Choosing an Australian Shepherd

Despite his name, the Australian shepherd that we know today was developed in the United States. An active and friendly herding dog, the Aussie needs a family that understands his special needs.

History and Origin

In the 1800s, Basque sheepherders came to the United States from Australia with their herds. With them, they brought their herding dogs. During this time, American farmers were looking for an intelligent, versatile dog to manage their flocks. They bred the Australian herding dogs with American herding dogs to create a well-rounded working dog. Exactly what breeds were used to develop the modern day Australian shepherd, or Aussie, are unknown. Today, Aussies are still used to herd flocks all over the world.

Appearance and Size

Aussies are medium sized with a thin body structure. The medium length coat comes in four colors: black, blue merle, red and red merle. Some white markings are common. The coat is waterproof and serves as a good insulator. The hair coat can be straight or wavy. The ears are medium sized and shaped like a rosebud.

Aussies have naturally bobbed tails. The most striking aspect of the Aussie is his eyes. They can be solid or any combination of blue, brown, amber or hazel.

Typically, Aussies weigh between 40 and 60 pounds. The average Aussie stands 18 to 23 inches at the shoulder.


These dogs are very loyal to their families. They make great watchdogs as they have a strong guarding instinct. They are also instinctual herders and will tend to nip at your heels when running and playing.

Aussies are very high energy. They love to work and will become destructive if they don't have a job. They need loads of exercise and demand time and attention.

Home and Family

An Aussie's strong herding instinct tempts them to herd children by nipping at their heels. They demand a family that will include them in activities; they need lots of attention and time. Some can be cautious with strangers, but most are highly loyal and affectionate.


These dogs are exceptionally easy to train. They love to work for praise. Some areas that they excel in are agility, obedience, fly ball, Frisbee, therapy and police work. As you can see, the Aussie is a highly versatile breed. There have even been Aussie sled dogs.

Common Diseases and Disorders

In general, the Australian Shepherd is a healthy dog with few medical concerns. However, the following diseases or disorders have been reported:

  • Epilepsy is a seizure disorder that develops between the ages of 2 to 5 years.
  • Hypothyroidism results when the thyroid gland does not function adequately. Without enough thyroid hormone, illness can occur.
  • Cataracts cause a loss of the normal transparency of the lens of the eye. The problem can occur in one or both eyes and can lead to blindness.
  • Coloboma is an eye condition resulting from the congenital absence of an ocular structure.
  • Hip dysplasia is a malformation of the hip joint that results in pain, lameness and arthritis.
  • Heart disease occurs when the valves of the heart no longer function appropriately which may ultimately cause heart failure.
  • Ivermectin toxicityis caused by a genetic abnormalities which causes some dogs to be sensitive to the drug Ivermectin, a commonly used parasitic drug. This drug should be used with caution in this breed.
  • Urolithiasis is a condition affecting the urinary tract resulting in the formation of bladder stones.

    In addition, although these occur infrequently, the following disorders have also been reported:

  • Umbilical hernia a condition in which abdominal contents protrude through the abdominal wall at the area of the umbilicus
  • Allergic Dermatitis is a general term used to describe inflammation of the skin caused by allergies
  • Dwarfism is a deficiency of growth hormone (GH), which is normally secreted by the pituitary gland.
  • Patent ductus arteriosis (PDA) is a congenital birth defect caused by a blood vessel that normally closes after birth, but remains open resulting in the passage of extra volumes of blood into the lungs.
  • Congenital deafness present at birth in some dogs.

    Life Span

    The life span of the Aussie is approximately 12 to 13 years.

    We realize that each dog is unique and may display other characteristics. This profile provides generally accepted breed information only.

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