Traits and Characteristics
This is an athletic dog of medium size and bone; The Australian Shepherd is lithe, agile, and slightly longer than it is tall. This breed is muscular and powerful enough to work all day, without sacrificing the speed and agility. This dog’s gait is free and easy, and must be able to change direction or speed instantly. The double coat is weather resistant, with the outer coat of medium texture and length, straight to wavy. The expression is keen, intelligent, and eager.
Ready to see what dogs fit you best? Take our short quiz to find out!
Friendliness to Dogs
Friendliness to Other Pets
Friendliness to Strangers
Ease of Training
Disclaimer: While the characteristics mentioned here may frequently represent this breed, dogs are individuals whose personalities and appearances will vary. Please consult the adoption organization for details on a specific pet.
The Australian Shepherd has a great deal of stamina and is loving, bold, alert, confident, independent, smart, and responsive. If they don’t get a chance to exercise and challenge their strongly developed mental and physical activities, they are apt to become frustrated and difficult to live with. With proper exercise and training, this dog is a loyal, utterly devoted, and obedient companion. The Aussie is reserved with strangers, and has a protective nature. This breed may try to herd children and small animals by nipping.
This breed needs a good workout every day, preferably combining both physical and mental challenges. The coat needs brushing or combing one to two times weekly.
- Major concerns: cataract, CEA
- Minor concerns: CHD, nasal solar dermatitis, Pelger-Huet syndrome, iris coloboma, CEA, hypothyroidism
- Occasionally seen: lumbar sacral syndrome, epilepsy, PRA, distichiasis, elbow dysplasia
- Suggested tests: hip, eye, (thyroid), (DNA for CEA), elbow
- Life span: 12–15 years
- Note: This breed is often sensitive to ivermectin. Homozygous merle, which is detrimental to health, commonly results in deafness and blindness. The natural bobtail can result in some serious spinal defects.
The Australian Shepherd is not really an Australian breed, but came to America by way of Australia. One popular theory of the breed’s origin begins during the 1800s when the Basque people of Europe settled in Australia, bringing with them their sheep and sheepdogs. Shortly thereafter, many of these shepherds relocated to the western United States, with their dogs and sheep. American shepherds naturally dubbed these dogs Australian Shepherds because that was their immediate past residence.
The rugged area of Australia and western America placed demands on the herding dogs that they had not faced in Europe, but through various crosses and rigorous selection for working ability, the Basque dog soon adapted and excelled under these harsh conditions. The breed kept a low profile until the 1950s, when they were featured in a popular trick-dog act that performed in rodeos and was featured in film. Many of these dogs, owned by Jay Sisler, can be found in the pedigrees of today’s Aussies.
The first Aussie was registered with the International English Shepherd Registry, now known as the National Stock Dog Registry. The AKC recognized the Australian Shepherd in 1993. Its popularity according to AKC statistics underestimates the popularity of this breed because a large proportion of this working breed remains unregistered with the AKC. This dog is among the most versatile of breeds, excelling at conformation, obedience, herding, and agility competition. The Aussie is also adept at working cattle; in fact, some believe its close working style is more suited to cattle than to sheep.