Australian Shepherd Breed Information
|Average height||48-58 cm|
|Average weight||18-29 kg|
|Average lifespan||Over 10 years|
|Minimum exercise (per day)||2 hours|
|Minimum cost (per month)||£65|
Australian Shepherds are high energy dogs who are at their happiest when being active. Despite their name, they actually originated in Spain and were later developed in America where they became the Australian Shepherds we know today.
Australian Shepherds, or ‘Aussies’, are lively and clever dogs. They do really well with experienced owners in active households where there is always something to keep their keen minds occupied.
Common health problems in Australian Shepherds
Australian Shepherds are loyal and loving dogs who enjoy being out and about with their owner, but sadly like most purebred dogs they can be prone to certain health conditions.
If you are thinking of buying an Australian Shepherd puppy, make sure the parents of your puppy have had the relevant health screening to reduce the chances of your puppy being affected by certain conditions. We’d recommend looking for a Kennel Club Assured Breeder as they meet extra requirements which will benefit your puppy’s health.
Some of the conditions Australian Shepherds may develop include:
- Hip dysplasia – where the hip joint doesn’t fit together perfectly, which will eventually lead to arthritis. Before breeding, dogs should be screened by x-rays through the BVA/Kennel Club Hip Dysplasia Scheme.
- Elbow dysplasia – where the elbow joint doesn’t fit together perfectly, which will eventually lead to arthritis. Before breeding, dogs should be screened by x-rays through the BVA/KC Elbow Dysplasia Scheme.
- Collie eye anomaly – an abnormality in the back of the eye. There is currently testing available for this.
- Certain eye conditions such as inherited eye conditions (including cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy) which can lead to blindness. There is screening available for certain conditions.
- Cobalamin malabsorption (Vitamin B12 malabsorption) – a genetic condition where vitamin B12 cannot be absorbed in the gut, leading to poor growth, weakness and blood problems. There is screening for this.
- Multi drug sensitivity – an inherited condition that makes affected dogs particularly sensitive to certain drugs.
If you want to minimise the risk of your dog getting problems, you can read our advice on choosing a pedigree dog.
Caring for your Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherds are always on the go and love to be involved in everything their owner is getting up to. They are loyal and can be protective. Aussies are really clever dogs and so can be easy to train for owners with a lot of experience.
Aussies suit very active households where there’s lots going on all the time. If they get bored, they can get into all kinds of mischief around the home (which usually involves a lot of chewing!). They need to be in a family where they can get lots of mental and physical exercise and ideally suit experienced owners who are familiar with their needs.
Australian Shepherds and barking
Your Australian Shepherd is likely to make some noise and this will be down to the individual dog, their personality and training. They do like the sound of their own voices so it’s important to start training early – then they are more likely to only bark when there are strangers around. The best way to prevent your dog from barking for no reason is to make sure they’re getting plenty of exercise and mental stimulation throughout the day. We’d recommend never leaving your Aussie for longer than four hours, but even this may be too much and they can get bored very quickly! If you’re having a problem with excessive noise we recommend seeking the advice of an accredited behaviourist.
Training and socialisation
Australian Shepherds are clever dogs who need positive, reward-based training from a young age. While they respond well to training and are quick learners, Aussies can be a little challenging at times because they like to be on the go and always kept active. For this reason, we’d only recommend an Australian Shepherd if you are familiar with their needs and have experience with the breed. If you are a first-time owner or need some extra help with training, we’d recommend taking them to accredited training classes.
It’s important to socialise your Australian Shepherd from a young age with lots of different people, dogs and experiences. They are known for being calm dogs despite their high energy but early socialisation will help them to grow into confident adults.
Because Australian Shepherds form close ties with their owners, they can suffer with separation anxiety if left alone. Ideally, Aussies need someone at home with them all day because they need to be kept active. An Aussie left to their own devices could develop bad habits like barking or chewing things around the home.
Aussies have energy to spare which is why we’d only recommend having one if you’re on the go just as much as they are. They need constant attention and activity, so aren’t the best choice if you’re looking for a quiet lap dog!
Your Australian Shepherd will need a minimum of two hours exercise every day, but the more you can give them the better. This should be split into two fairly long walks, with plenty of time to stop and have a sniff, along with the chance to run around off-lead in a secure area. Because of all their energy, it’s important your Aussie gets lots of time to run and burn off steam!
On top of this, your Aussie will need plenty of things to keep their mind and body active throughout the day. Puzzle games and interesting training sessions are a great way to keep them occupied! They are also known for doing really well at canine sports like flyball and agility so take a look in your local area for clubs.
The herding instinct is strong with Aussies, so you’ll need to keep them on the lead when walking out in the countryside particularly around livestock.
Australian Shepherds have medium length fur, so you’ll need to give them a brush a few times a week to keep it in good condition particularly around their trousers (longer hair around their back legs and tail). Remember to give them an extra brush after walks to make sure there are no tangles or mats in their fur.
Your Aussie will shed throughout the year, but regular brushing and hoovering should help with this. You may find they shed more in the spring and autumn so you might need to brush them daily. Check out our blog for advice on staying on top of shedding around the home.
Australian Shepherds and children
Aussies can make really good family pets in the right household. However, because of their strong herding instinct, they can get the urge to herd children in the home (which may involve gently bumping into them). For this reason, we wouldn’t recommend an Australian Shepherd if you have smaller children as they may accidentally knock them over.
Remember to make sure you can recognise your dog’s body language so you can put a stop to any potentially stressful situations before they escalate. Always supervise your dog with children and vulnerable adults.
Australian Shepherds and other pets
As long as your Australian Shepherd has been socialised with other dogs from a young age they should be fine with other dogs.
Aussies are known to get on well with any cats or other pets they have grown up with, however they may be tempted to herd them at times. Always supervise your dog with other pets.
Your vet will be able to tell you how much your Australian Shepherd should be eating. You should feed them a good quality, commercially available, complete dog food. We usually recommend splitting their daily allowance into two meals. If you give your dog the occasional treat or use treats for training, remember to take this into account and reduce their daily allowance. Treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of their daily calorie intake as this can unbalance their diet.
Try to feed your dog at similar times every day as they like routine. Remember to leave a gap between eating and exercising.
The cost of owning an Australian Shepherd
You can expect your Australian Shepherd to cost you a minimum of £65 per month after purchase and set-up costs and over £11,000 across their lifetime .
Costs you’ll need to think about include:
Adopting an adult Australian Shepherd from a rescue centre may be a more cost-effective option, with the added advantage of giving a home to a pet without one – check if the rehoming centre you’re looking at asks for a donation for rehoming.
If instead you’re buying an Australian Shepherd puppy from a breeder, you’ll need to factor in this cost. Beware unusually cheap puppies as they could come from a puppy farm. If you’d like to buy a pedigree puppy, we recommend looking for a Kennel Club Assured breeder. These breeders must do extra health tests and meet higher standards.
- Puppy vaccines – if you rescue a dog, reputable centres will often vaccinate them for you. Remember that ongoing booster vaccinations will be needed to continue their immunity.
- Neutering – you should usually arrange for your dog to be neutered at around six months old, though your vet will be able to advise you exactly when is best. Check prices at your local practice as these will depend on your vet and where you live. Some rescue centres will neuter any dogs they rehome, saving you this cost.
- Equipment – including a collar and tags, lead, harness, dog beds, dog bowls, pet-safe toothpaste and toothbrushes, grooming brushes and toys. Keep in mind that all these will need to be replaced with wear or damage or if your dog outgrows or damages them!
- Preventive healthcare – budget for routine vet visits to help stop your dog getting ill and catch any problems early. They need annual check-ups, vaccinations and regular flea and worming treatments. Check if your vet offers a health care plan as this can help spread the cost throughout the year.
- Vet bills* or pet insurance – if you don’t have pet insurance and your dog needs veterinary treatment for an injury or illness, costs can rapidly mount up. Check what’s covered and what isn’t when comparing policies.
- Accessories – including lots of poo bags, replacing worn toys and grooming accessories, buying doggy toothpaste and any other extras they might need.
- Training – basic training is very important and dogs can benefit from formal classes. Some dogs may have, or develop, behavioural problems which might need professional management.
- Boarding – you may also need to budget for boarding or dog sitting costs if you are planning to go away from home on holiday.
- Dog walkers/day-care – you might consider a professional dog walker to keep your dog happy and healthy if you’re unable to get out with your dog enough yourself, or to look after them during the day if you need to be out for more than four hours.
* It’s always better to plan ahead and budget or get pet insurance in case your pet gets injured or unwell. If you are having difficulty with veterinary costs, you can check if you are eligible for treatment at PDSA here.
If you’re considering pet insurance, our PDSA Pet Insurance could be a great option for you and it’s quick and easy to get a quote online.
- Despite their name, Australian Shepherds were thought to have been developed from a breed of Spanish shepherd dogs brought to America.
- Australian Shepherds often have two different coloured eyes, some even having two colours in one eye!
- Some Aussies are born with naturally shorter tails – believed to be down to selective breeding.
- Because they are so clever and can be easy to train, Aussies are often used as different types of service dogs across the world, most notably search and rescue dogs.
Getting an Australian Shepherd
Do plenty of research before getting an Australian Shepherd. These loving and loyal dogs are always on the go and need an owner committed to giving them all the exercise and mental stimulation they need. Owning an Aussie can be really hard work, but if you have the time they can make excellent companions for adventurous owners.
There are plenty of rescue centres across the country where you may find an Australian Shepherd. Breed-specific rescues that specialise in Australian Shepherds are also out there. You’ll need to ask any rescue centre about the dog’s history to make sure they will be comfortable in your home. Good rescue centres should let you know of any health and behaviour problems.
If you buy from a breeder, make sure your puppy will be well socialised and have all necessary screening tests, health checks and vaccinations. It’s really important that Australian Shepherd puppies from a breeder get the right early socialisation so always ask the breeder about how they go about this. We recommend looking for a Kennel Club Assured breeder as they meet higher standards. We’ve put together some advice to help you find a good breeder.