By Dr. Watuwa JamesDr. James Watuwa Last updated: 5th April 2023

Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd is a solid-built, medium-sized dog. These dogs are among the few breeds with rare, naturally bobbed tails. This feature is a recessive gene within their breed’s genetic code. However, not all Aussies are born without tails; only one in about five dogs is born tailless.

Australian Shepherd Pictures

Quick Information

Other NamesAussie Shepherd, Aussie, Australischer Schäferhund, and Australian sheepdog
CoatDouble coat- slightly coarse top coat and a dense undercoat
ColorBlack, blue merle, red, red merle
Breed  TypePurebred
GroupShepherd/ sheepdog/ herd working dogs
Life expectancy13 – 15 years
SizeMedium-sized dogs
HeightMales: 20–23 inches (51–58 cm)
Females: 18–21 inches (46–53 cm)
Weight35–70 lb (16–32 kg)
Litter Size6-7 puppies
Behavioral characteristicsAffectionate, adaptive, friendly, playful, and willful.
Good with ChildrenYes
Barking TendencyAverage barkers. Only to alert.
Climate CompatibilityEnjoys cold weather and has moderate tolerance to heat. Puppies and senior dogs have low heat tolerance.
Apartment CompatibilityAverage
Do they shedThey shed a moderate amount throughout the year. Heavy shedding occurs in the spring and fall.
Are they HypoallergenicNo
How much do they cost$600 – $3,000
Competitive Registration Qualification/ InformationACA = American Canine Association Inc.
ACR = American Canine Registry
AKC = American Kennel Club
APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
ASCA = Australian Shepherd Club of America
CKC = Continental Kennel Club
DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
NKC = National Kennel Club
NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
UKC = United Kennel Club
CountryUnited States

History and Origin

A part of Aussies roots goes back to the pastoral dogs in the 1500s that were brought for herding the Spanish flocks in North America. According to some speculation, a mountain sheepdog called Carea Leonés was among these dogs; it displays the same merle coat and eye color as the present Australian Shepherd. People also claim that their ancestry traces to the Basque Shepherd Dog and the Pyrenean Sheepdog.

Aussies, as we know them today, were developed in the 19th century in California for sheep herding purposes for local shepherds. This breed was developed by breeding different herding dogs that California imported along with sheep. One of those dogs includes collies exported from Australia and New Zealand. Thus they were named after their Australian ancestors.

 These dogs became available outside of California and popularized throughout the western United States. They had excellent sheep herding qualities and were good at handling cattle, which ranchers highly valued. Due to being bred only for working purposes, these dogs were only used in the livestock industries. But, during the mid-20th century, a rodeo performer Jay Lister performed various tricks with his Australian Shepherds in rodeos throughout the western states of the USA. This act popularized the breed, and soon the Australian Shepherd Club of America was formed to promote the breed, followed by the United Kennel Club recognition in 1979. In the 1990s, the American Kennel Club recognized this breed, and later on, the Fédération Cynologique International also gave it recognition.

 By the late 20th century, Australian Shepherds became very popular as companion dogs and were also used in various conformation shows. In 2019 the AKC ranked this breed 15th as United States’ most popular dog breed.

Temperament and Personality

Aussies are affectionate, active, adaptive, intelligent, loyal, protective, playful, and friendly. They make excellent companions, are especially good with children, get along with other pets, and are eager to please their owners. Although these dogs are bred for pets at present, many of them still have herding instincts, which often make them try to herd children of other pets.

Their Aggression

This affectionate breed is not generally aggressive; however, like any other breed, the lack of proper socialization and training might make them indulge in this behavior. Also, remember that aggression in dogs can be triggered by anxiety and fear.



Originally bred as working dogs, they are very active and require at least one to two hours of daily workouts to feel satisfied; however, the more they can be exercised, the better. Owners that can provide them with lots of physical activities are suitable for these dogs. Without enough physical stimulation, Australian Shepherds can get destructive. Take them on daily walks; engage in purposeful activities to ensure the fulfillment of their mental and physical requirements.


Aussies are relatively easy to groom. Brush their coat twice weekly to remove dirt and dead hair; it will also help to keep their coat healthy and shiny by spreading the natural oils. Bathe them every few months or when necessary. Check for ticks and fleas on your dog once every week because bites or saliva of these parasites can cause extreme allergies, anemia, dermatitis, itching, and infection. If your dog is infected, use tick and flea control products to eliminate the infection. Weekly clean their ears with a damp cloth to prevent any ear infections and keep their nails trimmed.

Health Problems

Although generally healthy breeds, Aussies can face some health issues like epilepsy, deafness, hemangiosarcoma, hereditary cataracts, hip and elbow dysplasia, iris coloboma, Lymphosarcoma, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Multidrug Resistance Mutation (MDR1).


Australian Shepherds need a protein-rich diet with healthy fats. Their diet should contain about 22 – 30% protein and 8% fat for growing puppies and adult dogs. Some other necessities their food should have are carbohydrates, fiber, and essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. Feed them high-quality animal protein like trout, turkey, chicken, eggs, lamb, and salmon, which is also rich in omega fatty acids and digestible carbohydrates like whole grains and fresh vegetables.

The amount of food your Aussie should consume depends on its age. For example, if measuring in cups, a puppy requires four cups of food daily, four to six cups a day is enough for an adult, and a senior Aussie will need two to three cups every day. The nutritional requirements of dogs depend on their lifestyle, metabolism, and weight; remember that these things are different for every dog, even those of the same breed. Therefore, consulting a veterinarian would be well to determine the best way of feeding your dog.


These dogs are highly intelligent, which makes it easier to train them.

Socialization: Socializing your dog at an early age is important; the earlier it is socialized, the better it will be able to interact with different people and situations. Be sure to start the process when they are about five to seven weeks old since the age of five weeks to four months is considered the prime socialization period for puppies. Take them to different places to meet various people and be exposed to new situations. It is necessary to show them that experiencing new things and meeting strangers can be fun and not scary. You can walk them in a different neighborhood than yours and take them along on errands.

Dogs not socialized as puppies can also be trained to do so; it will just be a little harder for them to get used to new situations and people.

Obedience: It is essential to make your Aussie obedient. Teach them basic commands like ‘sit’, ‘come’, ‘stay’, ‘lie down’, and ‘leave it’. They are very motivated when treats and praise are involved. So be sure to reward them and regularly reinforce the commands.

Leash: Despite being obedient and easy to train, these dogs are not suited for off-leash. Although, with enough recall and obedience training, proper socialization, and different outdoor activities, Australian Shepherds can learn to do well without a leash.

Interesting Facts

  • The cowboy actor Jack Hoxie’s sidekick Bunk was a blue merle Australian Shepherd who appeared alongside him in many films throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
  • Disney featured a team of Australian Shepherds owned by Idaho rancher and rodeo competitor Jay Sisler in films Stub, The Best Cow Dog in the West, and Run Appaloosa Run.
  • The director of ET and Schindler’s List, Stephen Spielberg, owned an Australian Shepherd named Harlow.
  •  Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, owned many pets in the 1980s, including an Australian Shepherd.


Q: Should Australian Shepherds be left alone?

Ans: If left alone for too long, Australian Shepherds can busy themselves by indulging in destructive behavior or barking. Although, through proper crate training, these dogs can be alone at home for at least four to six hours.

Q: What’s the difference between an Australian Shepherd and an American Shepherd?

Ans: The American Shepherd, previously named miniature Australian Shepherd, was bred from Australian Shepherds and was selected because of their small size. Aussies are much larger and have longer coats than American Shepherds.

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