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5 Reasons Australian Shepherds End Up In Rescue and Shelters

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A blue merle Australian Shepherd

Although Australian Shepherds, or Aussies, are America's top favorite breed, not all of them live the American dream. Many Aussies end up in rescue situations and animal shelters due to various reasons such as:

Lack of Breed Knowledge

If you think a dog’s breed has nothing to do with its behavior, think again. Most dog breeds, including the Australian Shepherd, were created for a purpose. The Aussie, for example, was originally developed and used solely as a cattle herder. Though the breed today is predominantly bred for pets, many retain a strong herding instinct nonetheless. 

Knowing what the Australian Shepherd was originally developed for can help you predict and understand behavior. Unfortunately, many people welcome Aussies into their homes because of their gorgeous looks only to discover that the dog does not fit into their family or lifestyle. Consequently, they end up surrendering the dog to animal shelters. 

When Forbes recently surveyed 10,000 U.S. dog owners, 48% of them said they chose a dog because they think the breed is really cute. 34% of the participants said they chose a dog because a family member/friend has owned the breed. Meanwhile, 17% said they developed a love for the breed via social media or TV. Conversely, it is typically advisable to research a dog breed before bringing one home.

High Energy Levels

Another reason Aussies end up in rescue situations is their high energy levels. Australian Shepherds are highly energetic pups that require a great deal of exercise and mental stimulation. If they don't receive enough exercise they may channel their boundless energy through destructive behavior. As a result, they may end up in a shelter waiting for an adopter.

The AKC recommends that Aussies have a large, fenced-in yard to play in for at least two daily. Alternatively, the breed's energy can also be channeled through training such as agility or obedience. Aussies also love accompanying their owners for long walks and hikes. Given their high energy levels, Aussies are deemed unsuitable for inactive people and apartment living.

Not being prepared to meet an Aussie's exercise needs may lead to surrender or abandonment.

Lack of Time and Commitment

Some Australian Shepherds end up in shelters because their owners don't have the time or can't commit to caring for them anymore. Aussies are highly needy in terms of attention. Plus, they are a 13 to 16-year commitment to lots of daily activity. Furthermore, they bond strongly with their owners and can become bored and destructive if not given adequate attention. 

Moreover, Aussies are considered a high-maintenance breed that requires weekly brushing and even more so during shedding season. There are no shortcuts when it comes to training an Aussie, which requires up to 3 years of committed training and socialization. The bottom line is that owning an Aussie requires a great deal of time and commitment. If you don't have the time or resources to provide the necessary attention and care for your Aussie, you might end up surrendering it.

Behavioral Issues and Training Challenges

One common behavioral issue for which Aussies end up in shelters is nipping. It is an instinctive behavior that necessitates early socialization and obedience training. As I mentioned earlier, many Aussies retain a strong herding instinct despite being bred for pets today. Aussies love their families but often view kids and smaller animals as livestock that need to be herded. They do this by nipping at family members' heels, attempting to guide them in an orderly fashion. 

Your Aussie may even try to herd you if you are not moving quickly. Owners who are not prepared for this behavior or fail to curb it through training may find themselves feeling frustrated, defeated, and at a loss for what to do. As a result, they may decide to relinquish the dog. But fortunately, Aussies are smart and biddable dogs, which makes training them very easy.

Velcro Dogs

Australian Shepherds tend to be Velcro dogs, which is one of the reasons why they end up in rescue situations. Maybe you want a companion dog but not one that will be following you more than your own shadow. That's how most Aussies behave, following their owners from room to room to the point that they don't have alone time. 

The breed craves constant attention and affection, which can lead to emotional distress and panic when left alone. This behavior is also instinctual as Aussies were bred to work alongside their masters. Wherever their master goes they go. For some owners, an overly clingy dog can be quite challenging, which may result in surrender.

Fortunately, Aussies are very intelligent and can be trained to be on their own for a considerable amount of time.


Before bringing an Australian Shepherd home, it is important to properly educate yourself about the breed. Don't get an Aussie because you think the breed is cute. Rather, get an Aussie because you understand the exercise and care needs and are prepared to meet them.


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