Answers to seven questions about the Australian Shepherd.
There’s just something special about Australian Shepherds.
Maybe it’s their incredible intelligence, or maybe it’s those loving eyes, or maybe it’s their endearing dispositions, or maybe it’s all of those things—and more—packed into an amazing and capable canine package.
My childhood dog was an Australian Shepherd named Tillie, and she was everything that a family dog should be. She was patient, loyal, trustworthy, and absolutely devoted to our family. She loved to play and had seemingly limitless energy—yet she could relax and enjoy herself when playtime ended. She was beautiful, athletic, and oh-so-smart, and even now, years later, her legacy lives on in family stories and shared memories.
As anyone who has ever known an Australian Shepherd will eagerly tell you, the breed has a way of capturing your heart. Anyone looking for a superlative farm dog need look no further than the incomparable Aussie.
Here are answers to seven common questions about the breed.
Once, over a century ago, ranchers in the western United States were extremely impressed by the talented and hardworking farm dogs used by Basque shepherds who were hired—often from sheep ranches in Australia —to tend sheep. Over time, these American ranchers set out to develop a breed inspired by those dogs, and that breed is now known as the Australian Shepherd.
Aussies are believed to descend from several breeds, including the Pyrenean Shepherd, the Collie, and the Border Collie, and the result is a trustworthy, hardworking family farm dog.
Maybe you’ve known eye-catching black Aussies or are familiar with the striking blue merle coloring, but Aussies are also found in red merle and red as well. Any of these four colors can also be accompanied by white markings and tan (copper) points, which result in beautiful coat-color combinations.
Absolutely! The American Kennel Club (AKC) currently recognizes 193 dog breeds, and the Australian Shepherd consistently maintains a solid place in the top 20 breeds. It was the 17th most popular breed in 2017. The breed has only been recognized by the AKC since the early 1990s, but its popularity has soared.
As a member of the AKC Herding Group, it comes as no surprise that the Aussie is a capable herding dog with immense skill and instinct.
But the versatile Aussie can easily put his talents to use in a variety of other activities, too. In addition to aptly handling the many tasks of a farm dog, Australian Shepherds can also excel in obedience and agility.
They’re sometimes used as therapy dogs, service dogs, and police dogs, too. They can also make wonderful family pets.
Never underestimate the intelligence of an Aussie. The Official Standard for the breed, as adopted by the AKC, has this to say: “The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent working dog of strong herding and guarding instincts. He is a loyal companion and has the stamina to work all day.” Aussies are incredibly smart; quick to learn new things and immensely clever.
Female Australian Shepherds typically range between 40 and 55 pounds, and stand 18 to 21 inches tall. Males are usually larger, weighing in at 50 to 65 pounds and standing 20 to 23 inches tall.
Despite all of their incredible characteristics and attributes, the Aussie isn’t for everybody. Aussies need to channel their energy and intelligence into positive areas, and if left to their own devices, they may invent their own “jobs” which isn’t always a good thing. Families with limited free time or limited space may want to look for a dog breed that doesn’t require quite as much interaction.
But if you have space on your farm and in your heart to fit an Aussie into your life, you’ll soon discover what countless other dog owners already know: that the Australian Shepherd is a devoted breed with spirit and enthusiasm.