Australian Shepherd Dog Breed: What You Need To Know

Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd is an easily recognizable dog with its beautiful face and its very puppy-like behavior. Some might know this dog as a blue heeler, which is one of the names that it is commonly referred. Typically used as a dog herding dog, this animal is highly intelligent and able to be trained for any number of activities. It’s a very hard-working dog with a keen sense of right and wrong, what to do and how to do it the best way. It’s very patient and exceptionally in-tune with its surroundings. The Australian Shepherd loves a job, but it also loves the people it calls family and is known for being a great dog for families with kids. There is much to know about this particular breed before anyone takes one home. We recommend all potential Australian Shepherd owners take the time to get to know the breed before bringing one home.

Breed History

The Australian Shepherd is actually not an Australian dog, which is a surprise to many. In fact, the dog was actually bred somewhere in the mountains between France and Spain, and it was given its name for reasons unknown. The dog was bred to work ranches, helping farmers herd cattle and sheep so that the job was easier. There is a little bit of a discrepancy s to how the breed was formed, but it’s believed that someone at some point bred historical Spanish dogs to create the breed and it worked out for the best. The breed came from its mountain beginnings to both America and Australia to work farms, and it’s become one of the most popular dogs in the world over the course of the past century.

Personality and Temperament

The Australian Shepherd is a dream dog. It’s laid-back, very loyal and very protective. It can be playful and have a lot of fun, and it loves kids as much as it loves having a job to do. Because it is a breed that was originally bred to herd, you will never have to worry about your kids getting out of hand with his dog present; he loves to keep them all together and ‘herd’ them while playing. Australian Shepherds make wonderful watchdogs because they are so naturally protective, and they love an active child. They’re very smart. Their impressive intelligence makes them a breeze to train, and that’s why they’re so often used in police and military work.

A non-aggressive breed, the Australian Shepherd does become bored. It is a working dog. It needs something to do at all times, or it will become destructive. Either give this dog a job to do, take it outside and play with it or risk the dog finding something to do on his or her own; and it might be destructive.

Lifestyle and Size

The Australian Shepherd is not a large dog. It typically stands anywhere from 18 to 23 inches and weighs 40 to 65 pounds. Males tend to be the taller and heavier gender, which is often a simple way to tell whether or not an Australian Shepherd is male or female. This breed is beautiful and gentle, but it’s too smart to lie around the house all day long. Not a breed that does well in a small home or apartment, it’s a better idea to consider an Australian Shepherd only if you have plenty of space, a yard and time to make sure this dog has the kind of exercise that it needs.

Australian Shepherds do not like to be ignored. They want your attention. They want a job, and they want to be outside with a human playing a game. They need ample exercise and can become sick, unhealthy and destructive when they are confined too often. Vigorous exercise is required to keep this dog active, healthy and happy. It’s happiest with a job, so it makes a great pet on a farm.

If you do plan on making an Australian Shepherd a part of your family, you might want to do so simply because this dog lives a long time. The average life expectancy for the breed is about 15 years, which is great. However, before you bring home an Australian Shepherd, know that it’s a good idea to get yours fixed unless you want to find homes for as many as 9 puppies at a time.

Health and Grooming

Despite the length of the Australian Shepherd’s hair, it’s a dog that doesn’t need nearly as much grooming as people assume. It is very easy to care for with occasional brushing. This is not, however, a breed that can be bathed all that often. It can irritate the skin and make the dog itch, so baths are only a good idea when they are absolutely necessary.

Another consideration to make is that Australian Shepherds are prone to several health issues if not properly bred. For example, merle to merle breeding can result in deaf and blind puppies. Natural bobtail to natural bobtail breeding is known to produce puppies with spinal defects that can cause loss of life rather early. It’s imperative that you speak to any breeder and demand to see papers on the parents to ensure that there is no genetic issue to worry about when choosing an Australian Shepherd to call your own.

Other health issues are kind of extensive; this is not one of the healthier breeds. However, this is not a guarantee that your Australian Shepherd will suffer from any of this. It is a good idea, though, to ensure you are prepared for the health concerns that do often present in this particular breed.

  1. Cataracts
  2. Distichiasis
  3. PDA
  4. PPM
  5. Epilepsy
  6. Lumbar sacral syndrome
  7. Pelger-Huet syndrome
  8. Nasal solar dermatitis
  9. Iris coloboma
  10. Hip dyspasia

It’s also important to note that the Australian Shepherd breed as a whole is very sensitive to ivermectin, which is a heartworm preventative. Talk to your dog’s vet about a different type of medication to give to the dog, or about giving it to the dog in smaller doses to prevent issues with your dog’s health.

Photo by Getty Images

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