English Shepherds and Australian Shepherds are both wonderful companion dogs that are incredibly loyal to their families. Both dogs are herding dogs with strong work ethics and an eagerness to learn and be helpful.
Both breeds are similar in size and share many commonalities in their temperament and care needs. They both thrive in active households where they can exercise frequently and have opportunities to work.
However, these two dog breeds also have some key differences that make them a good fit for different kinds of people. English Shepherds tend to be friendlier and more people-oriented, while Australian Shepherds are content with just being around their tight-knit families. As you get to know each breed, you’ll be able to determine which one is right for you.
At a Glance
English Shepherd Overview
Personality and Temperament
English Shepherds are hardy dogs bred to work long hours herding and guarding livestock. They’re farm dogs with incredible loyalty and are eager to please their owners.
This breed is also known as “shadow shepherds” because of their friendliness and love for people. While English Shepherds can be excellent family dogs, they’re known to become strongly attached to one or two people and follow them around everywhere, like a shadow. English Shepherds make wonderful companion dogs and do exceptionally well with people who live active lifestyles and can spend a lot of time with them.
English Shepherds tend to love children in their family but will require some supervision at first as they may try to “herd” small children. They can get along with cats, but early socialization is key for these pets to live together harmoniously.
English Shepherds were bred to work and have a lot of endurance. So, they need a minimum of 2 hours of physical exercise a day. However, they do best in settings where they have some sort of job to do every day. Many English Shepherds are capable of becoming successful service dogs and therapy dogs. This dog will also enjoy going on hikes and other outdoor adventures with you.
As a highly intelligent dog breed, English Shepherds need as much mental exercise as physical exercise. These dogs will excel in obedience training and learning new tricks. They can also learn to take on agility courses and participate in competitive frisbee.
English Shepherds are fairly easy to train because they’re fast learners and are eager to please. However, owners may have a hard time getting young puppies to focus because of their high energy levels. So, it’s best to do training sessions after some exercise.
These dogs also respond very well to positive reinforcement. They’re also quick to pick up on patterns and rules, so consistency and building a routine are especially important for them.
Health & Care
English Shepherds are generally healthy dogs, but as with all purebred dogs, they are predisposed to some genetic issues, particularly with the joints and eyes. Some common issues English Shepherds may encounter are the following:
English Shepherds are also dogs that are more susceptible to having the MDR1 gene mutation. This mutation causes them to have severe to life-threatening reactions to common drugs, including certain antiparasitic medication, loperamide, and some anticancer drugs. Genetic testing can reveal if an English Shepherd has the MDR1 mutation.
English Shepherds have a relatively low-maintenance coat. They have a weather-resistant double coat that doesn’t tangle easily. They’re moderate shedders and shed seasonally. So, they’re not the best breed for people with allergies. Regular brushing every few days will help control some shedding. These dogs don’t need frequent baths and a bath every 4 to 6 weeks will suffice.
The two main priorities for English Shepherds are exercise and quality time with their owners. This is why they’re a better fit for people who have an active lifestyle. These dogs will be able to keep up with jogging, running, and swimming. They’ll also enjoy hikes and running around a spacious field.
Due to their high level of energy, English Shepherds don’t do well living in apartments and cities. They’re also not the best fit for first-time dog owners because they have more advanced needs for physical exercise and mental stimulation than other dog breeds.
Australian Shepherd Overview
Personality and Temperament
Like English Shepherds, Australian Shepherds are high-energy dogs with strong loyalty tendencies. Australian Shepherds are known to be more withdrawn and stick to one or two people. While they aren’t aggressive, they may be more stand-offish and less friendly towards strangers than English Shepherds.
Australian Shepherds are also hard workers and like to work. They thrive in homes where they have jobs, and many often become excellent police dogs or search and rescue dogs.
With early socialization, Australian Shepherds can learn to live with other dogs and animals. However, their instincts may drive them to herd smaller animals and nip at them. They may also treat children this way, so they often do better in homes with older children.
Australian Shepherds have similar exercise needs as English Shepherds. They need at least 2 hours of exercise spread out throughout the day. However, they’re happiest when they can spend all day with their favorite people.
Australian Shepherds get bored very easily, so ample physical and mental exercise is a must. They’ll enjoy going on nature walks where they can explore and sniff around, and they’re often successful agility course athletes.
Australian Shepherds are very intelligent and intuitive dogs and building a strong foundation in obedience training will help them immensely. They’re fast learners and can add to and improve on old skill sets relatively quickly.
As dogs that are loyal to one person, it’s important to do plenty of activities together to build a strong bond. Once you gain an Australian Shepherd’s trust and loyalty, it becomes easier to train as it becomes more willing to focus on you.
Health & Care
Australian Shepherds are a generally healthy breed but are at risk of certain genetic conditions. The following are common health issues Australian Shepherds may develop, especially as they age:
Although it’s not as prevalent as in English Shepherds, Australian Shepherds are also susceptible to having the MDR1 mutation.
When it comes to grooming, Australian Shepherds are moderate shedders and are heavy seasonal shedders. Their coats need a minimum of weekly brushing to help remove debris and prevent mats and tangles. They don’t need frequent baths and can be bathed about once a month.
Australian Shepherds need a lot of physical and mental exercise. They also don’t do well being alone for long hours, and they enjoy companionship with a small, select group of people.
Although Australian Shepherds are pretty easy to train, they’re not recommended for first-time dog owners or people with busy lifestyles because of their demanding lifestyle needs. They can live in apartments if they get enough exercise, but they do best in single-family homes with a large, fenced yard or in rural homes.
Which Breed Is Right for You?
Both the English Shepherd and Australian Shepherd are great dogs for experienced dog owners that have the time to provide plenty of exercise and companionship. Both can live in apartments if they have enough exercise opportunities, but they thrive in bigger homes with a safe yard where they can run around.
English Shepherds tend to have friendlier personalities and do well with young children. Australian Shepherds can also be great family pets, but they may require a little more supervision at first when socializing with young children. If you have other pets in the house, early socialization is a must for both breeds.
Overall, English Shepherds and Australian Shepherds are high-energy dogs that are happy to spend all day with their favorite people. If you’re looking for new adventures and have the time to invest in training, either breed is sure to step up to the challenge and become the best companions you could ever ask for.
Featured Image Credit: Jennifer-McCallum, Shutterstock (English Shepherd- Upper), Jennie Book, Shutterstock (Australian Shepherd – Lower)