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


Australian Shepherd Temperament
The Aussie Shepherd comes in many stunning coat colours

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 agreement is that their history has been influenced by dogs from many different countries. 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 nowadays also top-rated companion dogs, agility, and obedience training dog. According to the AKC, in 2021, the Australian Shepherd Dog was the 12th most popular dog breed in the US.


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.

Q1 2021

Q2 2021

Q3 2021

Q4 2021

Yearly 2021

Q1 2022

Q2 2022

70

56

87

51

264

78

67

Source: UK Kennel Club https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/media/3931/quarterly-breed-stats-pastoral.pdf October 2022


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 it like to live with an Australian Shepherd?


Australian Shepherd Temperament
The Aussie is always ready for a new task

It's certainly never dull!


Aussie Shepherds have an over-average intelligence. In fact, their intelligence might cause some issues for novice dog owners. If you don't show consistent leadership, their minds will certainly 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 will need to 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 who focus on the working type will aim for a dog's temperament with the drive and instinct to work cattle.


Australian Shepherd Temperament
Two hours plus of exercise is recommended for an Aussie to thrive

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 the children 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.

Australian Shepherd Temperament
An attentive Aussie. Their signature look!

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 at a later stage of its life.


Aussie Shepherds can be aloof with strangers at first. But once they notice that 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 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.



Do Australian Shepherd Dogs shed?

Yes, Aussie Shepherds do shed. They have a medium to long coat with a dense undercoat. Their primary shedding season is spring and fall, when they blow their undercoat.


Daily brushing will help alleviate the problem but don't be surprised if you find newly shed hair 20 mins after your daily hoovering session. If you're houseproud, you might want to revisit your decision to own an Aussie Shepherd.


Are Australian Shepherd Dogs good family dogs?

Australian Shepherd Temperament
Socialisation is a key component in any Aussie training

Yes, the Australian Shepherd is a good family dog and great with well-behaved children.


They tend to be patient with little ones, but it's best to supervise their interactions either way.


Aussie Shepherds love being around their family and thrive in activities involving people. As advised further above, observe your dog, so they don't develop too strong herding instincts around you or your children. Nipping is not unheard of in this breed.


Take the time to train your Australian Shepherd; you will never have temperament problems with them. Instead, involve them in your active lifestyle, and this dog will flourish.


What's the difference between a Border Collie and an Australian Shepherd Dog?

Although both breeds are similar in looks and can be easily confused as puppies, there are some significant differences. Border Collies originated in Northumbria, on the border of Scotland and England. The Australian Shepherd is an American breed, although their ancestors lived presumably in Spain.


However, both species were bred for the same purpose, so their temperament can be pretty similar: Intelligent, affectionate, and highly energetic.

The Border Collie is also the "Einstein" of the dog breeds, continuously winning obedience and agility competitions. Although the Aussie Shepherd possesses an over-average intelligence, it's not matching a Border Collie.


Significant differences are observed in the coat structure. The Border Collie comes in rough and smooth coat varieties, while the outer coat can be wavy or straight. The Aussie Shepherd can have moderate featherings but will have a less harsh and less dense coat than the Border Collie.


The ears are also less erect on the Aussie Shepherd than on the Border Collie. Some owners claim that the Border Collie is more aloof with strangers. In the end, dogs, however, are individuals.



Australian Shepherd Temperament
An Aussie puppy can be mischievous and interested in anything.

Australian Shepherd Temperament in a nutshell

  • People-orientated, loyal and affectionate

  • Early socialisation is crucial when owning an Aussie

  • Very intelligent and need a lot of mental stimulation

  • Willingness to learn about obedience and agility training by future owner

  • High energy dog and require 2 hrs plus exercise a day


Potential health issues in the Australian Shepherd breed

There are certain health conditions that the Aussie can be prone to. Naturally, bigger and more muscular dogs amount to more considerable medical expenses when needing treatment. That said, not all Aussies will experience the below hereditary diseases. It's essential to be aware of them to spot problems early on so you can follow up with immediate treatment.


The average life span of an Australian Shepherd is between 13 to 15 years. When choosing a puppy, a reputable breeder must have all health certificates. A reputable breeder will also breed dogs with a good temperament than breed just for looks.


The below list does not replace a vet visit. In general, always look for a vet, if your dog displays any sort of symptoms and internet research doesn't replace a vet visit.

Hip Dysplasia/Elbow Dysplasia: is an inherited skeletal condition but can be exacerbated by quick growth and obesity and can end in painful arthritis


Autoimmune Thyroiditis: Can cause weight gain, skin problems


Cataracts: Prevalent eye disease in Aussie Shepherds. This can lead to clouding and blindness


Epilepsy: Can be inherited but also appear for other reasons


MDR1-related drug sensitivity: Carriers of the gene can react allergically to certain drugs. A DNA test can quickly establish if your Aussie is a carrier.


Overall, however, the Aussie is considered a healthy and robust dog breed.



Australian Shepherd fun fact


Australian Shepherd Temperament
Aussies are very clever and are looking for capable leadership

Some Australian Shepherds have famously heterochromia.


It's a genetic mutation that can cause different coloured eyes, for example, blue and brown.