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Australian Shepherds: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Australian Shepherd temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Australian Shepherd dog breed

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 almost anything – one of the smartest of all breeds

An 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 and dominance in some individuals
  • Chasing and nipping at things that move: children, joggers, other animals, bikes, cars
  • A goodly amount of shedding
  • An awful lot of potential health problems

An Australian Shepherd may not be right for you.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

More traits and characteristics of the Australian Shepherd

If I was considering an Australian Shepherd, I would be most concerned about...

  1. Providing enough exercise and mental stimulation. Australian Shepherds were bred to be working dogs – not simply pets to hang around the house or backyard. Too many people acquire this breed because of its athletic prowess and intelligence, but don't provide enough opportunities for the dog to vent his energy and do interesting things. Bored Australian Shepherds express their frustration by barking and destructive chewing.

    If you want an easy-to-live-with pet who doesn't need much exercise and sleeps on the couch most of the day, this is not the breed for you. Unless you adopt an adult Aussie whose temperament is obviously mellow – yes, some Aussies are more mellow. But most want to run and hike and swim and play fetch games and participate in herding, or agility (obstacle course), or advanced obedience, or tracking, or a similar canine activity.

  2. 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.
  3. Mind of his own. Some Australian Shepherds are exceptionally eager to please, while others are definitely not. Some Aussies, especially females, can be manipulative and are smart enough to figure out how to get what they want. Some are stubborn and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. To teach your Aussie to listen to you, "Respect Training" is mandatory. My Australian Shepherd Training Page discusses the program you need.
  4. Grooming and shedding. Australian Shepherds shed heavily and require regular brushing and combing to keep mats and tangles under control. Some Aussies have shorter, easier-care coats than others. Those with a lot of feathering need more maintenance.
  5. Potential health problems. From hip problems to eye problems to skin and allergy problems, Australian Shepherds can be risky in the health department. I recommend following all of the advice on my Australian Shepherd Health Page.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.

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