Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Australian Shepherd
Average Cost to keep/care for a Australian Shepherd
You'd be forgiven for thinking an Australian Shepherd is native to Australia when in fact the breed hails from the Basque region of Spain. It was from here that these dogs found their way over to America where careful selective breeding produced the dogs we see today. In the States, the Aussie or Little Blue Dog as they are often called, remains among the most popular choices of working dogs and family pets.
Aussies have also gained popularity as companion dogs and family pets in other parts of the world which is understandable thanks to their intelligence and quick natures. With this said, the Aussie is not the best choice for first-time dog owners because they are high-energy characters that need to be correctly trained and then kept busy or they can start to show a more dominant and unruly side of their nature making them harder to manage and handle.
As previously mentioned, the Australian Shepherd originates from Spain where they were used as working dogs by Basque shepherds. They were taken over to the Australia by shepherds who emigrated there at the end of the nineteenth century. These "blue dogs" were then taken to the Americas where they were given the name Australian Shepherds.
Their ancestry is a bit of a mystery, but the dogs bought over to Australia from Spain were no doubt crossed with Australian working dogs. At the time, they earned themselves the reputation for being devoted dogs that boasted a higher than average intelligence in the working environment and very capable of doing their job without the need for the shepherd to be around.
The breed only arrived in the UK in the early 1980s, but over the years these attractive dogs have gained popularity both as working dogs, family pets and companion dogs. Over more recent times, they have been trained as Guide Dogs for the Blind, Search and Rescue dogs as well as being trained to help handicapped people. A lot of Aussies are used as therapy dogs in nursing homes and hospitals which goes to show just how versatile and intelligent they are.
Height at the withers: Males 51 - 58 cm, Females 46 - 53 cm
Average weight: Males 23 - 29 kg, Females 14 - 20 kg
The Australian Shepherd is a well-proportioned and nicely balanced dog that boasts being slightly longer than they are tall. They are medium in size and well-muscled with a keen and alert look. There is a distinct difference in female and male dogs with both of them having well defined physical traits.
Their heads are clean cut and well-proportioned in relation to their body. Heads are slightly rounded and boast a well-defined stop. Their eyes are almond shaped, brown, blue or amber in colour with flecks or marbling in them depending on a dog’s coat colour.
Ears are triangular in shape with slightly rounded tips and set high on a dog's head. Dogs hold their ears either upright or semi-erect and they often drop forwards or to one side when dogs are working or alert. These dogs boast a strong jaw line with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. Their necks are moderately long and dogs hold them slightly arched which adds to their proud, alert look.
Their forequarters are muscular with long, flat, well-laid back shoulder blades and nice strong, straight legs. Their body is strong and muscular with a level topline and deep chest. Ribs are well sprung and loins broad and strong looking with a moderately sloping croup.
Their hindquarters are nicely proportioned in relation to their rest of their body and they boast strong looking back legs. Feet are oval in shape and compact with nicely arched toes and well-padded pads. Their tails are moderate in length with a slight amount of feathering. Dogs can be born with a naturally bobbed tail which is allowed as a breed standard.
When it comes to their coat, the Australian Shepherd boasts one that is medium in length which can be either slightly wavy or straight. Their coats are extremely weather-resistant all thanks to a dense undercoat. The hair on their head, front legs, ears and lower legs is short with the back of their legs boasting a moderate amount of feathering. Males have more of a mane than their female counterparts.
When it comes to coat colours, the Australian Shepherd can be any of the following:
All of the above colours can have or not have tan points, but any white must not be too dominant a colour on a dog's head. Other areas where white markings are allowed in a dog's coat are as follows:
The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent dog bred to work and as such their instinct to herd, guard and protect remains strong even in a home environment. They boast a tremendous amount of energy and stamina which means they are not the best choice for people who lead more sedentary lives. However, for people who spend most of their day outdoors, the Australian Shepherd would fit in well with their life style. These are extremely high energy dogs that need to be kept busy or boredom would soon set in which can lead to Aussies developing some serious behavioural issues.
They are known for their loyal and attentive natures and are always ready to turn on a sixpence when they need to which is why they are so highly prized as working and herding dogs. They are also known for their calm and even dispositions although like many other herding dogs, the Australian Shepherd can be reserved when they first meet anyone. It takes them a while to get to know strangers which is something that’s very typical of this type of dog.
Their training and socialisation needs to start early in a dog's life for them to grow up to be obedient, well-rounded characters. Aussies can be quite demanding which in short means they don't like to be left to their own devices even for short lengths of time. Once they have formed a bond with an owner, they will follow them wherever they go and this includes from room to room, not liking to be away from the person they have formed a strong bond with.
They are also known to be extremely territorial and will protect things in their environment which can at times get out of control if a dog is not trained correctly from the word go. This is another reason why Aussies are not the best choice for first time owners who may not have enough experience on how to handle and manage these dogs. However, for people who are used to handling such intelligent, high-energy dogs, the Aussie is highly trainable because they thrive on pleasing their owners. These dogs need to know their place in the pack and who is alpha dog in a household.
Aussies excel at all sorts of canine sporting activities which includes things like Flyball, trailing and agility all of which are activities they really enjoy taking part in. However, thanks to their calm and loyal natures, these dogs are often used as assistance dogs for the disabled and are often valued members of search and rescue teams.
The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent dog, but not the best choice for first time owners because they need to be correctly trained and handled from a young age to ensure they know their place in a pack. If Aussies are not given the right sort of direction, they can quickly become unruly, dominant and hard to manage dogs.
If this happens, it's important to seek help because the longer a dog displays this type of behaviour, the harder and longer it can be to correct. Enrolling a dog into training class is one solution that tends to work well because there's nothing Aussies like more than when they have something to do. With the right training and handling, the Aussie is a wonderful, loyal and obedient dog that is a pleasure to be around and own.
Aussies although high-energy dogs, do make good family pets. However, their strong urge to herd anything that moves or which takes their fancy means they can start herding the kids and any other pets that share their environment. With this said, it's always a good idea to keep an eye on children and other pets when they are around an Aussie to make sure things stay friendly and calm.
If Aussies grow up with other pets in a household, they generally get on well with them and this includes family cats. However, when introducing an Australian Shepherd to new pets and other dogs, this needs to be slowly and carefully to make sure their first encounter goes smoothly.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of an Australian Shepherd Dog is between 13 to 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
With this said, like many other pure breeds, the Aussie is known to suffer from certain hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you have decided to share your home with one of these high energy, intelligent dogs. The health issues most commonly seen in the breed include the following:
As with any other breed, Australian Shepherds need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, they need to be fed good quality well-balanced diet making sure it is one that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Having moderately long coats, the Aussie needs to be groomed at least once a week to prevent any mats and tangles forming and to keep their skin in good condition. Like other dogs, they shed more during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is usually necessary to keep on top of things.
When it comes to bathing, Aussies only need to be bathed a couple of times a year or when it is really necessary. It's important to use a dog specific shampoo or it could trigger a skin allergy flaring up. Over-bathing a dog can have a negative impact on the condition of their skin and coats, stripping all the natural oils out which can lead to dry and flaky skin and once this happens, it can result in sore developing which make a dog’s life very uncomfortable and it opens the door to an infection flaring up.
Aussies are high energy dogs that need to be given a ton of exercise every day. They also need lots of mental stimulation on a daily basis for them to be truly happy, well-rounded characters. The saying a "tired dog is a happy dog", is never truer than when talking about an Australian Shepherd. In short, these dogs are never happier than when they are given a "job" to do and would be extremely unhappy dogs if they are left to their own devices for long periods of time.
Australian Shepherds are renowned for their herding abilities and therefore they excel at canine sporting activities like competitive obedience, agility and Flyball to name but three. When these dogs are not given the right amount of daily exercise it can result in them becoming destructive around the house and they also turn into nervous characters with some dogs becoming unstable too. The Australian Shepherd is definitely not a good choice for first time owners or for people who lead more sedentary lives for these reasons.
Australian Shepherds are not known to the fussy of finicky eaters. However, this does not mean they can be fed a lower quality diet. They are high energy characters that like to be kept busy and as such they really do benefit from being fed a home-made natural diet that contains the right levels of proteins and other valuable nutrients this dog needs to remain healthy.
If you get an Aussie puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same type of puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets in the process and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change their diet again.
If you are looking to buy an Australian Shepherd Dog, you would need to be prepared to pay anything from £500 to over £900 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Australian Shepherd Dog in northern England would be £19.01 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £40.81 a month (quote as of March 2016). When insurance companies calculate pet insurance, they factor in a few things and this includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and breed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £40 - £60 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with an Aussie and this includes their initial vaccinations, their boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their annual health check visits, all of which could quickly add up to well over a £1000 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for an Australian Shepherd would be between £90 to £120 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree Aussie puppy.
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