The Australian Shepherd, or just simply an Aussie dog, is a staple of American dog culture.
Synonymous with the Wild West, Australian Shepherds are somewhat iconic in popular culture.
These dogs can be found all over the states, from out in the countryside herding animals, to the city competing at a professional level in canine sports.
Known for being active and loyal companions, they make a great match for a busy, outdoors-y families looking for an active canine.
However, you and most prospective owners considering this breed will have questions and be intrigued to learn more about them. So, here are nine facts you never knew about the Australian Shepherd.
9. Despite Their Name, Australian Shepherds Are American
Californian Farmers saw these dogs coming of the ships from Australian, hence the confusing name!
These dogs quickly picked up favor in the Rocky Mountains due to their unrivalled sheep heading abilities.
They became a staple of cowboy culture, helping to even keep cattle three times their size in check!
Due to their legendary herding abilities, imports of these dogs quickly picked up as demand increased among farmers.
The Australian Shepherd has been known by many names throughout the years, including:
- Spanish Shepherd
- Bob-Tailed Shepherd
- New Mexican Shepherd
- Californian Shepherd
- Pastor Dog
While you will still find Australian Shepherd dogs happily herding in western America, this flexible breed is also found in many different roles!
You can often spot this breed working in therapy, drug detection, service, circus and a search-and-rescue roles.
In 1957, the Australian Shepherd Club of America was formed, with a goal to preserve the high herding performance of this breed whilst also providing a forum for competition.
This breed was accepted into the American Kennel Club in 1993 and now is the 17th most popular breed in America!
8. Their Favorite Trick Is “Sit Pretty”
Their intelligence and ability to learn tricks quickly have made them stars of the silver screen, most recently in the famous five movies!
Consequently, those who own an Australian Shepherd should be prepared to harness their intellect and train frequently!
Using positive reinforcement techniques, such as clicker training, this dog can pick up very basic tricks instantly.
One especially very rewarding trick that the Australian Shepherd excels at is a “beg” or “sit pretty”:
- With your dog in a sitting position, hold a treat to his nose and slowly move the treat up to that your dog has to stretch to get it
- As soon as your dog is in the right position, click and treat
- Repeat this several times until your dog is comfortable with the movement
- Once your dog is ready, add the command word (“beg”) before repeating the movement
- Before long, your dog will be able to beg for treats on command
Positive reinforcement is necessary because old fashioned, dominance-based techniques do not work for any breed of dog.
In fact, that method of training is not only confusing for your dog but may actually damage your relationship with them.
7. The Australian Shepherd Needs 90 Minutes of Daily Exercise
Due to their origins as herding dogs, they are known to be an extremely active breed.
As a result, these dogs need upwards of 90 minutes of exercise!
Without proper exercise, they will quickly become bored, and consequently may find other ways to pass the time (like destroying your favorite pillow or chewing your nicest pair of shoes)!
This Shepherd loves to chase, and many owners take a ball to the park to help tire these dogs out.
As these active dogs like their space, they may struggle in a city environment.
Aussie Shepherd dogs prefer to have the space to run around and play in, and consequently do best in homes with yards.
If you would prefer an alternative exercise method to walks, try running with your dog!
The Australian Shepherd also shines in:
- Agility trials
- Canine sports such as flyball
Not only is this a great way for your dog to exercise, but these sporting events are a fantastic way to build the bond between you and your four-legged friend.
6. Australian Shepherd Puppies Sell For $1,800 USD
As a popular breed, these puppies can be rather pricey!
Most breeders sell Australian Shepherd puppies for between $650 and $850 USD, while pedigree pooches can sell for as much as $1,800 USD.
When looking to purchase a puppy be sure to select a reputable breeder.
The best breeders never have to advertise puppies, instead they advertise entirely through word of mouth and shows.
Be sure to visit your chosen puppy multiple times to bond with them (before they come home) and to ensure the welfare of the dam.
If you are unsure of where to look:
- The official breed club has a list of registered breeder who are all pre-approved before being allowed to advertise their litters
- If you would prefer an Australian Shepherd rescue, the Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline rescues dogs of all ages all over America
5. They Are Often Nicknamed “Velcro Dogs”
They are always ready for adventure and discovering something new with their favorite human!
Aussie dogs are described as captivating to those around them with their incredible zest for life.
This being said, they do not tend to be as bold as other breeds. While friendly and sociable, if given the option they will often hang back and assess a new person before charging in.
Australian Shepherd dogs are often nicknamed “Velcro dogs” due to their desire to be by their owners dog continuously.
Owners should be prepared to do lots of separation training to prevent any sort of separation-related problems.
These dogs do not always do as they’re told since the best herding dogs have the ability to think on their feet and this is seen in the modern Australian Shepherd.
They will often test boundaries with their owners and can be quite stubborn using their quick intelligence to run circles around their owner.
Despite their excellent qualities as a dog, they not recommended as a first-time pet.
Owners who are unprepared for their unrelenting energy often say they wish they’d slow down with old age.
In the case of this breed, that’s unlikely, as they are the oldest recorded dog to earn a title in old age – winning a rally competition at 15 years.
4. Australian Shepherds Lifespan Is From 10 To 15 Years
On average, this dog will live for between 10 and 15 years.
Unfortunately, this breed does have to potential to develop health issues across the course of their life.
As a breed type, they are at risk of developing epilepsy; research indicates that they have the highest chance of all canines for developing epilepsy.
It is thought that around 60% of all Australian Shepherd dogs have the condition.
Luckily, epilepsy is easily medicated, and dogs that develop this condition generally will go on to live long, healthy lives.
Double merle Shepherds also have an increased risk of being born blind and/or deaf. This is due to the suppression of pigment cells, which affects their eyes and ears (creating the blue eyes and potential deafness).
Like other larger breeds, the Australian Shepherd is prone to hip dysplasia.
This is where the hips do not form correctly, and as a result, it becomes painful for the dog to walk.
Depending on the severity of the condition, this can either be treated with anti-inflammatory medication or with surgery.
Due to the number of potential health conditions, many owners will want to insure their dog; on average, owners will pay between $27 and $41 USD per month to insure an Australian Shepherd.
3. These Canines Need ~2 Cups Of Kibble Daily
This breed needs between 2 to 2.5 cups of high-quality food each day; this should be split into two daily meals.
In family homes, these canines can be something like vacuum cleaners, gobbling up food before it hits the floor!
The Australian Shepherd has a naturally lean build, and so owners should be sure to maintain this, especially with the prevalent canine obesity epidemic.
Of course, it is perfectly natural to want to give your pooch treats every now and again!
When treating your dog, be sure to incorporate it into their already balanced diet, giving them both meaty treats and occasionally some dog friendly fruit and veggies.
2. Australian Shepherds Are Blue Merle, Black, Red Merle, or Red
The breed standard states an Australian Shepherd should be a slender, graceful dog, which is slightly longer than they are tall.
They have flatter skulls, long noses and floppy triangular ears.
Their eyes can be blue, brown or amber. Interestingly, an Australian Shepherd can often have a heterochromia (i.e. two different colored eyes).
Considered to be a medium-sized dog, in terms of height and weight, there is not a large difference between male and female dogs.
|Female||18 to 21 inches||33 to 55lb|
|Male||20 to 23 inches||55 to 70lb|
Tails can either be left long or docked at birth. In some rare cases, these dogs are born with a bobbed tail.
In terms of color, Australian Shepherds can be blue merle, black, red merle, or red.
All of these coats can be seen with or without white or tan markings and nose color is entirely dependent on coat color:
- If your dog is black or blue merle, they will have a black nose
- Whereas red or red merle will have a liver nose
Coats themselves are medium length, wavy coats that are soft to the touch.
Hair is usually longer on the ears, chest, belly and tail.
Aussie coats are entirely water resistant and are double coated! Their thick undercoat will shed in the summer, and unneutered females will shed heavily after each heat cycle.
1. They Are A Great Dog For Younger Families
Their endless energy and desire to play means they are a great match for homes with younger children.
Provided the rules of play are consistent and fair; this breed gets on terrifically with children.
The Australian Shepherd is very patient and loving as a pet.
However, like all dogs, they have a breaking point, and consequently it is a good idea to teach your children how to correctly interact with your dog (as well as teaching your dog how to interact with children).
Contrary to popular belief, they will also do wonderfully in homes with other dogs; this can also help alleviate separation related issues.
The picture is somewhat unclear when it comes to other household pets.
Because of their natural herding instinct, they are not compatible with small furry pets such as cats, bunnies, and guinea pigs.
The Australian Shepherd is a fun and loyal pet who is suitable for any active owners.
Their high drive to work makes them excessively busy pets, often owners will find that if you don’t give your Aussie a job, they will give themselves one!
With a particularly active mind, from their history as working dogs, they can be a little stubborn as naturally they had to make decisions on their own whilst working.
Australian Shepherd owners should be somewhat experienced trainers to help aid this process!
Do you have this awesome canine at home? Leave us your thoughts on this brilliant breed in the comments below.