Australian shepherds, commonly called Aussies, are herding dogs bred for intelligence and endurance. The Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) characterizes the breed as high energy and exuberant and notes that in general, Australian shepherds are not "couch potatoes." The unusual coloring of their coats and eyes may motivate your choice of an Australian shepherd, but appearance alone is not a good reason for adopting an Aussie.
How Australian Shepherds Behave (or Not)
The Australian shepherd breed originated in the western U.S. from European herding breeds, and is named for its association with Basque shepherds who used Aussies for herding sheep in Australia. Hardy herding dogs that can travel all day guarding and herding livestock, Australian shepherds aren't a good bet for apartment living. If your idea of exercise is traveling from the couch to the refrigerator, think twice before bringing an Aussie into your family. Australian shepherds are known for being loyal to their owners and are good guard dogs. Aussies typically aren't physically aggressive toward humans, but will growl and bark to alert you and warn strangers away. Aussies are known for being reserved toward strangers, so it's a good idea to approach an unfamiliar Australian shepherd cautiously.
Enrolling your pup in basic obedience training is helpful for learning about your Australian shepherd's energy level and behavioral traits. Aussies can be prone to "herding" children and other pets, so obedience training assists with modifying this behavior. Teaching your puppy to come when called (recall) is important for avoiding accidents or problems when your dog is off-leash, or escapes from your home or yard. Basic obedience training is a great first step toward advanced obedience, agility or therapy dog training. Aussies excel at these activities and give their all in performance competitions, including catching flying discs, agility and herding competitions. These activities provide enjoyable ways of draining your Australian shepherd's energy.
My Australian Shepherd Ate the Couch
You've worked all day and arrive home looking forward to a relaxing night in front of the TV, but your Australian shepherd has other ideas. Your couch is ripped to shreds, the cat is cowering in the closet, and your Aussie is bouncing off the walls with a ball in her mouth. You can expect this type of situation if you don't provide an energetic Australian shepherd with enough exercise. Aussies also need mental stimulation. Supply your Aussie with food puzzle toys, or Kong toys stuffed with cheese or treats. Plan on spending at least 30 minutes daily playing with or walking your Australian shepherd. Sadly, many Aussies are re-homed due to behavioral problems that can be solved with obedience training and exercise.
Going Somewhere? Take Your Aussie Along
Australian shepherds are very devoted to their humans, and appreciate the chance to be with you at every opportunity. Taking your Aussie along on hikes, fishing trips, camping and wherever else dogs are welcome adds to your companionship, and exerts more of your Australian shepherd's energy. Follow leash laws and always keep your Aussie safe when enjoying outdoor adventures. Be mindful of predators, such as bears and snakes, and provide a life jacket for your dog if you're going boating or swimming. Your Aussie's herding drive can lead to trouble if your dog isn't kept on leash when outdoors. The Australian shepherd's beauty and intelligence is captivating and will draw strangers' attention. Keeping your Aussie on leash in public areas allows you to introduce your dog safely.