Australian Shepherd Temperament
What's Good About 'Em,
What's Bad About 'Em
Australian Shepherd Temperament, Personality, Behavior, Traits, and Characteristics, by Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2014
Australian Shepherds are quite variable in temperament. Some lines are extremely energetic, quick moving, and hyperreactive, while others tend toward a milder, calmer manner.
Yet all Australian Shepherds need a great deal of physical exercise and mental stimulation. Herding, advanced obedience, agility, jogging or biking, chasing balls, and playing Frisbee are constructive outlets for their enthusiasm. Boredom is the leading cause of destructive behavior and barking.
Australian Shepherds are demanding of time and attention and want to be with you constantly.
They are polite to aloof with strangers. There is timidity in some lines, and early socialization is important to avoid shyness or sharpness.
Some Australian Shepherds are dominant with other dogs and will chase cats, while others are good-natured with all creatures.
One of the most capable breeds in all of dogdom, the Australian Shepherd excels at the highest levels of competition. Yet some are more challenging to train than others.
The Miniature Australian Shepherd is exactly as its name implies: a small Aussie. Miniature Australian Shepherds can sometimes get by with less physical exercise than their full-size brothers, but need just as much mental stimulation.
If you want a dog who...
- Is medium-sized and sturdy
- Has a lovely coat that comes in striking colors
- Thrives on vigorous exercise and athletic activities
- Is exceptionally versatile -- when well-trained, can learn and do almost anything -- one of the smartest of all breeds
A Australian Shepherd may be right for you.
If you don't want to deal with...
- Providing enough exercise and training to keep his active body and equally active mind satisfied
- Destructiveness and barking when bored or not exercised enough
- Suspiciousness or shyness when not socialized enough
- Stubbornness in some individuals
- Chasing and nipping at things that move: children, joggers, other animals, bikes, cars
- A goodly amount of shedding
- A good number of potential health problems
A Australian Shepherd may not be right for you.
- choosing the RIGHT breeder and the RIGHT puppy
- or choosing an ADULT dog from your animal shelter or rescue group – a dog who has already proven that he doesn't have negative traits
- training your dog to respect you
- avoiding health problems by following my daily care program in 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy
More traits and characteristics of the Australian Shepherd
If I was considering an Australian Shepherd, I would be most concerned about...
- Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Australian Shepherds MUST have regular opportunities to vent their energy and to use their busy minds to do interesting things. Otherwise they will become rambunctious and bored -- which they usually express by barking and destructive chewing. Bored Australian Shepherds can make a shambles of your house and yard.
If you simply want a laid-back pet who sleeps on the couch all day, or if you don't have the time or inclination to take your dog running or hiking or biking or swimming, or to play lots of fetch games with him, or to get him involved in herding, or agility (obstacle course), or advanced obedience, or tracking, or a similar canine activity, I do not recommend this breed.
Australian Shepherds were never intended to be simply household pets. Their working behaviors (chasing, nipping, poking, barking) are inappropriate in a normal household setting with no outlets for their high energy level. These dogs are fabulous with the right owner in the right household, but disasters with the wrong owner in the wrong household.
- Providing enough socialization. Australian Shepherds need extensive exposure to people and to unusual sights and sounds. Otherwise their natural caution can become suspicion or shyness.
- Mind of his own. The best Australian Shepherds are versatile working dogs, capable of learning a great deal. Some are very eager to please, while others are definitely not pushovers to raise and train. They can be manipulative, and some are stubborn and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute persistence and consistency, that you mean what you say.
To teach your Aussie to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Australian Shepherd Training Page discusses the program you need.
- Grooming and shedding. Australian Shepherds shed quite a bit. Regular brushing and combing is required to avoid mats and tangles, especially in individuals with thicker coats or longer feathering.
- Potential health problems. From hip problems to eye problems to skin and allergy problems, Australian Shepherds can be risky in the health department.
To keep this breed healthy, I strongly recommend following all of the advice on my Australian Shepherd Health Page.
To learn more about training Australian Shepherds to be calm and well-behaved, consider my dog training book,
Teach Your Dog 100 English Words.
It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will make your Australian Shepherd the smartest, most well-behaved companion you've ever had.
Teaches your dog to listen to you, to pay attention to you, and to do whatever you ask him to do.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a healthy Australian Shepherd puppy. Health problems have become so widespread in dogs today that this book is required reading for ANYONE who is thinking of getting a purebred, crossbred, or mixed breed dog.
If you'd like to consult with me personally about whether the Australian Shepherd might be a good dog breed for your family, I offer a Dog Breed Consulting Service.
Once you have your Australian Shepherd home, you need to KEEP him healthy -- or if he's having any current health problems, you need to get him back on the road to good health.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy is the book you need.
Raise your dog the right way and you will be helping him live a longer, healthier life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.
Please consider adopting an ADULT Australian Shepherd...
When you're acquiring an Australian Shepherd PUPPY, you're acquiring potential -- what he one day will be. So "typical breed characteristics" are very important.
But when you acquire an adult dog, you're acquiring what he already IS and you can decide whether he is the right dog for you based on that reality. There are plenty of adult Australian Shepherds who have already proven themselves NOT to have negative characteristics that are "typical" for their breed. If you find such an adult dog, don't let "typical breed negatives" worry you. Just be happy that you found an atypical individual -- and enjoy!
Save a life. Adopt a dog.
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