- AKC recognized in 1991
- Lifespan: 13-15 years
- Size: medium
- Energy: high
- Recommended Crate Size: 42” dog crate*
Return to main Dog Crate Size Breed Chart.
The Australian Shepherd, also known as the Aussie, is a medium-size dog that was bred in the Western United States. Even though the name contains Australian, they were not originally bred in Australia. This dog is valued for their "trainability" and versatility as stock and herding dogs. They have intelligence, endurance, speed, and athleticism.
The American Kennel Club formally recognized the Australian Shepherd in 1991. These energetic dogs are known as purebred and considered a part of the herding category. This dog has a great amount of intelligence and does a great job as a police or rescue dog. You can also teach the Aussie to help you do chores such as picking up dirty laundry and bring it to you! His ancestry as a working dog indeed makes him as a loyal companion that is very protective to the family.
This Australian Shepherd is a lively and alert dog with a relatively shorter body. He is a medium size dog with a bob tail, pendant ears, and medium length coat. For top marks, the Aussie should have a deep chest and stand squarely. The top of the head has the same length as its muzzle.
The medium oval size eyes come in various colors such as amber, blue, and brown. The ears set high on top of the head in an erect triangular shape. The coat is medium length and also comes in various colors including red and black, tri-color, blue, or red merle. This breed can have wavy or straight hair, but typically has feathering on the back of the legs and boast a mane on its neck side.
It is recommended to provide feed formulated to medium–sized breeds. It is highly recommended to discuss your dog’s feed with your veterinarian or breeder to determine size and frequency of meals in order to ensure the health and lifespan. It is also important to provide fresh and clean water every day.
Aussie Shepherd sheds year-round and heavily so twice a year during seasonal changes. To control the shedding intensity and prevent mats forming on its coat; it is important to brush weekly all year with more frequency during the heavier shed periods.
This dog is considered a clean breed by nature; therefore, an occasional bath is a good choice when your pet is dirty or starts to emit odors. Regular checking on their ears, teeth, and ensure regular nail trimming as the part of grooming to promote his optimal health and appearance.
This dog indeed requires lots of physical exercise and activity since the Australian Shepherd is originally bred for working. They thrive on learning new activities and tasks. For specific exercises, you can take them for a walk or jog, or play games such as catch and fetch a Frisbee or other objects. A lack of sufficient exercise and activity will make this breed, as with most, bored and lead to more destructive behaviors.
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Pet Crate Size
Pet Crates Direct recommends 42” dog crates* for most adult Australian Shepherds.
* Links for crate sizes will bring you to the most appropriate Amazon page.
The Awesome Australian Shepherd
Australian Shepherds are often endearingly called “Aussies”. The medium-sized smart and athletic dogs are very popular as working ranch dogs and as companion dogs as well. They are quite energetic but are also easy to train and eager to please which makes them a barrel of fun and a great helping hand to have around the ranch.
A Little History on Australian Shepherds
Ironically, Aussies have little to do with Australia. They are actually native to the United States, bred to work on ranches in the West around 1840 during the Gold Rush era. Their heritage is thought to have gotten its roots from the Basques who hailed from Western Europe.
Basques were an indigenous ethnic group that mostly lived west of Pyrenees Country on the Bay of Biscay coast and sometimes in north-central Spain and south-west France. Because the Basques lived in Australia for a brief time before bringing the breed that Aussies were bred from over to America, the breed was dubbed Australian Shepherds.
Shepherds in general have been inner bred through the centuries. As a result, they are given to adapt to most any climate and landscape. Shepherds have been in Germany, Spain and most everywhere else there was work to be done so most dogs with Shepherd in them, including the Australian Shepherd, are very diverse.
When Aussies were bred as the breed we know them as today, they were commonly used to work with Spanish flocks in the wild and very dangerous territory of the Old West. Temperature were extremely cold and hot as well. They often worked the Sierra Nevada area on mountainous ranges and in Colorado and the surrounding areas too. The desert mountain area was brutal but Aussies were “built tough’. They not only herded their charge but chased predators away at the same time.
Australian Shepherds are close kin to English Shepherds. They are relatives to Border Collies as well. More distantly, they are also related to Shetland Sheepdogs and other types of Collies.
All in a Day’s Work
Aussies are awesome working dogs. They were born to work and bred for the cause as well. In fact, if you ever have trouble out of an Australian Sheepdog, chances are it is because he’s not working and needs to feel as if he’s doing his fair share.
There are a number of attributes the Aussie has that makes his such a great worker. First and foremost is his bounding energy. He is a workhorse.
They are highly intelligent, eager to please and very obedient too. As a working dog, Aussies are versatile and very trainable. They are experts at herding and make fabulous stock dogs. Since livestock can be very unruly at times, his agility and intelligence makes him a great breed for keeping them in line.
Sometimes an Australian Shepherd puppy is born with a bobbed tail but more often than not, their tail is fairly long and curled a bit. Often times they are cut, however. This originated to help prevent injury to his tail when working on the ranch.
Aussies have long strides which come in handy when working herds. His front and back legs actually cross over which gives him the appearance of on edge speed. He also has the instinct to pounce which is how he often avoids cattle kicks when herding. His extremely strong legs and hips allow him to jump high, sometimes up to four feet into the air.
And...That’s Not All
Not only do these characteristics make him a prize on the ranch or working farm, they make for a champion show dog too. Their agility is fabulous and they often compete in Frisbee events as well. They are also popular rodeo dogs.
Aussies make good show dogs and can do some pretty fancy tricks around the house too. With some patience and know-how, they can actually be trained to fetch the morning paper.
Able to weather any storm, Aussies make excellent search and rescue dogs. Their high stamina level and intelligence make them perfectly fit for most any event where they are needed to help out. They don’t have a problem with the cold and are pros on even the most rugged terrain. Aussies are great at tracking scents and work well with teams of people and dogs.
Aussies make good therapy dogs too. They are able to focus, mind their manners and obey orders. It is imperative, however, that they get their exercise if they are in a less active job.
Plenty of Personality
Aussie’s have a distinct temperament that stems back to his heritage as a working dog on the ranch. Determined, focused and serious, they are quite independent and can be downright stubborn at times. But, his saving grace is the fact he wants to please his owner and is intelligent enough to know what does and doesn’t make his owner happy.
Keeping an Australian Shepherd’s mind and body exercised is the key to him being an awesome family pet, on or off the ranch. Physical exercise isn’t enough. He is highly intelligent and has the need to be stimulated with brain games or some sort of learning experience most every day - at least thirty minutes of physical exercise at least once per day and as much mental exercise as you can toss his way.
It’s not unusual for Aussies to attempt to rule the household just as they rule the livestock. Especially if he is a family dog rather than a working dog, you will need to establish your role as the pack leader as soon as you get him. Still, he may try to herd the children or put you in your place but with consistent, loving guidance, he’ll catch on.
Australian Shepherds are ones who usually take a little time to warm up to a new human or animal. They size them up to see if they are “friend or foe”. It is important to teach socialization skills to your Aussie. Fear of strangers can easily lead to biting and other unwanted aggressive behaviors so be sure to nip that quirk in the bud when he is young.
When you do train your Aussie to get to know humans, you’ll have a very friendly pup. Still, being a bit aloof is in his nature as he is bred to lead and guard and will always be a bit wary of strangers. That’s a good thing though. Aussies are great guard dogs.
Problems in Paradise
Along with the capacity to be stubborn when challenged and unruly when not exercised and stimulated enough, Aussies have a few other quirks to watch for too.
They love to chase. It’s part of their nature. From balls and Frisbees to cattle gone astray, squirrels and the neighborhood cat, if it moves, Aussies will chase it. That includes cars and bikes too.
It is vital that you break this behavior immediately upon bringing your Aussie pup home or even if you get one that is older. Let him know it is not alright, anytime anywhere. Also give him plenty of opportunity to fill his need to chase by playing fetch with him and other constructive activities that are not of danger to him or other critters.
Training Your Aussie
Aussies are easy to train, in a sense. It is imperative for you to set some ground rules though. You will definitely need to establish the fact that you are the one making the rules. You are the leader of the pack in no uncertain terms.
Once your authority has been established, Aussies are bred to follow directions to the tee. Giving your dog directions to follow around the house will help him get used to the idea of full training sessions.
Although Australian Shepherds are bred to take orders, they are bred to give them too. That’s where things get tricky. They aren’t pushovers, that’s for sure. But, with persistence and patience, once they get the hang of training, they are the best students ever.
One suggestion for training the breed is to make training time fun and lively. Be sure to challenge him every turn of the way. Teaching him to do physical tricks that require energy and intelligence are the ultimate. You will be amazed at his capabilities.
Sizing the Australian Shepherd Up
The medium-sized Aussie is solid and limber. Weighing in around thirty to sixty pounds, they generally stand from seventeen to twenty-six inches tall. There are Miniature Australian Shepherds (Mini Aussies) and Toy Australian Shepherds (Toy Aussies) too. Minis are around fourteen to eighteen inches tall and Toy Aussies usually measure around ten to fourteen inches high. All three sizes are recognized by the American Stock Dog Registry.
Grooming and Such
The coat on an Aussie is medium in length and water resistant. It is long and wavy or curly. Although they do shed, mostly in the spring to ditch their winter coat, they don’t tend to do so all the year round.
Brushing weekly will help with shedding. You will also want to bath him when needed but not too often. Aussies are susceptible to dry skin and a dry coat. When you do bathe him, it is a good idea to use a gentle shampoo for sensitive skin.
Potential Health Risks
Australian Shepherds sometimes have blue eyes or one blue eye. This is due to genetics. The same merle allele gene responsible for the eye color and pale patches of coloring in some coats can lead to health issues too like visual and hearing abnormalities. This is mostly seen in puppies that inherit two copies of the culprit merle gene.
Collie eye anomaly, also known as CEA, is an eye condition that is not very common in the breed but can occur. Cataracts and other eye issue should be watched for too.
As with many breeds, canine hip dysplasia can be a problem. This occurs when the femur doesn’t fit properly within the hip sockets. If you notice limping or favoring of one side, it is a good idea to get him to a veterinarian clinic. Surgery is available if the condition is diagnosed. Elbow dysplasia is another variation of the condition that is somewhat common in the breed.
An Aussie named “Pockets” recently won the honor of being the oldest dog in history to win an AKC title. He was fifteen years and five weeks old. He won the Rally Novice award.
Due to the Aussies’ skills in performing stunts, he has been the star in a number of movies, including Disney’s “Run Appaloosa Run” and “Stub: The Greatest Cowdog in the West”. An Australian Shepherd was in the 1986 movie “Flight for the Navigator” and one was in the “Flash Forward” television series. In 2012, one starred in “Famous Five” and all the sequels too.
Vice President Mike Pence has a Blue Merle Aussie name Harley.
Is an Australian Shepherd Right for You?
A bounding ball of energy and a loving and devoted soul, the Australian Shepherd is a delight...when in the right hands and in the right environment. Otherwise, he can be a complete nightmare wreaking havoc on every ounce of your being,
If your or your family have time and energy to spare to make sure your Aussie gets physical and mental exercise every day, you may be a prime candidate for the breed. He is not a dog to just be left in the house or even just pinned up in a backyard fence. He is very social and active.
If you have young children, when taught, he will be the best guardian of them ever. You can rest assured nothing or no one will harm them. But, you must instill this in him, preferable from the time he is a puppy.
Excessive barking can be a problem too. Because he was born to work on a ranch where barking to direct herds is necessary and also for the purpose of being located by his owner, Aussies are quite vocal. If you have neighbors, you will certainly need to quiet him down by training him to be quiet on command.
Aussies love to defend their property. Please note that they oftentimes consider their owners and their family to be their property so...you will need to help him clarify this. You don’t want him nipping at the mailman or the neighbor kids.
With the proper setting and with someone who is willing and able to take charge, the Australian Shepherd just might be the perfect dog for you and your family.