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Australian Shepherd Dog: Everything You Need to Know

The Australian Shepherd, also known as the Aussie, is not actually native to Australia. The breed originated in Euskadi, in the Pyrenees, and its name is due to the fact that Basque shepherds took these dogs to Australia, where the breed was developed.

It is very intelligent and a great companion for the whole family.

Bred to herd sheep, it is a very active dog that likes to be kept busy. Suitable for those who like physical exercise and have time to stimulate their minds.
Australian Shepherd

History of the Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd breed was first recognized in 1957 with the formation of the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA). The actual description of the breed was not written until 1977, and it was not recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) until 1993.

Although there are discrepancies regarding its Spanish ancestry, it appears that the breed originated in northern Spain, the Basque region of the Pyrenees, or perhaps Germany. Later, shepherds sent these dogs to Australia, along with their prized sheep, and later to the United States.

The dogs of the Basque shepherds differed from today's Aussie in that they were smaller and thinner and had a different coat. It is likely that after arriving in Australia, the dogs were bred with other herding dogs until they became the breed we know today.

The Scotch Collie, Border Collie and English Shepherd are thought to have contributed to the genetics of the Australian Shepherd.

Regardless of their origins, they are a highly valued breed for herding sheep due to their exceptional ability to drive them, high intelligence and constant alertness.
characteristics of the Australian Shepherd

Key Characteristics of the Australian Shepherd

  • The Australian Shepherd has Border Collie blood in his veins and shares with him the intelligence and penetrating gaze that keeps the sheep under control.
  • It measures between 20 and 23 inches (51-58 cm) and weighs between 30 and 70 pounds (16-32 kg). Its life expectancy is estimated to be between 12 and 15 years.
  • It is a very hardworking and energetic dog. It needs mental stimulation as well as plenty of physical exercise. If you keep him busy, he will be a happy dog. If he has no work to do, he will seek it out on his own and this can lead to destructive behavior (such as chewing furniture or urinating everywhere) or herding the children and animals in the area.
  • He excels in obedience, agility, flyball, and herding. He will also enjoy dog racing and will be happy to go hiking or jogging with you (Canicross, Bikejoring).
  • He makes an excellent guide dog, assistance dog, police dog, and search and rescue dog.
  • He is very loyal and will protect your home and family, barking if he sees or hears anything suspicious and acting forcefully and boldly if he deems it necessary.
  • He gets along well with children, but may try to herd them.
  • He enjoys activities that allow him to expend his energy, such as playing Frisbee or ball (remember that there are ball launchers and automatic ball launchers for dogs).
  • He is a dog that learns new commands quickly and loves to do different things, so if you are creative in his training, you will both enjoy those moments.
  • Although he is easy to train, he is not a dog for first time owners and it is important that you know how to maintain a hierarchy or he will challenge it and take the dominant role in the family.
  • He likes his own company and although it is important that he gets plenty of exercise, he needs to live with you as he will be unhappy if left alone for too long and may develop separation anxiety.
  • It is a dog that is aloof with people it does not know and needs early socialization to avoid being aggressive with strangers.


Australian Shepherd Breed Standard

What is the breed standard?

A breed standard is a set of guidelines that describe the characteristics, temperament, and appearance of a breed. Breeders must follow them at all times to avoid conditions that are detrimental to the health, welfare, or soundness of the breed.

According to the ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America), the main characteristics of the Australian Shepherd are as follows:

    • General appearance. The Australian Shepherd is a well balanced dog of medium size and bone, with correct proportions and solid movement. It is an alert and lively dog, strong and hardy, with unusual agility. Slightly longer than high, with a coat of varied color and moderate length. Masculinity or femininity is well defined in the breed.
    • Size. The preferred height at the withers is 20 to 23 inches (50.8-58.4 cm) for males and 18 to 21 inches (45.7-53 cm) for females. However, quality should not be sacrificed for size.
    • Temperament. A working dog with strong herding and guarding instincts. Excellent companion, highly intelligent and easy to train. Performs assigned tasks with great enthusiasm. Reserved around strangers, but does not show shyness. Has the strength and speed to control difficult stock, moving sheep without unnecessary roughness. It is an aggressive and authoritative worker, but should be properly trained to avoid this dominant behavior with people or other domestic animals.
    • Head and Skull. Head clean cut, strong, dry and in proportion to body. Skull between flat and slightly rounded, length and width equal to length of muzzle. Muzzle of medium width and depth, tapering gradually to a rounded tip, without appearing heavy or sharp.
    • Eyes. Very expressive, showing alertness and intelligence. Clear and almond in shape, of moderate size and slightly oblique, neither prominent nor sunken. Pupils are dark, well defined and symmetrical. Brown, blue or amber in color, or any combination of these colors, including patches and marbling. All colors are acceptable.
    • Ears. Set high on the head, triangular and of medium size, slightly rounded at the tip. The tip reaches to the inner corner of the nearest eye, but not beyond. At attention they rise a quarter to a half above the base and fall forward or slightly to one side.
    • Mouth. Well fitting lips meeting at the line of the mouth. The upper lines of the muzzle and skull are almost parallel and the stop is moderate but well defined. Teeth white and strong with scissor bite. A level bite is considered a fault. Accidentally broken or missing teeth are not penalized. The remainder are, in so far as they deviate from a complete set of 42 teeth.
    • NECK. Firm, clean and in proportion to the body, of medium length, slightly arched at the crest and fitting well over the shoulders.
    • Body. Firm and muscular. The topline is well levelled and the underline carried moderately backward. The chest is deep and strong and the ribs are well sprung. The loin is strong and broad when viewed from above. Croup moderately sloping. Straight tail, not exceeding 1 inch.
    • Forelegs. Shoulder blades well laid back. Both the upper arm and the shoulder blade are well muscled, the upper arm (humerus) being slightly longer than the shoulder blade. The forelegs are straight and strong, perpendicular to the ground and of moderate bone. The point of the elbow is below the withers and equidistant from the withers to the ground. Viewed from the side, it is short, thick and strong, but flexible, with slight angulation.
    • Hindquarters. The width of the hindquarters is approximately equal to the width of the forequarters at the shoulder. Angulation of pelvis and thigh (femur) equal to that of scapula and upper arm. Well muscled upper and lower thighs, well defined knees and moderately flexed hocks. The hocks are short and perpendicular to the ground, parallel to each other when viewed from behind.
    • Feet. Oval and compact, with tight and well arched toes. Pads thick and resistant, nails short and strong. Dewclaws may be removed.
    • Gait or movement. Smooth and light, showing agility of movement. Well balanced natural gait. As speed increases, the forelegs and hindlegs converge toward the center of gravity, under the body, while the topline remains firm and level. Trot is effortless, exaggerated reach and drive not desirable.
    • Coat. Medium length and texture, smooth or slightly wavy, weather resistant. Amount of undercoat varies with climate. Short, soft coat on head and outside of ears, front forelegs and under hocks. Moderately feathered back of forelegs, moderately full buttocks, moderate mane, more pronounced in dogs.
    • Color. All colors are bright and rich. Recognized colors are Merle blue, Merle red, solid black, and solid red, with or without white markings and/or tan (copper) points. Merle blue and black have black pigmentation on the nose, lips, and eye rims. Red and red merle have reddish pigmentation on the nose, lips, and eye rims. The butterfly (spotted) nose should not be criticized before one year of age. The areas around the ears and eyes are dominated by a color other than white, and the white neck hairline does not extend past the withers.
    • Disqualifications. Underbite, overbite, crooked mouth. Eyes not almond shaped. Pointed ears, ears too large, low set ears without rising from base. Excessively long, abundant, wiry or curly hair is a serious fault. Unrecognized colors, white patches on body; Dudley nose (discolored).
    Smart Australian Shepherd

    The high intelligence of the Australian Shepherd Dog

    The Australian Shepherd is very intelligent, similar to the Border Collie. It is one of the breeds with the highest functional and obedience intelligence. It understands new commands in less than five repetitions (often the first time) and is able to remember them even without repeated practice.

    Responds to the first command 95% of the time and does so quickly, even if you are at a distance. It learns correctly even if you do not have much training experience.

    What is the personality of the Australian Shepherd Dog?

    With a strong herding instinct, the Australian Shepherd is a dog that tends to challenge the hierarchy and assume the dominant role unless you develop firm and confident leadership. For this reason, they are not recommended for first-time owners or owners who do not know how to be firm (which does not mean unfriendly).

    Like most sheepdogs, Aussies are very loyal to their family, but they are aloof with strangers and do not like to be approached by strangers. Early socialization and good training are important to prevent them from becoming aggressive dogs.

    Like the Border Collie, the Australian Shepherd is a very active and energetic dog that will not be deterred by a fence, even if electrified, when it needs to go out to pasture. One solution to letting your dog run free in the yard without surprises is to use a training leash. This gives him a lot of freedom of movement while preventing him from crossing a certain line.

    It is imperative that you train your Aussie properly, providing plenty of opportunities for physical exercise and plenty of mental stimulation. A well-trained Aussie is an exceptional dog with whom you will spend unforgettable moments, but it is not the best choice for a sedentary family.

    Their instinct to herd sheep is very strong and they have a tendency to nip at the ankles of children, other animals and adults.


    Australian Shepherd Health Problems

    Common Australian Shepherd Health Problems

    The Australian Shepherd is an active and healthy dog, although it can be susceptible to certain diseases. This does not mean that your Aussie will suffer from one or more of these diseases, but you should be aware of them so that you can recognize the symptoms and react in time. The most common are:

    Hip Dysplasia

    A hereditary condition that occurs when the femur does not fit properly into the pelvic cavity of the hip joint. Symptoms are not always observed, although some dogs show pain and/or lameness in the hind legs (one or both). Hip dysplasia can lead to arthritis as the dog ages (a good dog food for dogs with hip dysplasia can help manage this condition).

    Elbow Dysplasia

    An inherited condition that is common in large breeds of dogs. It occurs when the three bones that make up a dog's elbow grow at different rates, causing the joint to become lax. It can be painful and cause lameness in the dog. In some cases it requires surgery.


    The Australian Sheepdog can suffer from epilepsy, a disorder that causes the dog to have seizures. The seizures can manifest as unusual behavior, such as running as if being chased or staggering. Although there is no cure, the condition can be controlled with medication and the dog can live a happy and healthy life.


    Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone. Symptoms include obesity, mental sluggishness, drooping eyelids, low energy levels, and irregular heat cycles. The dog's coat becomes coarse and brittle and the skin hard and dark. It is treated with medication, and although there is no cure, the dog can live a healthy and happy life. Consider buying hypothyroidism food for your dog.


    Deafness is very common in this breed and usually has no cure, although sometimes it can be treated with medication and surgery. If your Aussie is deaf, you will need to be patient and spend more time training him. A vibrating collar may make his life easier by allowing him to respond to your call.

    Osteochondritis Dissecans

    Abnormal growth of cartilage in the joints. It can occur in the elbows and shoulders and causes painful joint stiffness. It is diagnosed between four and nine months of age.

    Progressive retinal atrophy

    This is a degenerative eye disease that eventually leads to blindness due to the loss of photoreceptors in the back of the eye.


    A clouding of the lens that impairs vision. It is not always noticeable at first, but when it is, the eye appears to have a cloudy film. In some cases, they can be removed by surgery.Distichiasis

    Growth of an extra row of eyelashes, called distichia, in the sebaceous gland of the eye, protruding along the edge of the eyelid and causing irritation. It is treated surgically.

    Collie Eye Anomaly

    An inherited condition that can lead to blindness. It usually appears at 2 years of age and has no treatment, but the dog will learn to use its other senses.

    Persistent pupillary membranes

    Strands of tissue in the eye that are remnants of the fetal membrane that nourished the eye lenses before birth. They usually disappear by 4 to 5 weeks of age, but sometimes persist. If they do not break down, they can cause cataracts or corneal clouding. See your veterinarian for prescription drops to help break them up.

    Sensitivity to some medications

    Many German Shepherd breeds have a mutation in the MDR1 gene, which produces a glycoprotein that helps eliminate toxic substances from the body. In dogs that are sensitive to drugs, this gene does not function, resulting in toxicity. These dogs are usually sensitive to ivermectin.

    Nasal Solar Dermatitis

    Also known as collie nose, this condition occurs in dogs that have little pigment in their noses. When this occurs, sunlight can cause lesions on the nose and occasionally around the eyelids. If your Aussie has Collie Nose, it is important to keep him out of direct sunlight and to apply dog sunscreen when he goes outside.

    Retinal Detachment

    If the retina becomes detached from the tissues that support it, the dog may experience vision problems or even blindness. There is no treatment.


    Australian Shepherd Care

    Does my Australian Shepherd need any special care?

    • Space. The Australian Shepherd should live indoors with the family, although it is important that he has access to a large outdoor area where he can run. If you do not have this space, make sure he gets enough exercise by taking him for long walks, hiking or jogging, and training him outdoors.
    • Training. The Australian Shepherd is a very intelligent dog that can learn a lot. His intelligence also means that he needs mental stimulation, as repetitive exercises will bore him. There are many puzzles and interactive games on the market that are very attractive to dogs with restless intelligence.
    • Feeding. Feed your Australian Shepherd a high quality diet designed for active and energetic dogs. Consult your veterinarian to determine how much food your Australian Shepherd needs, as this will depend on his size, age and activity level, among other factors.
    • Coat care. The Aussie has a double coat. The outer coat is a medium-length, water-resistant coat that can withstand cold, rain, and snow. It sheds throughout the year, especially in the spring when it sheds its winter coat. It is important to brush it often, detangle it carefully, and remove dead hairs. If you keep it well groomed, you will only need to bathe it when it gets dirty, probably a few times a year. On our website, you will find a wide range of grooming products to make this routine much easier: dog shampoos, professional hair dryers, or grooming gloves.
    • Dental hygiene. To prevent periodontal disease, you should brush your Australian Shepherd's teeth two or three times a week. This will help remove tartar and prevent infections. Check out our list of the best toothbrushes for dogs to find the one that works best for your pet (and don't forget a suitable dog toothpaste).
    • Nails. If your Australian Shepherd doesn't wear his nails naturally, trim them once or twice a month (with a dog nail clipper). If you hear them knock on the floor, it means they are too long. Ask your vet to teach you how to do this, or take him to a professional groomer.
    • Check your Australian Shepherd's health. Check your Australian Shepherd's paws frequently and look in his mouth and ears. If you see any signs of a general problem, such as sores, rashes, redness or tenderness of the skin, inflammation, discharge from the nose, mouth and eyes, etc., see your veterinarian.

    How does the Australian Shepherd get along with children and other animals?

    The Australian Shepherd is an excellent companion for children, but it is important to be careful with the younger ones as they have a tendency to herd and grab them by the ankles.

    In addition, it is important that children learn to communicate with dogs (this and other breeds), to interpret their signals correctly and to avoid problems. Teach your children and their friends how to interact with dogs so that they understand when they can touch them and when they should avoid them if they give a warning signal; in general, a well-trained dog will not bite unless all of your previous warnings have been ignored.

    Australian Shepherds also get along well with other dogs and animals. However, if you have cats in the house, be aware that he may try to herd them.

    Breeding the Australian Shepherd Dog

    When you decide to adopt an Australian Shepherd, you are giving a new chance to a sweet little dog that needs a home and a family that will give him care and affection. Adoption is always a good option to give an abandoned dog a new life, happy and with people who love him.

    If you want to buy a dog, we recommend that you do not go to a pet store, but look for a professional and responsible breeder. These breeders are concerned about maintaining the good condition of the breed and guarantee that the dog has passed all the necessary exams and is in perfect sanitary conditions.

    They must also provide you with documentation showing that their parents have been approved for breeding in order to prevent genetic problems associated with this breed.

    Do not hesitate to ask about the dog's temperament, health and any problems it may have. A professional breeder will be able to guide and advise you on whether this is the right dog for you.

    Research the breed to learn about its characteristics, inspect the breeder's facilities to make sure the animals are not kept in unhealthy conditions, and be suspicious of anyone who is unwilling to answer your questions.

    Your veterinarian can also refer you to a reputable breeder where you can purchase a healthy puppy.


    • The Aussie is a sheepdog bred to guard sheep.
    • It was bred from the Border Collie and other breeds and shares its intelligence with them.
    • It seems to have originated in northern Spain, in the Pyrenees area.
    • It is a loyal, energetic and obedient dog.
    • It is reserved with strangers and needs physical exercise and mental stimulation.
    • It gets along well with children and makes a great playmate, although it may herd them by nipping at their ankles.
    • The same goes for other household pets.