Five Facts You Need to Know Before Choosing an Australian Shepherd

Kiera Australian Shepherd

She’s beautiful, isn’t she?

She’s also smart, athletic, a snap to train, devoted, telepathic, and my right-hand girl. In fact, she’s everything you could want in a dog — and more.

It’s the “more” part that gets most people into trouble. The truth is — for as beautiful and brainy as Australian Shepherds are — they aren’t for everyone.

The question is: Are they for you?

Let me walk you through a few key points to help you decide.

In order to live with and raise a healthy, happy Aussie, you really do only need to know a couple of things. If you get a book on Australian Shepherds, these points will be covered, albeit a bit casually. It’s just that these couple of things are huge.

Way back at the beginning of my love affair with Australian Shepherds, I wish I’d known the depth and breadth of the importance of these points. It would have saved me a lot of trouble. I hope that by stressing the vital and critical need to do these few things, if you do decide you still want an Aussie, I will have set you down the right path for many years of trouble-free, blissful enjoyment with your incredible dog.

1. Research breeders and lines. Unless you plan on herding, don’t get an Australian Shepherd from working lines.

First, finding a reputable breeder is key to finding a healthy dog. (Aussies are known to have some health issues that are more likely to show up in litters of backyard breeders and puppy mills.) Start by checking with the AKC web site. Then check with your vet and local dog trainers. These guys are usually fountains of information on such things. Talk with a few breeders before you make your selection. The breeder should be more than happy to answer as many questions as you have. In fact, a good breeder will have just as many questions to ask you.

Also, research the lines (the genealogy of both sire and dam going back a few generations) from which you’re getting your Australian Shepherd. Working lines (as opposed to show lines) are bred for having a very strong mind and strong herding instincts — neither trait is well-suited for the average family home. Unless you plan on herding (yes, as in sheep, cows, or ducks) with your Aussie and/or you’re a very experienced dog owner, it’s best to stay away from working lines. If you have children, definitely stay away from working lines. (If you have young children, consider a non-herding breed all together.) If you don’t have time for a high-energy, strong-minded dog, you don’t have time for Aussies.

2. Socialize, socialize, socialize. And then socialize some more. And then some more. I’m not kidding.

While some Australian Shepherds are friendly goof balls, most are pretty reserved. In fact, that’s the breed standard — they’re not bred to be everyone’s bud. In order for them not to become shy and/or suspicious, they need to be socialized.

Books and breeders concur that socializing is important. That’s very true — of all dogs. But just exactly how much socializing are we talking about? A couple of strolls down Main Street? A few kids over? That might be enough for an easy going Lab, but it’s not even close to a beginning for an Aussie. I’m here to tell you that you need to make this your #1 priority in a big way. In fact, this is the single most important thing you can do for you and your puppy.

What books and breeders are often remiss in mentioning is what happens if you don’t do a good job here. Let me fill you in. As herding dogs, and protective herding dogs at that, getting your dog used to all kinds of people and situations in and out of your house is key for her while she’s young. Otherwise, you’ll have a dog that’s wary of people and new situations, or worse.

By worse, I mean having a dog that won’t let people on your property or in your house without at least intimidating the heck out of them. Or, at most, winding up with a dog who will bite (a herding nip is considered a bite by the law) to keep anything she finds unfamiliar — and therefore suspicious — away from her people.

Get her used to different people coming and leaving, people petting her, people flapping their arms, people moving quickly, people with umbrellas, funny hats, sunglasses–you name it. Take her to other locations–downtown, the park, etc. Find a good, positive trainer and take her to puppy training classes. Not only to get her started with obedience, but to socialize her with other dogs as well.

Start early! Even if she doesn’t have all her shots yet, you can still carry her places with you to help her get used to different sights and sounds.

3. If you don’t train your Australian Shepherd, she will train you!

I’ve had several breeds of dogs over the years, most from the herding/working category. So I’ve known some smart dogs (this is not to say there aren’t smart dogs in every breed) in my day. Kiera blows them all out of the water. By far. By scary far. An Aussie’s intelligence is something to be reckoned with. So start training the day you get your pup, and don’t stop. Period. If you get lazy, she’ll start seeing how well she can train you.

Aussies are bred to work and think. If you don’t give your Aussie something to think about, she will find ways to amuse herself. And you might not be happy with what she comes up with. So give her direction. The great thing about Aussies is that they learn so fast that it makes them fun to train. Because of their versatility, you can get them into any dog sport and they’ll shine.

Or just train her to be useful around the house. For instance, teach her to go get people instead of yelling or using an intercom. By working regularly with your Aussie, you’re also putting yourself routinely in the position of leader. Aussies do best with a good leader. Otherwise they tend to take over.

While Aussies will endure quite a bit of physical pain without complaint, they tend to be soft dogs emotionally. That is, they’re really tuned into their owners and are easily affected by their moods and tone of voice. So I recommend that you find and work with a positive trainer. These dogs are such a snap to train that harsh methods are not required or advised. (There’s a difference between being clear and consistent, and harsh.)

4. Australian Shepherds need a lot exercise.

Aussies come in a range of energy levels. Some are energetic busy bees and some are moderate. Most fall somewhere in the middle –neither crazy whirligigs (except some from working lines) nor couch potatoes. That is to say exercise is important for this breed to be happy. Depending on your dog’s energy levels, a long walk may be enough. Most Aussies will need significantly more. They also do best when they have space — inside and out. In other words, if you live in an apartment and are gone most of the day, consider another dog.

These dogs make wonderful companions on runs, or hikes, or any outdoor activity. The key word here being activity. Because they are such extraordinary athletes with keen minds, there’s literally no dog sport at which that they don’t excel. Find one that the two of you can enjoy, and you’ll have years of fun together.

5. Australian Shepherds need a job even more than they need exercise — which is saying something.

While exercise is important for a healthy Aussie, a job is mandatory for a happy Aussie. These dogs live to work. Their work can be as simple as keeping an eye on you, or another pet, or the kids, or the house while you’re gone. Or as complex as running agility, herding sheep, or doing Search and Rescue work. Again, because these dogs are highly intelligent, if you don’t give them a job, they’ll make one up for themselves.

Kiera has given herself the job of watching me, the property, and policing Finn and Graidy. The jobs I’ve given her are to help me around the house, and to babysit Cait when I need to make a quick store run and she doesn’t want to come. And, for fun, we’ve done obedience, agility, and we like to herd together.


Australian Shepherds are not for everyone. They require clear communication, consistent discipline and leadership, and an outlet for their minds and athletic talents. Heed these needs seriously. There are already too many Aussies in rescue because people just like the way they look without considering how much time and energy they require.

If you can provide these few conditions, you’ll be blessed with the companionship of an extraordinary dog who will go to the ends of the earth and back for you.

[Posted at ProBlogger group writing project.]
By | 2016-10-24T09:56:55+00:00 May 9th, 2007|.My Dogs and Me, Dog Training, Dogs in General|71 Comments


  1. jan May 9, 2007 at 10:16 pm - Reply

    She is indeed beautiful. I can only hope people research carefully before they acquire a dog that is smarter than most of the population.

  2. Theda K. May 10, 2007 at 10:35 am - Reply

    Hi! I’m eventually planning to get a dog, so I’m glad to know that this isn’t a breed I could handle with my toddler. Also, as a former pet-sitter, I enjoy reading about dogs. Wish I had gotten more advice about certain breeds before sitting for them.

    I’m also a writer mom, and I used to have a possible Maine Coon. Nice to meet you, and I’ll be coming back to read about Border Collies (one of my favorite breeds, but maybe not great for a toddler too since it’s a herder, right?)

    (found you on ProBlogger)

  3. Helene May 10, 2007 at 11:19 am - Reply

    I wish I had your knowledge before adopting my second and third border collies last year. Yes, I have 3 border collies and like Aussies, they are far toooooo intelligent.

    Unfortunately, the two younguns are rescues and didn’t get the socialization they should have. So, to say the least, I’ve got my hands full with remedial training.

    My 3 year old collie is a force to be reckoned with. I am his work and he follows me EVERYWHERE! He also tries to train me – barking at me when he wants food, water or anything else he fancies!!! Some days he’s in charge, most others, I am.

    Oh the adventures…but how dear they are!!!

  4. Karen May 10, 2007 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    Theda, you’re right, Border Collies aren’t a great match with small kids in the house –though they’re also a favorite of mine.

    Helene, you could switch “Border Collie” for “Australian Shepherd” in this post. Pretty much the same difference.

    Yes, the adventures… anyone with Aussies or BCs can fully read between these lines. LOL!

  5. Jessica The Rock Chick May 10, 2007 at 4:17 pm - Reply

    I rescued my dog, Book ‘Em (all my animals get police related names) from a shelter and they thought he was a rottweiler mix. I love rottweilers (when they’re trained and taken care of correctly) and this one had the sweetest face and disposition so I took him home. He didn’t look real “rottie” to me. When I took him to the vet, he said that the dog, in his opinion, is an Australian Shepard mix.

    He is so smart. I just love him…..the only problem I have despite all my training is he will eat anything. Bees, flowers, plastic wrappers…if it’s there, he will eat it. I told the vet I think he’s part goat!

    Thanks for stopping by my site :)
    Jessica The Rock Chick

  6. Karen May 10, 2007 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    LOL! Yeah, I didn’t even bother getting into the “minor details” like being part goat and eating anything and everything under the sun.

    And, I have to agree with you, a good rottie has a wonderful disposition. I know some really great ones.

  7. mosilager May 11, 2007 at 5:23 am - Reply

    Ha ha I was just about to say that you could switch BooBoo for Aussie Shepherd in this post :) but I see the other border collie people felt the same way.

  8. Blaine Moore (First Time Home Owner) May 11, 2007 at 9:09 am - Reply

    I love Aussies as a breed; my uncle had one. However, I know that I don’t have the time to devote to properly train a puppy right now, so I am waiting for a few years before we get one. Once my wife is out of law school and I have (hopefully) begun working from home, we are planning on getting one.

    Thanks for the great tips; I had gleaned a lot of this out of my uncle (hence waiting and not having a dog yet) but its nice to see more specifics.

  9. Dori May 17, 2007 at 10:52 am - Reply

    We’re on our 3rd Aussie…they’re so fun. But you’re absolutely right, they can be a handful. In the future, if I get another dog (always a temptation) I would get a mixed breed. We used to have an Aussie/yellow lab mix, and she was wonderful. Smart, easy to train, mellow and cooperative.

    We ended up with purebred Aussie’s after that because we saw an ad for a litter and couldn’t resist. They are challenging though. They can be so rascally and I swear they’re laughing half time when you try and train them. Luckily I enjoy a good sense of humor.

    We live in a rural environment, and I think having one in the city would be really hard. Right now we go for long hikes and throw a frisbee for her about 1000 times a day, and that’s barely enough exercise to satisfy her. But what a personality! Mooka, our current Aussie, was the mellowest one of her litter, and that has been a godsend. I’ll look for that quality in puppies in the future. Thanks for the great post!

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  13. Cindy March 8, 2008 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    This was so informative for me.
    My husband and I have “adopted” an aussie from my son, who is in college. He didn’t do any research before getting the dog and he lives in a one-bedroom apt. About 9 mos into the dogs’ life, my son couldn’t handle him. AND~ he was not socialized. I don’t know why he took up with my husband and me, but he did.
    Fortunately, we live in the country with lots of land, and he’s thriving. He looks more like a border collie, tho, except for the bobbed tail.
    Thanks for an informative site~


  14. cliff March 16, 2008 at 7:31 pm - Reply

    well… my wife got a pup, the owner said it was lab husky mix. ha, i knew he was an aussie/? mix. he is super smart and energetic. luckily i just got out of the army and i can train him, but he is HARD to socialize. he is just 3 months, and he is house broken, can sit, stay, lay down, leads ok, and shake. this is after having him for 3 weeks! he is a handful, and we live in d.c. in an apt., but i still think he’ll be the best dog i’ve ever owned.(but i think our well herded cat thinks otherwise.)

    Cliff, I can relate. LOL. Best of luck! And I’m betting that he will wind up to be one of the best dogs you’ve ever owned. Eventually, even your cat will agree.  :)

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  18. Shannon April 24, 2011 at 3:47 pm - Reply

    Hello my name is shannon! i have been wanting oe of these dogs forever! i have a couple of questions!
    -Are these outside or inside dogs?
    -Do you get there tail clipped?
    -Are they usally a pet you want to take every where with you!
    THANKS- shannon

    • Karen April 25, 2011 at 7:22 pm - Reply

      Hi Shannon,
      Great questions! These are dogs who want to be wherever you are. Think of them as your partner, who has no interest in working or living without you. So I guess the answer is that they are both outside and inside dogs. That being said, they would not do well as solely inside dogs because they need a lot of daily exercise. Their tails are clipped by the breeders a few days after they’re born. I wish this wasn’t done because it’s not necessary, and I consider it cruel and unnecessary deformation. But if you talk to a breeder, they’ll say that’s the breed standard. YES! With good training and socialization, they are definitely a dog you’ll want to take with you everywhere!
      Thanks for visiting and let me know if you find a Aussie with whom to share your life.

  19. Laurel July 8, 2011 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    Hi and I hope someone can help me with Ellie. My son picked her up off the road about 3 weeks ago. As my sister had australian sheps, I believe that is what Ellie is. When I ran the found ad I listed her as such. Now I wonder if she is a Border Collie. I’m struggling with the difference in physical characteristics. She is Blue Merle, her tail is not docked, love her one ear cocked -up, long coat. As for social, well she was lethargic initially, but with alot of love and food and 5 other rescues, she has come around to being very lovable.. My son said it appeared she walked into the middle of a highway and laid down to die. sigh…. We resuce the worst of the abused and neglected and permanently injured, so she fights in just fine here.

    The first week she didn’t bark at all. We removed numberous burrs and about 50 ticks from her. I could use some insight on getting the badly matted undercoat under control. We used tail and mane conditioner on her and trim as close to the skin as we can on the worst of the knots. Along way to go….
    She protects the food bowl, hunches down and herds the Plott hound (who suffers from attention deficit disorder and is very vocal). I love the way she is perking up. She has a vet appt. next week for shots and a physical.

    Any insights, comments would help.

    • Karen July 12, 2011 at 11:47 am - Reply

      Hi Laurel,
      It can be tricky to pick out the differences between Border Collies and Aussies. Especially when there is a tail. But I would have to say that I would look at the bone structure. Aussies tend to be a bit heavier boned than Border Collies. They also have what I would consider to be a heavier undercoat. Since you describe the matted undercoat, I would be inclined to go with an Aussie. But then you say she hunches down when she herds your Plott hound which is more Border Collie herding style… I’d be interested in hearing what your vet thinks.

      It also sounds like she has a little bit of resource guarding going on with her food bowl — to be expected if she was abandoned — and usually easy to fix with some good training. How lucky for her that you found her! Here’s hoping she gets to have a long and happy life with you.

  20. Laura Noelle July 15, 2011 at 5:16 pm - Reply

    Hello! I found this very informative!! But I am left with a few questions.. you see I read this article a little late & already have a 3 month of tri colored Aussie named Larkin. She is incredibly smart & learns so incredibly fast! My concern is that I think she may be from the working lines as you mentioned above.. she has very strong herding instincts (she herds my mom’s huskies around as well as some of her playmates that is once she gets to know them) Also she is VERY strong minded!! VERY!! When she is trying to herd my mom’s dogs & they don’t listen or try to fight back she let’s them have it! & she is only 3 months!! Also her fur isnt as fluffy as some of the other aussie’s & I have been told that she has a “working coat”. So adding all this up I now believe that she must be from a working line.. so here’s my question.. NOW WHAT?? how do i work with my working line Aussie? Do you know where I can find some good info or do you have any tips for me? If so i would very much be in debt to you because this little girl is definitely a handful!

    • Karen July 19, 2011 at 1:17 pm - Reply

      Hi Laura,

      My sympathies :) Having a working dog is like having Ferarri. Sounds like fun in theory, but hard to handle in reality. So, yes, you’ve got a really high performance machine that’s easy to spin out of control if you’re not super vigilant in handling.

      I would recommend you get in touch with your local chapter of the Australian Shepherd Club of America and find out who they recommend for training. You really need to be working with a trainer who specializes in herding dogs. Better yet, consider finding someone who can help you train your dog on sheep, and get into sheep herding. It’s really fun, and Larkin will love you for it.

      The main thing, which it sounds as though you’ve already figured out, is that you need to find the right trainer to help you work with your girl ASAP. If you learn how to handle her strong-mindedness now, you’ll get to enjoy one of the most incredible dogs you’ll ever own.

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  22. Stacie January 5, 2012 at 1:49 pm - Reply

    My daughter brought home a 2 month old aussie pup. I had never had one or didn’t know anything about the breed. I have 2 dogs that got along great and just need affection and some backyard time and they are fine. I have some major medical challenges and am trying to make this work with the new pup. He ,as everyone says is super smart but I’m just not sure I can provide what he needs in energy. We are working with a trainer and he knows tons of stuff. But his energy is killing me! I can only walk him every other day for about 20 mins. I try to play with him in the back yard but he will only chase a ball a couple times or I play soccer and he will only do that for a bit too. I know he is young and we already love each other but my question is will his energy likely be controllable? Can I make it work with backyard time and games or will he and I be unhappy? He is in a pen most of the day per the trainer because he is so out of control if he’s out. He has toys all over the floor but only chews on furniture, me, and rugs. He bites my legs constantly even though I doing everything the trainer says! It would kill me to give him up, is this just a typical puppy stage for the aussie.I have had other puppies and they were not like him. I don’t want him to be unhappy if I can’t give him what he needs:( What do you think??? Thanks very much!!!! Stacie

    • Karen January 8, 2012 at 8:58 pm - Reply

      Stacie, first, let me say that all of the behavior you are describing is pretty normal for an understimulated Aussie pup. I’m not sure keeping him penned is going to help anything and not sure why the trainer recommended this for most of the day. Aussies need exercise, they need to use their minds, and they need to be with their people in order not to become neurotic and/or destructive.

      Do you know if your daughter get your Aussie from a breeder? If so, that breeder will be a great resource for you. First question I would ask (if there is a breeder to ask) is how their dogs age — do they mellow, do they stay really active? Most dogs do calm down as they grow into themselves but that can take a couple of years. If you don’t know where your puppy came from, then I wouldn’t assume that he’s going to mellow all that much. A little bit, for sure. But Aussies are typically high energy dogs.

      With your medical issues, you may be facing a tough decision in figuring out what’s best for both of you. It sounds as though you are trying to do the best you can, given your circumstances. And if that isn’t working, as hard as it may be, it may be that the best thing you can do is to try to find the right home to help this puppy achieve his full potential.

      If you absolutely feel you can’t part with him, then I would suggest that you try to find a jogger willing to run with your puppy to help him get energy ( not more than a mile at this age) or find a 4-H kid who would be interested in training your dog for agility. Essentially, there are lots of people who love dogs who can’t have one, who would be delighted to help you out. Ask trainers, vets, 4-H groups, girlscouts, boyscouts, etc. if they know anyone. You’ll find someone who will be able to pitch in.

      Good luck and keep me posted.

  23. Mark April 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this informative post.

    Aussie’s are great dogs. Our boy Gibson is the best dog in the world and would love to meet and play with your sweet girl Kiera.

    He likes to take care of us and his brother Victor the cat. He’s always ready to play and run, but most of all, he’s always ready to please. His intellect is very high and when you speak to him, he listens intently and you can see him thinking about what you’re saying. He’ll always let me know when he needs something and wants to go outside etc.

    He has trained me just as much as I’ve trained him, but there is no doubt in either of our minds who the leader is. He has never had any formal training but he instinctively picks up commands and is always eager to obey.

    To put it simply…. he is the light of out life and we love him very much.


    • Karen April 7, 2012 at 10:49 am - Reply

      Mark, you sound like you’ve been totally smitten by the Aussie bug! They truly are incredible dogs and I’m happy that your guy has a person who is so able to appreciate and love him!

  24. Courtney April 16, 2012 at 4:53 pm - Reply

    We got an Australian Shepherd/Lab mix puppy 2 days ago. We adopted her from a lady that was giving them away at the gas station because she “couldn’t take care of them.” We took her to the veterinarian the very next day and she has sarcoptic mange and worms. The vet said that during the next few weeks she can play with our two other dogs, but that they can not lay down together or have prolonged physical contact because this type of mange is contagious. So for now she is having to spend some time alone, but is able to socialize with our other 2 dogs frequently throughout the day. Is this going to be adequate for the next few weeks until she is no longer contagious? We love our little Lola!!! Neither of us have had an Australian Shepherd before, but she is so sweet and loving! Our yorkie loves her and Lola is smitten with our chihuahua (who acts totally annoyed with all of us). Her personality is so sweet! I know all the dogs want to be together more right now, but the vet stressed the importance of not letting them have prolonged physical contact to keep them all healthy for now. Do you think this will be okay for Lola, socialization wise? Is there anything supplemental we can do in the meantime? Also, where she we begin in terms of training?

    • Karen April 22, 2012 at 8:26 am - Reply

      Courtney, I hate hearing stories like this– irresponsible people breeding or allowing their dogs to breed, and then looking for somewhere to dump them. How great for your new puppy that you were driving by that day!

      Yes, the sarcoptic mange trumps worrying about perfectly socializing your puppy with your dogs. I’d go with whatever time frame your vet was comfortable with.

      You don’t mention how old your Lola is, so I don’t have a reference to be able to suggest other age-appropriate activities or training you can do with her, except to say that Aussies are so darn smart, that you can start training her at home immediately to build obedience. To great books to start with are Click for Success and Positive Training.

      As soon as Lola is healthy, puppy obedience class and walks around town to introduce her to new sights and sounds would be great.

      Good Luck!

  25. Jenny Farn May 27, 2012 at 12:02 pm - Reply

    I loved your post and all the comments. We’ve had an Aussie lab cross now for about 3 months. We rescued him from an animal sanctuary (although his previous owner was really loving – he had to go back to Australia and couldn’t afford to take his dogs, so sad). He’s about 6 and is the most beautiful character. We have three small children, noisy boys at that, and the first time he met us he sat with us, enjoying our cuddles and comPletely ignoring the children who were running round him noisily!
    I’d reccommend Aussie lab crosses!


    • Karen May 28, 2012 at 8:15 pm - Reply

      Jenny, that sounds like a perfect combination!

  26. Mia Caspersonn April 7, 2013 at 5:52 am - Reply

    My mum says I can hve a dog. My favourite one by far is an Australian shepherd and I have read all the interesting information you have given me. I think I need a dog from a non-working line and possibly an aussie or a boarder collie cross. I don’t want a small yappy dog or a labrodor but I want a faithful and moderate dog, that is always happy to be with me. Can you think of any others?

    • Karen April 7, 2013 at 6:27 pm - Reply

      Mia, you sound like a very smart, balanced girl! I can see why your mother would trust you with the huge responsibility of dog rearing.

      You don’t mention how much indoor or outdoor space you have, or how many other people are in your family, or how many hours a day your dog will be spending alone because family members are at school or work. All of that should also be factored in selecting a dog.

      Yes, an Aussie mix can be very nice, if you can find one. This is one of those instances though, where I would not recommend getting a dog from a shelter or rescue (unless someone really knowledgable and skilled is available to help you evaluate temperament), because the first several months of life really set up the quality of life you’re going to have with your dog–so you really don’t want to miss out on that.

      I personally also really like Goldendoodles. The mix often gives a gentle, smart disposition, and moderate need for exercise and grooming.

      Good luck, and let me know what you finally get!

  27. Angie May 4, 2013 at 11:08 pm - Reply

    I have been researching Aussies for over a year now. I have found a breeder I feel comfortable with who luckily only lives 45 mins away. I will be doing competitive sports with my Aussie plus lots of long walks, hiking, lots of outings together and an occasional horseback riding adventure. I work 7 mins from my home. I would come home for lunch everyday. My hours are varied with 2 days off a week sometimes in a row. I have a pretty big yard with 6ft privacy and chain link plus a pool. My friend also owns her own dog training facility where I sometimes work. He will have lots and lots of socialization. We have 3 great fenced dog parks in my area too. My worry is my time at work. He will bed to be crated in his own room until trusted loose. Will this be enough exercise and mental stimulation for him?



    • Karen May 4, 2013 at 11:25 pm - Reply

      Angie, in many ways you sound like the perfect Aussie person. But you’re right to be concerned about the long hours at work where you’ll need to crate your pup. Maybe you’ll get a low key Aussie that can handle that amount of crating. But if you get a typical Aussie, that could lead to some neurotic behaviors. Do you have any friends who could pop in to take your Aussie for walks while you’re at work?

      Good luck!

  28. Peggy H June 3, 2013 at 4:47 pm - Reply

    Hi. My son just got a Rottweiler Australian Shepherd mix. The puppy is 3 months old. He is active and totally loves my son. After reading the posts I see how already he is Trevor’s dog. Guinness is smart, and eager to please. I have a larger dog who plays with him. Is it okay that they wrestle and roll and play? They run and chase one another and then when both are tired they have their nap. How can I be sure that playing with my dog will not cause Guinness to be aggressive. My dog is a beagle retriever mix and a gentle giant. He is also eager to please and very obedient. I have worked hard to train him and he responds amazingly. Boba is almost three years. He loves the little guy but I need to remind Boba to play gentle. Please let me know what I should be doing so that both dogs remain smart and not become aggressive. Guinness comes to my place during the day while me son is at work (better than being crated all day).

    • Karen June 9, 2013 at 8:27 am - Reply

      Hi Peggy. If their play is mostly playing tag, involves no growling or snarling, and no one is yelping or getting hurt, and body posture is staying in play mode and not switching to “Ok now I’m ticked off and you’re going to get nailed mode” then I’d say they’re doing fine. But I would still monitor their play because of the size, age, and strength difference. A little bit of this will go a long way for Guinness.

      How lucky for Guinness that he has you for a babysitter. So much nicer than a crate! : )

  29. Britt July 27, 2015 at 9:19 am - Reply

    Hi. I recently (two weeks ago) adopted an Aussie mix and we have a pyrador mix too(he’s older). I was wondering if I should keep them away from each other since when they play, she (my Aussie- claire) sounds like she’s fighting with him. He doesn’t hurt her but she bites everyone now. I know she’s just teeething but it’s a bad habit. I also think he’s teaching her his bad habits. But that’s just me. No one else sees it. What should I do?

    • Karen Shanley July 27, 2015 at 1:24 pm - Reply

      Brittany, let me be very specific. GET HELP NOW! :)

      It doesn’t matter whether any one else sees a potential problem or not — you do! So get a good positive trainer who’s familiar with herding dogs (or someone who is very familiar and knowledgeable about Aussies) involved to help you evaluate and train ASAP.

      You will be very glad you did.

      Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

  30. Rich September 26, 2015 at 9:58 am - Reply

    Do you find a big difference in the temperment btw males and females? Do you find that they are incessant barkers? Is it possible to keep the shedding under control with something reasonable brushing like once a week?

    Thanks for the help. Great advice and helpful comments from all.

    • Karen Shanley September 28, 2015 at 1:21 pm - Reply

      Rich, it depends more on good breeding and where each dog falls in the pack hierarchy, more than on male/female. Though some people will tell you that neutered males are a little more laid back –that being a relative term with Aussies. Kiera was our alpha dog and she was an absolute sweetheart. One of the best dispositions of any dog I’ve had the pleasure of sharing my life with. But she was a herding dog through and through. She was always working to keep sudden movements under her control.

      She was not an incessant barker at all. But she would always let me know when anything entered the perimeter of our property that she thought deserved my attention. I usually agreed with her assessments. But I also put in a tremendous amount of time both socializing and training her. She thoroughly understood what I expected of her.

      If you brush once a week, you should be able to pretty much stay on top of the shedding. When they’re blowing coat (in active summer shedding mode), may need to brush more often.

  31. Ed May 18, 2016 at 9:05 am - Reply

    Fun article, thanks for posting. We’ve had our Aussie for 2 years now. He is totally and completely a part of our family. We always had Shelties before, but with 2 boys about to become teenagers we wanted a breed that was a little more robust and able to keep up on outdoor adventures. Boy did we get that!

    Scout’s job is frisbee. I live in Florida, so it’s usually too hot except for early morning and late in the evening. I usually take him to the park every evening right as the sun starts to go down. He can also tell time, and starting at about 6pm he is crawling in my lap or staring a hole in my head. It only takes about 15 minutes of frisbee to wear him down, but that is misleading, because that is 15 minutes of dead flat-out sprinting without pause. I throw it as far as I can, which is about 50 yards, and give him zero rest in between throws. He catches about 4 out of 5 throws in the air, usually with spectacular leaps. I stop when his tongue is hanging 6 inches out of his mouth. The look of bliss on that dog’s face on the truck ride back from the park is a sight to behold, and he is perfectly content for the rest of the night. My wife supplements with ball playing and a quick swim every morning.

    Overall this advice is excellent. Aussies are a wonderful breed, but their good looks are a side effect, not the reason to get one. You must understand you are getting an olympic athlete. They will thrive in rural areas, but you don’t need a farm. They will do perfectly fine in a suburban environment as long as they have a park where they can run off leash. IMO walks on leash are not enough. That is like test driving a Porsche in your driveway. You could even do well with an Aussie in an urban environment as long as you had access to a dedicated environment for frequent (daily) dog sports like frisbee, flyball, agility, etc.

    I cannot imagine crating one all day. They are so disciplined, focused, and willing to please that they will do it for you without complaint, but don’t fool yourself into thinking the dog is happy or content. They are cowboy dogs. We put up a few child gates to confine ours to the kitchen when we are gone, and that has been fine. Now that he is past 2 years old and done with the puppy gnawing phase we’ll probably give him free run of the house.

    One comment on the working vs show lines. Among the show lines there is a group who continue to breed for working attributes. Our breeder, for example, is clearly a show breeder, but lives on a farm, owns a flock of sheep, and puts her dogs through herding trials. I am not an expert but I will say that in our case, the result was nearly the perfect dog. He has the athleticism, work ethic, and enthusiasm of a working dog, but the demeanor of a show dog. Friendly to all animals and people, calm, and rarely barks unless something is seriously alarming to him. He will woof 2 or 3 times to get our attention, and then he’ll watch us and take his cues from our behavior.

    • Karen Shanley May 18, 2016 at 9:39 am - Reply

      Ed, my first jump to Aussies was from a Sheltie too–and what a big jump that was, as you say. There are so many great lines in your post:

      “You must understand you are getting an Olympic athlete.”

      “IMO walks on lease are not enough. That is like test driving a Porsche in your driveway.”

      And very good point on working vs show, and the group with show lines that continue to breed for working attributes. That was Kiera, too. And I completely agree that for people like you and me, “the result was nearly the perfect dog.”

  32. Chris January 31, 2017 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    Hi, great and very informative article. I’ve been doing a lot of research and strongly considering an Aussie. I have an active lifestyle but also like to kick back and relax at times so Im wondering if they can just relax as well or if they are always amped up rearing to go?

    I plan to start looking into breeders and want to ask them questions to help me determine the best choice between those I speak with. What questions would you make sure to ask in order to learn the temperment/health of their litters is top notch?

    Thank you,

    • Karen Shanley February 2, 2017 at 11:47 am - Reply

      Hi Chris, yes, most Aussies (from non-working lines–and you should only get a puppy from non-working lines) can relax. They don’t need to be non-stop on the go. But they do definitely need a few times every day where they get to exercise their bodies and their minds. They would not do well days on end with little or no activity. The way I got around those times when I wasn’t able to get my aussie out every day for a good stretch was to have 2 dogs together so they could play and help exercise each other.
      As for questions:
      1. Any know health issues with the sire or dam.
      2. Any know issues with skin problems, hips or eye problems in their lines.
      3. Average lifespan of their dogs.
      3. Average energy level of their dogs.

      Good luck. Your thoughtfulness bodes well for you making a good choice, and if that choice does turn out to be an Aussie, plan on getting to experience the love of a lifetime. : )

  33. Liz March 8, 2017 at 4:21 pm - Reply


    Thanks for posting this wonderful information! So, here is the story of my furry companion Clover. Clover is a purebreed Aussie, but most definately comes from a working line (in other words, one someone else bought from someone who “had puppies). I consider her a rescue even though I had her since a puppy. It’s a long story but not an ideal situation regardless. She is smart and for the most part, the friendliest dog ever. But she has an incredibly high arousal point. We have done 2 basic obidence classes and i tried to do agility with her. The problem, she can’t sit, stay or focus and so we were limited on how far we can go in agility because she couldn’t follow basic commands when around other dogs. I want to keep her active, we do a lot of walks, frisbee and hikes as well as having lots of interactive toys. My struggle, I can’t get consistant training! We keep going forward and then backward when stimulation happens. I am concerned we won’t be able to do agility due to not being able to focus on the task at hand. I know Aussies need a job but I am struggling to find a good job for her. Any suggestions would be helpful! I am a pretty small person with a 55 lbs of crazy, hyperactive energy and when she goes into one of her “fits” I am afraid she is going to hurt me (she has body slammed me a few times, I am not sure if this is a play behavior or herding behavior).

    • Karen Shanley March 8, 2017 at 6:21 pm - Reply

      Liz, I think your best bet is to try to find a positive trainer who is intimately familiar with Aussies. Suzanne Clothier’s website and blog also has a lot of helpful information.

      You may be better off trying something like a sheepherding class, if there is one available around you. Usually those classes are one-on-one and you’d be dealing with less arousal from other dogs and people. That’s what I would up doing with my Kiera and we loved it. I had the same problem with agility being a little too stimulating.

      Good Luck!

  34. Anne March 15, 2017 at 2:39 pm - Reply

    I have a question! Love the article! As I proud Aussie mom I know the effort it takes raising a well rounded well mannered Aussie.

    I have a friend who has a nine month old Golden and a 6 Month old Maltese. This person fell in love with my Aussie is just purchased a mini Aussie. I tried explaining the effort it takes in raising one and it isn’t an easy task and they are convinced I am over reacting and it’ll be a breeze like their other two dogs. They want an Aussie for the bond it creates and because they are cute….argggggg. I was just wondering if anyone has any experience in how the Aussie will do with the other two young dogs? Will it create a stronger bond to them since they are all very young? I can’t give advice to someone when it’s not wanted but I would love to know what others think! Am I just being a crazy Aussie mom??? They did say the breeder said it’s been bred with no herding lineage but that doesn’t mean they require less effort or a strong positive leader to guide them! Thoughts?!?

    • Karen Shanley March 15, 2017 at 7:46 pm - Reply

      Anne, you don’t mention your friend’s level of dog experience or whether (s)he’s had herding breeds before. Especially since Goldens and Malteses couldn’t be more at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of temperament. You also don’t mention what sexes any of the 3 dogs are, or what kind of outdoor space they have available to them.

      This would all be helpful to know in order to provide possibly helpful information. Without that info in hand, and looking at throwing 3 puppies together–this person might get lucky and they all could do great together, or this person could have a mess on their hands. Time will tell…

  35. Anne March 15, 2017 at 9:49 pm - Reply

    Sorry for the missing info!

    These two dogs are her first dogs she’s never had any dog experience before. She lives in a suburban home (detached house) but not a huge backyard and neighbours all around. The Maltese is a female the Golden a male. The new mini Aussie will be a male. She’s had zero experience with working breeds before and is convinced that they aren’t as hard as people say. She does take the other two dogs to obedience and social classes. She also is not fit and the Golden has taken a toll on her physically but she doesn’t think that the Aussie needs more than a couple walks a day! She also own 2 cats which she bought at the same time as well as has a husband who is against an Aussie and 3 kids who are in and out of the house at school who also don’t want one. She believes that when she’s too busy she can just take all the dogs to daycare and that’ll be good enough. I tried explaining that everyone needs to be on board with the training otherwise the dog will run the show.

    She wants the Aussie to be here therapy dog and is convinced that bringing it to work and leashing it away from customers will be good enough! Ummmmm….?!?!

    I know with my little man introducing strangers to him carefully and not making him feel overwhelmed was important! They need a ton of socialization but it’s also good to make it always a positive experience. My Aussie doesn’t love everyone but I know the cues well before and I always ensure no one just walks up to him and grabs him or touches him. I also live in the city and I’m aware of his needs.

    • Karen Shanley March 16, 2017 at 4:26 pm - Reply

      YIKES!!!! None of this bodes well… :(

      I suspect your friend is about to learn a very hard lesson that ignorance is not bliss, and hubris often has a way of biting you in the butt.

      • Anne March 16, 2017 at 5:16 pm - Reply

        ?? haha! I hope it works out but it’s so difficult raising one and my boyfriend has had experience with Aussies! I can’t imagine raising one along with two other younger dogs (no matter how mellow the other two are!)

        The “breeder” who breeds horses and isn’t a true miniature American sheperherd breeder “guaranteed” her that the Aussie she will get will be extremely calm and will definitely get along with other dogs and is absolutely ok for invididuals with ailments because her Aussies aren’t from any working lineage so they don’t get crazy or wild!!! I don’t know much about the lineage differences, I am doing a lot of research on it, but I can’t see the differences being that dramatic! Especially to guarantee it as a breeder seems extremely irresponsible!

  36. John April 22, 2017 at 11:11 am - Reply

    100 % dogshit, mine is the “goofball” loves everyone and other dogs ALL THE TIME

    • Karen Shanley April 22, 2017 at 11:16 am - Reply

      John, you lucked out! Sounds like you got the easiest possible version of an Aussie. I’m truly happy for you.

  37. Sam May 9, 2017 at 11:54 am - Reply


    Thanks for the article! I have a quick-ish question-
    We (my husband and I) “adopted” our Aussie when she was 3yrs old (so now about 3 yrs ago). I say “adopted” because we got her from a known family who was moving into an apartment that didn’t allow dogs. Then, I couldn’t even get her to walk with me, she was VERY scared of pretty much everything-ears pinned back, eyes dilated, cowering body posture, the whole works. Since then, she’s come a very long way, but as you can imagine has a long ways to go still. She now wants to be with us, play with her toys, and has become best friends with our other dog who is just a couple years younger than her (we had our other one first and he has actually helped her out a lot, which is pretty cool).
    Now that she has come so far she’s starting to show her typical Aussie self. Super energetic (but will also conk out at the end of the day) eager to learn and explore the yard, wants to be with us, all of that fun stuff. However, she is having a really hard time with the socializing. I understand that their breed isn’t meant to be all lovey dovey with everyone they meet but if she’s in the house and it’s someone she doesn’t know (be it them visiting or people walking) she BARKS. Like not a woof here or a woof there, but more like crazy barking. Please keep in mind that she’s not an aggressive dog at all, in fact she’s the exact opposite. She wasn’t socialized really at all with her former family so we’ve been trying to work on that as well as really trying to build her confidence. We’ve gone through 3 levels of obedience with her (which has been great but she gets bored with the repetition obedience stuff). I think agility would be a little too stimulating for her at least for now because of the other students and such. As for herding, she was under the impression that it was okay to try and herd the kids in her previous family, which is not something that I am okay with.
    So-finally to my question-in your opinion and experience, do you think it would be okay to someday try out herding with her? Or do you think we should look for something different because she had 3 yrs of thinking it was acceptable to herd people? We’re so wanting to provide a good, stimulating outlet for her to really build up her confidence but don’t want to “feed the dragon” if you know what I mean.
    Thank you so much! I apologize for such a long post!!

    • Karen Shanley May 10, 2017 at 9:03 am - Reply

      Hi Sam– it always thrills me to come across thoughtful, devoted dog people like you.

      My first thought is to find a positive trainer who has experience with clicker training to come and help you work with her with strange/new people entering the house.

      A quick tip that can help in the meantime. When someone comes in, make sure they have treats that they can throw for your girl when they come in. And as soon as they enter, they should stand sideways to your Aussie (not straight on) looking down (not at your dog). They should stand MOTIONLESS and not try to pet or move until your Aussie can sniff them if she needs to. Then, as soon as she takes a breathe and is not barking (even for a second) they should gently throw a treat for her. As soon as she stops barking again, they should throw another treat. They should not try to lure her to feed her, but throw food away where she can “safely” get it.

      Then they should take a couple of more steps further into the house. Rinse repeat.

      The idea is to move as slowly as she needs in order to feel okay.

      As for herding, I think it’s a blast. And no harm in trying her out on it to see if she might enjoy it. You can teach the difference between “okay to herd sheep” and “not okay to herd people”.

      Good luck. : )

  38. Ariadna May 17, 2017 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    Hey, I truly love the Aussie breed and my family and I ( 4 of us ) ( 6 and 9 year olds) would love a companion to last us years to come. However I have one concern. My husband and I both work and we are gone from any where from 6-9 hours a day is there anyway we could make it work ? The dog would have to be left alone on our property witch is pretty big but there is a chance she could wonder off ( like our previous dog did ) should we consider a different breed if so what are your suggestions? As far as excersise she would get plenty after school and work.

    • Karen Shanley May 18, 2017 at 8:41 am - Reply

      Hi Ariadna– Aussies are notorious escape artists. Unless your entire property has at least a six-foot fence with 2 feet buried in the ground, any Aussie would eventually find a way out. And if you don’t have a fence, absolutely any dog will wander off. Also given the fact that you and your husband are gone for much of the day, and your children are still on the younger side, you’d be better off staying away from Aussies. Any other more mellow breed could work for you. Labs are always a good option for a great family dog. But please consider fencing your yard, as there are just too many temptations that could lure your dog off your property.

  39. Christy Berry July 3, 2017 at 7:22 am - Reply

    Great read! We got our first Aussie 33 yrs ago before they were a papered breed. She was a blue Merle and of course at that time they were all working dogs. She was such a part of our family that when she left us after 17 yrs we couldn’t bear to get another.
    We tried a couple of blue heelers , also not dogs for everyone, charming dogs and smart but the dog human connection is not the same. When they passed my son bought a papered Aussie for us . A red tri- he’s what I call a mega Aussie he’s 80lbs and huge not fat. We have had him now for 6yrs. Just last yr we rescued a small Aussie pup that was begging on a movie set in downtown Atlanta . He went through 3 family’s who tried to keep him in crates like a city dog . We finally broke down and took him. He has been a challenge because they bond so completely to their families. He’s finally after a year connected with me and won’t leave my side. We named him Oliver Twist.

    Great dogs! Not for the timid owner or people who work all the time. Great with kids if raised around them.

    • Karen Shanley July 4, 2017 at 7:58 am - Reply

      I feel the same way about my Kiera. She’s been gone 4 1/2 years, and I can’t bring myself to get another Aussi. I still miss her too much.
      Oliver Twist sounds like a perfect name for your new addition. How lucky for him that you finally broke down and took him! : )

  40. Laurie Knowlton July 3, 2017 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    I own or should I say my Aussie owns me lol. Best decision I ever made was getting Kashmir he is a blue merle standard. He will be a year old the 7th of July. We play Frisbee, ball, tag, keep away. His job is on the semi truck, he’s herding cattle when we are at work calves to be exact little go go girls. The home time is very active, keeping him busy is the key to a happy healthy relationship with your Aussie. I feel like the luckiest Aussie owner ever, I’d never had one and he has done many things to help my health. At 54 I was suffering with high blood pressure but now it’s normal without medicine. When my companion Chihuahua passed away he sat with me giving me snuggles while I cried. The Aussie is very happy to conform to any situation but are not the type of dog to be tied up day after day. For walking I use a gentle leader and positive reinforcement for walking correctly. They are vocal dogs too, on Facebook there is a video of Kash saying hello. Yes I found my soulmate in Kash. He doesn’t know that hands can hurt him he only knows hands are full of love. I went to a dog park and watched Aussies in action and talked to their humans. Good luck if you decide on an Aussie.

    • Karen Shanley July 4, 2017 at 8:00 am - Reply

      There is nothing like a well-loved, well-trained Aussie!

      • Laurie July 4, 2017 at 8:12 am - Reply

        He is very much loved, my soul dog I’ll never get another breed im hooked. And trained, we both trained one another, he taught me patience and understanding and to be more active the rest was easy. I am in love with my boy. Silly maybe but I don’t owe anything to anyone so I give my all to Kashmir. Hope you can find a place in your heart for another buddy.

  41. Annika July 4, 2017 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    How right you are, I loved mine very much, she worked as a therapydog. I still miss her very much.

  42. Laurel Toukan July 18, 2017 at 2:46 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for your informative blog and website about Aussie’s! I have a training question about something that I haven’t had to deal with before. I just got a 2-yr-old (or so) Aussie that was picked up as a stray. She’s a sweetheart but virtually untrained. I crate-trained our other Aussie for house-training (he just died last month at 14 1/2) but I had him from the start. I’ve tried my usual steps with Callie, i.e., taking her out 1st thing in the morning, a short time after she eats, and frequently during the day and have gotten to know my yard extremely well! The problem is, she doesn’t like to go potty while on the leash. She’s not had any peeing accidents inside, even though I leave her out of the crate most of the time when I’m home. At 1st I followed her pretty closely and now she follows me. :) Eventually she does pee on the leash outside and I’ve realized she can hold it a long time, so I’m taking her out a little less often for my own sanity. But she has had 2 incidents of pooping inside when she got upstairs past the barrier I had up. I’ve limited her to the main area of the house for now. I think the leash is the main issue because this morning I let her off the lease and she pretty quickly ran into the tall grass (we live in the country) and peed and pooped. However, I’m afraid to have her off-leash much outside because she isn’t well-trained yet and I’m not sure she wouldn’t run. And she’ll not come immediately when I call her so I don’t want to reinforce that behavior. Any suggestions??

    • Karen Shanley July 18, 2017 at 3:05 pm - Reply

      Laurel, your new girl sounds like a sweetheart.
      2 quick thoughts. Try to make sure she doesn’t have to hold it for “too” long before breaks–that sets her up for incontinence as she gets older. Think 4-5 hrs max.
      And 2nd, try a really long lead, like 20ft or so. Long enough for her to “sneak” off into the tall grass without feeling that she’s “pulling” on the leash, but still connected to you so she can’t run off.
      Good luck!

      • Laurel Toukan July 18, 2017 at 6:19 pm - Reply

        Thanks so much for the suggestions! Is the 4 to 5 hours max for getting her out to potty including during the night?? She’s about 2 1/2.

        • Karen Shanley July 20, 2017 at 9:55 am - Reply

          She should be able to make it through the night. But each dog is different. My BC can only make it about 6-7 hrs through the night. Our Cavelier could make it 8-9 hrs. My Aussie could make it 7-8 hrs. Keeping an eye on noticing if/when she gets restless at night should give you a clue as to what her max is for night time. : )

  43. Pearl September 25, 2017 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    Hey there! I got a rescue Aussie Shep from a shelter. He is currently 4 months almost 5 months old but I am afraid of taking him to dog parks or other areas since he is not fully immunized with PARVO yet since he was a rescue, and has yet to get his RABIES until after he gets fixed by the end of the week. He is currently just at home for now, but I want to start socializing him, but until we get all his shots it is extremely hard to take him out places. We also don’t get a lot of visitors over to our home as we are still new to the area. Any suggestions on helping to socialize our pup?

    • Karen Shanley October 5, 2017 at 11:24 am - Reply

      Pearl, even driving your pup to where he can see people bustling around is a start. You can have him on a leash with the door open and people will probably come over.

      Whatever friends you do have, get them over and have them move about so your pup can get used to quick movements without going into herding or nipping mode.

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