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Is The Australian Shepherd a Good Family Dog?

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A playful Australian Shepherd dog surrounded by a diverse, loving family.

The Australian Shepherd, also known as the Aussie, is one of the most popular dog breeds in the US and Canada. It is described by the American Kennel Club as a lean, tough ranch dog. In terms of temperament, the Aussie is described as intelligent, affectionate, active, protective, and good-natured, making them great family pets as well as herding animals. 

According to a 2023 News-Press article, Aussies ranked as the top favorite dog breed in ten states and also the second favorite dog breed in nine states. As I mentioned earlier, the Australian Shepherd's loyal and affectionate nature makes it popular as a family pet, but not for everyone.

The Australian Shepherd's Personality

Aussies are described as highly intelligent, active, playful, loyal, protective, and adaptive. They possess a very strong herding instinct and work drive, making them too much of a dog for somewhat inactive pet owners. Even though the modern breed is predominantly bred for pets, most pet Aussies retain a strong herding instinct, trying to herd kids and other pets.

Aussies are deemed highly intelligent and easy to train. They love to romp with children, as well as other pets, and are especially eager to please their owners.

In addition to being highly intelligent, Australian Shepherds are highly energetic dogs, which require consistent training and regular physical and mental stimulation to help them stay active and prevent behavioral problems. In short, during your pet Aussie's entire lifespan, you may need to train and exercise it. 

Due to their high energy, Aussies can become destructive if they do not receive adequate exercise. However, if you're looking to add a brainy, tireless, and trainable partner to your family, an Australian Shepherd could be the right choice for you.

Despite their high energy, Australian Shepherds are deemed moderate barkers. But just like any normal dog, your Aussie may bark to alert you to a stranger or an unfamiliar situation or to express its emotions. Other than that, you won't hear much from your pet Aussie. In short, Aussies possess a self-controlled personality that makes them suitable for medium- to large-sized homes with some kind of outdoor space.

What is more, Aussies are known to form very strong bonds with their owners. Consequently, your dog can develop separation anxiety if regularly left home alone.

Suitability as a Family Dog

Australian Shepherds can make excellent family pet dogs for active families. Their loyal, intelligent, playful, eagerness-to-please, and easy-to-train nature can make them perfect companions for any family who is ready to invest time and put effort into training their dogs.

If you are considering getting an Australian Shepherd as a family pet, you need to be aware that early socialization and obedience training are both musts for the breed. Aussies are high-energy dogs and, as mentioned earlier, can be prone to separation anxiety, which is one of the most frequent reasons they end up in shelters.

The breed's high energy levels can make it difficult to manage, especially if you have young children and are therefore not able to provide enough exercise and stimulation. However, if you are ready to provide your pet Aussie with opportunities to play and exercise, it can become a very well-mannered family member! Plus, Aussies are adaptable and can provide you and your family with unconditional love, whether you live in an urban or a rural area.

What's more, Aussies are generally healthy dogs, meaning you are less likely to spend a lot of money on vet visits. However, that's not to say they can't develop health conditions. On the contrary, Aussies can be prone to deafness, elbow and hip dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy, among other health issues.

In a nutshell, Australian Shepherds possess all the traits you can expect from a family dog. However, whether an Aussie can be a good family pet or not depends on how prepared you are to train and exercise your dog.

Being denied the opportunity to play and exercise can result in your pet Aussie acting destructively out of boredom, which can be stressful for the whole family and the dog as well. Luckily, the breed's keen intelligence combined with its high energy makes it quite easy to train.
 
If you know you don't have enough time to train and exercise a dog, I recommend opting for a laid-back dog breed that does not possess a strong herding instinct.

Considerations for Potential Owners

Before adding an Australian Shepherd to your family, consider the following factors:
  • Space: Aussies require a great deal of exercise on a daily basis. They make great running companions. According to the AKC, you should provide your pet Aussie with a large, fenced-in yard to run around in for at least an hour or two every day.
  • Grooming: Due to its extensive exercise and grooming needs, the Australian Shepherd is deemed a high-maintenance breed. Generally, weekly brushing sessions are required to keep your Aussie's gorgeous coat looking its best. However, more work will be required during the shedding season (spring and fall). Additionally, Aussies require occasional baths and regular nail trimming.
  • Time and Attention: Aussies require plenty of time and attention. Your pet Aussie will constantly want to be with you and be involved in all family activities. In short, Australian Shepherds are quite needy in terms of attention and social interaction. Consequently, you need to consider your lifestyle and needs before deciding if an Australian Shepherd is the right fit for your family.
If you can meet your Australian Shepherd's exercise, grooming, attention, and social interaction needs, it can become a very well-socialized and well-mannered member of your family.

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