Australian Shepherd


Australian Shepherds are considered to be super intelligent, they are active herding dogs that loves to work and do sports. They are an exciting breed encompassing similar traits of the Border Collie and Australian Cattle Dog. Promote caution while your youngest children are playing around your Australian Shepherd, because they take this ‘herding thing’ pretty serious when no sheep can be found to rule across the plains.  Showing their agility and style, Aussies are a joy to watch herding, competing, or playing. Download Your Australian Shepherd Training Book at NewDogtimes.comSome Aussies are born with a naturally bobbed or stumpy tail that is a blessing for their herding duties. Other Aussies have a full-length tail. Highly intelligent, and highly trainable, they can be trained into service dogs for the blind or handicapped, agility competitions, police, search and rescue, utility for physically handicapped, and more. They are easier to train than many other breeds, but require an extraordinary amount of daily exercise. Two to three hours is recommended for your Australian Shepherd.

Australian Shepherd’s long coat of hair requires frequent brushing, and checking for ticks and fleas. And although they wear a long thick coat, they do well in all climates. Merle is a common color but Aussies come in many color combinations. It is common to see them with a patch of solid color across their eye, face and muzzle area. Coats of black, red, blue and red merle, with white and color patches in a myriad of combinations are all common. With all these color combinations and eye color differentiation, some Australian shepherds are exotic looking. Due to their different eye color, Native Americans called them Ghost Eye and considered them sacred.

In general, the Australian Shepherd is considerate, loving, and devoted towards its owners, but may be reserve towards others. Your Aussie may bark warnings, but not bark obsessively. They are independent problem solvers and find solutions. As an example, they will not look at a fence and be overwhelmed or feel trapped; they will formulate a plan to beat the fence, either by going over, around, or under, and will not stop after just a few attempts. This carries over into all other areas.

As Karl from Arizona notes in a story from his childhood. “I loved growing up with an Australian Shepherd as our family pet. Unfortunately our first, Pepper, would get terrified during lightning storms and one night in her panic was able to somehow find her way over a six foot fence in the backyard.” He goes on to say, “Our Aussies were wonderful playmates and a joy to be around growing up, but they were loyal and protective, so having friends over was definitely on our Aussie’s terms. In other words, rough-housing wasn’t happening in our home unless it was family.” This over-protective territorialism is why early socialization is crucial when bringing home a new puppy. Having guests over should be on your terms, not your dogs, but he does highlight the loyalty of an Australian Shepherd.

If they want something, they will figure out how to get it. Providing and allowing Aussies problems to solve will keep them mentally healthy and happy, which is the Yin, to the Yang of physical exercise. Maybe a game of chess, a maze to run, or the Times Sunday crossword are items to consider providing your AussieJ.

If you plan to own an Australian Shepherd please know in advance that you are capable and willing to offer them adequate open spaces to run and play, and that you will have the time to allocate towards training, exercise, and companionship. The Aussie requires a great deal of attention and does best with three hours of exercise per day. They are perfect dogs for the outdoorsman, ranch or farm, and outdoor family. They can handle almost any terrain and climate.

Aussies also have a strong prey drive, which is a contributor to their great skill in Frisbee and ball playing, and they can be almost obsessive with these sports. They will give chase and nip at children, cats, dogs, and even cars. Highly visual compared to most other breeds, your Aussie will notice many things. Begin socialization early and thoroughly on a broad scale and throughout their lifetime.

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Originally, from the Basque country they made the long run to the United States arriving with Basque herders into the Wild West in the early eighteen hundreds. The confusing name seems to stem from the dog arriving in America via Australia, but the dog had originally traveled to Australia from the Basque country in the Pyrenees Mountains between Spain and France. The Aussie has been known by the names, Spanish Shepherd, Pastor, Bobtail, California, and New Mexican Shepherd.

Once arriving in America they immediately were put to work and heavily used in the Rocky Mountains varying altitudes. Herders took notice that hot, cold, and different elevations did not affect the Australian Shepherd, and their stellar reputation sharpened. Taking notice of the durable, adaptable, and trainable breed, ranchers would sometimes travel from as far west as California to purchase Aussie’s that were bred in the Rockies, and that was a long trip that took a few weeks or longer compared today’s methods of travel.

Being athletic and able to jump high, Aussies excel in sports such as dog agility, flyball, and Frisbee. They are also highly successful search and rescue, disaster, detection, guide, service, and therapy dogs. Today they are still used as herders and as a working breed competing in herding trials. Aussie’s use a medium eye gaze when herding, and because of this inherent herding ability, they are a favorite breed of ranchers not only for livestock such as sheep, but also for ducks, geese, and rabbits.


Like humans, dogs have the potential to develop ailments and diseases. Many of these ailments and diseases vary from breed to breed, and some are more prevalent, occurring more often in certain breeds. Consider these facts when picking out your new puppy, and beware of any breeder that makes a claim that their type of breed puppies are 100% healthy. A reputable and honest breeder should know and share any health related issues that the breed you are purchasing or inquiring about might have, or can potentially surface.

When it comes to health the Australian Shepherd has a couple of items to note. Vision issues are common, especially if two merle colored are bred there is an increased risk of puppies being born blind and or deaf. The average life span is somewhere between nine to thirteen years. The most common ailments are eye problems such as red-eye, epiphora, conjunctivitis, cataracts, dermatological and respiratory problems. This breed also needs to be tested for the MDR1 gene that causes toxicity if an Aussie is given high doses of anti-parasitics. Hip dysplasia and epilepsy can also develop in this breed.

I recommend reading about canine health related issues and common breed specific ailments. By becoming familiar with the signs and symptoms of a disease or sickness, you will be empowered to be the first line of defense in support of your dog’s health and well being. Routine physical examinations of your dog, inspection of feces, and noting food related issues that cause bowel or gastric problems helps to assure him or her enjoying optimal health. By observing and understanding your dog’s healthy behaviors and regular patterns, you will be able to easily identify when your dog is not feeling well, and if medical attention is needed.

In your position and role as alpha, you are responsible for providing the best possible care for your dog, assuring his or her wellbeing and comfort. Do not hesitate to consult your veterinarian if you observe your dog displaying peculiar behaviors or showing any signs of discomfort. It is very important to maintain your dog’s scheduled exams, mandatory check up’s and vaccination appointments. Uphold this duty, so that your dog can enjoy the vitality of good health that he or she deserves, and in fact has a right too.

Long daily walks are recommended for having a healthy dog. Walks promote leash training practice, socialization, and over-all mental and physical health for your dog to satisfy its pack mentality needs. For the Australian Shepherd at least two long walks, and a chance to run through play or sport totaling at least two hours is required for optimal health. They make great hiking, running, jogging, biking partners.


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Australian Shepherd Dog Feed and Dog Diet

Age, weight, and activity levels are a few of the factors that can change the food requirements of your Aussie. Once you have determined the appropriate amount to provide, feed an accurately measured portion at regular times to help maintain their optimal weight. If you wish to feed your dog a raw food diet or a mix, please do your research and consult your veterinarian prior to any adjustments to their meals. Be sure to keep plenty of fresh, clean water available for your dog, and it is considered a hygienic standard to clean your dog’s bowl well, after each feeding.


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Proactive Measures for Puppy Selection

If you want to buy an Australian Shepherd puppy, be sure to find a reputable Aussie puppy breeder who will show you health clearances for both of the puppy’s parents. Health clearances are official documents that prove a dog has been tested for, and cleared of any, or all breed specific conditions, however a clearance does not guarantee against acquired diseases or abnormalities. Remember, even under the best breeding practices and proactive care measures, puppies can still develop diseases.

For the Australian Shepherd breed, you should expect to see a health clearance from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia, and possibly elbow dysplasia, as well as a clearance from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF), certifying that the eyes are healthy. You can also confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site ( There is currently no test to detect epilepsy. Find more at the USASA United States Australian Shepherd Association and the CHIC website.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) conducts large canine research studies on diseases that affect purebred dogs. Their health program is the Canine Health Foundation (CHF). This foundation, in partnership with OFA, has a dog breed testing designation called the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). The results of these tests are maintained in a registry, and dogs that have all the required exams, including tests of the hips, elbows, and eyes, receive a CHIC number. Along with the breed-testing program, there is the CHIC DNA Repository. CHIC is trying to gather and store breed DNA samples for canine disease research. The goal is to facilitate future research aimed at reducing the incidence of inherited diseases in dogs. You can search the database to find out if a specific dog has information listed about it. More information about CHIC is available here:

To be accepted into the CHIC database, breeders must agree to have all test results published. This enables the reader to see both good and bad results of the testing. Obtaining a CHIC number does not imply that the dog received good, or even passing evaluation scores. The CHIC registration also does not signify as proof of the absence of disease, and all information must be read and evaluated. CHIC allows the information collected to be readily available to anyone with an inquiry.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA maintains an open registry with evaluations of hips, elbows, eyes, thyroid, cardio and other canine health issues. PennHIP ( is another registry that also evaluates dog’s hips.


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You are responsible for the welfare of your new puppy or dog. Please treat him or her with respect and love, and this will be reciprocated tenfold. Dogs have been human companions for thousands of years, and they are living beings complete with feelings, emotions and the need for attachment. Before bringing home a new dog or puppy, please determine if you are capable and willing to provide all that your new family member will need.

From the time you bring your pup home, positive dog training is a great start to introducing your new pack member to your household. Dogs have an amazing capacity to remember experiences, so please refrain from harsh training tactics that may intimidate your puppy and negatively affect personality or demeanor. When you train your new puppy, give him or her the respect they deserve and utilize all available positive reinforcements, and as a result your dog will amaze you with surprising abilities, traits, and characteristics that are buried within the genetic profile of their specific breed. I am an advocate for beginning with rewards based clicker training, followed by vocal and physical cues for your young dog to learn, and then obey.

Crate training your Australian Shepherd has positive benefits, and provides a safe place for your dog to nap or simply to be alone. In addition, crate training at a young age will help your dog accept confinement if he ever needs to be transported, boarded or hospitalized.

Proper, early, and ongoing socialization will help you and your Aussie throughout his or her lifetime. Expose your new puppy or dog to a wide variety of situations, people, and animals. This prevents shyness, aggressiveness, possessiveness, and many other potential behavioral problems, meanwhile supporting the bond between the two of you. Never leave young children unsupervised around dogs or puppies, and remember that situations of aggression may happen no matter how loving, gentle, and well trained a dog may be.

A routine care program is essential for any dog, and should always include basic hygienic practices. For the optimal health of your pet, scheduled care should include the care of the coat, nails and teeth. It is important to get instruction from your veterinarian for the proper cleaning method of the outer and inner ear. By all accounts, the Aussie is not high maintenance besides regular brushing and the occasional bath. They shed daily, and frequent brushing benefits the splendor of their coat, helps control household hair mess, and is an opportunity to practice handling. Twice annually, they heavily shed making room for a new coat of hair. Regular brushing additionally allows for handling practice and inspecting your dog for fleas, ticks, and other debris that might be captured in their coat.

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