Complete Guide To Australian Shepherds: Care, Grooming, Feeding, and More

The Australian Shepherd is an intelligent, high-spirited workaholic with an even temperament and boundless energy. European-bred from the world’s top herding stock, this American-refined dog with the down under name is a faithful partner in work and play.

How Big Do Australian Shepherds Get?

Australian Shepherds are medium-to-large dogs weighing 45–65 pounds. Like Collies, they’re longer than they are tall, but with a stocky build similar to the Bernese Mountain Dog with which they’re oft-confused. Almond-shaped eyes may be brown, blue, or amber with multicolored marbling and sparkling flecks.

What Are The Coat Colors Possible In An Australian Shepherd?

A generous mane and feathered hindquarters make the Aussie’s medium coat seem longer than it is. Hair is coarse and may be smooth or gently waved. Colors include:

• Black
• Blue Merle
• Red
• Red Merle

Tan points and white markings are common. White splashes, dilute and piebald patterns don’t diminish a dog’s value as a family pet or herder but may disqualify it from the show ring.

What Kind Of Personality Do Australian Shepherds Have?

Dedicated and kid-friendly, Australian Shepherds form lifelong bonds with their social group — they thrive on companionship and are able protectors. Eager to please, they enjoy travel and get along with other pets. Perceptive and obedient, they’re easily frustrated when bored, so early training is recommended to keep their energy in check.

At least an hour of exercise daily and room to run will keep them healthy and stimulated — they’re country dogs at heart. Games that emphasize their herding skills are particularly constructive outlets for their enthusiasm.

What Are The Grooming Requirements For An Australian Shepherd?

Australian Shepherds have waterproof double coats — a short insulating layer near the skin that keeps them dry and comfortable outdoors plus a thick top coat. They’re prolific shedders, especially seasonally, so removing dead hair is the key to keeping your floors clean. It’s a great job for older kids.

Weekly grooming with a slicker brush removes tangles and debris from the top coat and thins the downy layer. Increase grooming as needed to control heavy shedding in the spring and fall. A steel comb makes quick work of mats.

Aussie’s skin tends to be neutral. It’s neither oily nor dry, so an occasional bath is all they need unless their coat is clearly soiled. Activity tends to keep their nails short, but running on grass isn’t as effective as walking on asphalt pavement, so a monthly trim keeps them at a safe length.

Floppy ears that obstruct airflow to the ear canal can cause warm, dark, moist conditions that lead to bacterial and yeast infections. Clean their ears every few weeks with a pH-balanced cleansing solution to dry excess wax and control musky odors.

What Is The Best Dog Food For Australian Shepherds?

Because of the massive amounts of activity that Australian Shepherds generally put themselves though, they are a breed that needs the most calorically dense food you can find. However, that doesn’t always mean that it should be the most expensive.

One strategy for feeding a highly caloric-dense food is to simply keep your dog on the same puppy food it was raised on. That might be the most economical decision on which dog food to choose. Certainly the easiest.

Below are three diets that I’ve been told by my Aussie owners helped their dog. None of them are even close to being super expensive and all three have had a great deal of research behind them to prove their quality.

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

How Long Do Australian Shepherds Live?

Based on information provided by the American Kennel Club (AKC), Aussies are expected to live between 12-15 years.

What Health Conditions Can Australian Shepherds Have?

Although they are typically a very healthy breed, some of the health conditions that I associate with a higher risk in Aussies include:

  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Elbow Dysplasia

For a more detailed breakdown of these health conditions, please see the article I wrote here going into more depth about maintaining the health of Australian Shepherds.

Where To Find Out More About Australian Shepherds:

These sites are also a great place to start looking for a reputable breeder.

Interesting Facts about Australian Shepherds

Every breed has a unique background. Here are some surprising facts about Australian Shepherds.

• They’re Not From Down Under

Australian Shepherds are descended from Pyrenean Shepherds, the herding dog of choice among the Basque peoples of Europe. After a short stint in Australia, they were brought to California where the breed was further developed.

One in Five Aussies are Born with Bobtails

Most Australian Shepherds have their tails docked shortly after birth. The breed standard calls for a length of four inches or less. But 20 percent of Aussies are born with a naturally bobbed tail, a phenomenon caused by an incomplete dominant gene.

• Their Claim to Fame is the Rodeo

Australian Shepherds are among ranchers’ favorite herders but not just for their prowess in the pasture. The athletic Aussie rose to stardom in rodeos, entertaining crowds with their agility and high-flying stunts.

Australian Shepherds Can Have Two Different Colored Eyes

The Australian Shepherd is one of a handful of breeds that frequently have different colored eyes. Called heterochromia, it’s a result of irregular melanin distribution and is usually an inherited characteristic.

• Aussies are Versatile Workers

Aussies were bred to herd, but they do many jobs well. Their intelligence and focus makes them top candidates for service dog training and search and rescue tasks.

They’re Stars of Stage and Screen

Not to be outdone by Border Collies, Australian Shepherds have their share of screen credits, including Marmaduke, Brokeback Mountain and the 1999 Katie Holmes hit, Disturbing Behavior.

• Native Americans Once Considered Them Sacred

Australian Shepherds’ diverse eye color includes ghostly pale shades. Native Americans in the Old West called them “ghost eye” dogs, revering them as sacred yet keeping a wary distance.

• They’re Popular Celebrity Companions

Hollywood isn’t just for Chihuahuas. Aussies make their homes with A-list action stars, from Bruce Willis and Mel Gibson to The Avengers’ Paul Bettany and James Brolin.

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