Can Your Family Keep Up With an Australian Shepherd?

Australian Shepherd dog jumping for a ball outdoors

Key Points

  • Australian Shepherds are an intelligent and loyal dog breed that make ideal companions for active households.

  • They require lots of physical exercises and mental stimulation, so providing them with plenty of outlets for both is important.

  • Like any double-coat breeds, they require regular grooming to avoid skin issues.

  • They are prone to multidrug resistance, so regular checkups and vaccinations from their veterinarian are necessary.

  • Early training eliminates many undesirable behaviors due to boredom or lack of stimulation in Australian Shepherds.

The Australian Shepherd is renowned for its boundless energy, intelligence, and capacity for hard work. If you’re interested in owning an Aussie, it’s essential to understand what the breed brings to the table. After all, having a pet, especially one as active as an Australian Shepherd, is a major responsibility and requires preparation.

The Early History of the Australian Shepherd 

The Australian Shepherd is a relatively young breed first bred in the United States during the 19th century. Initially, they worked on ranches and farms to herd livestock and perform other working tasks such as herding sheep, cattle, and other animals.

The exact origins of this breed remain unclear. Some experts theorize that they descended from Basque shepherds who emigrated to Australia and then relocated to California in the 1800s, while others believe they may have descended from Spanish shepherd dogs.

Regardless of their exact roots, it is clear that these dogs were bred for their hardworking nature and strong herding abilities. They quickly gained popularity among ranchers in California, Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho.

During World War II, the Australian Shepherd trained side by side with soldiers in the US Army. 

Australian shepherd runs through shallow waters

Popularity Outside of Working Settings  

During the late 1940s and 1950s, Australian Shepherds started to gain recognition outside of working settings when breeders began showing them at dog shows around America. These early show dogs exhibited strong working drives, intelligence, and loyalty, earning them popularity as family pets and show dogs.

By 1980 there were several different Australian Shepherd clubs across America, allowing them to compete in various events such as agility trials and obedience competitions. The American Kennel Club officially recognized Aussies in 1993.

Standard Aussie Physical Characteristics 

The Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized breed with a strong, muscular body. The average size of an adult male Australian shepherd is 18-23 inches at the withers — the highest point of a dog’s shoulder blades — and weighs 50-65 pounds. Females typically measure 17-21 inches at the withers and weigh 40-55 pounds, but both sexes vary in size depending on genetics and nutrition.


Their coat comes in several different colors, such as black, blue merle, red merle, red tricolor, black tricolor, and white tricolor. Out of all these colors, the blue merle Australian Shepherd is the most uncommon because the color may mean that the pup has double merle genes, which usually also result in eye defect, deafness, and sensitivity to sunlight.

Due to the high demand for these exotic-looking dogs, certain breeders may skip the necessary tests and breed double-merle dogs, leading to poor health in the puppies. If you plan to adopt any Australian Shepherd puppies, make sure to do your research and find a reputable breeder with good health records.


Aussies are one of the most intelligent and loyal dog breeds. They are highly trainable and eager to please their owners. However, they are independent thinkers and love to work. As a result, they need a job or task to stay stimulated and happy.

What Are Mini Australian Shepherds?

In the 1960s, a new version of this beloved breed began to appear in California. Breeders wanted to create an even more miniature Australian Shepherd and thus started breeding together their smallest specimens, resulting in what is known today as the Miniature Australian Shepherd, sometimes referred to as Toy Australian Shepherd.

These little guys usually come under 14 inches at the withers and weigh between 12 and 17 pounds. But don’t let their size fool you. Mini Aussies are just as intelligent and active as their larger counterparts, making them ideal for families looking for a smaller version of this beloved breed. However, because of their size, they often have more health problems than standard Aussies.

Australian shepherd looks around in a grassy field

Australian Shepherd Grooming Needs

The Australian Shepherd is a magnificent dog with an impressive coat. Like any breed with a double coat, they require constant grooming to keep them looking and feeling their best.

Regular Brushing

Aussies love to tumble in the dirt, but their double coat easily mats and tangles. As such, it is essential to brush them regularly. To avoid debris buildup in their lovely fur, give them at least two thorough brushes weekly with a long-toothed comb.


Australian Shepherds only need a bath when necessary, as too many baths strip away the natural oils from their coat. When washing your Aussie, use lukewarm water and dog shampoo specifically designed for their breed type. After rinsing, thoroughly dry their coat before brushing to prevent further matting.

Hair Trimming

Australian Shepherds need minimal trimming, but the hair around the eyes requires regular trimming so it does not interfere with their vision. Excess fur around the ears should also be trimmed away, to avoid blockages or infection.

Nail Trimming

Nail trimming is essential to any pet’s grooming routine, including the Australian Shepherd. Trimming nails prevents long nails from cracking or splitting and ensures they don’t snag on furniture or get caught on carpets or rugs.

Use a pair of clippers specifically designed for pets to trim nails properly. Start by trimming just the tips of the nails before gradually working around each nail until you reach the desired length. Avoid cutting into the quick which is the pink area near the base of each nail. 

Ear and Eye Cleaning

It is essential to keep your Australian Shepherd’s ears and eyes clean.

Wipe the ears with cotton balls or swabs regularly to remove any debris that may have accumulated in the ear canal. You should also check for signs of infection, such as redness or swelling, which could indicate an underlying medical problem.

For their eyes, gently wipe away any discharge using a damp cloth or paper towel, then use a special eye cleaner specifically designed for pets to remove any debris inside the eyes. This habit keeps your pup’s vision clear and prevents any bacterial buildup. 

Dental Hygiene

Taking care of your Aussie’s teeth gives them a longer life span and reduces the risk of severe health problems caused by poor dental hygiene, such as heart disease and kidney failure. Aside from daily teeth brushing, you should also schedule regular veterinarian visits for professional cleanings and screen for possible dental issues, such as bad breath or gum disease. 

Australian Shepherd Life Expectancy

The average lifespan of an Australian Shepherd is about 12-15 years, but this depends on many factors, such as genetics, diet, and exercise. A proper diet is key to keeping your Aussie in good health. Make sure to feed them high-quality dog food with sufficient vitamins and minerals, so they get all the nutrients they need.

Regular exercise is crucial and prevents obesity, joint problems, and other health issues down the line. Make sure to give your pup plenty of opportunities to run around, play fetch, or go for a walk each day. This keeps them fit and healthy long-term. 

Taking care of your dog’s mental health is just as important. Socializing your pup from a young age allows them to develop proper social skills and ensures they are comfortable around other dogs and people.

Australian shepherd play bows

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Common Health Problems

Many dog lovers are drawn to the Australian Shepherd for its bright personality and good looks. If you are wondering whether this breed is right for you, you should be aware that the Aussies are prone to specific health issues, such as hip dysplasia, eye problems, epilepsy, and cancer.

Hip Dysplasia 

Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint, which often leads to pain and lameness and is frequently found in Australian Shepherds. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is believed to be genetic or due to environmental factors.

Your Vet should regularly screen for this condition, especially if your Aussie is participating in activities that require a lot of jumping or running. Surgery may be necessary if the dysplasia progresses severely. 

Elbow Dysplasia 

Elbow dysplasia is another common issue found in Australian Shepherds. Although it is usually less severe than hip dysplasia, it still leads to pain and uncoordinated, awkward movement. Early screening often detects the issue and allows for corrective treatment. 


Epilepsy manifests as seizure and is found in many Shepherd breeds. Although genetics and prenatal factors play a role, environmental factors, such as toxins or trauma, also have an effect.

Early symptoms of epilepsy seem similar to the effects of an ear infection, so it’s important to get your pup checked out if they start exhibiting any unusual behavior. In most cases, medication and lifestyle changes control seizures.


Cataracts are a clouding of the eye lens which causes vision loss over time if left untreated. This condition often occurs with age but sometimes also happens earlier due to injury or genetics.

With early detection, your veterinarian can offer dietary modifications, supplements, and medications that work to slow the progression of cataracts. However, in extreme cases, surgical intervention may be the only treatment available.

Australian shepherd works with trainer on lead


Australian Shepherds are more prone to developing lymphoma or lymphosarcoma, a form of cancer that causes the body to create irregular white blood cells. Fortunately, it is treatable, and chemotherapy treatments are successful with excellent results.

Thankfully, blood tests detect lymphoma. Keeping up with regular checkups for your Aussie Shepherd helps you prolong your companion’s life. If you notice any swelling in the lymph node areas around your pup’s jaw or knee areas, witness sudden weight loss, or see labored breathing, don’t wait for the next appointment to take them to a vet.

Early detection and treatment are often the difference between life and death. 

Bleeding Tumor

Also known as hemangiosarcoma, a bleeding tumor happens when cancerous cells form tumors within the blood vessels. These tumors rupture and cause internal bleeding. Unfortunately, many cases of hemangiosarcoma in Australian Shepherds go undiagnosed until it is too late for treatment.

The most common symptom of hemangiosarcoma is sudden weakness or collapse due to internal bleeding caused by the tumor rupturing. If your dog shows signs of sudden weakness or collapse, take them to the vet immediately.


Australian Shepherds are also prone to deafness due to a genetic mutation that affects their auditory nerve cells. Known as Waardenburg syndrome, this health problem causes varying degrees of hearing loss in affected dogs.

Signs that your dog may suffer from hearing loss include not responding to noises or commands and being unresponsive when called or touched. If you suspect your dog has hearing loss, seek veterinary care right away so they can determine the severity of the problem and provide appropriate treatment options if needed. 

Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) 

Another common health issue Australian Shepherds faces is Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD). OCD is when the cartilage between bones becomes weak or damaged, resulting in pain and lameness in affected areas.

Typical signs that your dog may be suffering from OCD include difficulty walking or running, limping, stiffness when getting up or lying down, an unwillingness to run or jump, and swelling around joints on their legs.

Australian shepherd sitting in field of flowers


Hypothyroidism often affects Australian Shepherds due to an underactive thyroid gland that does not produce enough hormones for normal body functions such as metabolism regulation and immune system protection. Common symptoms of hypothyroidism include weight gain despite eating less food than usual, fatigue, hair loss or thinning coat coloration change, increased sensitivity to cold temperatures, and slow wound healing.

Blood tests diagnose hypothyroidism, and medication works to successfully treat the condition. However, if left untreated, the condition leads to severe health problems such as heart disease and other organ failures.

Drug Resistance

Multidrug resistance (MDR) is a condition in which a dog is resistant to certain drugs, particularly antibiotics and antifungals. MDR is especially problematic when treating bacterial infections in Australian Shepherds since they often develop resistance quickly due to their genetic makeup.

To reduce the risk of MDR developing, pet owners need to ensure that their dog receives regular checkups and vaccinations from their veterinarian, as well as proper nutrition and exercise regimens tailored specifically for their breed’s needs. 

Australian Shepherd Trainability

Aussie’s ability to learn commands quickly makes them ideal for working as service dogs.

They also excel in canine sports, such as herding, agility, and tracking. While Australian Shepherds are incredibly trainable, they also require a lot of patience and consistency to learn properly. They may need additional training classes or one-on-one practice time with an experienced trainer to reach their full potential as working dogs. 

Exercise Needs

As a herding breed, Australian Shepherds need plenty of physical and mental stimulation to stay healthy and content. Aussie owners should ensure their pup gets at least one hour of exercise per day in the form of walks, jogs, hikes, or active games such as fetch or tug-of-war.

They also thrive on participating in canine sports such as agility, flyball, and obedience trials. 

Common Behavioral Problems

Australian Shepherds are also known to be relatively free from common behavioral issues like destructive chewing or excessive barking. Because they are higher in energy and extremely intelligent, they become bored quickly without adequate mental stimulation. If you have small children and other animals at home, they may resort to herd-type behaviors such as nipping or chasing.

For this reason, you must ensure that they get enough mental and physical exercise throughout the day in addition to regular training sessions. Early obedience training extinguishes undesirable behaviors that may emerge due to boredom or lack of stimulation. 

Australian Shepherds are prone to separation anxiety if left alone for long periods. If you need to work away from home or take a vacation, it’s best to find an alternative place for your pup to stay where someone can actively supervise and keep them entertained. Enrolling in doggy daycare is an excellent option. 

Australian shepherd running through a field

Bottom Line

Australian Shepherds are an intelligent and loyal breed of dog that make ideal companions for active households.

While they are prone to certain health issues, these are usually managed with regular veterinary visits and proper nutrition. They require lots of exercise and mental stimulation, so providing them with plenty of outlets for both is important.

With the right balance of training and care, Australian Shepherds are a fantastic addition to any family.

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