The Australian shepherd is a medium-sized herding dog originating from the United States. These dogs are about 21 inches tall and weigh between 50 and 65 pounds. The breed comes in colors including blue merle, red merle, red and black, and tricolor.
Australian shepherds are popular pets because of their loyalty and high intelligence. The dogs live for up to 15 years and are ideally suited for experienced owners in active households. Inactive people or people who don’t have the time or motivation to mentally stimulate their pets shouldn’t buy an Australian shepherd.
Australian Shepherd Quick Summary
|Common Names:||Australian shepherd, Spanish shepherd, Australian bob-tail, pastor dog, California shepherd, New Mexican shepherd|
|Breed group||Herding group|
|Colors||Blue merle, red merle, solid black, solid red, various tricolors|
|Coat||Double coat, medium-length|
|Life Expectancy||13-15 years|
|Temperament||Intelligent, affectionate, loyal, active|
Australian Shepherd Appearance
The Australian shepherd is a medium-sized dog with a straight or slightly wavy double coat. The dog usually has two or three colors on its body, which can include white, red, tan, black, or blue.
These dogs have medium-length fur with long fur around the neck and backs of the legs.
Height and Weight
Australian shepherds are 18–23 inches tall. Females have a height of 18–21 inches at the withers, and males are slightly taller, growing 21–23 inches.
The average weight of an Australian shepherd is 50–65 pounds. A dog’s activity level, diet, age, and genetics are all factors that affect weight.
The Australian shepherd’s thick, double coat is medium-length and straight or slightly wavy. The undercoat is thick, fluffy, and will be thicker than usual in the winter. The topcoat, referred to as the “guard coat,” is coarser and more rigid than the undercoat.
The dog has feathering on the back of the legs and a frill around the neck.
The most common Australian shepherd coat colors are:
- Solid black
- Black and white
- Black, white, and tan
- Solid red
- Red and white
- Blue merle (with bicolor and tri-color variations)
- Red merle (with bicolor and tri-color variations)
Solid white and yellow are uncommon Australian shepherd colorings.
Australian Shepherd Origins
Although their names suggest otherwise, Australian shepherds originated in the Western United States. These dogs were used to tend large flocks of sheep in states like California, Idaho, Colorado, and Wyoming.
The exact origin of this dog isn’t known, but it’s thought that Spanish Conquistadors brought the Australian shepherd’s ancestors to the US in the 1500s.
Today, this breed is still used in the farming industry and is also a much-loved family pet.
Australian Shepherd Personality and Temperament
Australian shepherds are intelligent, loyal, and highly active dogs that thrive off training and positive reinforcement. These dogs enjoy having a mission or a purpose, so they’re great pets for active people. These dogs are best suited for owners who have the time to teach their pets tricks and involve them in mentally stimulating activities.
The Australian shepherd is quick-moving and prone to hyperactivity. These dogs are also known to bark and become destructive if left alone for long periods. Therefore, the breed isn’t recommended for inactive people who can’t give their pets the physical or mental stimulation needed to thrive.
Taking Care of an Australian Shepherd Dog
Caring for an Australian shepherd is easy because the dog is highly trainable and isn’t prone to behavioral problems. These dogs need a healthy, balanced diet, frequent grooming, and plenty of exercise to thrive.
The recommended daily food amount for an Australian shepherd is between 1.5 and 2.5 cups of high-quality kibble per day. This food should be divided into two or three meals. The dog’s age, size, build, activity level, and metabolism affect the amount of food that it needs.
Carefully-measured portions of food, tailored to medium-sized dogs, should provide the nutrients the dog needs for energy and good health.
The Australian shepherd’s medium-length fur becomes easily knotted and matted without frequent grooming. Brush the dog’s coat once a week regularly, or twice a week during shedding season. Stroke in the direction that the hair grows to detangle the fur and use a stripping comb to groom around the dog’s face and behind the ears.
Australian shepherds should be bathed whenever they’re dirty, or about once a month. Trim the dog’s nails whenever you can hear the nails clicking on the floor.
Australian shepherds are energetic dogs that need a minimum of two hours of exercise per day. This exercise can be divided into at least two walks. These dogs love to feel challenged, so add variety to their daily exercise.
Hiking, running, off-lead walks, fetch, and obedience or agility classes are all good activities for Australian shepherds. These dogs are best suited to homes with gardens or backyards but can live in an apartment as long as the Aussies are exercised outside throughout the day.
The Australian shepherd is an intelligent dog that loves to feel busy and important. This breed needs at least half an hour of mental stimulation per day, in the form of playtime, training, or obedience activities.
Frisbees, tennis balls, and tug ropes are good toys for these dogs. When you can’t play with your dog, provide puzzle toys or treat release toys to keep your dog engaged with independent play.
Common Health Concerns
Australian shepherds are generally healthy, but there are several health problems that this breed is prone to.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy: a genetically-inherited degenerative disorder affecting the eye. Dogs with PRA gradually lose their photoreceptors and sight. Signs of this disorder are cloudy-looking or gray-colored eyes, nervousness at night, and clumsiness in new environments. PRA is untreatable and progresses over a period of one or two years.
- Epilepsy: a neurological disorder that causes repeated seizures or fits. These seizures aren’t painful for dogs, but they can cause confusion and panic. Epilepsy is managed with anticonvulsant medication that must be administered throughout the dog’s life, but the disorder can’t be cured.
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia: inherited conditions affecting the placement of the hip and elbow sockets. Dogs with hip and elbow dysplasia exhibit lameness or pain on one or both of their front or back legs. The dogs may also have a decreased range of motion and a hesitance to run, jump, or climb stairs. The conditions are treated by managing the dog’s weight, using exercise therapy, or having surgery, in severe cases.
- Deafness: a condition that affects the dog’s ability to respond to sound. Dogs with white and merle colors are more likely to be born deaf. Deafness can sometimes be treated with surgery or medication, but it usually can’t be cured.
Many health problems can be avoided by buying a puppy from a responsible breeder who has screened the parent dogs for common health concerns.
How to Train an Australian Shepherd
Australian shepherds are smart, alert, loyal, and easy to train. This breed responds best to positive reinforcement with praise, food, and play used as rewards. The dogs aren’t usually stubborn and are happy to take commands from their trainers.
Begin training an Australian shepherd puppy when it’s seven weeks old. Begin by toilet-training, leash-training, and practicing basic commands like “sit” and “heel.” Also start to socialize the puppy in various environments. Puppies learn best when they are exposed to different social situations between the ages of seven weeks and four months old.
Australian Shepherd Price
The Australian shepherd is priced as a mid-range dog.
How Much Is an Australian Shepherd?
An Australian shepherd costs $650 to $850. The price of the dog depends on factors including age, coat color, breeder reputation, and whether the dog is bought from a breeder or adopted. Adopting an Australian shepherd costs about $200.
Blue and red merle dogs, tri-color dogs, or dogs with unique coloring are more expensive than block-color or mostly-black dogs. Puppies are also more expensive than adults.
How Much Does it Cost to Raise an Australian Shepherd?
The average monthly cost of raising an Australian shepherd is $80 after the initial purchase and set-up costs. Set-up costs include food, medication and vet bills, grooming supplies, and new toys. Additional costs may include dog walking and dog sitting services, professional grooming, and dog boarding.
Should You Get an Australian Shepherd?
Australian shepherds are loyal, lively dogs that are loving companions for most families, but these dogs are not suitable for some people or lifestyles.
Australian Shepherds are Suitable for:
Australian shepherds have a lot of energy, so they’re ideally suited for active, outdoorsy people. Ideal owners should have plenty of time to walk and play with their dog throughout the day. Due to this breed’s high energy level, the dogs do best in homes with backyards or good access to parks for off-leash walks.
Australian shepherds are friendly, nurturing, and love to have fun, so they’re ideal pets for families with confident, sensible children.
Australian Shepherds are NOT Suitable for:
Australian shepherds are herding dogs, so they’re known to herd, nip, and chase children and other pets. Although these dogs eventually learn that children and pets are not part of their “flock,” the dogs shouldn’t be housed with nervous children or pets.
This breed thrives off of mental stimulation and training. People who don’t have the time or patience to train and play with their dogs shouldn’t buy an Australian shepherd.
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