It an Aussie the right dog for you?
Australian Shepherd Brief History
The Australian Shepherd was originally developed in the Basque region between Spain and France where it was known as the Basque shepherd. Its ancestors were most likely dogs native to the Pyrenees Mountains. The French monks who bred them probably brought a few with them when they settled in Australia, hence the name “Australian” shepherd.
The American Kennel Club first recognized the Australian Shepherd in 1991.
The breed is also called by several other names including “Aussie”, “Aussiedoodle”, “Ausie” and “Oz”.
Australian Shepherd Temperament
The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent, quick learner with strong herding instincts. They are easy to train but can also be quite stubborn at times.
Since the early days of the breed, they have been bred for their ability to handle large herds of sheep. This means they are inclined towards herding children and other pets in addition to actual herding of livestock!
The Australian Shepherd is often playful and energetic, but it also makes a good watchdog and protector. The breed’s loyalty comes from its strong guardian instincts which can be both an advantage or disadvantage-depending on the situation at hand.
Australian Shepherds are very social dogs that USUALLY get along well with children (and other pets) and other dogs.
Australian Shepherds are not frequently mentioned as a breed for families with SMALL children or first-time dog owners because of their energy levels, high intelligence and tendency to herd.
Australian Shepherd Exercise and Energy Levels
Australian Shepherds have a very high energy level and need to be exercised daily or they can become destructive. The breed is also well-known for its agility, so owners should consider agility training if the dog seems restless. Owners who are not willing or able to provide lots of exercise will find it difficult to manage an Australian Shepherd because this breed is not happy in a kennel setting.
Australian Shepherds are best suited to an active family or individual who enjoys plenty of outdoor activities. The breed needs daily walks, lots of playtime, opportunities to run free and frequent visits to the dog park. If you cannot give this breed enough attention or exercise, or if you want a calmer breed, the Australian Shepherd may not be the right dog for you.
The Australian Shepherd Training and Intelligence
The Australian Shepherd Dog Breed is high energy and intelligent, which makes for a challenging combination when it comes to training. Despite these challenges, the breed is very trainable if you are experienced in dog training.
An Australian Shepherd that does not receive enough exercise or mental stimulation can become naughty and even aggressive. This trait may be seen more often in certain lines.
Australian Shepherds are often too smart for their own good and may figure out they can limit the amount of work you expect from them.
The breed’s tendency to herd means it is very inclined towards obedience training, but owners should always remain firm because this breed does not respond well to harsh training methods.
Adult Australian Shepherds are often more obedient than younger dogs because they have fewer distractions to interfere with training. However, Australian Shepherds can sometimes become “bored” with repetitive training routines and refuse to cooperate.
General Training Tips for the Australian Shepherd
- Provide enough exercise to keep your dog happy, healthy and occupied.
- Increase the intensity of your next training session if your dog shows any signs of boredom.
- Be firm and consistent with commands, but avoid harsh treatment.
- Keep training sessions short and fun for both of you.
- Keep a daily journal to track progress and watch for small victories that may lead towards major ones in the future.
- Reward your dog generously for obeying commands.
- Train your Australian Shepherd with a positive reinforcement method.
- Never force your Australian Shepherd to do anything it does not want to do, this breed takes great pleasure in tricking you into giving it what it wants!
The Australian Shepherd Health and Care
The Australian Shepherd Dog Breed is generally healthy, but some lines may suffer from certain health conditions.
- The breed can sometimes develop hip and elbow dysplasia as well as eye problems such as cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). Hip and elbow scores should always be taken prior to breeding. Breeders who follow the recommended breeding routine can eliminate most health problems from their lines.
- Check the hips and elbows of both parents before breeding to decrease the risk of hip or elbow dysplasia.
- Have eye exams performed by a veterinarian on both parents to check for signs of cataracts or PRA. Take care to preserve your Australian Shepherd’s vision by keeping its eyes clean and free of irritants.
- Provide your Australian Shepherd with plenty of mental stimulation to keep it happy, healthy and occupied.
The Australian Shepherd Grooming
An Australian Shepard has a double coat that requires brushing at least once per week to remove tangles or mats. The undercoat changes twice yearly, adding an additional layer of grooming.
Brush your Australian Shepherd’s teeth at least twice per week to remove tartar buildup and the risk of gum disease. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease.
- Brush your dog’s coat at least once a week, more often during times when his undercoat is changing.
- Use a curry brush or slicker brush to loosen mats and tangles.
- Gently comb through your dog’s coat to remove any remaining mats after you have brushed him.
- Bath your Australian Shepherd regularly, as needed. Brush his teeth regularly for good oral hygiene and fresh breath.