Australian Shepherd (Aussie): Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Australian shepherd standing indoors in profile

The Spruce / Kevin Norris  

The Australian shepherd is a medium-size herding dog that originated in the United States with medium-length fur and an agile, athletic build. The breed's ancestors came to the U.S. from Europe by way of Australia, hence its name. This shepherd-type dog is extremely intelligent, loyal, and hard-working. It makes an excellent companion dog for high-energy owners. It also is adept at herding, as well as dog sports, search-and-rescue, and work as a service dog.

Breed Overview

Group: Herding

Height: 18 to 21 inches (female), 20 to 23 inches (male)

Weight: 40 to 55 pounds (female), 50 to 65 pounds (male)

Coat: Medium double coat

Coat Color: Blue merle, red merle, black, or red; all colors may have white markings and/or tan (copper) points

Life Span: 12 to 15 years

Temperament: Intelligent, active, energetic

Hypoallergenic: No

Origin: United States


Click Play to Learn More About the Intelligent and Loyal Aussie

Characteristics of the Australian Shepherd

Australian shepherds tend to have an exuberant temperament. They possess a high energy level and intelligence to match, so they need lots of mental stimulation and physical activity. The good news is most Aussies have very trainable personalities and are eager to please.

Affection Level Medium
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly High
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs High
Playfulness High
Energy Level High
Trainability High
Intelligence High
Tendency to Bark Medium
Amount of Shedding Medium

History of the Australian Shepherd

The Australian shepherd breed was developed in the United States. But it descends from European herding dogs that lived around the Pyrenees Mountains. In the 1800s, some of the indigenous Basque people took their dogs from this region and traveled to Australia, hoping to find more cattle land. 

The Basque herding dogs then were crossed with border collies and other dogs in Australia. And eventually they made their way to California. Ranchers in the U.S. assumed these Basque dogs were native to Australia and dubbed them Australian shepherds. The breed continued to be refined in the U.S. into what we know as the Aussie today. It became especially popular in Western U.S. culture as a ranch dog and in rodeos.

The American Kennel Club first recognized the Australian shepherd breed in 1991. The AKC later recognized the miniature American shepherd, a smaller version of the Aussie, in 2015.

Rancher with an Australian Shepherd
John Carnemolla​ / Getty Images

Australian Shepherd Care

The Aussie can make a wonderful companion for the right family. It tends to adapt well to different kinds of active households, as long as they can provide proper exercise and training. Aussies also need regular grooming.


It is absolutely essential for your Aussie to get frequent exercise, even more than most dogs. This intelligent and high-energy dog breed can become bored, frustrated, and hyperactive if it doesn't get enough mental and physical stimulation. Aussies should get at least one to two hours per day of fairly strenuous activity, such as running, playing fetch, or training in dog sports, such as agility. Puzzle toys also can help to keep them mentally stimulated.

Be sure to walk an Australian shepherd on a leash, as the breed has a natural instinct to chase (i.e., herd) moving objects, including passersby, bicycles, other animals, and even cars. Aussies also will need a secure solid fence when they are out in the yard rather than an electronic fence, which won't always dissuade their urge to chase and herd.


The Aussie has a thick medium-length double coat that sheds year-round. So routine grooming is important to remove loose fur and prevent tangles and mats. Brush at least one to two times per week. Moreover, Aussies will typically shed their thicker winter coat in the spring. You'll likely have to brush more frequently during this time to keep up with all the loose fur. But the coat is quite weather-resistant and generally only needs an occasional bath. Furthermore, it's important to keep the ears clean, brush your dog's teeth regularly, and trim its nails regularly for healthy and comfortable feet.


Due to their high intelligence, Aussies are generally receptive to training and learn quickly. And with proper and consistent training, Aussies tend to be extremely obedient. You can start training when the dogs are puppies with socialization to different people and environments, as well as basic commands like sit and stay. Proper socialization is important, as Aussies tend to be reserved around new people and can become shy or defensive.

Remember this breed's focus is work. Most Aussies are happier with a "job," and training in different activities can be that job. Getting your Aussie involved in dog sports, as well as assistance/service, search-and-rescue, or pet therapy, can be a way to channel its energy and strengthen your bond, so it becomes a more obedient dog.

Portrait of an Australian shepherd
The Spruce / Kevin Norris 
Australian shepherd dog sitting on gray couch next to throw blanket

The Spruce / Kevin Norris

Closeup of an Australian shepherd's fur
The Spruce / Kevin Norris 

Common Health Problems

Aussies are a generally healthy dog breed, but they are prone to a few health conditions, including:

Australian Shepherds as Pets

The Spruce / Emilie Dunphy

Diet and Nutrition

An Australian shepherd typically should be fed two meals per day of a nutritionally balanced dog food. The amount will depend on your dog's size, activity level, age, and other factors. Discuss your dog's nutritional needs with your veterinarian to get appropriate recommendations, and consistently monitor your dog's weight. Also, make sure fresh water is always available to your Aussie, especially in hot weather and during periods of intense exercise.

Where to Adopt or Buy an Australian Shepherd

Check your local animal shelter and breed-specific rescue groups for Australian shepherds. It's fairly common for people to realize they can't handle the Aussie's high energy level and intelligence, so they give up their dog for adoption. Thus, as you're considering this breed, make sure you're realistic about the time and energy you have to devote to it. Aussie puppies can cost around $1,000 to $2,000 from breeders on average, though this can vary widely. Adult dogs and rescue groups often have lower costs.

Some groups that can help connect you with an Australian shepherd include:

Australian Shepherd Overview

  • Affectionate and loyal

  • Trainable and eager to please

  • Excels at "jobs" and athletic endeavors

  • Boundless energy that must be channeled through training

  • Can become destructive without enough mental and physical stimulation

  • Can be wary of strangers

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you want to become the proud owner of an Australian shepherd, take the time to do your research first. Talk to your veterinarian, other Aussie owners, reputable breeders, and rescue groups to learn more.

If you’re interested in similar breeds, check out:

There's a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Are Australian shepherds good family dogs?

    Australian shepherds can be good for active families. They generally are good around kids. But their herding instinct might cause them to nip at children, especially when they're being rambunctious.

  • What were Australian shepherds bred for?

    Australian shepherds were bred to herd livestock. However, they can excel at other dog sports and jobs as well.

  • Are Australian shepherds good apartment dogs?

    Aussies typically aren't good apartment dogs due to their high activity level. They will need lots of daily activity where they can physically exert themselves if you live in a small space.

Article Sources
The Spruce Pets uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Australian Shepherd Puppies for Sale. American Kennel Club.