5 Things to Know About Australian Shepherds

Meet the Australian Shepherd, a loyal, hardworking and fun-loving dog who makes a great pet for families and individuals.

australian shepherd breed profile
Australian Shepherds come in a variety of coat colors. Photo: Petful
AKC GroupAKC Group
40-65 lbs.
18-23 in.
Life ExpectancyLife Span
12-15 years

1. Key Characteristics of Australian Shepherds

Australian Shepherds are medium or large strong dogs who are built for long hours of herding through all sorts of terrain. They come in black, blue merle, red merle and red, with or without white markings.

2. Where Australian Shepherds Came From

Here’s a mind-blowing fact: Australian Shepherds are not from Australia.

They actually descend from working mountain dogs that were companions to Basque shepherds from the Pyrenees Mountains in southern France and northern Spain.

After coming to the United States in the 1800s, Australian Shepherds did not truly become popular until after World War II, and mostly then as part of rodeos and other ranch events — think Roy Rogers or Hopalong Cassidy.

The Australian Shepherd breed standard was developed in the United States and accepted into the AKC in 1991. These dogs are not listed as native dogs in Australia.

australian shepherd breed profile
Newsflash: Australian Shepherds are not from Australia. Photo: Petful

3. How Friendly Are Australian Shepherds?

Australian Shepherds are thoughtful dogs who have a great ability to work under various conditions with many types of animals. They also make great family pets because they’re loyal, which has the flip-side of being reserved (but not unfriendly) toward strangers.

Australian Shepherds have also been known to herd children, so keep an eye on your little ones when they’re playing with the dog.

Note that Stanley Coren, in his book The Intelligence of Dogs, ranked the Australian Shepherd in the “average” category for intelligence. According to his research, understanding of new commands takes 25 to 40 repetitions for Australian Shepherds, and they obey the first command 50% of the time or better.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs


HIGH: Lots and lots of vigorous exercise is necessary to keep Australian Shepherds happy. This breed is made for long walks over rugged terrain, so both mental and physical exercise are essential. However, because the Australian Shepherd is such a versatile dog, this exercise can come from agility, herding, a romp in the park or lots of playtime with the children in the family.

Grooming Needs


MEDIUM: The Australian Shepherd is a fluffy dog with a very thick coat. Brush yours regularly to keep the coat in good condition, along with all the other standard canine care of teeth brushing, ear cleaning and nail clipping.

Health Problems


LOW: Australian Shepherds are healthy dogs but are prone to cataracts, collie eye anomaly and sensitivity to ivermectin — an ingredient found in heartworm preventive. Talk with your veterinarian about heartworm and your dog.

More Stats About Australian Shepherds

Friendliness ★★★★☆
Ease of Training ★★★★★
Barking/Howling ★★★★☆
Shedding ★★★☆☆
Tolerate Being Alone ★★☆☆☆
Very Good With Kids ★★★★☆

5. How to Adopt an Australian Shepherd

Please consult rescue and adoption resources first. Check out Petful’s adoptable pet finder. You can filter results by ZIP code and breed.

If you contact breeders, view the facilities and be watchful for any puppy mill warning signs.