Australian Shepherd Temperament: Beauty, brains and energy
Are you here to learn more about the Australian Shepherd's temperament and what an Australian Shepherd is like in a family environment? Then you've come to the right place.
Whether you're a novice dog owner or have owned dogs before, it's always good to learn more about the temperament of the dog you'd like to call yours one day.
Australian Shepherds are real eye-catchers with stunning coat colours and intelligent, charming looks. Whilst some humans love to sit on a couch to relax, this dog's favourite passing time is training for obedience and agility competitions or solving complex mind-boggling tasks.
In the following blog, we will look at their impressive history as herding dogs, their temperament and whether the Aussie Shepherd is everything you wished for in a good family dog. So, without delay, let's explore this bundle of energy in more detail.
Australian Shepherd History
There is a lot of ambiguity about the true origin of the Australian Shepherd Dog.
Despite their name, the consensus is that they didn't originate from Australia.
Another understanding is that dogs from many different countries have influenced their history. The Aussie Shepherd mingled a lot.
It's believed they initially originated from Spains's Basque region or lower Pyrenees. Then, in searching for a "New World", the Spaniards imported their sheep and herding dogs into the US.
But, according to different sources, the breed's development doesn't end here.
There is some compelling evidence that the Aussie shares ancestors with the German Shepherd Dog due to a gene found in both breeds.
It is also believed that some herding dogs from Australia have been crossed with those from Spain/France. Some people think this is where their name originated from.
Finally, the English also brought their English Shepherds over in the mid-1800s. These were bred from Collie-type dogs. As around 20% of all Aussie Shepherds tend to be born with a natural bobtail, it's believed that the English Shepherd influenced the breed. English Shepherds also produced a litter with no tail at times. These dogs again had the merle colour gene, which is so loved in the Aussie Shepherd breed.
The Aussie Shepherd carries the MDR1 gene, found in the Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, Border Collie and German Shepherd.
The part that is not ambiguous is that the breed has been perfected in the US. The Aussie Shepherd was used to herd flocks of sheep in states like California, Wyoming, Colorado and Idaho. They were considered typical ranch dogs but are now top-rated companion dogs, agility, and obedience training dogs. According to the AKC, in 2021, the Australian Shepherd Dog was the 12th most popular dog breed in the US.
Australian Shepherd registration UK 2023
In Q2 2022, 67 Australian Shepherds have been registered with the UK Kennel Club, which matches the average from previous years. If you want to acquire this dog, be prepared for a waiting list. In 2022, 328 Australian Shepherds were registered with the UK Kennel Club. That is a 25% increase versus 2021 numbers.
Source: UK Kennel Club https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/3931/quarterly-breed-stats-pastoral.pdf updated March 2023
Now that we have a rough idea about their breeding history let's dive into how your life with an Australian Shepherd Dog might look.
What is the Temperament of an Australian Shepherd?
It's certainly never dull!
Aussie Shepherds have an over-average intelligence. Their intelligence might cause some issues for novice dog owners. If you don't show consistent leadership, their minds will try to outsmart you.
An example is an owner giving an Aussie puppy a treat to enter the house after playing in the garden. This escalated quickly to the point that the Aussie puppy didn't enter the home without a treat. Outsmarted!
The Aussie Shepherd is highly trainable. Obedience and agility training is their strong suit. However, they're learning quickly, and you must develop new games and tasks weekly.
It is recommended to have some knowledge of obedience training or at least the willingness to learn about it before taking on this very clever dog breed. Otherwise, the Aussie Shepherd will find ways to get what they want, and they can become destructive if you can't fulfil their need for physical and mental stimulation.
The Aussie Shepherd is a working breed. They need tons of exercise. 2 hours a day is a must. Owners often say that this dog has two sides to them. Their working side is very business-like and focused. In a home environment, they welcome cuddles and brain training.
Daily runs and hikes are also not quite enough. Mental exercise is also essential. Switch your walking and hiking routes, as your Aussie might quickly become bored. Building some scent work in their daily routine is also a welcoming modification.
Please do not underestimate the time you need to exercise the Aussie to meet their needs. Simple leash walking will not cut it with this athlete dog.
Nowadays, there are two strains of the Aussie Shepherd. The working breed and the show breed. Breeders focusing on the working type will aim for a dog's temperament with the drive and instinct to work cattle.
If you're an active person hiking every week or going for runs regularly, the Aussie Shepherd might be just the dog breed for you.
They're very people-orientated and will flourish spending time with you wherever you go. They will have no problem becoming part of your active lifestyle. In fact, it's probably you who cannot keep up.
Their herding instinct is strong and deeply embedded into their personality.
As an Aussie Shepherd leader, you must be prepared for the difficulties. One problem that can arise without proper training is nipping. Herding dogs tend to move livestock along by nipping at their heels.
If the Aussie Shepherd decides to take it upon themselves to "herd" your young children, they could nip to make them go where they want them to go.
This doesn't necessarily need to happen. But it's a possible scenario and emphasises the importance of early training and socialisation.
Socialisation from a young age exposes the dog to different situations.
You are responsible for teaching them when it is okay to react and when it isn't. With new situations, your dog is creating a framework once the scenarios arise later in life.
Aussie Shepherds can be aloof with strangers at first. But once they notice you're relaxed with whoever is trespassing in their area, they will trust your leadership and be friendly with new people. Some Aussies can show a solid protective drive in their home, especially if you're not there or someone trespasses their "area".
Generally, a well-socialised Aussie will trust you and follow your lead. However, a fearful dog might start growling and barking. Relationship exercises can often help to re-balance the relationship with your dog as they don't seem to trust you are making decisions and feel like they need to make decisions for you.
Aussie Shepherds were bred to work alongside humans. Being left alone at home for extended periods will not agree with this breed. If you leave your Aussie Shepherd without a job for three hours, they might end up being mischievous out of boredom. Aussies are also often described as "Velcro-dogs".
Are you after a quiet dog? Well, this breed might not be for you. Aussie Shepherds are typically quite vocal dogs. They can bark for numerous reasons, even if it's just for attention or because they're excited. As they're high energy, they get excited quite quickly. As medium-sized dogs, most of their life stock was taller than them. So barking helped to establish dominance and get the life stock moving. That doesn't necessarily mean that your Aussie will be vocal, but it can be a trait in the breed.
The Aussie Shepherd has a funny personality, always wanting to join in activities, and they tend to bond very deeply with their family. This dog will be loyal to you. They will steal your heart with their charm and their quicks wits. To control this dog, you need to display calm and consistent leadership. This way, they will respect you and follow your commands without hesitation.
Let's now have a look at some common Australian Shepherd Dog questions.