Australian Shepherds are one of the most intelligent breeds of dog in the world. Not only smart, they’re incredibly gorgeous. They’re loyal, very trainable, and they love human companionship. So are Australian Shepherds good family dogs?
Yes, they can be great family dogs, but they need lots of exercise, ‘work’ and proper, consistent training.
Australian Shepherds are herding dogs that were bred in the west of America. They differ from other breeds as the initial dogs were not selected for breeding based on their bloodlines, but on their working ability. This makes it difficult to trace their breeding history back to the start.
The breed standards for Australian Shepherds are that they should be:
- 20-23 inches in height for a male dog, 18-21 inches in height for a female dog
- 50-65 pounds in weight for a male dog, 40-55 pounds in weight for a female dog
- Medium length hair – can be straight or wavy
- Almond shaped eyes
- Agile gait
- Colors: blue merle, black, red merle, red. All colors can be with or without tan. White should not be a dominant color on the head
- Even temperament. Can be reserved, but not shy or aggressive
- Tail should be moderate length, without kinks and moderately feathered
There are miniature Australian Shepherds, which are up to 18 inches in height. However, these smaller versions are not accepted in Kennel Clubs and can not be registered. Also, while some people believe that mini Australian Shepherds require less exercise or mental stimulation, this is not true. They need just as much work as a full size dog.
Common Questions About Australian Shepherds
Are Australian Shepherds Aggressive/ Dangerous?
Generally speaking, they aren’t aggressive or dangerous. However, training and stimulation are extremely important in producing a well adjusted adult dog.
Australian Shepherds need around an hour of high energy exercise at least four times per week. They were bred to work livestock, and without a job to do can become bored. Boredom can lead to destructive behavior, and even aggression.
You may notice a bored Australian Shepherd will transfer his herding instincts and use them on other pets, vehicles, and children. Aussies herd by coming in close to the heels of the livestock, and giving them a nip. Any time a dog uses this behavior when he’s not working, it should be corrected.
Australian Shepherds can make good watchdogs, as they can be aloof with strangers, and will bark if there is someone they don’t know nearby. However, even watchdogs need exercise, stimulation, and lots of socialization with other people and animals. The best time to socialize any dog is as a puppy.
Do Australian Shepherds Bark A Lot?
Aussies can be a very ‘barky’ breed. They tend to bark at everything, from passersby, to a loud wind. However, they can be trained to reduce their barking to the absolute necessities, such as intruders.
Are Australian Shepherds Hypoallergenic?
Aussies aren’t the best breed for any one with allergies. They are not hypoallergenic, and they need a lot of grooming. They have a medium length coat, but some individual dogs can have a long coat. They produce more dander than other breeds, which can cause flare ups in people with dog allergies.
They do have an undercoat. If the dog lives in colder climates, his undercoat will be thicker. If he lives in sunnier climates, the undercoat won’t be as thick.
Do Australian Shepherds Shed A Lot?
Yes. Australian Shepherds shed all year, but you may notice more shedding after winter. Regular grooming can help, so make sure to brush your Aussie at least once a week. He may need to be brushed three times a week during high shed seasons.
Do Australian Shepherds Drool A Lot?
No, Aussies don’t drool a lot. This is partly because they have what is known as a scissors bite. This refers to how the mouth is formed, and the way the teeth sit together. The top incisors sit just over the lower teeth, and the other teeth slide together, resembling a pair of scissors.
Are Australian Shepherds Good For Apartment Living?
No, they don’t suit apartment living. They need a lot of exercise, and while walks are completely necessary, they also need a backyard. Aussies have a lot of energy, and having a backyard means that you can take him out for a run around the yard and spend some of that excess energy.
Are Australian Shepherds Good With Kids?
Aussies are good with kids, but they do need to be properly trained, and given enough physical and mental stimulation. They can try to herd children if they haven’t been given enough stimulation, which can lead them to nip at the heels of their ‘livestock’.
Australian Shepherds with proper training and enough mental stimulation can be very affectionate, and caring towards kids.
Do Australian Shepherds Need A Lot Of Training?
Yes, they do. They’re very intelligent, so they tend to grasp the training very quickly, but this also means that you need to be absolutely consistent in the training. Highly intelligent dogs can become bored, and need a consistent, firm but fair trainer.
Aussies are also working dogs. They were bred with one purpose -to herd livestock. They have high energy, and a high work drive. They need a job to do, and will love agility training, Frisbee, dogball, and obedience training. They can also be well suited to search and rescue, and assistance training.
As a puppy, your Aussie will need to be socialized around other dogs, other animals, and other people. Unsocialized Aussies can be aloof, or even a little intimidating when they meet new people or animals.
Are Australian Shepherds Prone To Disease And Illness?
Reputable breeders will not breed from bloodlines with known genetic disorders, illnesses, or diseases. All puppies from a reputable breeder will have had a veterinary exam to check general health, but also to look for any indications of potential problems later in life, such as hip dysplasia.
They can also be prone to epilepsy, Collie Eye Anomaly, and hypersensitivity to certain medications and drugs.
Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition, and is a malformation of the hip joint. It may not be evident in young puppies, but a vet will certainly test the joints during the puppy evaluations. It can’t be diagnosed by sight, and will require x-rays. It can cause pain, lameness and arthritis. Depending on the severity, it may be managed with medication, diet and exercise, or the dog may need a hip replacement.
If your Aussie has been diagnosed with hip dysplasia, you need to contact the breeder and let them know.
Epilepsy isn’t common in dogs from reputable breeders but it can occur. There can be a variety of different triggers, from genetic, infection, toxins, injury, and even seizures that seem to have no trigger. It isn’t possible to do any epilepsy screening, but it is possible to manage the condition with medication.
You should let your breeder know as soon as possible if your dog has been diagnosed with epilepsy.
Collie Eye Anomaly
Collie eye anomaly, or CEA, is a term used to describe a group of eye disorders. CEA can range in severity, with the most extreme cases leading to potential blindness. It is usually treatable, and can be tested for using genetic testing.
Multiple Drug Sensitivity
Multiple Drug Sensitivity, or MDS, can affect a number of breeds, including the Australian Shepherds. They are unable to process certain drugs and medications in the way that other dogs are. They are hypersensitive to the drug, and this can lead to neurological toxicity, which can be fatal. Many of these drugs are routine veterinary medications such as preventative worm treatment Ivermectin, Immodium A-D, Flagyl, and anesthetics.
How Much Do Australian Shepherds Eat? What Do Australian Shepherds Eat?
The answer depends on the age of the dog, and his activity level. If your dog is really active, and Australian Shepherds love to be active, then he will need more food than a dog who is less active. As a general guideline, an adult active shepherd should have 3-4 cups of dry food per day, or around a pound of raw food per day, or around two cans of canned food per day.
Dogs who are fed canned food often need more dental intervention, so make sure to give your dog chews, and dental treats to help keep his teeth healthy.
The choice of what to feed is generally personal preference. Most owners like to give a mix of foods, but taking care not to over feed. However, it is always recommended that you buy the best quality food that you can afford.
Should You Get An Australian Shepherd?
Australian Shepherds need consistent training, a lot of exercise, a lot of attention, socialization, time, and they need a job to do. If you are willing to put the time needed to nurture a well balanced, well adjusted adult dog, and give him the exercise he needs, then an Australian Shepherd can make a very affectionate, loving family dog.