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Australian Shepherd puppy giving a high five outdoors.

Finding the perfect dog can sometimes be difficult. With so many options, how do you know which is right for you? The Australian Shepherd is described as smart, work-oriented, and exuberant. But there’s a lot more to the breed than their intelligence and athleticism, and you have to own one to truly know them. Is the Australian Shepherd a good breed for you and your lifestyle?

The Australian Shepherd’s Temperament

The Australian Shepherd, who actually doesn’t come from Australia, is a smart, work-driven dog. Their original purpose, like many herding breeds, was to protect livestock and herd farm animals. This breed was the herding dog of choice for ranches, often giving them an association with cowboys.

They love to work hard and are a great breed for exercising and dog sports. These medium sized dogs are smart and pretty adaptable.

Physical Traits and Grooming Needs

The Australian Shepherd, often with a beautiful merle coat, is a lean and devoted ranch dog. They have a double coat that is medium length, and they don’t need to be groomed daily, but do shed often. Australian Shepherds do shed quite a bit, so brushing frequently is recommended. The Australian Shepherd breed standard writes that coats should be black, blue merle, red, or red merle – merle in dogs referring to the color blotches of fur that are set on a lighter background of the same pigment. It often appears as solid black on gray (blue merle) or solid brown on tan (red merle).

Australian Shepherds (10-12 months old) running together.
©ksuksa -

Aussies tend to weigh between 40-65 pounds, on the lower end for females and the higher end for males. Australian Shepherds are between 18-23 inches tall, and typically have a lifespan of 12-15 years.

How Much Training Does an Australian Shepherd Need?

Australian Shepherds are incredibly intelligent, and though they are extremely eager to please, they also have incredibly high energy levels. They’ll learn things quickly, but also learn from observing, so even things that you do indirectly will be noted by this breed. Their strong work drive can be too much for some dog owners, and if you’re not looking for an active breed, they may not be the right breed for you.

They also have an extreme herding impulse, and will heard anything, from birds to kids and other dogs. Dogs sports like agility are a great outlet for the breed, but will excel at most dog sports. They are the kind of breed that needs mental stimulation and a lot of it, so a job or activity of some sort is a must for this breed.

Are Australian Shepherds Good for Families?

Australian Shepherds are well-loved by owners across the United States, being everything from pets to working dogs to therapy dogs. They don’t immediately trust people when they meet them, but are open to friendly people and other dogs. They aren’t overly affectionate, but not entirely independent either.

They are fantastic with children, which makes them great family dogs. But watch out — if your kids are running around a lot, Aussies will try to herd them!

Australian Shepherd herding sheep in a field.
Julia_Siomuha/Getty Images Plus

How Social Are Australian Shepherds?

On the scale of reserved to completely friendly, Australian Shepherds fall somewhere in the middle. The same goes for how protective they are: of their food, toys, and their people. They do love their toys, and won’t always want to share. Since they were trained throughout history to be herding dogs, they also do have a level of watchdog to them, but since it’s not their main purpose, it’s pretty average with this breed.

They are pretty playful, which ties in to their high mental stimulation needs. They won’t be content sitting on the couch all day, so you’ll need to give them something to do. Being around dogs or people, along with an activity, is important for this breed.

Australian shepherd jumps over an agility hurdle in agility competition
©Juha Saastamoinen -

Every dog is different, even within the breed, so talk to your breeder about whether or not the breed would be a good fit for you and your lifestyle. Talking to people who own the breed already can also be a great way to help familiarize yourself with their temperament, care level, and what to expect.
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