The Aussie Dog, more commonly known as the Australian Shepherd or the Aussie, comes from the ranches of California. Not to be confused with the Australian Cattle Dog, these pups descend from sheep herding dogs from the Spanish region, Basque. They came to America after spending some time in Australia.
Aussies grew in popularity after being introduced to the general public through a rodeo trick show. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized them as an official AKC breed in 1993.
These hardy, intelligent working dogs are loyal and always up for an adventure, and maybe you are, too. You may be thinking about adopting an Australian Shepherd, but you aren’t sure what an Aussie needs for a happy life. We’re here to help.
At Spot Pet Insurance, we care about you and your pup. We want you both to have the best possible life together. To help ensure you can provide for an Australian Shepherd’s needs, we’ve collected some the information you need before adding a new member to your family.
What are the traits of an Aussie?
A good pet parent knows they need to adopt a pet that’s suited to them. Every person and every pet is different. You can’t adopt a pet on a one-size-fits-all basis. You’ll get frustrated, and so will your pet.
Two important things to consider are an Aussie’s physical characteristics and personality. Will your living situation be a suitable size? Do you mind having a fur-filled home? Will an Australian Shepherd love meeting new people as much as you do?
Physical Traits of Aussies
Aussies are built for herding. They are medium-sized dogs of about 18-23 inches and 40-65 pounds, depending on sex. Their medium build allows them to move quickly and with agility as they herd livestock.
Their ears stand up at the base, but the tips usually flop forwards. This gives their ears a slightly perkier look than other dogs with floppy ears.
Some Aussies are born with bobbed tails. Their lack of a tail is intentional because it won’t get in the way during herding, and the livestock can’t step on it. Others will have their tails docked as puppies.
Australian Shepherds can also have two different colored eyes. This is a condition called heterochromia. The unusual eye colors naturally occur within the Aussie’s genes.
Australian Shepherds’ coat colors tend to be very distinctive. They are gorgeous coats with two layers, which means Aussies have a lot of fur. Their double coats are also waterproof and weather resistant. They need to receive at least a weekly brushing to avoid matting, but they may need even more grooming.
Their coats can be red, black or merle. An Aussie with a merle coat will have a base color and then splotches of red or blue throughout, depending on whether they have a blue merle coat or a red merle coat.
Aussies can also have white marks or tan points. Tan points will only appear on specific spots of a coat, usually on the face or the front legs. A common place for tan points is above the eyes.
Personality Traits of Aussie Dogs
Personality is one of the biggest factors that will affect whether an Aussie is right for you. A dog’s personality will affect how well you can train them and keep them occupied and happy.
Australian Shepherds are confident and collected. They need to be in order to control their herds. This working breed is also extremely intelligent. After all, they needed to keep one step ahead of the animals under their care.
Although their intelligence may seem like a bonus, it can become a problem. Dogs can get bored just like us, especially intelligent, hard-working dogs. If an Aussie doesn’t receive enough mental exercise, they express their boredom through destructive behaviors, like tearing up your pillows or chewing up your shoes.
These can be easily prevented. You can train them in different fields or provide them a job to do, or both. We’ll discuss these ideas more later.
Aussies love their families, but they typically have a more reserved nature. Although they don’t dislike strangers, they are wary of them. Like most dogs, Australian Shepherds should receive proper socialization. They should be introduced to and interact with other people and dogs to prevent aggressive or fearful behaviors.
Can I bring an Australian Shepherd into my family easily?
If you have a family, whether made of people or other furry four-legged friends, you’ll want to consider whether you can introduce an Australian Shepherd to them without any issues.
If you’re adopting a rescue, their behavior towards children and other dogs can be affected by their former life situation, so these general rules may not apply to all Aussies. With a rescue, it’s best to learn as much about their previous history as you can, so you can care for them in the way they need.
Will they get along with my other dogs?
An Australian Shepherd is typically good around other dogs if they are socialized properly. They may not immediately love another dog, but they will tolerate them. Their response could also depend on how reserved your Aussie is. Like us humans, some Aussies are friendlier than others.
Shepherds may nip at smaller animals, but this may be their tendency to herd presenting itself. To get cows or sheep to go where they needed to, an Aussie will sometimes need to nip at their heels. It likely came in handy for those Basque shepherds and is even useful for some ranchers today. However, this behavior should only be encouraged if you are training your Aussie to herd livestock.
How do they interact with children?
If you have a baby on the way, are adopting a small child, or have small children that visit, you are probably wondering if your Australian Shepherd will become aggravated or hostile toward them.
Most Aussies are great with kids. They love playing and will be patient and gentle with your child. Although you should still watch any children playing with your pup, your Australian Shepherd won’t cause them great harm.
However, Aussies may nip at children for much the same reason they would other animals. It’s not intended to harm them; instead, it’s part of their herding instinct. Proper training can help check this since it shouldn’t be allowed unless working with livestock.
Aussies are gentle dogs. They just need a lot of direction. They can be a great addition to your family, whether it consists of humans or pets.
What health problems should I check Aussies for?
Aussies can live for up to 15 years; you should be committed to caring for your Australian Shepherd for their lifetime. Although it is normal for an Aussie to live that long, some concerns can affect their health and comfort.
Here are some potential health issues that can affect your Australian Shepherd:
- Cancer, usually lymphoma or hemangiosarcoma
- Elbow or hip dysplasia, which causes a malformation of the affected joints and sockets
- MDR1, a genetic condition that causes sensitivities to certain drugs
- Autoimmune Thyroiditis, a form of thyroid disease
- Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)
Reputuble breeders typically screen for genetic issues like dysplasia or MDR1. It’s important to get your dog’s full health history, especially if they have MDR1. You need to know which drugs will cause a reaction so your vet won’t use them.
If you can’t access your pup’s health history because they are a rescue or for another reason, it’s important to have your dog checked by a licensed vet.
With pet insurance provided by Spot, members can visit any licensed vet in the United States or Canada for covered conditions.
How can I help my Aussie live their best life?
With information from your vet, you can take care of any medical needs, but now you need to know how to care for your pup at home. How much exercise and grooming do they need? What should they eat?
We have the answers right here.
Exercise and training
Aussies are energetic dogs, so they need lots of exercise. You can definitely take this breed on long walks and hikes.
They also need a lot of training to exercise their minds. You can combine these two activities by working on agility training, herding, or playing frisbee. Aussies are well suited for dog sports like flyball, thanks to their high energy level and need for mental stimulation.
You can (and should) provide obedience training as well. This will help you to keep your Aussie in line when you work on other things for them to do. More intricate tricks can also provide the mental exercise they need. Australian Shepherds are fast learners, though, so make sure you teach them new tricks often. They tend to respond best to positive reinforcement.
These are the best dogs for active families who have a lot of time to invest in their dog’s training, especially if you get an Australian Shepherd puppy.
BecauseSince an Aussie’s medium-length coat is double-layered, those beautiful tricolor coats need to be brushed at least once a week. During shedding season, however, you should brush them much more often. Even with multiple brushings, you’ll probably end up vacuuming once a day to clean up the fur all over your house.
Australian Shepherds need occasional teeth cleaning and nail trimming like all dogs. Long nails can cause discomfort; dirty teeth can cause dental problems.
Herding breeds like Aussies expend a lot of energy, so they need good, high-quality food to make up for it. You can buy food at the store or prepare it yourself. If you decide to prepare meals for your dog, consult a vet to determine which foods are best for your dog so that they receive the nutrients they need.
Even though Australian Shepherds like to exercise, you still need to watch their calorie intake and weight. They can still become obese, which leads to other health issues. You should also limit the number of treats you use when training.
Things to remember before adopting an Aussie
Now that we’ve looked at what an Australian Shepherd needs for a long and happy life, take a moment to think about whether you can provide these things. You need to have a lot of time available for training and exercise, and you need to keep your dog busy to keep them from getting bored.
You should also think about their personality and size. Will an Aussie suit your lifestyle? Do you want a dog that will be friendly with everyone or a dog that will be wary of a stranger?
We want you and your pup to be able to live happily together like a good family. If you’re looking for more information on things you can do with your pup, or you need information on other dog breeds, take a look at our blog. We’ve gathered all kinds of information to promote the happiness of you and your four-legged friends.