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 © 2000-2018
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.
- You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Aussies have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
- If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.
- Finally, you can avoid some negative traits by training your Australian Shepherd to respect you and by following the 11-step care program in my book, 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 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.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
To help you train and care for your dog
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.
To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.
My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.
My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.