About the Aussie
Breed Group: Herding
Height: 18 to 23 inches at the shoulder
Weight: 35 to 65 pounds
Life Span: 12 to 16 years
The Australian Shepherd is super-smart, versatile, adaptable and energetic. This is a thinking dog, bred to use his brain and make decisions. He wants to be a part of everything that is going on and needs an active lifestyle to be happy. He is also big on consistency. He likes things to happen at the same time every day -- meals, walks, bedtime. Any time you want to change something, your Aussie will have to sign off on it first.
Expect to spend plenty of time training the Aussie so he can learn things to do that will keep him occupied. Teach him to bring in the paper, take dirty clothes to the laundry basket, help you in the garden by pulling a cart and more. When he’s done with his chores, he’ll be ready to play outfielder in sandlot games or accompany you hiking or biking.
Like most herding breeds, the Australian Shepherd has an inborn protective streak and can be wary of strangers. He’s not a buddy-buddy dog with everyone he meets, even with plenty of socialization. Without early and frequent socialization, the Aussie can become shy or aggressive in the presence of people he doesn’t know. Aussies are also highly sensitive to sound and may develop noise phobias, especially to thunderstorms, if they are not accustomed to loud or unexpected noises. On the plus side, they are excellent watchdogs and will always alert you to anything or anyone out of the ordinary.
It’s essential to purchase an Australian Shepherd from a breeder whose stock is temperamentally sound and who understands the importance of early exposure to many different people, noises and situations that come with life in a family home. Run far away from breeders who raise their pups in a barn or a pen out in the backyard. An Australian Shepherd who is to be a family companion needs plenty of socialization.
The Australian Shepherd has many great qualities, but they don’t just magically develop. Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, countersurfing and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence. In the case of the Australian Shepherd, the “teen” years can start at six months and continue until the dog is about two years old.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.