Australian Shepherds are medium-sized dogs with gorgeous thick fur and sunny personalities. Known for their loyalty and sharp intelligence, these incredibly athletic dogs are some of the most popular pets in the United States. These intelligent dogs have been known to outsmart more than their share of humans, particularly when food is involved.
Australian Shepherds were bred to herd sheep and make fantastic hunting, search, and rescue dogs. If you have one of the beautiful dogs at home, consider yourself lucky. And if you’re considering adopting an Australian Shepherd, dust off the hiking boots and get ready to fall in love. Read on to learn 12 incredible facts about these amazing dogs!
The 12 Incredible Facts About Australian Shepherds
1. They Come in Four Standard Colors
The American Kennel Club recognizes four breed standard colors: black, blue merle, red, and red merle. They have medium-length soft fur with a double coat featuring tan or white markings; some dogs have a combination of tan pointing and white markings. While their coats are lush and thick, the hardy dogs don’t usually require much in the grooming department. Most are fine with a good brushing once a week, but they need a bit of extra grooming during shedding season.
2. They Come in a Variety of Sizes
Breed standard Australian Shepherds are medium-sized dogs. Male dogs weigh anywhere from 50 to 62 pounds, and adult females typically weigh 40 to 55 pounds. Males tend to grow to a height of 20–23 inches. Female Australian Shepherds usually reach heights of 18–21 inches.
But there are also toy and teacup versions of the adorable dogs. Toy Australian Shepherds reach a maximum height of 18 inches and weigh no more than 40 pounds. Teacups are even smaller, and while they look like miniature Australian Shepherds, they don’t have the same temperament as standard and toy versions of these popular herders. Please note that neither the toy nor the teacup versions of the breed are officially recognized by professional dog organizations.
3. They’re not From Australia
The breed is related to Pyranese Shepherds, the famous Basque country herders that ruled the roost in the mountains between France and Spain. When Basque shepherds moved to Australia in the early 19th century, their energetic and loyal dogs came with them. The dogs were then mixed with Collies and Border Collies to create a new breed of Shepherd.
The herding dogs traveled with immigrants who left Australia for the west coast of the United States. California ranchers assumed the dogs were Australian since they accompanied men and women arriving from the shores of the Land Down Under. The popular dogs were soon known as Australian Shepherds or Aussies.
4. They’re the Quintessential Dogs of the American West
After arriving in the United States, the dogs became a fixture on ranches throughout the American West. They’re deeply associated with cowboy culture as every cow hand had a trusty Australian Shepherd to help them keep the cows and sheep in line.
They can still be found performing in rodeos in states like Colorado and Oklahoma, where they regularly show off their skills in agility competitions. Reride the Wonderdog, an adorable Aussie who’s been performing since he was 3 years old, wows crowds on the rodeo circuit with his cute jump rope and lasso skills.
5. They Need a Ton of Exercise
Australian Shepherds are happiest when they get plenty of exercise. They’re known for having endless energy, and most require at least 1 hour of serious exercise a day like running, hide and seek, flyball, and other heart-pumping activities. Dogs that don’t get enough action tend to become cranky, which often leads to heel-nipping, car chasing, escape attempts, and other activities linked to herding being expressed in problematic ways.
6. They’re Very Intelligent
Aussies are some of the smartest dogs on the planet. They’ll happily outsmart and outmaneuver a less-than-experienced human and can be extraordinarily creative when food is involved.
The curious and adaptable dogs will find ways to open doors, get into cabinets, and even unzip backpacks if they decide it’s time for a snack. They often see human-set limits as puzzles to be solved instead of mandates to be followed. Good training that starts when these bright dogs are puppies is the only way to keep Aussies’ behavior between the canine navigational beacons.
7. They’re Incredibly Loyal
The sweet dogs bond deeply with their humans and make excellent companions for those who enjoy getting out and about with a canine buddy. They’ll happily accompany their human on hikes and runs, and they’re known for following their favorite person around the house. Because of their high energy levels, Aussies don’t tend to enjoy long cuddles.
Aussies will curl up and nap with their favorite person, particularly as they get older, and start calming down. Teacup Aussies, on the other hand, don’t have the same high energy levels and herding instincts and are often champion snugglers.
8. They Like to Herd
Australian Shepherds were bred to be super herders, and most still have that instinct. Given a chance, these extremely active dogs will herd just about anything they can, including children, smaller dogs, and cats. They also have a relatively high prey drive, which is connected to their herding instinct. Without proper training, this deep drive to herd can lead to aggression and nipping as they attempt to keep kids and the family cat in line. Common triggers that’ll get an Aussie into herding mode include quick movements and squeals. Lying down with a raised chest and upright head is a sign that an Aussie is in herding mode!
9. They’re Super Popular
According to the American Kennel Club, Australian Shepherds were the 12th most popular breed in the United States in 2020. The herders are more popular than Chihuahuas, Siberian Huskies, and even Pugs. Labrador Retrievers were the most popular breed in 2020, followed by French Bulldogs, German Shepherds, and Golden Retrievers. Border Collies, the distant relatives of Aussies, came in at number 32 on the list. Just in case you’re wondering, Labrador Retrievers have topped the list for the last 30 years!
10. They’re Expensive
If you’re thinking of purchasing an Aussie, get ready to splash some cash! Australian Shepherds can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,800. Merle-colored dogs cost more, not due to temperament-related issues but simply because they are the most popular. Of course, dogs with a fantastic pedigree and championship blood usually demand higher prices. However, it’s also possible to adopt an Australian Shepherd from a rescue organization for almost nothing, as dogs are surrendered every year by owners who can’t keep up with their Aussie’s needs for exercise and mental stimulation.
11. They Have a Few Fun and Not-so-Fun Genetic Traits
Aussies have amazing eyes! Blue and brown are the most common eye colors, but a fair number of the gorgeous dogs have one blue and one brown eye! Unfortunately, the genes that create that beautiful merle coloring also tend to produce deaf and blind dogs.
While Australian Shepherds are generally healthy, they’re prone to illnesses such as hip dysplasia, epilepsy, elbow dysplasia, and hypothyroidism. They also have more than their share of eye problems, including cataracts, and are often extremely sensitive to medication.
12. They’re Often Mixed with Other Breeds
There are several Aussie mixes, including Texas Heelers, Border Aussies, and Aussiedoodles. Texas Heelers are Australian Shepherd and Blue Heeler mixes, while Border Aussies are a gorgeous Australian Shepherd and Border Collie combination.
Aussiedoodles, Australian Shepherd, and Poodle mixes are super intelligent, athletic, and great for those looking for a dog who sheds moderately and is excellent with kids. Aussie-Husky mixes are gorgeous but not for the faint of heart; the energetic dogs require at least 2 hours of serious exercise daily! Australian Retrievers are adorable Aussie and Golden Retriever mixes known for their loveable personalities.
Australian Shepherds are energetic, loyal, and one of the most popular breeds in the United States. They make wonderful pets for people who love getting out and about with a canine companion by their side. If you decide to purchase one of these incredible dogs, do your homework and select a reputable breeder to ensure your new buddy doesn’t suffer from any genetic problems. If pedigree isn’t important to you, but you’ve got your heart set on adopting one of these charming dogs, you’re in luck! There are adorable Aussies up for adoption in animal rescue centers across the nation.
Featured Image Credit: Piqsels