Dog Breed Info Center(R) DBIC

Australian Shepherd

Information and Pictures

The front right side of a brown and white Australian Shepherd that is standing across a sidewalk. Its mouth is open, its tongue is out and a person is holding onto its harness

Ravel the red merle Australian Shepherd at 7 years old

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Temperament

Australian Shepherds are easy-going, remaining puppy-like even in their adult years. This courageous dog makes a good watchdog for the home. Aussies are excellent with children, even with an active child, as they love to play. They are devoted, loyal friends and guardians, for they are naturally protective. Affectionate, very lively, agile and attentive—they are eager to please, with a sixth sense about what the owner wants. Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent and easy to train. Though aggressive when at work with livestock, the Aussie is gentle with human friends. Australian Shepherds are not the kind of dog to lie around the living room all day or live happily in the backyard with only a 15-minute walk. They need much more exercise than that and something to occupy their mind daily or they will become bored, leading to serious behavior problems. Without enough mental and physical exercise and/or a lack of a true pack leader, they can become nervous and destructive if left alone. Socialize well to prevent them from becoming suspicious of strangers. Working lines may be too energetic for people who only have a moderately active lifestyle. Some like to nip people's heels in an attempt to herd them, and this behavior needs to be corrected, teaching the dog that humans are not to be herded. The Aussie is a quiet worker. This breed is not usually dog aggressive.

Height, Weight

Height: Males 20 - 23 inches (52 - 58cm) Females 18 - 21 inches (46 – 53 cm)

Weight: Males 50 - 65 pounds (25 - 29 kg) Females 40 - 55 pounds (18 - 25 kg)

Health Problems

The gene for the beautiful merle coloration also carries a blind/deaf factor. This may be expressed only in merle/merle crosses. Be sure to check the hearing on merle puppies. Natural bobtail-to-natural bobtail breedings can result in some offspring with serious spinal defects. Major concerns: cataract, CEA. Minor concerns: CHD, nasal solar dermatitis, Pelger – Huet syndrome, iris coloboma. Occasionally seen: lumbar sacral syndrome, epilepsy, PRA, vWD, distichiasis, PDA, PPM. Suggested tests: hip, eye. Some are prone to hip dysplasia. This breed is often sensitive to ivermectin; however, the dosage for heartworm preventive is considered safe. Also IMHA (Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia. Some herding dogs carry a MDR1 gene which makes them sensitive to certain drugs that are otherwise okay to give another dog, but if tested positive for this gene can kill them.

Living Conditions

This breed is not recommended for apartment life. They are moderately active indoors and will do best with at least a large yard.

Exercise

This energetic working dog needs plenty of vigorous exercise to stay in shape, mentally and physically, or better yet, some real work to do. Very intelligent and craving a good challenge, they need to be taken on a daily, brisk, long walk, jog or run alongside you when you bicycle. If under-exercised, this breed can become restless and destructive.

Life Expectancy

About 12-15 years

Litter Size

6 - 9 puppies, average 7

Grooming

The coat is easy to groom and needs little attention. Brush occasionally with a firm bristle brush and bathe only when necessary. This breed is an average shedder.

Origin

Despite its name, the Australian Shepherd is not Australian at all, but was developed most likely in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France, and refined in the U.S. to work as a herding dog on ranches. The breed's principal forebears were most likely Spanish dogs that accompanied the Basque shepherds and herds of fine Merino sheep exported to both America and Australia in the early days of the colonies. At some point it probably crossed with Collie stock. The dog has had many names in the past including the Pastor Dog, Blue Heeler, Spanish Shepherd, Bob-Tail, New Mexican Shepherd and California Shepherd. Its many talents include retrieving, herding, watchdog, guarding, police work, narcotics detection, search & rescue, agility, competitive obedience and performing tricks.

Group

Herding, AKC Herding

Recognition
  • ACA = 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
The front right side of a black and white Australian Shepherd that has its mouth open and it is standing in snow. The snow is falling on it.

Kai the black and white, blue-eyed Australian Shepherd at 3 years old — "Kai has a super friendly temperament and an off switch when we are at home relaxing. Always happy and ready for anything. He's more low -key than some I have met, well trained & easy to control. He's always eager to please. He has 3 pet cats who love him. I have never known a dog like him. He's very bonded to me, so much so that I haven't been to the bathroom alone in almost 3 years."

The front left side of a black and white Australian Shepherd that is standing across a wooden deck and it is looking to the left.

Kai the black and white, blue-eyed Australian Shepherd at 3 years old

Close up - A blue-eyed black and white Australian Shepherd is sitting on a rug, in front of a door.

Kai the black and white, blue-eyed Australian Shepherd at 3 years old

The front left side of a tan and white blue-eyed Australian Shepherd that is standing in front of a rock, on grass with its mouth open.

Puntici the red merle Australian Shepherd, photo courtesy of Helena

The right side of a tri-colored Australian Shepherd that is standing across a very large rock with his mouth open and it is looking to the right.

Mikey the Aussie lives with 5 horses, a larger heard of goats and 3 dogs

The right side of a red with white Australian Shepherd that is standing across a hay bale and it is looking forward.

LionHill's Red Baron, photo courtesy of Genevieve Simmons

The left side of a black with white and tan Australian Shepherd puppy that is sitting in grass, its head is slightly tilted to the right and it is looking forward.

Photo courtesy of Cheynat Australian Shepherds

A black with white and tan Australian Shepherd puppy is wearing a purple birthday hat and it is sitting on a rug. There is a persons hand touching the back of the puppy.

"This is Nana at almost a year old. She is the best dog I have ever owned and between being smart, trained well, and very gentle I could not have asked for a better dog. She lets my two-year-old wrestle her and never eats the food that falls from my kid’s hands unless I say "go get it." I did all my training at home and we are working on "Nana, go get a diaper!" She is sweet, loving, and a wonderful addition to our family."

A blue merle Australian Shepherd is sitting in tall grass with one ear up, its mouth is open and its tongue is out.

Rival's Echoes of Osoto Gari, CCGC, CGN aka Budo, a male blue merle Australian Shepherd with copper and white markings at 2 years old—"Budo is a two-year-old Australian Shepherd. He has a wonderful work ethic tempered by a nice off-switch in the house. He regularly trains in Obedience and Agility but also enjoys disk, bikejoring, backpacking, sheep herding (for fun), and urban hikes. This dog is up for anything at all times! Budo does have a protective streak and is reserved with strangers, but is completely sound of temperament. Very cute, but he is not a pushover! His striking merle coat and marble eye attracts the most attention when we are out on the town but it is his impish grin that captures my heart on a daily basis. Budo is raw fed and on a limit vaccine protocol."

A blue merle Australian Shepherd is running down a lawn with one ear up and its mouth open.

Rival's Echoes of Osoto Gari, CCGC, CGN aka Budo, a male blue merle Australian Shepherd with copper and white markings at 2 years old

The right side of a blue merle Australian Shepherd that is standing on a large rock with its mouth open and tongue out. It is looking forward.

Rival's Echoes of Osoto Gari, CCGC, CGN aka Budo, a male blue merle Australian Shepherd with copper and white markings at 2 years old

A blue merle Australian Shepherd is running through snow jumping over the tall weeds sticking out of the snow with its mouth open

Rival's Echoes of Osoto Gari, CCGC, CGN aka Budo, a male blue merle Australian Shepherd with copper and white markings at 2 years old