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  • Temperament: Smart, Work-Oriented, Exuberant
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 16 of 192
  • Height: 20-23 inches (male), 18-21 inches (female)
  • Weight: 50-65 pounds (male), 40-55 pounds (female)
  • Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
  • Group: Herding Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Australian Shepherd outdoors with a small toy basketball in its mouth.
An Australian Shepherd herding a flock of sheep.
Australian Shepherd jumping up in the air to catch leaves in the Fall.
Australian Shepherd standing in a green grassy field at twilight.
Australian Shepherd on hind legs in "begging" stance
Australian Shepherd lying down facing forward
Australian Shepherd head facing left
Australian Shepherd brown and white coat color detail
Australian Shepherd puppy

Find a Puppy: Australian Shepherd

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AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
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GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent working dog of strong herding and guarding instincts. He is a loyal companion and has the stamina to work all day. He is well balanced, slightly longer than tall, of medium size and bone, with coloring that offers variety and individuality. He is attentive and animated, lithe and agile, solid and muscular without cloddiness. He has a coat of moderate length and coarseness. He has a docked or natural bobbed tail.

HEAD

The head is clean cut, strong and dry. Overall size should be in proportion to the body. The muzzle is equal in length or slightly shorter than the back skull. Viewed from the side the topline of the back skull and muzzle form parallel planes, divided by a moderate, well-defined stop. The muzzle tapers little from base to nose and is rounded at the tip.

BODY

Neck, Topline, Body: shoulders. Topline – Back is straight and strong, level and firm from withers to hip joints. The croup is moderately sloped. Body – Chest is not broad but is deep with the lowest point reaching the elbow. The ribs are well sprung and long, neither barrel chested nor slab-sided. The underline shows a moderate tuck-up.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulder blades are long, flat, fairly close set at the withers and well laid back. The upper arm, which should be relatively the same length as the shoulder blade, attaches at an approximate right angle to the shoulder line with forelegs dropping straight, perpendicular to the ground. Legs straight and strong. Bone is strong, oval rather than round. Pastern is medium length and very slightly sloped. Front dewclaws may be removed. Feet are oval, compact with close knit, well arched toes. Pads are thick and resilient.

COAT

Hair is of medium texture, straight to wavy, weather resistant and of medium length. The undercoat varies in quantity with variations in climate. Hair is short and smooth on the head, ears, front of forelegs and below the hocks. Backs of forelegs and britches are moderately feathered. There is a moderate mane and frill, more pronounced in dogs than in bitches. Non-typical coats are severe faults.

HINDQUARTERS

The width of the hindquarters is equal to the width of the forequarters at the shoulders. The angulation of the pelvis and upper thigh corresponds to the angulation of the shoulder blade and upper arm, forming an approximate right angle. Stifles are clearly defined, hock joints moderately bent. The hocks are short, perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other when viewed from the rear. Rear dewclaws must be removed. Feet are oval, compact with close knit, well arched toes. Pads are thick and resilient.

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australian shepherd illustration

About the Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd, the cowboy’s herding dog of choice, is a medium-sized worker with a keen, penetrating gaze in the eye. Aussie coats offer different looks, including merle (a mottled pattern with contrasting shades of blue or red). In all ways, they’re the picture of rugged and agile movers of stock.
Aussies exhibit an irresistible impulse to herd, anything: birds, dogs, kids. This strong work drive can make Aussies too much dog for a sedentary pet owner. Aussies are remarkably intelligent, quite capable of hoodwinking an unsuspecting novice owner. In short, this isn’t the pet for everyone. But if you’re looking for a brainy, tireless, and trainable partner for work or sport, your search might end here.

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country. The United States Australian Shepherd Association has been the AKC Parent Club representing the Australian Shepherd since 1990.
Australian Shepherd puppy

Find a Puppy: Australian Shepherd

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Australian Shepherd Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

The Australian Shepherd should do well on a high-quality dog food, whether commercially manufactured or home-prepared with your veterinarian’s supervision and approval. Any diet should be appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

GROOMING

In general, weekly brushing sessions will keep the Australian Shepherd’s waterproof, double-layer coat looking its best. During shedding season, though, more work will be required. During this period an undercoat rake can be used every two or three days to remove the abundant dead hair, followed by a cleanup with the wire brush. Aussies often work and/or play outdoors, so it’s not unusual for them to come in dirtier than they left. But unless they’ve gotten into a particularly messy situation, they require a bath only occasionally. As with all breeds, the Aussie‘s nails should be trimmed regularly.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Weekly Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Seasonal

EXERCISE

A high-energy, athletic dog, the Aussie needs a great deal of exercise on a daily basis. At minimum, he should have a large, fenced-in yard to run around in for at least an hour or two daily. Aussies bond closely with their owners and love to accompany them on long walks—or, better yet, hikes. Once an Aussie leaves puppyhood behind, and his skeletal system is fully formed, he can make a great running companion. The best course, however, is to give the Aussie a job, whether that is herding livestock, shepherding children, or competing in canine events such as obedience, herding or agility trials, or dock diving.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Energetic

TRAINING

Early socialization and obedience training are both musts for the Australian Shepherd. One of the most frequent reasons Aussies end up in rescue situations is owners couldn’t (or wouldn’t) constructively channel the breed’s boundless energy through training. Aussies bond strongly to their families and so can be territorial and overprotective of their owners’ property, and they can become destructive if left without companionship for long periods too often. Fortunately, that loyalty combined with the breed’s keen intelligence and high energy makes them very easy to train.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
Eager to Please

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Alert/Responsive

HEALTH

Aussies are generally healthy dogs, and a responsible breeder will test breeding stock for health concerns such as hip dysplasia, epilepsy, cataracts and certain forms of cancer.  An Aussie’s ears should be checked regularly to remove foreign matter and avoid a buildup of wax, and his teeth should be brushed regularly.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Australian Shepherd running.
Three Australian Shepherds sitting outdoors.
Australian Shepherd sitting outdoors.
Australian Shepherd puppy.
Australian Shepherd running.
Australian Shepherd running outdoors.

History

The Australian Shepherd is descended from a line of Europe’s finest herders.The Aussie’s world tour began in Europe, near the Pyrenees Mountains. It was here, in the borderlands between France and Spain, where the indigenous people known as the Basques built their centuries-old reputation as world-class shepherds. Their herding dog of choice was called the Pyrenean Shepherd, progenitor of our modern Aussie.

In the early 1800s, Australia’s Anglo émigrés began a push into the continent’s vast interior in search of rich pastureland for cattle ranching. Eventually, many Basques, with their faithful shepherd dogs in tow, sailed east to try their luck on the virgin Australian continent, a wide-open paradise for sheep herders.

During their long sojourn in Australia, the Basque shepherd refined their dogs with judicious crosses to Australia’s British imports, Collies and Border Collies, among them. After building up their flocks, the intrepid Basques left Australia for greener pastures—literally—and set sail to California.

California ranchers admired the Basques’ herding dogs and assumed they were an Australian breed—thus the misleading name Australian Shepherd. Aussies, further refined and perfected in America, have been an iconic part of cowboy culture ever since. Many are still happily herding in the American West, others earn their feed as rodeo performers, and still others of this exuberantly versatile breed work as therapy dogs, drug detectors, service dogs, and search-and-rescue dogs. The Australian Shepherd entered the AKC Herding Group in 1993.

Did You Know?

The Australian Shepherd is the AKC's 135th breed.
The Aussie's popularity boomed with Western culture and horse-riding after WWII and was often featured in rodeos, horse shows, movies, and TV.
Australian Shepherds do not have docked tails for cosmetic reasons. As a working breed on farms and ranches, their tails were docked to avoid injury or to identify them as working stock.
Aussies have been used as aides to the physically handicapped and as police, narcotics, and search and rescue dogs.
Australian Shepherds, after having reached full structural maturity, are great running partners.
The Australian Shepherd is not registered in Australia as a native breed, although it has been registered by other registries since the 1950s.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent working dog of strong herding and guarding instincts. He is a loyal companion and has the stamina to work all day. He is well balanced, slightly longer than tall, of medium size and bone, with coloring that offers variety and individuality. He is attentive and animated, lithe and agile, solid and muscular without cloddiness. He has a coat of moderate length and coarseness. He has a docked or natural bobbed tail.

HEAD

The head is clean cut, strong and dry. Overall size should be in proportion to the body. The muzzle is equal in length or slightly shorter than the back skull. Viewed from the side the topline of the back skull and muzzle form parallel planes, divided by a moderate, well-defined stop. The muzzle tapers little from base to nose and is rounded at the tip.

BODY

Neck, Topline, Body: shoulders. Topline – Back is straight and strong, level and firm from withers to hip joints. The croup is moderately sloped. Body – Chest is not broad but is deep with the lowest point reaching the elbow. The ribs are well sprung and long, neither barrel chested nor slab-sided. The underline shows a moderate tuck-up.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulder blades are long, flat, fairly close set at the withers and well laid back. The upper arm, which should be relatively the same length as the shoulder blade, attaches at an approximate right angle to the shoulder line with forelegs dropping straight, perpendicular to the ground. Legs straight and strong. Bone is strong, oval rather than round. Pastern is medium length and very slightly sloped. Front dewclaws may be removed. Feet are oval, compact with close knit, well arched toes. Pads are thick and resilient.

COAT

Hair is of medium texture, straight to wavy, weather resistant and of medium length. The undercoat varies in quantity with variations in climate. Hair is short and smooth on the head, ears, front of forelegs and below the hocks. Backs of forelegs and britches are moderately feathered. There is a moderate mane and frill, more pronounced in dogs than in bitches. Non-typical coats are severe faults.

HINDQUARTERS

The width of the hindquarters is equal to the width of the forequarters at the shoulders. The angulation of the pelvis and upper thigh corresponds to the angulation of the shoulder blade and upper arm, forming an approximate right angle. Stifles are clearly defined, hock joints moderately bent. The hocks are short, perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other when viewed from the rear. Rear dewclaws must be removed. Feet are oval, compact with close knit, well arched toes. Pads are thick and resilient.

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australian shepherd illustration

Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
Black Check Mark For Standard Color 007
Blue Merle Check Mark For Standard Color 050
Red Check Mark For Standard Color 140
Red Merle Check Mark For Standard Color 276

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
Tan Points Check Mark For Standard Mark 029
White Markings Check Mark For Standard Mark 014
White Markings, Tan Points Check Mark For Standard Mark 030

Other Breeds to Explore

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