Australian Shepherd

AKC Herding Group


Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Photo copyright © Cook PhoDOGraphy. All rights reserved.

Basque shepherds from Spain and France first brought this outstanding herding dog to the United States and Australia; many then came from Australia to the western United States. They were adept at handling tough cattle and sheep over rugged terrain, and soon became popular herding and all-purpose ranch dogs. They became visible to many non-ranchers when several Aussies toured as a performing act with a rodeo in the 1950s; the dogs were subsequently featured in a movie. Australian Shepherds are superior farm dogs, capable of doing the work of several men and handling all kinds of stock. They are also outstanding obedience dogs, often placing high in trial. The versatile, intelligent Australian Shepherd has served as a narcotics-detection dog and service dog for the deaf, and in search and rescue work. The breed is also known for excellence at disc-catching. The Australian Shepherd is recognized by the AKC, the United Kennel Club and the Australian Shepherd Club of America. The Australian Shepherd Dog Club of America sponsors Stockdog Trials to promote and preserve the breed’s outstanding working abilities. Today’s Aussie is a popular farm dog and family companion.


The Australian Shepherd is a medium-sized, robust, well-balanced, rustic dog with pendant ears, an abundant, medium-length coat, and a bobtail. He should be attentive, lively, and agile with a body slightly longer than its height at the withers. The Aussie has a strong, deep chest and stands squarely on all fours. The front legs are straight. The feet are compact and oval, with arched toes. The top of the head is approximately the same length as the slightly tapering muzzle. The head has a moderate stop. The teeth form a scissors bite. The medium sized oval eyes come in many shades of blue, amber, and brown, often combined or with flecks. The triangular, pendant ears are set high on the head. The medium-length coat comes in blue or red merle, red or black, all with or without white trim or tan markings. The hair around the ears and eyes should not be white. The coat might be straight or slightly wavy, and should have feathering on the backs of the legs, and a mane and frill around the neck. Hair on the head, front of the legs, and on the outside of the ears is shorter than the rest of the coat. The tail is generally docked if it is longer than 4 inches, though many are naturally short.

Key Facts

  • Height: 20 to 23 in. (male); 18 to 21 in. (female)
  • Size: Medium
  • Weight: 45 to 55 lbs. (male); 30 to 45 lbs. (female)
  • Availability: Might take some effort to find
  • Talents: Retrieving, herding, watchdog, guarding, narcotics detection, search and rescue, agility, competitive obedience, and performing tricks


Aussies are naturally suspicious of strangers, so they should be socialized well as puppies. Merle dogs should not be bred to one another, as having two copies of the merle gene can cause a predominantly white coat and blindness and deafness. Buy from a reputable breeder. Working lines of Australian Shepherd might be too energetic to be suitable pets. Some like to nip people’s heels in an attempt to herd them. Australian Shepherds are quiet workers, unlike some breeds that are bred to bark constantly at the livestock. Beware of hip dysplasia and PRA. Buy only from stock with OFA, PennHIP, or another national hip-dysplasia clearance and with current CERF or OFA eye clearance. Many Aussies carry a gene that renders them sensitive to various drugs; a DNA test is available to detect it.


Easygoing perpetual puppies who love to play. Excellent children’s companion—great with active children. A devoted friend and guardian and naturally protective. Courageous, loyal, and affectionate. Very lively, agile, and attentive. Eager to please, with a sixth sense about what the owner wants. Highly intelligent and easy to train. Though aggressive when at work with livestock, the Aussie is gentle with human friends. The Australian Shepherd needs lots of exercise and a job to do, as the breed is very intelligent, active, and easily bored. Can become nervous and destructive if left alone too much without exercise.


  • Children: Excellent with children
  • Friendliness: Moderately protective
  • Trainability: Very easy to train
  • Independence: Fairly independent
  • Dominance: Moderate
  • Other Pets: Generally good with other pets
  • Combativeness: Not generally dog-aggressive
  • Noise: Not a barker
  • Indoors: Moderately active indoors
  • Owner: Not recommended for novice owners


  • Grooming: Regular grooming needed
  • Trimming and Stripping: No trimming or stripping needed
  • Coat: Medium coat
  • Shedding: Seasonally heavy shedder
  • Docking: The tail is customarily docked
  • Exercise: Needs lots of exercise
  • Jogging: An excellent jogging companion
  • Apartments: Not recommended for apartments
  • Outdoor Space: Best with a large yard
  • Climate: Does well in most climates
  • Longevity: Average (10 to 12 years)

Useful Links

AKC® Australian Shepherd Breed Standard

Australian Shepherd Breed Club

Search for a Breeder

Rescue Organizations

Books about the Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherd Gifts