low blood sugar are the exceptions because they need to nibble bits of food throughout the day.
- Never feed your puppy from the table. It only encourages begging. Everyone in the family must follow this rule.
What are the common health problems of Australian Shepherds?
The Aussie is also the dog breed most likely to be afflicted with epilepsy. Unfortunately, these health issues can reduce the lifespan of your pet. Because some of these health conditions arise from genetic abnormalities (particularly in merle to merle breeding), it is a good idea to buy the dog from a breeder that screens for these kinds of problems early. To sum up things briefly, these are the most common health problems for this breed:
- Hereditary eye diseases
- Hereditary cancer like lymphoma
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Before you pick a puppy from a litter, be sure to ask your reputable breeder about potential genetic issues and request any family and pedigree history so you can identify any red flags on hereditary problems. Or, if you’re adopting your Aussie, be sure to ask the rescue organization for any available health history.
It is now well recognized that breeding two Merle-coloured dogs together is likely to result in a high incidence of deafness, blindness, and even death within the litters produced. Pups born to these parents are often called ‘double merles’ or ‘lethal whites.’ Due to this increased risk, Merle dogs should never knowingly be bred to other Merle dogs.
What are the nutritional needs of Australian Shepherds?
The nutritional needs of an Australian Shepherd include high levels of specific nutrients. The essential nutrients for the Shepherd are listed below.
- Protein: Australian Shepherds need natural animal protein, valuable for the amino acids they contain essential for an Aussie’s health. Equally important is the fact that protein builds lean muscles and provides energy.
- Fat: Animal protein provides adequate fat, an additional energy source that boosts the Aussie’s metabolism. However, there is a fine line between enough and too much. Excessive fat levels in the dog’s daily diet could result in weight gain and, ultimately, obesity. Most importantly, adults and senior Australian Shepherds need lower fat levels than puppies.
- Carbohydrates: Although carbs are not essential nutrients, they are crucial energy sources. Giving the Australian Shepherd sufficient carbs will provide energy, encouraging the body’s protein absorption to build lean muscle. Beware, though, too much carbohydrate can lead to obesity.
- DHA: DHA is one of the components of omega-3 fatty acids. It promotes proper eye and brain development in Australian Shepherd puppies, and DHA develops cognitive development in puppies and slows cognitive decline in older dogs. Furthermore, omega fatty acids benefit aging Shepherds by treating chronic kidney disease and canine arthritis. Omega-3 oils improve the coat health of the Australian Shepherd Shepherd.
- Micronutrient: Taurine is one micronutrient that aids heart health, and other valuable micronutrients for promoting strong joints in Australian Shepherds are chondroitin and glucosamine.
- Minerals: Beneficial minerals for an Australian Shepherd’s growth include a healthy balance of phosphorus and calcium. Pre- and probiotics and chelated minerals provide additional health to the diets of Shepherds.
Where to Buy or Adopt an Australian Shepherd?
Though Australian Shepherds are mostly similar, different breeders specialize in various working abilities. For instance, you might want a dog with different qualities depending on if you want an Australian Shepherd to work on a large sheep ranch, herd cattle, one that is well-suited to help out on a small hobby farm, or a companion dog for your family. It is an excellent place to start searching for the right Shepherd for you.
Finding a good breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. They are more interested in placing pups in suitable homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids.”
The best way to ensure you get a healthy Australian Shepherd puppy from a breeder or a rescue organization is to reach out to the registered organizations for the specific breed, if available. Below are several authoritative entities that might put potential Shepherd owners in touch with reputable breeders or rescue centers.
- United States Australian Shepherd Association
- American Canine Registry
- America’s Pet Registry
- Dog Registry of America Inc.
- North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
- American Canine Association, Inc.
- National Kennel Club
- New Zealand Kennel Club
- United Kennel Club
- Australian Shepherd Club Of America
If you manage to track down Australian Shepherd breeders, make sure you go to the facility and insist on meeting both the puppies’ parents so that you can get a feel for their temperament. Australian Shepherd puppies are often peppy and playful—all should have cheery expressions and kind eyes.
It might take some time to find a legitimate breeder, and travel may very well be in the cards. Steer clear of backyard breeding by avoiding sales sites and ad pages. When you select a breeder, make sure they have proof of successful, healthy litters with any documentation necessary.
Although you might find an Australian Shepherd puppy or a rescued adult to adopt or buy from abroad, not all countries allow importing adopted dogs. Those whose countries allow the importation of Australian Shepherds may find the logistics challenging.
Procedures include obtaining certification from a vet to prove the Australian Shepherd is fully vaccinated and providing all the additional required veterinary documents before the travel. Furthermore, your country must approve the veterinarian to authorize the importation, and it will be your responsibility to ensure you use the services of a certified vet.
What Dog Breeds are Similar to the Australian Shepherd?
The Australian Shepherd, or simply Aussie, is an Australian Shepherd capable of mustering and droving with little or no guidance. It is a medium-sized dog and comes in a variety of colors. The Shepherd has been exported worldwide and is used to muster livestock, primarily sheep, cattle, and goats. The Australian Shepherd is just one of many different types of herding dogs. Here are some of the closest breeds in terms of appearance, behavior, and temperament. Some of the breeds listed below also have their own Aussie mix.
- German Shepherd: This very large working dog, which originated from Germany, is one of the most popular breeds in the world. Like the Australian Shepherd, it is diligent, smart, loyal, and hard-working but also requires some work to fully meet its needs.
- Border Collie: Hailing from Northern England and Scotland, the Border Collie is another herding dog with a loyal personality, diligent work ethic, and energetic behavior. Its unique mixture of colors also resembles the appearance of the Australian Shepherd.
- English Shepherd: Descended from various collie breeds, the English Shepherd is a medium-sized dog with some combination of black, white, tan, or sable colors. It shares ancestry with both the Border Collie and the Australian Shepherd. This is reflected in the excellent work ethic, high intelligence, and fierce loyalty.