About Aussies

Average Size and Life Expectancy of an Australian Shepherd

  1. Height

    • 20-23 inches (male)

    • 18-21 inches (female)

  2. Weight

    • 50-65 pounds (male)​

    • 40-55 pounds (female)

  3. Life Expectancy

    • 12-15 years​

Breed Traits and Characteristics

  1. Family Life

    • Affectionate with Family

      • From Independent (1) to Lovey-Dovey (5), an Aussie is a (3).​

      • How affectionate a breed is likely to be with family members, or other people he knows well. Some breeds can be aloof with everyone but their owner, while other breeds treat everyone they know like their best friend.

    • Good with Young Children​

      • From Not Recommended (1) to Good with Children (5), an Aussie is a (5).​

      • A breed's level of tolerance and patience with children's' behavior, and overall family-friendly nature. Dogs should always be supervised around young children, or children of any age who have little exposure to dogs.

    • Good with Other Dogs​

      • From Not Recommended (1) to Good with Other Dogs (5), an Aussie is a (3).​

      • How generally friendly a breed is towards other dogs. Dogs should always be supervised for interactions and introductions with other dogs, but some breeds are innately more likely to get along with other dogs, both at home and in public.

  2. Physical

    • Shedding Level​

      • From No Shedding (1) to Hair Everywhere (5), an Aussie is a (3).​

      • How much fur and hair you can expect the breed to leave behind. Breeds with high shedding will need to be brushed more frequently, are more likely to trigger certain types of allergies, and are more likely to require more consistent vacuuming and lint-rolling.

    • Coat Grooming Frequency​

      • From Monthly (1) to Daily (5), an Aussie is a (2).​

      • How frequently a breed requires bathing, brushing, trimming, or other kinds of coat maintenance. Consider how much time, patience, and budget you have for this type of care when looking at the grooming effort needed. All breeds require regular nail trimming.

    • Drooling Level​

      • From Less Likely to Drool (1) to Always Have a Towel (5), an Aussie is a (1).​

      • How drool-prone a breed tends to be. If you're a neat freak, dogs that can leave ropes of slobber on your arm or big wet spots on your clothes may not be the right choice for you.

    • Coat Type​

      • Aussies have a Double Coat Type​

      • Canine coats come in many different types, depending on the breed's purpose. Each coat type comes with different grooming needs, allergen potential, and shedding level. You may also just prefer the look or feel of certain coat types over others when choosing a family pet.

    • Coat Length​

      • Aussies have Medium Coat Lengths​

      • How long the breed's coat is expected to be. Some long-haired breeds can be trimmed short, but this will require additional upkeep to maintain.

  3. Social

    • Openness to Strangers

      • From Reserved (1) to Everyone is my Best Friend (5), an Aussie is a (3).​

      • How welcoming a breed is likely to be towards strangers. Some breeds will be reserved or cautious around all strangers, regardless of the location, while other breeds will be happy to meet a new human whenever one is around!

    • Playfulness Level​

      • From Only When you Want to Play (1) to Non-Stop (5), an Aussie is a (4).​

      • How enthusiastic about play a breed is likely to be, even past the age of puppyhood. Some breeds will continue wanting to play tug-of-war or fetch well into their adult years, while others will be happy to just relax on the couch with you most of the time.

    • Watchdog/Protective Nature​

      • From What's Mine is Yours (1) to Vigilant (5), an Aussie is a (3).​

      • A breed's tendency to alert you that strangers are around. These breeds are more likely to react to any potential threat, whether it's the mailman or a squirrel outside the window. These breeds are likely to warm to strangers who enter the house and are accepted by their family.

    • Adaptability Level​

      • From Lives for Routine (1) to Highly Adaptable (5), an Aussie is a (3). ​

      • How easily a breed handles change. This can include changes in living conditions, noise, weather, daily schedule, and other variations in day-to-day life.

  4. Personality​

    • Trainability Level​

      • From Self-Willed (1) to Eager to Please (5), an Aussie is a (5).​

      • How easy it will be to train your dog, and how willing your dog will be to learn new things. Some breeds just want to make their owner proud, while others prefer to do what they want, when they want to, wherever they want!

    • Energy Level​

      • From Couch Potato (1) to High Energy (5), an Aussie is a (5).​

      • The amount of exercise and mental stimulation a breed needs. High energy breeds are ready to go and eager for their next adventure. They'll spend their time running, jumping, and playing throughout the day. Low energy breeds are like couch potatoes - they're happy to simply lay around and snooze.

    • Barking Level​

      • From Only to Alert (1) to Very Vocal (5), an Aussie is a (3).​

      • How often this breed vocalizes, whether it's with barks or howls. While some breeds will bark at every passer-by or bird in the window, others will only bark in particular situations. Some bark-less breeds can still be vocal, using other sounds to express themselves.

    • Mental Stimulation Needs

      • From Happy to Lounge (1) to Needs a Job or Activity (5), an Aussie is a (5).​

      • How much mental stimulation a breed needs to stay happy and healthy. Purpose-bred dogs can have jobs that require decision-making, problem-solving, concentration, or other qualities, and without the brain exercise they need, they'll create their own projects to keep their minds busy -- and they probably won't be the kind of projects you'd like.​

Breed Standard

  1. Breed Colors and Markings

    • Colors​

      • Black (Standard)​

      • Blue Merle (Standard)

      • Red (Standard)

      • Red Merle (Standard)

    • Markings

      • White Markings (Standard)​

      • Tan Points (Standard)

      • White Markings, Tan Points (Standard)

About/History of Aussies

The Australian Shepherd descends in part from pastoral dogs brought to herd Spanish flocks in North America as early as the 1500s. There is some speculation that these dogs included the Carea Leonés, a mountain sheepdog that can display the eye color and merle coat found in many contemporary Australian Shepherds.  It is sometimes claimed that the Basque Shepherd Dog and the Pyrenean Sheepdog were also among the ancestors of the breed. The breed as it is known today developed in California in the 19th century, as a sheep herding dog for Californian shepherds. The Australian Shepherd is believed to have developed from a variety of herding dogs imported to California with sheep imports, including collies from Australia and New Zealand, it was from these ancestors the breed took its name.

The Australian Shepherd spread from California throughout the Western United States where it became extremely popular with ranchers who valued the breed’s sheep working qualities, as well as their ability to handle cattle and other livestock. A purely working breed for over a century, the Australian Shepherd was virtually unknown outside of the livestock industry until the mid-20th century when the breed was popularized by Jay Lister, a rodeo performer, wowed crowds at rodeos across the western states with his Australian Shepherds performing all manner of tricks. A breed club was soon formed to promote the breed, the Australian Shepherd Club of America, and kennel club recognition followed in 1979 when the breed was recognized by the United Kennel Club. The breed was subsequently recognized by the American Kennel Club in the 1990s and later the Fédération Cynologique Internationale.

The Australian Shepherd are an intelligent, medium-sized dog of strong herding and guardian instincts. They are also delightful and loyal companions and great family dogs. They love to be part of the daily hustle and bustle, and enjoy riding in the vehicle just to be with their beloved master. As farm dogs, they diligently carry out their responsibilities, be it bringing in the stock or finding the stray one that got tangled in the brush. They are easily trained, easily housebroken, because they are intelligent and eager to please. Aussies have been used as seeing-eye dogs, as utility dogs to the physically handicapped, hearing aid dogs, police and narcotics dogs, and search and rescue dogs. In the northern areas they have also been used as sled dogs. Many go with their masters as volunteers to children’s homes and nursing homes to do therapy work. Truly, the Australian Shepherd is a highly versatile dog. “Aussies” (as they are lovingly nicknamed) are very active dogs that need a great deal of exercise on a daily basis to prevent them from becoming bored or frustrated and consequently developing destructive habits. Because of their high energy level, combined with high intelligence, Aussies need to be given a “job” to perform, be it shepherding the children, protecting the house, herding livestock or competing in dog events. One of the most frequent reasons Aussies get turned over to rescue groups is that their owners didn’t anticipate how energetic these dogs are and weren’t willing or able to constructively channel that energy through training. Aussies want to be with their owners all the time, which is why they insist on following their owners from room to room in the house, and love nothing better than going along in the car or truck on errands. They can be highly territorial and protective of their masters’ possessions, potentially causing serious difficulties unless this behavior is controlled with proper training.

Health

Aussies are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they're prone to certain health conditions. Not all Aussies will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.

If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog has been tested for and cleared of a particular condition. In Aussies, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for hip dysplasia (with a score of fair or better), elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and von Willebrand's disease; from Auburn University for Thrombopathia; and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that eyes are normal. You can confirm health clearances by checking the OFA web site (offa.org).​

  1. Hip Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition in which the femur doesn't fit snugly into the pelvic socket of the hip joint. Hip dysplasia can exist with or without clinical signs. Some dogs exhibit pain and lameness on one or both rear legs. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. Ask the breeder for proof that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and found to be free of problems.

  2. Elbow Dysplasia: This is a heritable condition common to large-breed dogs. It's thought to be caused by different growth rates of the three bones that make up the dog's elbow, causing joint laxity. This can lead to painful lameness. Your vet may recommend surgery to correct the problem, or medication to control the pain.

  3. Epilepsy: The Australian Shepherd can suffer from epilepsy, which is a disorder that causes seizures. Epilepsy can be treated with medication, but it cannot be cured. A dog can live a full and healthy life with the proper management of this hereditary disorder.

  4. Deafness: Deafness is common in this breed and can pose many challenges. Some forms of deafness and hearing loss can be treated with medication and surgery, but usually deafness cannot be cured. Living with and training a deaf dog requires patience and time, but there are many aids on the market, such as vibrating collars, to make life easier. If your Aussie is diagnosed with hearing loss or total deafness, take the time to evaluate if you have the patience, time, and ability to care for the animal. Regardless of your decision, it is best to notify the breeder.

  5. Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): This orthopedic condition, caused by improper growth of cartilage in the joints, usually occurs in the elbows, but it has been seen in the shoulders as well. It causes a painful stiffening of the joint, to the point that the dog is unable to bend his elbow. It can be detected in dogs as early as four to nine months of age. Overfeeding of "growth formula" puppy foods or high-protein foods may contribute to its development.

  6. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): This is a degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness from the loss of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. PRA is detectable years before the dog shows any signs of blindness. Fortunately, dogs can use their other senses to compensate for blindness, and a blind dog can live a full and happy life. Just don't make it a habit to move the furniture around. Reputable Aussie breeders have their dogs' eyes certified annually by a veterinary ophthalmologist and do not breed dogs with this disease.

  7. Cataracts: A cataract is an opacity on the lens of the eye that causes difficulty in seeing. The eye(s) of the dog will have a cloudy appearance. Cataracts usually occur in old age and sometimes can be surgically removed to improve the dog's vision.

  8. Distichiasis: This condition occurs when an additional row of eyelashes (known as distichia) grow on the oil gland in the dog's eye and protrude along the edge of the eyelid. This irritates the eye, and you may notice your Aussie squinting or rubbing his eye(s). Distichiasis is treated surgically by freezing the excess eyelashes with liquid nitrogen and then remove them. This type of surgery is called cryoepilation and is done under general anesthesia.

  9. Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA): Collie Eye Anomaly is an inherited condition that can lead to blindness in some dogs. It usually occurs by the time the dog is 2 years old and is diagnosed by a veterinary ophthalmologist. There is no treatment for CEA, but as noted above, blind dogs can get around very well using their other senses. It is important to remember that this condition is a genetic abnormality, and your breeder should be notified if your puppy has the condition. It is also important to spay or neuter your dog to prevent the gene from being passed to a new generation of puppies.

  10. Persistent Pupillary Membranes (PPM): Persistent Pupillary Membranes are strands of tissue in the eye, remnants of the fetal membrane that nourished the lenses of the eyes before birth. They normally disappear by the time a puppy is 4 or 5 weeks old, but sometimes they persist. The strands can stretch from iris to iris, iris to lens, or cornea to iris, and sometimes they are found in the anterior (front) chamber of the eye. For many dogs, the strands do not cause any problems and generally they break down by 8 weeks of age. If the strands do not break down, they can lead to cataracts or cause corneal opacities. Eye drops prescribed by your veterinarian can help break them down.

  11. Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is an abnormally low level of the hormone produced by the thyroid gland. A mild sign of the disease may be infertility. More obvious signs include obesity, mental dullness, lethargy, drooping of the eyelids, low energy levels, and irregular heat cycles. The dog's fur becomes coarse and brittle and begins to fall out, while the skin becomes tough and dark. Hypothyroidism can be treated with daily medication, which must continue throughout the dog's life. A dog receiving daily thyroid treatment can live a full and happy life.

  12. Allergies: Allergies are a common ailment in dogs. Allergies to certain foods are identified and treated by eliminating certain foods from the dog's diet until the culprit is discovered. Contact allergies are caused by a reaction to something that touches the dog, such as bedding, flea powders, dog shampoos, or other chemicals. They are treated by identifying and removing the cause of the allergy. Inhalant allergies are caused by airborne allergens such as pollen, dust, and mildew. The appropriate medication for inhalant allergies depends on the severity of the allergy. Ear infections are a common side effect of inhalant allergies.

  13. Drug Sensitivity: Sensitivity to certain drugs is commonly seen in herding breeds, including Australian Shepherds and Collies. It is caused by a mutation of the Multidrug Resistance Gene (MDR1), which produces a protein called P-glycoprotein. This protein works as a pump to remove toxic substances from the body to prevent the harmful effects of the toxins. In dogs who show Drug Sensitivity, that gene does not function, resulting in toxicity. Dogs with this mutated gene can be sensitive to Ivermectin, a medicine commonly used in anti-parasitic products such as heartworm preventives, as well as other drugs, including chemotherapy drugs. Signs of this sensitivity range from tremors, depression, seizures, incoordination, hypersalivation, coma, and even death. There is no known treatment but there is a new genetic test that can identify dogs with this nonfunctioning gene. All Australian Shepherds should be screened.

  14. Cancer: Dogs, like humans, can develop cancer. There are many different types of cancer, and the success of treatment differs for each individual case. For some forms of cancer, the tumors are surgically removed, others are treated with chemotherapy, and some are treated both surgically and medically.

  15. Nasal Solar Dermatitis: Also known as Collie-nose, this condition generally occurs in dogs who have little or no pigment in their nose and is not restricted to Collies. Dogs who are super-sensitive to sunlight develop lesions on the nose and occasionally around the eyelids, ranging from light pink lesions to ulcerating lesions. The condition may be difficult to diagnose at first because several other diseases can cause the same lesions. If your Aussie is diagnosed with Collie nose, keep him out of direct sunlight, and apply doggie sunscreen when he goes outside. The most effective way to manage the condition is to tattoo the dog's nose black so the ink serves as a shield against sunlight.

  16. Detached Retina: An injury to the face can cause the retina to become detached from its underlying supportive tissues. A detached retina can lead to visual impairment or even blindness. There is no treatment for a detached retina, but many dogs live full lives with visual impairments.

Is an Australian Shepherd the Right Dog for Me?

Take this quiz to see if an Aussie is the right dog for you. 

  • Note: Aussome Aussies in Riverside did not create the quiz. But, it will give you an idea if you're a good fit.