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BREED SPOTLIGHT

Breed Spotlight: Australian Shepherd

4 min read Sep 12, 2022

Australian Shepherd Quick Stats

Lifespan: 12 – 15 years

Weight: 40 – 65 lbs.

Height: 18 – 23 inches

Do I Shed?: Yes

Personality: Intelligent, athletic, good with kids

Common Health Problems: Hip dysplasia, eye conditions, drug sensitivity

Australian Shepherd: How Do I Look?

Australian shepherds, also known as Australian sheepdogs, are medium sized dogs known for their striking eye color combinations and speckled — known as merle — coats. There is also a miniature Australian shepherd with similar characteristics to its full-sized counterpart.

Coat Type and Colors

Aussies have a waterproof, double coat. Their coats are medium length but can be straight or wavy with some feathering. The American Kennel Club accepts the following colors and markings as part of the official Australian shepherd breed standard:3

  • Black
  • Blue merle
  • Red
  • Red merle
  • White markings
  • Tan points
  • White markings with tan points

Shedding and Grooming

Australian shepherds are moderate shedders that are easy to groom. They require weekly brushing but rarely need full baths. Because they have a double coat, using an undercoat rake every few days is usually recommended.

Their coats are fairly weatherproof, but Aussies may need a bath after harder working days or muddy play sessions. If you notice your Aussie’s coat becoming tangled or matted, you might decide to maintain a shorter coat.

Ears and Tails

Aussies’ ears are triangular, upright, leather-like, and uncropped. Their tails are straight and traditionally docked if not naturally bobbed.

Although docking is considered part of the breed standard for Australian shepherds, the American Veterinary Medical Association considers docking unnecessary, even for working breeds.3,4

Drooling Level

Drooling should generally not be an issue for Australian shepherds.

Aussie: Personality Traits

What My Adoption Bio Might Say:

If you’re someone who’s just as smart and energetic as me, I’m the pup for you! Adventure is out there, and I’m ready to go, go, go anywhere. But let your guard down, and I’ll run circles around you like the playful trickster I am.

Behavior

Australian shepherds are herding dogs through and through. They are extremely hard-working and intelligent, and they thrive when given tasks to stay busy. Aussies also form strong bonds with their owners.

This super smart working breed requires plenty of physical and mental stimulation. They’re the happiest when there’s a problem to solve or a job to do. If left unstimulated, Aussies can get into mischief. Give your Australian sheepdog new puzzles and tasks to keep them from misbehaving.

Keep in mind that this breed needs an owner who can meet all of their needs. If Aussies lack frequent activity, mental stimulation, or companionship, they can become destructive and territorial among other behavioral problems.

Trainability

Early socialization and obedience training is a must for Aussies. Luckily, they are extremely intelligent and eager to please their pet parents. This results in successful and relatively easy training.

Exercise Needs

Australian shepherds need an owner that can meet their very high exercise needs. A short walk a day will not be enough to keep them happy and healthy.

They need at least 1 – 2 hours of daily exercise to satisfy their high energy levels and athletic ability. Luckily, Aussies make the perfect adventure buddy. With an Australian shepherd, you’ll have an excellent companion for long walks, hikes, and runs.

Are Australian Shepherds Good with Kids?

The Australian shepherd is very good with children and quickly becomes part of the family. Don’t be surprised if your Aussie herds the children in your household.

If you’re concerned about meeting the Aussie’s activity needs, there are plenty of other amazing dog breeds for families you can consider.

Are Australian Shepherds Good with Other Pets?

In general, Australian shepherds should be fine with other pets in the household.

Keep in mind that this breed is a sheepdog. They can be territorial and fiercely protective of their families, so early socialization is key to making them comfortable around pets outside of their flock.

Barking Level

Aussies can be barkers, but it won’t usually be an issue when they’re well-trained and properly stimulated.

An Australian shepherd puppy high-fives its owner.

Australian Sheepdog Fun Facts

According to the AKC, the Australian sheepdog has a rich history.5 Here are a few interesting facts from their research:

  1. Despite its name, the Australian shepherd is a fully American breed that came out of the American West by ranchers in California.
  2. Adding to their rich history in cowboy culture, many Australian shepherds today are still herders and rodeo performers, but also popular therapy dogs.
  3. They’re believed to be descendants of the Pyrenean shepherd and British collie breeds.
  4. Aussies were officially recognized by the AKC in 1993.

Common Aussie Mixes

Australian sheepdogs are a very common breed to mix. Some of the popular Aussie mixes include:

  • Texas heeler: Australian shepherd and blue heeler mix
  • Border Aussie: Australian shepherd and border collie mix
  • Aussiedoodle: Australian shepherd and poodle mix
  • Aussie husky: Australian shepherd and husky mix
  • Aussiedors: Australian shepherd and lab mix
  • Auggie: Australian shepherd and corgi mix
  • Australian retriever: Australian shepherd and golden retriever mix

9 Australian Shepherd Health Issues

According to the Australian Shepherd Club of America, Aussies may experience a number of health issues, including:6

  • Hip dysplasia: This is an abnormal formation of the hip socket.
  • Elbow dysplasia: These are multiple abnormalities in the elbow joint.
  • Epilepsy: This can cause occasional seizures.
  • Cataracts
  • Cancer
  • Deafness
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): OCD is an orthopedic condition caused by improper cartilage growth.
  • Hypothyroidism: This is caused by an overactive thyroid and metabolism.
  • Drug sensitivity: Some drugs may become toxic in smaller doses.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals recommends that Aussies receive early health screenings and eye exams.7

How Pet Insurance Can Help Australian Shepherds

Australian shepherd health issues can be very costly. Pet insurance helps millions of pet parents afford the care they need.

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia in dogs is a very painful disease involving a dog’s hip joint. The ball and socket joint does not work properly causing friction. It is most commonly caused by a genetic abnormality and can be passed through a dog’s hereditary line. Treatment may include surgery depending on the severity of the case.

Cancer

Australian shepherds can develop different forms of cancer. However, they are most likely to experience lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma. Lymphoma may be successfully treatable depending on your dog’s specific case, but unfortunately, hemangiosarcoma is very aggressive with a low survival rate.

Cataracts

Cataracts are an eye condition in dogs that leads to opaque lenses and vision problems. As cataracts develop, your dog may become fully blind in one or both eyes. Treatment for cataracts is surgery performed by a veterinary ophthalmologist.

A policy from MetLife Pet Insurance1 may be able to cover hip dysplasia, eye conditions, and cancers your Aussie could experience within their lifetime.2 But these aren’t the only conditions a pet insurance policy could help with. Learn more about how pet insurance covers your pet’s health and consider covering your Australian shepherd puppy early. That way your coverage isn’t limited by preexisting conditions.

Protect your Australian Shepherd

Enroll in 3 Easy Steps

Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.

2 Provided all terms of the policy are met. Application is subject to underwriting review and approval. Like most insurance policies, insurance policies issued by IAIC and MetGen contain certain deductibles, co-insurance, exclusions, exceptions, reductions, limitations, and terms for keeping them in force. For costs, complete details of coverage and exclusions, and a listing of approved states, please contact MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC. 

3 “Official Standard of the Australian Shepherd,” American Kennel Club

4 “Canine Tail Docking FAQ,” American Veterinary Medical Association

5 “Australian Shepherd Dog Breed Information,” American Kennel Club

6 “Diseases and Defects,” The Australian Shepherd Club of America

7 “Australian Shepherd Recommended Tests/CHIC Program Requirements,” Orthopedic Foundation for Animals

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