Australian Shepherds are a dog breed that have a remarkable story.
Although their breed name references Australia, they can trace their history back to the Pyrenees Mountains in the borderlands between France and Spain.
Breed name: Australian Shepherd
Lifespan: 12 to 15 years
Height: 18 to 23 inches
Weight: 50 to 65 lbs
When some Basques set sail for the Australian continent in the 1800s, these cattle ranchers brought their dogs – the Pyrenean Shepherd (describe as the progenitor of the modern Aussie).
However, the Basque shepherd was on the move again when the herders travelled to the west coast of America where the breed was perfected by California ranchers who dubbed these dogs Australian Shepherds.
Naturally, the Australian Shepherd has been a member of the American Kennel Club’s Herding Group since 1993. They can also thrive as aides to the physically handicapped, police dogs as well as search and rescue dogs.
Although these dogs like to work, they can also make excellent family pets with the right owners and in the right setting. In fact, they’re ranked 12th in terms of the most popular dog breed in the USA.
In this article, we’ll speak to some Australian Shepherd owners to get a firsthand insight into the breed. For instance, Alex (@miniatlasadventures) will provide us with their experience owning an Aussie.
With the introduction over, let’s take a closer look at Australian Shepherd pros and cons.
Smart dogs, easy to train
As herding dogs, it should come as no surprise that Australian Shepherds are extremely smart dogs. Described as “remarkably intelligent” by the AKC, the breed was ranked 42nd in the Intelligence Of Dogs. It’s a good idea to start training your Australian Shepherd from a young age to establish basic obedience and understanding.
Alex has already taught Atlas (@miniatlasadventures) over 30 tricks!
Australian Shepherds are one of the smartest dog breeds and can easily pick up anything you try to teach them. One of my favourite things about the breed is that their super handler focused and will do everything they can to make their person happy. Atlas is only 1 year and 4 months old but he knows over 30 tricks!
Australian Shepherds are loyal dogs that can often settle on one member of the family being their person. Although their tireless attitude lends itself to an active lifestyle with their dog owner, they can have a softer side where they show affection and love to family members. The AKC rate the Australian Shepherd’s affectionateness with the family as a three out of five on their website.
Alex shared that Aussies tend to be extremely loyal dogs who love to please their owners.
Australian Shepherds naturally choose someone to be “their person” and if you are lucky to be chosen then you can definitely count on lots of snuggles and attention from them.
If you’re thinking about introducing an Australian Shepherd to a home with younger family members, the breed can excel with the right guidance and consistent training. They’re relatively affectionate dogs who have a reputation for being good with young children. Having said that, you should always supervise an Aussie around kids because some members of the breed may succumb to an instinctive drive to herd children.
Alex shared that Australian Shepherds love being part of a family but will usually pick one person to be their favourite.
They make great family dogs! While they will love every member of your household, they will end up bonding to one person more over the others.
Love to exercise
If you’re someone who loves to exercise, whether it’s going for a jog, hiking in the hills or exploring the seaside, your Australian Shepherd will be the perfect workout buddy. They’ve got high energy levels that make them perfect for adventurous dog owners. At the same time, you can just take your Aussie for multiple walks a day and throw in some training sessions too. If you’re looking for a breed to exercise with you, look no further.
Alex explained Atlas (@miniatlasadventures) requires between 60 and 120 minutes of exercise a day.
They are a working breed, which means they require both physical AND mental stimulation. If you want a couch potato then an Australian Shepherd is not for you. Most people take their Aussies out for at least 1-2 hours each day, on top of training sessions.
As an active person myself, I love the fact that I can take Atlas out for hikes and trails, without worrying whether or not he can keep up. One of my favourite activities as a dog owner is exploring new trails with Atlas and he has definitely made me more active, which I appreciate.
However, Alex explained that Atlas (@miniatlasadventures) does have an “off switch”.
However, I definitely have days where I decide to not do anything and Atlas is completely fine. as I taught him how to be calm through calmness training, which is something I recommend all owners that have a working breed to look into.
Excellent guard dogs
Australian Shepherds can perform many functions within a family and within society as a whole. We’ve already touched upon some of their roles as aides to people with disabilities, police, narcotic and search and rescue dogs. However, in a family setting, Australian Shepherds can also be excellent watch dogs. They’re an alert dog breed who won’t be afraid to raise the alarm if something feels suspicious. Their medium size and their booming bark ensures that they can also prove a deterrent for unwanted visitors. Australian Shepherds tend to be quite territorial so they’ll be naturally suspicious of unfamiliar faces wandering into their home.
High energy breed
We’ve already spoken about their exercise needs but if you’re someone who lacks the energy levels of the Aussie Shepherd, they may not be the right breed for you. They require regular exercise and if they don’t get the chance to stretch their legs and work their intelligent brains, you should be prepared for the possibility of destructive and unwanted behaviours.
Alex had a word of warning to prospective Aussie owners who don’t consider themselves to be active people.
A potential con is that they are known to be a high energy breed. If you’re not an active person, I would not recommend this breed for you as they do require daily walks and training to have a well-balanced dog. If you don’t think you can put in the time and effort into daily training or walking, I would suggest to look at another breed.
There are a number of breeds with a reputation for being low-shedding dogs with hypoallergenic qualities. Unfortunately the Australian Shepherd is not one of these breeds. They’re moderate shedders who will blow out their undercoat during shedding season. Aussie owners will have to commit to brushing their Shepherd every two or three days when their dog is shedding to remove dead hair.
Alex shared his experience with taking care of Atlas’s coat (@miniatlasadventures).
They have an under and outer coat which means they do shed quite a bit. It’s known that they blow their coats twice a year which means you will notice a lot of stray hair balls floating around your house.
While they do have a lot of fur, in my experience, Atlas does not require a lot of grooming. Their working coats naturally repel a lot of dirt which means I don’t have to brush him that often. I brush him every couple of days and only bathe him every couple of months.
Require mental stimulation
These dogs are smart and enjoy having a function to fulfill. If you’ve got an Aussie as a pet, it’s a good idea to give their brains a work out – too. Here’s some advice from our Aussie owner Alex.
As a working breed, yes they do. It’s not enough to just physical exercise an Aussie, but you have to mentally challenge them as well. This is very important if you want a happy, well-rounded dog. If anything, mental stimulation is more tiring than physical exercise!
Some Australian Shepherd owners may struggle with their dog being reactive in certain situations.
Alex shared a little more on this subject based upon conversations with dog trainers.
Australian Shepherds (and all other working breeds) are prone to reactivity as well. After speaking to several dog trainers, they mentioned that a lot of their reactive are working breeds. Early socialization is super important for this breed. I would like to emphasize that socialization does not mean saying hi to every dog you see. It simply means learning to calmly exist around external stimuli.
Separation anxiety is a chronic canine condition that can affect any dog irrespective of breed or mix. Australian Shepherds aren’t immune to separation anxiety so it’s a good idea to educate yourself on this particular disorder before bringing home an Aussie or any dog.
Alex shared his experience contending with some initial separation anxiety issues when he first got Atlas (@miniatlasadventures).
As Australian Shepherds naturally get very attached to their owner(s), they are a breed that’s prone to separation anxiety. Atlas did not like being alone at first which is completely normal as a puppy. He would howl and bark whenever he thought he was alone, which was quite rough for me. But with crate training and slow introductions to being alone, he is now completely fine if I were to leave him home by himself for a couple hours. It’s important to not allow them to have constant 24/7 access to you so they don’t get use to being around you every waking moment.