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What Are Australian Shepherds Good At?

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In addition to being known for its smarts, the Australian Shepherd, or Aussie, is also well known for its adaptability. Furthermore, Aussies are also known for their high energy levels. Thanks to their intelligence, high energy, and versatility, Australian Shepherds excel at various roles including:

Herding

An Australian Shepherd herding cattle

Australian Shepherds' original purpose was to assist shepherds in herding livestock. The breed was developed in the U.S. from sheepdog breeds imported alongside sheep from Australia, or so I’ve read. Known as the cowboy's herding dog of choice, the Aussie is described by the AKC as a "worker with a keen, penetrating gaze in the eye." Additionally, the AKC calls them "the picture of rugged and agile movers of stock."

The Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA), describes the Aussie as a "confident, authoritative worker with a unique style that differs from Strong-Eyed breeds." According to the ASCA, Aussies excel and are most valued for their ability to move very large herds of cattle from summer to winter grazing grounds and back. 

Categorized as one of the Loose-Eyed breeds of stock dogs, Aussies are good at flushing range cattle out of heavy brush, and moving livestock in tight quarters such as chutes and alleys. According to their working description, Aussies "often display wear, grip, or an authoritative bark, as well as eye when necessary, to handle the animals they are herding."

Aussies are also known for being protective of their stock by getting between them and a predator. What's more, Aussies also know not to lead livestock into predators' territories.

Canine Sports

A blue merle Australian Shepherd in a dog agility competition

The Aussie has increasingly been seen in various dog competitions since the late-20th century. Thanks to their intelligence and adaptability, Aussies excel at many canine sports, including agility, dock diving, obedience, tracking, and flyball. They are especially good at competing in ASCA stock dog trials and AKC herding events.

Earlier in 2024, an Aussie named Viking made headlines after winning Best in Show at the 2024 Crufts dog show in England. Viking made history as the second Australian Shepherd to win the prestigious title at the world's largest dog show.

Companionship and family pets

In recent years, the Aussie has become an extremely popular companion dog and family pet. In 2024, the Australian Shepherd was ranked by the American Kennel Club as the 12th most popular dog breed in the U.S. Also, a recent Forbes survey finds that Aussies are the most favored breed in the country.

Aussies make excellent companion dogs for active individuals. They are very affectionate, loyal dogs that are eager to please their owners. In fact, Aussies bring joy and entertainment to virtually every home they find themselves in.

Search and rescue work

A search and rescue Australian Shepherd in California
Source: Fine Art America

Australian Shepherds also excel at search and rescue work, thanks to their smarts and strong herding instinct. In the field, Aussies are good at instinctively finding and retrieving lost members of the herd. They do this, for the most part, in their spare time.

So when it comes to finding a lost human, it isn't much of a stretch for these intelligent dogs. If they happen to find the person but can't retrieve them on their own, they will use their problem-solving skills to figure out how to get help.

Generally, search and rescue dogs' usual work includes taking action to help humans during hard times. SAR dogs track humans lost in the wilderness or patients who have wandered away from a care facility. They also track humans lost after a natural disaster. Some Australian shepherds are specifically trained to find live and deceased human scent.

Herding dog breeds such as the Australian Shepherd and Border Collie are often used for search and rescue works.

Police work

A k9 Australian Shepherd

When it comes to police work, German Shepherds reign supreme. FYI, Australian Shepherds are good at this work as well but not as good or nearly as popular as German Shepherds. Police dogs are trained to help law enforcement officers. Their typical duties include:
  • Searching for drugs
  • Searching for explosives 
  • Locating missing people
  • Finding crime scene evidence
  • Protecting officers and other people
  • Attacking suspects who flee from officers
Like the German Shepherd, the Australian Shepherd can also be trained to perform all those duties.

Therapy work

two Australian Shepherd therapy dogs

Australian Shepherds are very good at therapy work. Therapy dogs are trained to provide love and comfort to people in unhealthy situations. In any case, a therapy dog must be patient, sociable, confident, and calm. In addition, the ideal therapy dog must love human interaction and be happy when being touched, petted, and handled by strangers of all ages. Furthermore, a therapy dog might need to sit beside or on a patient's lap on a hospital bed. Some Australian Shepherd therapy dogs are trained to perform small tricks to entertain.

Aid to physically disabled people

Lastly, Australian Shepherds are often used as service dogs. Service dogs are trained to perform specific tasks for a physically disabled person. Australian Shepherds are good at providing various services including:
  • Medical alert
  • Severe allergy alert
  • Brace/Mobility support
  • Diabetic alert dogs
  • Hearing assistance
  • Medical Assistance
  • Psychiatric service
  • Seizure response
  • Visual assistance
  • Wheelchair assistance
Because they are high-energy dogs, Australian Shepherds don't make excellent pets for sedentary people.

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