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Australian Shepherd Care: Your Easy Guide to a Happy Pup - PawSafe

Australian Shepherd Care: Your Easy Guide to a Happy Pup

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

Australian Shepherd dog breed

If you’ve ever wanted a smart, energetic, and loyal buddy, the Australian Shepherd might just be the dog for you. Australian Shepherds, often called Aussies, are not actually from Australia, despite the name. They were bred in the United States to herd livestock and are known for their high intelligence and strong work ethic. You would find their agility and drive perfect if you’re into activities like dog sports.

These medium-sized dogs come with a gorgeous coat that can be of various colors like blue merle, black, red merle, or red — all with or without white markings and/or tan points. With their striking eyes, which might even be two different colors, they’ll catch your attention and hold it. Beyond their looks, Aussies are famously good with kids, which makes them excellent family pets.

Training your Australian Shepherd is a fun part of ownership because they pick up on things super fast. They’ve got plenty of energy, so they fit right into an active lifestyle. Just remember, they need a good deal of mental stimulation and physical exercise to stay happy and healthy. So, if you’re thinking of getting one, make sure you’re ready for lots of walks, games, and maybe even a few tricks up your sleeve.

Contents show

History and Development

Origins: The breed’s origins trace back to herding dogs from Spain’s Basque Region, which were brought to the Western United States to manage livestock. These dogs likely merged with other herding breeds, such as collies and shepherd dogs from Australia and New Zealand, to eventually become what we know today as the Australian Shepherd.

  • Name Origin: The Australian Shepherd inherited its name from its association with Basque Shepherds who came from Australia, where they had used similar herding dogs.
  • Breed Development: Initially developed for herding purposes in California during the 19th century, the breed excelled at managing various types of livestock.

Australian Shepherd Migration

  • Westward Spread: From California, the Australian Shepherd quickly became a staple on ranches throughout the American West. Its ability to work with diverse types of livestock made it invaluable to American ranchers.
  • Popularity Surge: The breed’s wider recognition came when Jay Lister, a rodeo performer, showcased the extraordinary skills of his Australian Shepherds during western rodeos.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes the Australian Shepherd as a breed with distinctive traits such as intelligence, energy, and an eagerness to please, making it a favorite not only for working purposes but as a companion in American households. 

Aussies can have a variety of coat colors, including the stunning Red Australian Shepherd, known for its lively spirit and lovely red hue. The breed’s adaptability and trainability have also led to Aussies being crossed with other breeds, like the Border Collie, to create dynamic mixes attuned to active lifestyles and working environments, similar to the Australian Shepherd Border Collie mix.

Australian Shepherd Physical Characteristics

Stunning blue and white Australian Shepherd dog trotting over park showing typical physical characteristics with red ball in mouth

The Australian Shepherd is a vibrant, medium-sized dog renowned for their beautiful coat and agile build. This section details their coat and color patterns, as well as their size and body structure.

Coat and Color

Your Aussie’s coat is moderate in length and weather-resistant, making it suitable for various climates. These dogs proudly sport a double coat, with the outer layer being slightly wavy and the inner one soft and insulating. When it comes to color, Australian Shepherds present striking variety. You’ll find them in blue merle, red merle, black, and red with or without white markings and/or tan (copper) points. Merles display mottled patches of color, a trait owed to the merle gene, and their eyes can be a captivating blue or amber.

Size and Body Structure

An Australian Shepherd typically stands between 18-23 inches (45-58 cm) in height for males, and 18-21 inches (45-53 cm) for females. When it comes to weight, expect males to weigh between 50-65 pounds (23-29 kg) and females between 40-55 pounds (18-25 kg). Their solid, muscular frame equips them for demanding activities and work. Aussies are identified by a natural or docked tail, and their height and weight reflect their athletic nature as medium-sized dogs.

*Please note that individual dogs might vary from these standards due to a variety of factors, including diet, exercise, and genetics.

Australian Shepherd Behavior and Temperament

Black and tan Australian Shepherd dog showing natural behavior herding sheep

The Australian Shepherd is a remarkably intelligent and energetic breed, thriving on mental and physical stimulation. They are known for their loyalty and protective nature, making them excellent companions and workers.

Herding Instincts and Intelligence

With their roots deep in herding, Australian Shepherds have a strong instinct to herd almost anything — from birds to kids. They are highly intelligent dogs, which allows them to excel in obedience and problem-solving tasks. This intelligence places them above the average for dog breeds, reflecting their ability to learn new commands and routines efficiently.

Energy and Activity Levels

Australian Shepherds are high-energy dogs that need plenty of exercise to be happy. They are well-suited for active families or individuals who enjoy outdoor activities. Their high energy level demands ample space to run and play, and they’re often seen excelling in agility sports. Without enough physical and mental exercise, they may resort to undesirable behaviors out of boredom.

Personality Traits

These dogs are not just active; they are also very loyal and protective of their family. They form a strong bond with their owners and can be reserved around strangers. As part of their protective nature, Australian Shepherds can be excellent guardians of their home. Their playful disposition makes them great for families with children, though their herding instincts may lead them to gently herd family members.

Australian Shepherds are wonderful companions that bring energy and joy to any home, with their intelligence and loyalty being the cherry on top. However, potential owners should be prepared to meet their exercise and mental stimulation needs.

Australian Shepherd Health

Veterinarian examining Australian Shepherd dog x-ray looking for health issues

When you’re a proud Australian Shepherd owner, understanding your furry friend’s health concerns is crucial for their well-being and happiness.

How Long Do Australian Shepherds Usually Live?

Your Australian Shepherd has a life expectancy ranging from 12 to 15 years, which can be influenced by genetics, lifestyle, and health care.

Common Health Issues

Your Australian Shepherd is an active and intelligent buddy with a beautiful coat and lots of energy. However, they can be prone to specific health conditions, according to Dr. Alex Gough, that you should be aware of to ensure they stay healthy and thriving.

Dermatological Conditions:

  • Sterile Nodular Panniculitis: A skin disorder where small, inflamed nodules form under the skin, often without infection.

Drug Reactions:

  • Ivermectin and Milbemycin Sensitivity: Australian Shepherds may react negatively to these drugs due to a genetic mutation that affects drug metabolism.

Endocrine Conditions:

  • Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s Syndrome): A condition where the body produces too much cortisol, leading to symptoms like increased hunger, thirst, and urination.

Haematological/Immunological Conditions:

  • Haemophilia A: A bleeding disorder caused by a deficiency in clotting factor VIII.
  • Selective Malabsorption of Cobalamin (Vitamin B12): This genetic issue prevents the dog from properly absorbing vitamin B12, important for nerve function and blood cell production.

Musculoskeletal Conditions:

  • Avascular Necrosis of the Femoral Head (Legg–Calvé–Perthes Disease): Poor blood supply to the femoral head causes bone death, leading to joint pain and limping.
  • Hip Dysplasia: A genetic malformation where the hip joint doesn’t fit properly in its socket, causing pain and arthritis.

Neoplastic Conditions:

  • Pituitary Tumour Resulting in Hyperadrenocorticism: Tumors on the pituitary gland can also cause Cushing’s Syndrome.

Neurological Conditions:

  • Epilepsy: A disorder marked by recurrent seizures, which can be poorly controlled in some dogs, especially those with non-merle coats.

Ocular Conditions:

  • Cataracts: Clouding of the lens in the eye, leading to decreased vision.
  • Chronic Superficial Keratitis (Pannus): An inflammatory condition of the cornea that can lead to vision loss.
  • Collie Eye Anomaly: A congenital condition involving underdeveloped eyes that can lead to vision impairment.
  • Multiple Ocular Defects: Includes several eye abnormalities, often seen in dogs with predominantly white coats in the merle pattern.
  • Persistent Hyaloid Remnants: Pieces of fetal tissue that remain in the eye after birth, potentially causing vision issues.

Renal and Urinary Conditions:

  • Urolithiasis (Cystine): The formation of cystine stones in the urinary tract, which is especially common in male dogs.

Auditory Conditions:

  • Deafness: Can be congenital (present from birth) or develop as the dog ages, often associated with merle coat color genetics in Australian Shepherds.

Remember, staying informed about these potential health issues and maintaining frequent vet check-ups can help you keep your Australian Shepherd healthy and happy for years to come.

How to Groom An Australian Shepherd

Grooming your Australian Shepherd is a bit like taking care of your own hair, it needs regular attention. These dogs have a thick, double coat that sheds throughout the year, especially during spring and fall. So, be ready to find some fur around your house!


You’ll want to get a good pin brush or undercoat rake. Brushing a few times a week is a must to keep the shedding under control. It also helps to prevent those nasty tangles and mats that can be really uncomfortable for your Aussie.


Bath time doesn’t have to be all the time, maybe just once a month unless your Aussie finds a mud puddle to play in. Make sure you use a dog-friendly shampoo to keep their coat nice and shiny.


Keeping their nails trimmed is important, too. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, it’s time for a trim. If you’re not comfortable doing this, your vet or a groomer can help out.


Don’t forget their ears! Check them regularly for dirt and make sure they’re not smelly or red, which could be a sign of an infection.

Dental Care

And good dental care is important, just like for you. Brushing their teeth with dog-specific toothpaste keeps their mouth healthy and their breath not too stinky.

Coat Care

Finally, a good deshedding tool will be your best friend come shedding season. It can help you get rid of all that loose fur and keep your Aussie looking great. Happy grooming!

Exercise and Training An Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd dog leaping mid air getting exercise

Hey there! If you’ve got a furry bundle of energy like an Australian Shepherd, you’re in for a wild ride! These dogs are super athletic and love to play. Think of your Aussie as an elite athlete in need of regular practice to stay on top of their game.

Daily Exercise Needs

  • Minimum: 1 to 2 hours
  • Activities: Jogging, fetch, agility training

Remember, an Aussie without enough exercise can become destructive. They’re not just being naughty; they’re telling you they’re bored! To keep your Aussie happy and your home intact, mix up their routine with various playful activities.

Training Your Aussie

Let’s talk about training. Australian Shepherds are smart cookies — and they know it! Start obedience training early to keep you both sane.

  • Basic Tricks: Sit, stay, come
  • Advanced Tricks: Fetch specific items, roll over, play dead

Training isn’t just about obedience either. It’s about bonding with your pup and keeping their brain just as exercised as their body.

Pro Tip: Positive reinforcement works wonders. Treats, praise, and playtime for a job well done will make training a breeze.

Perfect the Basics

  • Consistency: Key to success
  • Patience: They’ll get it, give them time

Last thing, Aussie parents, don’t skimp on the exercise or training. Trust me, your lively pal will thank you with fewer chewed-up shoes and more tail wags! Happy training!

Australian Shepherds in Society

Australian Shepherds, often called “Aussies,” play a dynamic role in society. You’ll see them working on ranches, becoming a part of families, and winning ribbons in dog sports.

Work and Utility

Australian Shepherds have earned a solid reputation as exceptional herding dogs. Their intelligence and agility make them a top choice for ranchers who need a dependable partner to manage livestock. These dogs don’t just herd; their versatility shines in roles like search and rescue, where they can quickly navigate difficult terrain.

Companion and Family Life

As pets, Australian Shepherds bring a loyal and affectionate vibe to your home. They thrive on being part of your “family” pack and are known for their protective nature. They’re active companions that will enjoy spending time with you, whether that’s running in the park or learning tricks to impress your friends.

Sports and Competitions

In the world of dog sports, Aussies are stars! Their high energy and smarts make them outstanding in various competitions, such as agility, flyball, and obedience. When you’re at a dog sport event, you’re bound to see Australian Shepherds leaping over hurdles, zipping through tunnels, and showcasing their training with precise tricks and routines.

How Much Do Australian Shepherds Cost?

Red Australian Shepherd puppy for sale how much does puppy cost

When you’re looking to bring an Australian Shepherd into your life, it’s important to consider the costs involved. Let’s break it down so you can get a clear idea of what to expect.

Puppy Price

The amount you’ll pay for an Australian Shepherd puppy can vary widely. Depending on the breeder’s reputation and the dog’s lineage, prices generally range from $400 to $1,800. If you’re set on a pup with a champion pedigree, prices can soar to over $2,500.

Here’s a quick peek at what to keep in mind:

  • Breeder Quality: A reputable breeder could set you back anywhere between $800 and $1,800.
  • Lineage: Champion bloodlines? That price jumps, with some going for upwards of $2,500.

Monthly & Annual Costs

Once you’ve got your Aussie, there are monthly and annual expenses to plan for. Initially, you’ll have a higher setup cost for things like food, bed, and vet visits for vaccinations. Afterward, your monthly outlay should drop, but still, you’re looking at around $129 per month, which adds up to about $1,545 a year for essentials.

Here’s what your annual spending might look like:

  • First-Year Essentials: Approximately $2,725
  • Following Years: Roughly $1,545/year

Keep in mind, these are ballpark figures — your actual expenses can vary based on your circumstances and where you live. But by setting aside a monthly budget, you’ll be well prepared for the joyful journey with your Aussie!

Adoption and Ownership

When you decide to welcome an Australian Shepherd into your life, you’re committing to an active, affectionate companion. They’re intelligent dogs who require dedicated training, socialization, and adequate space to roam and run.

Choosing an Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds are high-energy dogs that love having a job to do. If you live an active lifestyle, this breed might be a great fit for you. Before adopting, consider reaching out to establishments like the Australian Shepherd Club of America for guidance on finding an ethical breeder. You may also want to connect with Australian Shepherd Rescue organizations for the option to adopt a pup in need of a home.

Preparation for a New Aussie

Prepare your home for high-energy activities. Australian Shepherds need plenty of space to run, so a yard or frequent trips to the dog park are a must. Equip yourself with toys that stimulate their minds and satisfy their instinct to herd. Additionally, make sure you are ready for the responsibility of grooming to keep their coat in top shape.

Training and Socialization

Training is crucial for Australian Shepherds due to their intelligence and energy. Starting obedience training early will help manage their enthusiasm and channel their energy into positive behaviors. 

They’re capable of learning a wide array of tricks and commands, which also aids in their socialization. Make sure to be patient and consistent – your Aussie’s hearing and attention to commands will improve over time with proper training, which you can learn more about from resources like the Australian Shepherd Rescue website.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

When you’re curious about Australian Shepherds, you likely have a few questions. With their popularity and unique characteristics, it’s important to know what to expect.

What’s the typical temperament of an Australian Shepherd?

Known for their intelligence and loyalty, Australian Shepherds are also hardworking and can be quite affectionate with their families. They’re often good with children and can make excellent companions.

Do Australian Shepherds need a lot of maintenance?

Yes, they do. The Australian Shepherd has a dense, weather-proof coat that requires regular grooming. They also need plenty of physical and mental exercise to stay healthy and happy.

Can an Australian Shepherd be a good pet for an apartment?

While they can adapt to living in an apartment, it’s not ideal. Australian Shepherds have high energy levels and require enough space to run and play; they thrive in an environment with more room.

What are some good and bad points about owning an Australian Shepherd?

On the plus side, Australian Shepherds are extremely trainable and can be fantastic family pets. However, they can also become destructive if not given proper mental and physical stimulation. Their strong herding instinct may also pose a challenge, making them less suitable for households with small animals.

Final Thoughts

When you’re considering an Australian Shepherd as your next pet, think about the kind of lifestyle you lead. These dogs have energy to spare, so they’re perfect for active families or individuals who enjoy outdoor adventures. Remember, your Australian Shepherd will rely on you for regular exercise to keep them healthy and satisfied.

You’ll also want to keep in mind that Australian Shepherds are quite smart. They’re not just about physical activity; their minds need exercise too. Toys that challenge them mentally, training exercises, and learning new tricks are all great ways to keep those brains buzzing.

Here are a few quick points to remember about Aussie care:

  • Exercise: They’ll need plenty of it. A tired Aussie is a happy Aussie.
  • Grooming: Seasonal shedding means regular brushing is important to manage their coat.
  • Temperament: Aussies are friendly and trainable, but they require consistent leadership.
  • Mental Stimulation: Puzzle toys and obedience training can work wonders.

Finally, think about the size of your living space. An Aussie can adapt to various homes, but they do best with room to roam. If you’ve got the time, space, and energy for these fantastic dogs, you’ll be rewarded with a loyal and loving companion.

So, are you ready for the fun and commitment of an Australian Shepherd? If yes, then get ready for an incredible journey with your new furry friend!

Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.