Australian Shepherd

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Australian Shepherd Information

Lifespan

The Australian Shepherd gives birth to litters of about 6-9 puppies. They grow to around 23 inches, and can weigh up to 65 lbs. Females are slightly smaller, reaching 21 inches and 55 lbs. They live to 12-15 years. Puppies will need some special care, as they have their tails docked and rear dewclaws removed at about 2-3 days old.

Temperament

Australian Shepherds were bred to be stock dogs that were very agile, smart, and had a high level of endurance. They have a strong herding instinct and work ethic, but also make wonderful family dogs.

Australian Shepherds are reputed as intelligent and energetic dogs. They are a good natured breed that loves to play, which makes them an ideal dog for active families. They tend to form very strong bonds with their owners. Most Aussies tend to be friendly with those they know, but some can be somewhat guarded or reserved around strangers when their natural instinct to “protect the herd” kicks in. It is important to socialize them early, so that they do not become aggressive.

Australian Shepherds are not lazy lap dogs! These dogs want to be moving. They remain as energetic as puppies well into adulthood. They are working dogs at heart, and need various tasks and activities to keep them from getting bored. Australian Shepherds love to play. They excel at agility training, Frisbee, fly ball, and higher level obedience training. Without proper exercise and activities, these dogs can have some behavior problems such as chewing and digging.

Australian Shepherds have been described as “Velcro dogs.” They connect with family members, and want to be with their owners all the time. While this loyalty is certainly noble, it can be somewhat difficult if the dog becomes possessive or overly protective of people and the home. Aussies do not do well if left alone for long periods. They crave companionship, and without it, can experience separation anxiety or become nervous.

Aussies are clever dogs. Years of outsmarting herd animals have honed their problem solving skills and provided them with very sharp minds. While the Aussie has an innate desire to please, they also desire to lead, and will attempt to outthink or outmaneuver their owners. Lack of proper training can lead to this very smart dog learning some very bad habits.

The herding instinct is very strong in the Australian Shepherd, even for those who have never been near another animal or set foot on a farm. Australian Shepherds will attempt to herd everything, including owners, children, other pets, and even cars. This herding instinct, while always present, can be tempered with training, so that the dog is not nipping at heels in an effort to get everyone to move!

Health and Care

Because of their high energy, Australian Shepherds tend to eat more than other dogs of their size. They should be fed a quality food formulated for active dogs, or a high protein, low fat dry food. Like all dogs, they will need an ample amount of fresh water that is changed daily.

With their thick double coat, Australian Shepherds will shed a great deal. Weekly brushings and a series of comb outs will help to keep the shedding at a minimum, but they will still lose quite a bit of hair. These dogs are prone to matting, but should not be shaved. Aussies have sensitive skin, and can be subject to sunburn and scarring without their heavy coats to protect them. They should only be bathed a couple of times a year so the skin does not dry out. Aussies should never be left with a wet coat, whether they are coming in from the rain or out of the bath, as it can cause a variety of skin issues. Aussies also need regular nail trimmings and teeth cleanings.

Australian Shepherds are prone to a variety of health issues, including hip dysplasia, cataracts, Collie Eye Anomaly, autoimmune disorders, and several eye ailments. They can also have epilepsy, as well as certain skin disorders. Blindness or deafness is common in dogs with merle coloring. Most health issues are hereditary, and can be detected by a vet as early as six months old. Regular visits to a vet familiar with the breed and these genetic ailments are very important.

Australian Shepherds require a great deal of exercise and activity. The Australian Shepherd is well suited to life in the country, but can do well if they have ample space to run around in, preferably in a fenced yard. They will require daily runs or walks, and several play sessions. Aussies that live in small apartments or are tied up in the yard will not thrive; they simply must have an outlet for their energy.

Obedience training is very important, in order to curb the herding instinct and help socialize the dog. Australian Shepherds can be very protective, and training can help to calm barking or stop them from becoming overly protective. Obedience class will also establish the owner as the leader. It is recommended that Aussies begin training within the first year of life.

Owning an Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds are more suited to an owner who wants to go for a long run rather than one who wants to watch a lengthy movie from the couch. Because they are so energetic, Aussies often end up at pet shelters and rescue groups because their owners were unaware of how active the breed is. Potential owners should visit reputable breeders or other Aussie owners to become familiar with the dog. Because Australian Shepherds can experience hereditary illnesses, it is imperative to make sure the breeder is licensed and has a good reputation. Potential owners should ask a lot of questions about the puppy’s background in order to ensure they are getting a healthy dog. Adult Australian Shepherds that are adopted from shelters also make excellent pets. With the right amount of patience and consistency, any dog can be retrained, leading to successful pet ownership.

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