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6 Things To Know Before Getting An Australian Shepherd

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A blue merle Aussie

Australian Shepherds, or Aussies, are one of the most intelligent and affectionate dogs on earth. What's more, they also happen to be one of the friendliest dog breeds. As such, they make both great farm dogs and family pets. Aussies are known for their strong herding instincts as well as tendencies to form strong attachments to their owners. 

They get along well with kids and other household pets but sometimes try to herd them. Fortunately, Aussies are very biddable and can easily be trained out of this trait, which reflects their working heritage. Other personality traits that best describe Australian Shepherds include:
  • Adaptability: Aussies are versatile and excel in a variety of roles
  • Eagerness to please: Your Aussie will always want to make you happy
  • Playfulness: Anytime is Aussies' playtime
Combine Aussies' intelligence with their biddability, and eager-to-please nature and you have yourself a great companion. However, along with all those pros come also some cons with owning an Australian Shepherd. These cons, of which you need to be aware prior to bringing home an Aussie, include:

1. Australian Shepherds are energetic pups

Like other working dogs, Australian Shepherds are known for their high energy levels. As such, activity keeps them happy pups. They possess a strong work drive and require a great deal of exercise daily. This requirement can make them too much dog for you if you are a sedentary person. 

The AKC advises potential owners to have a large, fenced-in yard for their dogs to run around in for at least an hour or two daily. Otherwise, you will have to be going on daily long walks with your dog. Alternatively, you can give your Aussie a job to do, whether that is shepherding children or competing in dog sports such as obedience or agility trials. All these requirements make the Aussie unsuitable for:
  • Apartment living
  • Inactive families
  • Very busy individuals
However, your search might end with the Australian Shepherd provided you are in the market for a smart, tireless, and biddable partner for work or sport.

2. They shed year-round

Aussies' shedding level
Source: X

Australian Shepherds are considered serious shedders and shed year-round. However, in the spring and fall, you'll notice a surplus of shedding. This means that you may have to take some time to clean up dog fur in your home and car. 

Also, your Aussie will require weekly brushing sessions to prevent matting in their fur and to keep their waterproof, double-layer coat looking its best. During shedding season, you will need to brush your dog every two or three days to remove the abundant dead hair, as seen in the above picture. If you are ready to take on this responsibility, then you may be ready to adopt an Australian Shepherd.

3. They are medium-sized dogs

Australian Shepherds are a medium-sized dog breed, with males tending to be somewhat larger than females. Adult males measure from 20  to 23 inches in height and weigh around 50 to 65 pounds. On the other hand, adult females weigh between 40 and 55 pounds and stand 18-21 inches tall. For more info, refer to my article, Male Australian Shepherd vs. Female Australian Shepherd. So, if you consider getting an Aussie, you need to ask yourself whether you want a small, medium-sized, or large breed of dog.

4. They are clingy

Australian Shepherds are considered to be Velcro dogs, meaning they are overly clingy. They bond strongly with their families and so can become bored if not given enough attention or left alone for long periods too often. As with many other breeds, a bored Aussie can resort to acting destructively or becoming very vocal. Your Aussie may want to be with you all the time, following you every second of every day. 

Many Aussie owners jokingly report that their dogs follow them more than their own shadow, to the point they never have a moment alone. Before bringing home an Aussie, ask yourself: "Do I want a Velcro or independent dog?" By nature, some dogs are independent, thus tolerating a considerable amount of alone time. Unfortunately, this is not the case with most Australian Shepherds. 

According to the AKC, it is advisable and critical to teach dogs from an early age how to enjoy being alone. Though it may take a little time and effort, the AKC says this is to ensure your dog is calm and confident whenever it is by itself.

5. They possess a strong herding instinct

The AKC describes the Australian Shepherd as being "the picture of rugged and agile movers of stock," and rightly so. When kept as house dogs, Aussies, as I mentioned earlier, exhibit an irresistible impulse to herd, anything, including birds, dogs, kids, and even adults. To them, every living being is probably livestock. 

To curb this instinct, the AKC recommends early socialization and obedience training as musts. Otherwise, your Aussie may try to guide family members in an orderly fashion by circling, nipping at their heels, or simply confronting them with a silent stare. However, if you are planning to keep the Aussie as a farm dog, there is no need to curb its herding instinct.

6. They are wary of strangers

As a breed, the Aussie tends to be wary of strangers, though some Aussies are friendly with everyone. This, however, is not to say they are aggressive. Rather, it is to say they are attached to their families and are fiercely protective of them. Originally bred to herd and protect livestock, Aussies often perceive strangers as threats. Consequently, they may bark or growl at your visitors. Luckily, Aussies' loyalty combined with their high energy and smarts makes them highly trainable.

Conclusion

To sum up, Australian Shepherds make both great livestock herders and family companions. However, their training and exercise requirements make them unsuitable for apartment living as well as sedentary individuals. So there you have it, the top six things you need to know if you are considering adopting an Australian Shepherd.

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