Australian Shepherd: The Active and Energetic Family Dog
The Australian Shepherd, commonly known as “Aussie”, is a medium-sized type of dog. The breed is considered intelligent and loyal because of its strong herding and guarding instinct characteristics. On top of that, Aussies are good and loyal companions by nature which is why they are always eager to please their owners.
They are attentive to their environment and protective to their owners and can warn you when there are strangers approaching while not being aggressive.
The Australian Shepherd is indeed a good pet, especially for families and individuals with confident personalities. They are easy to train and tend to get along with other dogs and pets very well. They are always active and energetic and they also have good stamina for all types of activities all throughout the day.
Australian Shepherd Characteristics
- Australian Shepherds are adaptable to hot and cold conditions
- They are friendly and warm towards their family
- They have high energy levels
- They are very easy to train
- They are hardworking and eager to learn
- They are demanding of time and attention from their owners
Australian Shepherd Size
Aussies belong to the medium-sized breeds of dogs. They are actually longer than they are taller. Normally, male Aussies are taller and heavier than female Aussies.
Australian Shepherd Height
The standard standing height of a male Australian Shepherd is 20 to 23 inches while the average standing height of a female Australian Shepherd measures 18 to 21 inches.
Australian Shepherd Weight
Typically, male Aussies weigh around 50 to 65 pounds, while female Aussies weigh around 40 to 55 pounds.
Australian Shepherd Life Span
The typical life expectancy of an Australian Shepherd is 9 years but in some cases, its life can last for 13 to 15 years. There are many factors that can affect the lifespan of dogs, but owners can definitely help improve their lives by checking up on them from time to time.
Australian Shepherd Personality
The Australian Shepherd breed is highly energetic by nature. It always calls for strenuous activities where it can use up all its physical and mental energy. Whether it’s an exercise or a competition with a dog, Aussies love learning while they are busy with their work. They are fond of practicing the tricks that were taught to them during training.
When bored, Aussies tend to demonstrate harsh or unruly behaviour. They could bark loudly to get some attention or worse, they can even create a job on their own. They might wreck some of your things, chase other animals, or disturb your neighbour’s house. So it is important that you allot a specific time and attention to train them.
Dogs are like human beings, they also show reserved and kind behaviour, especially to those familiar to them. They are loyal and gratifying mostly when they are treated well. However, when not trained, Aussies can be distant and unfriendly to strangers. It is better to expose them to the outside world while they are still young so they can adapt to their surroundings.
Early exposure and socialization can help ensure that your dog grows up well-bred.
Australian Shepherd Exercise
Since Australian Shepherds are good at herding, they excel in many activities and dog sports like herding, fly ball, and Frisbee. Typically, Aussies need to exercise for 30 – 60 minutes a day. This is because they are highly energetic animals. They are the type of pets who need to be busy always.
Aussies have plenty of energy to burn, which is why they also need plenty of tiring activities and exercises. Once an Australian Shepherd has grown from being a puppy, it becomes more active. Relaxing activities like strolling around the community only makes it bored and irritated. Thus, you should opt for more vigorous exercises. You may even allot a space for them to play around.
Being loyal and active by nature, this type of breed loves to stay close to its owners. If you love running or hiking, Aussies can provide good company for you. For Aussies, exercise is not merely about burning up energy but is also about mental supplementation that can provide a task for them to be busy.
Playing Frisbee is an example of an exercise that requires focus and high levels of energy for jumping and running. It is one of the best and most common exercises performed by Australian Shepherds. This type of activity also helps them practice discipline and obedience.
Australian Shepherd Training
Aussies are naturally intelligent. They are trainable and loyal. For that reason, they are one of the most preferred breeds by numerous individual and family owners. Single owners who are athletic look at Aussies as great companions. They love to include their dogs when they go for a run or during their sports activities.
Because of their smart instinct, Australian Shepherds are chosen by groups like the police and law enforcement agencies to assist in their job. Australian shepherds are fond of activities where they practice their agility and submission. They are fond of engaging with humans, and they always look forward to training and mental enrichment.
Since they are fast learners, they are chosen to represent dog competitions and athletic exercises. You can even teach them some sort of household chores like picking up trash or getting something and bringing it to you.
Australian Shepherd History
The origin of Australian Shepherds has not been specifically clear since its name has been contrary to other historical references. Despite its name, Australian Shepherds did not originate in Australia, but rather in the United States of America during the 19th century.
The breed was also called a number of names including Spanish Shepherd, California Shepherd, Pastor Dog, Austrian Shepherd, and New Mexican Shepherd. It is believed that the breed actually originated in the Basque expanse of Spain and France where it was used by shepherds.
Originally, the breed was used by farmers and ranchers for their livestock herding because it does not get affected by altitude. According to other historians, the shepherd could have migrated to the West Coasts of America and passed though Australia. The breed was then developed in North America in the 19th century.
It was believed that eventually, American ranchers in Colorado tried to breed Aussies with other dogs in the hopes of attracting buyers from California to buy their dogs with sheep herding skills. Today, Aussies have served and worked not only as herding animals but also as family pet guards and police dogs. They were used to help support investigations involving narcotics.
Australian Shepherd Health Problems
Many diseases and health problems that develop in this breed are caused by genetics. However, this does not necessarily mean that your dog will automatically obtain a certain type of risk. There are also other factors that contribute to its sickness. Below are some of the most common diseases that Australian Shepherds are predisposed to.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
This is an inherited disease that can cause painful arthritis if not treated sooner. Aussies that have this experience stiffness in their joints and difficulty in getting up. Lameness is one of the most common symptoms of dysplasia. In other cases, pain and discomfort may even be experienced.
To prevent this from worsening, young Aussies must undergo X-ray to identify the issue as early as possible. If severe, surgery can be an option.
Aussies can also inherit different kinds of eye problems. If not treated immediately, it may lead to blindness. Here is a list of the most common eye problems the breed might experience.
- Cataract – this is one of the most common causes of blindness among old Australian Shepherds. Dogs with cataracts often experience cloudy visions until they lost it. To treat this and restore your dog’s vision, surgery will be the best option.
- Progressive Retina Atrophy (PRA) – this is an inherited disease that often occurs among Aussies when they reach the age of three to five years. PRA does not hurt; however, it cannot be treated. Usually, dogs that have this will experience night blindness as an early symptom.
- Distichiasis – this is a condition where excess hair abnormally grows inside the eyelids. This does not only cause chronic eye pain due to excessive rubbing but it can also cause corneal ulcer to your dog when left untreated. In this case, a surgery would be needed to permanently remove the unwanted hairs.
Lymphoma is a type of cancer that is more common in Australian Shepherds than in other breeds. It is a disease that makes the body produce more white blood cells that fight infection uncontrollably. Fortunately, Lymphoma is treatable and if treated with chemotherapy, success rate among dogs is high.
There are many possible causes of seizure among dogs but the most common one is Epilepsy which is an inherited disorder. Episodes of seizures may likely begin during the first six months to three years of an Aussie dog. Epilepsy is most likely to occur in male dogs and cannot be cured. However, it can be treated and relieved through consistent medication. It is important that your dog go through occasional blood testing to monitor if there is effectiveness or if there are side effects.
Diabetes is a common condition among dogs but Aussies experience it more than other breeds. With this, dogs that have diabetes must be injected with insulin daily to regulate their bodies’ metabolism. Diabetes is a serious condition that must not be neglected. It must be treated immediately to lessen its severity.
Common symptoms among dogs with diabetes include weight loss, increased eating and drinking, and frequent urination. If you found your dog having these symptoms, your doctor may conduct lab tests to be able to examine his condition and the treatment option that would work best for him.
How to care for Australian Shepherds
Aussies mainly want energetic activities and exercises where they can show their smart abilities. They want freedom to exhibit their activeness and they always strive to interact with their owners to learn new tricks and maximize their high energy levels. Thus, in order to support this, providing a yard or a wide space for them to play around could keep them happy and satisfied.
This allows them to do what they want without limitations. Howeverr, you should also see to it that you have a fence to prevent your dog from jumping over your neighbour. If for some instance, you notice that your dog wants to go out, you may want to walk him around the vicinity to satisfy his needs.
Basically, Aussies need at least half an hour of stimulating exercise. However, you can also keep them busy by providing puzzle toys when you are not playing with them. Australian shepherds have a habit of pleasing their owners. This is why they are delighted when their owners compliment and reward them in the form of food or play.
They also need to be cleaned and groomed regularly to prevent sickness. Through these simple but essential habits, you can be able to address the needs of your pets while enjoying their company.
Nutrition and feeding for Australian Shepherd
A healthy diet is one of the greatest factors in a dog’s development and life span. Thus, you must ensure that your Aussie dog gets the proper nutrition. For Aussies, the suggested serving size they need per day is 2-3 cups of dry food. This must include a balanced portion of crude fat, crude protein, and high levels of vitamins A and D, Calcium, and Phosphorus.
Of course, proper fluid intake is equally important. On average, for every 10 lbs of weight of Australian Shepherds, they should drink at least 8 to 9oz of water per day. Nevertheless, this may change depending on your dog’s body mass and condition.
Too much Magnesium intake can most likely lead to urinary stone development, so you should also check your dog whether it is consuming too much of this mineral. Still, it is recommended that you consult with your veterinarian about your dog’s diet.
Coat Colour And Grooming
Australian Shepherds come in a variety of colors. The known ones are pure black, pure red, blue merle, red merle, and the tricolour which is a combination of black, white, and tan colors. When it comes to their coat, Aussies have double layers of water-resistant coats that aid them during winter and rainy seasons.
During spring, Aussies experience shedding of their undercoats, as these are only needed on colder seasons like winter. The body hair of Australian Shepherds can be kinky and straight but on other parts, it is mostly smooth. Male Aussies have thicker and longer hair on their neck and chest parts.
Smooth hair covers their head, ears, and the front forelegs while long hair strands cover the back of their forelegs. Just like us, our pets also need grooming since it is an essential part of taking care of them. Every so often, you must check on your dog’s general condition. Basically, grooming sessions are a perfect opportunity to check your pet’s health status and improve their appearance.
Before grooming your dogs, check first their health condition if they have acquired skin rashes, sores, dry skin, or infections. You should also check their body parts which are prone to diseases such as the eyes and ears where foreign objects might also be present. Observing their moods may also be helpful in checking their overall condition.
Look if there are possible symptoms of disease. Often, you can tell if a dog has issues when it is dull and inactive. If there are none, you may proceed with your grooming session by brushing their coats mildly. Dry and dull coat oftentimes signify that your Aussie lacks nutrients. Thus, you may want to improve their diet and grooming schedule.
The Australian Shepherd’s coat requires weekly brushing to avoid matting. Mix conditioner and a little bit of water in a spray bottle then spray it onto his coat to untangle hair easily. Using a slicker brush, gently brush your dog’s coat towards the direction of his growing hair, then slowly go through the skin. You can also use an undercoat rake for large hair tangles.
You won’t need to bathe your Aussie frequently as this can make his coat and skin dry. Wash him only when he is dirty and make sure that you use a trusted brand of soap and shampoo for your Australian Shepherd. On top of these, you must also trim their nails and hairs as these features grow fast. Long nails can injure your pet dogs and can also cause painful splitting if they are not trimmed.
Additionally, trimming your dog’s hair does not only make them look neat, but it also protects them from getting long term problems like irritating rashes from parasites. Trim the hair parts around the eyes, ears, feet, toes, and the tail area. If you think doing this could be difficult, you can hire a professional to do the work for you.
Children And Other Pets
Australian Shepherds have an intelligent instinct. They are highly trainable and active in learning stuff. However, they can get out of control at times when their needs are not addressed and more especially when they are not trained well. By nature, Australian Shepherds are ideal for herding; hence, they are used to blending with sheep.
However, at times, Aussies could not recognize who are around them. Even though they are great playmates to older children, they may not be suitable for playing with smaller ones. Due to their herding instinct, they tend to bite on small children and other pets. When playing and running, Aussies tend to nip over children’s heels, which is really unsafe.
This is why it is important to watch over your children and your dogs. Make sure to train your Aussie at an early age so they can be familiarized with people, and how to act in their environment. In the same way, you should also teach your children to behave accordingly when they are mingling with your dogs.
Do not let your children disturb them while they are eating or sleeping as this can signal an attempt to get their food. No matter how trained or friendly your dogs are, you should never leave your children with them without supervision.
There are many Australian Shepherds that need adoption and rescue. Some experience abuse, some may have been lost, or some just need a new owner. For whatever reason it is, Aussies also need protection and help from people through organizations. Luckily, there are rescue groups for Australian Shepherds that exist in many areas.
If you happen to know some of them that need help, you may contact any of these groups to assist and give you directions on how you can bring them to the nearest rescue center.
- Aussie Rescue and Placement Helpline
- Australian Shepherd Rescue Organizations
- Australian Shepherd Rescue Page
Here are some of the organizations and associations where you can find more information and updates about the Australian Shepherd breed.
- Australian Shepherd Club of America
- United States Australian Shepherd Association
- American Kennel Club
More About The Breed
When planning to choose Australian Shepherds as a pet, make sure that you are knowledgeable of its personality, characteristics, and how to take care of it. For first time owners, taking care of Aussies might be challenging, especially if you have a timid personality.
Aussies tend to be unapproachable to strangers, and they can be a bit aggressive when not trained, so as an owner, you might as well be friendly and outgoing also to be able to socialize your dog. Aussies are not good for apartment living because they are always on the move. They hate getting bored and staying only in one place, so, it is better if you have a wide space or a yard where they can play around.
Also, they do not like being left alone outside. Australian Shepherds love to stay close to their owners and with the company of humans.