Australian Shepherds, aka Aussies, are high-energy herding dogs, and as such, they require a significant amount of daily exercise to stay content and healthy. Their strong work drive makes them the perfect companion for active owners and allows them to burn off their excess energy through various forms of exercise.
Knowing multiple ways to exercise your Australian Shepherd can ensure both owner and dog have a fun and active experience daily. However, it is also important to know how much exercise is appropriate for this breed and when they need to rest for the sake of their health. All of which will be discussed in this article for you and your pup’s benefit.
What Are the Top Ways to Exercise an Aussie?
Any Australian Shepherd owner knows how excitable and energetic this breed can be. Sometimes it feels as if they don’t have an off switch, and leisure, such as a simple nap, is out of the question.
The best way to achieve a safely tired-out Australian Shepherd is to give them the energy outlet they crave through quality exercise.
Because of this breed’s background as a working/herding dog, they are extremely athletic and can partake in a wide range of exercises. However, not all exercises are alike in terms of mental and physical stimulation.
Therefore, it’s good to know the top ways you can exercise your Aussie, so their needs are met, and you have alternatives when weather or other factors limit your options. To help, here are the physical, mental, and toy-related exercises we recommend.
It is important to exercise your Australian Shepherd, not only to release their pent-up energy but also to prevent potential health issues, such as obesity. While there are a great number of physical exercises, these are the ones best suited to a workaholic breed like the Australian Shepherd.
The classic and most popular choice for canine exercise is obviously taking them out for a walk. This is a great way to ease your Australian Shepherd into exercising during their first year of life since you can control the distance and pace based on their age-related needs.
There are numerous benefits to walks as a form of exercise in addition to their sheer physicality. For one, walks expose your Australian Shepherd to a variety of smells and sounds that are great forms of mental stimulation. These will help wear them out, in addition to the physical effort of walking.
Walks also provide you with the opportunity to work on your Aussie’s leash training and socialization skills as you pass people and other dogs. These encounters will also stimulate your pup and leave them tired and fulfilled by the time you get home.
The other popular exercise option, particularly for Australian Shepherds, is to take them on a jog or run. As a result of their breed, Aussies are built to run around on and off throughout the day while performing herding tasks. This makes them excellent running partners that can keep up with you for miles.
If you don’t have the time for a 30+ minute walk, then a quick, intensive 15–20-minute run is a fantastic alternative. Of course, while Australian Shepherds are athletically built to run long distances, you shouldn’t start with 10+ mile runs.
This form of exercise is something you need to work up to slowly with your pup and should only ramp up after they’ve reached about 12 months of age, so their growth plates have fully closed. This will help prevent painful issues, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, common in this breed.
You should also take intermittent breaks throughout longer runs so your Aussie can catch their breath. Contrary to belief, herding dogs don’t run full-out all day long while they’re working. Instead, their day is filled with breaks where they walk or lay down and observe with intermittent bursts of running.
When they are in prime health and have safely worked up to the distance, an Aussie can run between three to six miles at a time. You should carefully manage your pace, add breaks, and ensure your Aussie has access to water.
If you need something a little more fast-paced than walking, but you can’t run moderate to long distances, biking is a great alternative.
This form of exercise certainly takes some practice and quality training to ensure your Aussie is safe running next to your bike, but once they’ve got it down, the two of you will have a shared form of exercise that is fun and fulfilling.
Be sure to take extra precautions when it comes to biking, as your Aussie still has to run to keep up with you. They can build up to greater distances as long as you follow the same precautions as running, and remember that even an easy biking speed for you is a good workout for your Aussie.
The super outdoorsy owners will be pleased to hear that Australian Shepherds are one of the best breeds for hiking. Their immense stamina and athletic build allow them to conquer long-distance hikes with ease.
Hiking trails are filled with obstacles that your Aussie can run across, jump over, or climb, so they’ll burn even more energy than they would on an average-paced walk of the same distance. They’re also likely to meet other hikers along the way, which is a great form of stimulation as long as your pup is sufficiently socialized.
Be conscious that you’ll want to apply the same rules of running and biking to hiking for the safety of your Australian Shepherd’s health. Control your pace, supply breaks, and start with short distances. Once they’ve passed that 12-month mark and have had enough practice, these dogs have been known to hike up to a whopping ten to fifteen miles at a time.
Although the Australian Shepherd might not have been bred for swimming like Retriever breeds or the Portuguese Water Dog, many of them enjoy this activity and can burn off a substantial amount of energy doing so.
The exercise your Aussie gets from swimming is comparable to running as long as they are performed at the same intensity. A benefit of having a water-loving Aussie is that this form of exercise is a great alternative to running in the hot summer months.
Australian Shepherds have a moderately long double coat consisting of a dense undercoat and coarse topcoat coat. In hot climates, this coat can cause an Aussie to overheat easily if they aren’t given the opportunity to cool down. Aussies with a black coat are at an even higher risk.
Swimming is a fantastic way to ensure your Aussie works out all their energy while staying cool and ensures the blazing sun doesn’t inhibit exercise time. It is also low impact, so it is a safer alternative to running-based activities that could threaten your Aussie’s joint and bone health.
The epitome of canine exercise is arguably one of the many dog sports available, and Aussies are one of the best breeds to participate in these activities.
Not only are dog sports great outlets for your Aussie’s endless energy, but they are also a safe way for them to utilize their natural herding instincts.
If you want a form of exercise that involves bond-inducing training and friendly competition, then dog sports are the best choice. The high-energy sport paired with the mental focus it requires from your Aussie will effectively eliminate their endless energy after a quality session.
Aussies are best suited for agility or herding-based sports, such as:
- Dog agility/ agility courses
- Dog frisbee
An Aussie’s strong hips and legs allow them to accelerate quickly and jump significant heights, so they are likely to excel in these sports, especially with consistent training and dedication from their trainer.
Not all exercises beneficial to your Australian Shepherd revolve around physical activity. In fact, 5-10 minutes of mental exercise will actually tire out your Australian Shepherd faster than many physical exercises.
The focus and brainwork they have to do to solve a problem or understand the task you’ve given them is enough stimulation to wear them out, even if the task is simple and can be completed in minutes.
Here are some mental exercises that will test your Australian Shepherd’s intelligence and keep them occupied for optimal mental health.
One quick glance at a pet store will give you an idea of the sheer number of dog toys available on the market. Amidst the balls and ropes are a series of toys known as puzzle toys meant to test your dog’s intellect and natural instincts.
Due to their high intelligence, Australian Shepherds are naturally inquisitive dogs that love the challenges posed by these toys. As working breeds, these dogs also love having daily tasks, and puzzle toys are a great way to fulfill this need and give them purpose.
Most allow you to hide treats inside for your pup to sniff out and obtain as a reward for their efforts. Some owners will even hide their Aussie’s meal inside a puzzle toy to slow their consumption rate or keep them occupied while they themselves enjoy their food.
Puzzle toys come in all types of design and difficulty levels, so there’s one for Aussies of all ages and experiences. For more details, please visit the related reviews on the 13 Best Dog Puzzles for Aussies.
Most owners love to teach their dogs how to do basic tricks like sit, lie down, shake, and more. But, while tricks are fun to show off to friends and family, many people underestimate how essential this training is to your Aussie’s overall obedience and mental health.
Teaching your Aussie a new trick or increasing the difficulty of old tricks are great forms of exercise that typically work their minds more than their bodies. It takes a lot of brainpower from your pup to figure out what you are asking of them and then repeat it on command.
These mental challenges are engaging enough that a 10–15-minute session can leave your Aussie mentally exhausted and ready for a break.
Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent breeds with above-average instinctive IQs in herding and learning abilities.
Therefore, if your Aussie is bored around the house, they’re going to search for something to do. Rather than waiting for them to find a pair of shoes or a chair leg to keep them busy, we recommend playing some home games like “hide and seek” or “go find it.”
The first is much like the children’s game where you command your Aussie to sit and stay while you go and hide. You’ll then call them and wait while they search for you. Once you’ve been found, be sure to treat and praise your pup.
“Go find it” is a fun, simple alternative that really focuses on your Aussie’s sense of smell. It entails you hiding a treat or a strong-smelling object throughout the home for your pup to sniff out.
Start simple by hiding it nearby; then, once they have the hang of it, you can make the search harder by hiding it within or behind other objects or even in another room.
Physical and mental exercise are really the pillars of your Aussie’s mental and physical health. However, many forms of exercise you can utilize center on your pup participating in the form of play.
These exercises can be considered physical, mental, or sometimes even both, and are a great way for you to bond with your Aussie or socialize with others.
While puzzle toys are designed primarily to satiate your Aussie’s mental exercise needs, there are infinitely more toys out there designed for play purposes.
Common examples of these are ropes used for tug-of-war and squeaky toys for chomping and tearing apart. There are also toys you can utilize to make physical exercises easier on you while still working your Aussie to their physical limits. Popular choices for this include frisbees and Chuckit! ball launchers.
This might be more of a resource than an individual form of exercise, but it’s definitely a fantastic way to get your Aussie active while also reaping socialization benefits.
Most cities and towns have one, if not a handful, of dog parks where your Aussie can run around and interact with other dogs for as long as they are well socialized and you’re comfortable.
Many Aussie owners enjoy dog parks for exercise purposes because it gives them a brief break from directly engaging with their Aussie to expel their excess energy. Additionally, dog parks are typically fenced-in, so your Aussie can safely run as much as possible regardless of where they are in their recall training.
Benefits of Australian Shepherd Exercise Variation
While walks are a common form of exercise for any dog, there is a wide range of alternatives for your Australian Shepherd that you should incorporate weekly, if not daily.
Physical exercise isn’t everything when it comes to owning an Australian Shepherd; mental exercise is just as, if not more important. Therefore, you’ll want to have various forms of mental exercise available to them, so they are sufficiently and healthily worn out daily.
Rotating or teaching new exercises is a great way to keep your Aussie in prime mental and physical health while ensuring the activity is fun for both of you rather than a monotonous daily routine.
Additionally, while most dogs enjoy the security of routine, those with higher intelligence, like the Australian Shepherd, frequently become bored with the same toys and tasks, so spicing things up every now and then prevents this from occurring.
Lastly, it’s good for your dog to be familiar with various forms of exercise so you can choose the one that best benefits your lifestyle or daily capabilities.
For instance, walking or running with your Aussie is a great way to burn off their pent-up energy and form or maintain the bond between you. However, if you find you don’t have the energy for a run after a long day at work, you can whip out the frisbee or play “Go Find It!” instead. These will work your Aussie just as much with less effort from you.
Do Australian Shepherds Need a Lot of Exercise?
If you lead a less active lifestyle, then the Australian Shepherd isn’t the dog breed for you. These workaholics love to be active and mentally stimulated nearly 24/7. They are consistently ranked as one of the most active dog breeds requiring extensive exercise daily.
Many sources will suggest that you exercise your Australian Shepherd for 30-60 minutes a day, but we think 30-45 minutes is the absolute bare minimum of what they need. Those who already own an Australian Shepherd will easily see why 30 minutes probably isn’t long enough.
Instead, we tend to agree with sources who lean towards the higher side of the spectrum if you want an Aussie that is physically and mentally content without risking their overall health.
According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), these high-energy dogs should exercise for 60-120 minutes a day. To ensure they aren’t overworked, you should try to split up their exercise sessions into two or three occasions throughout the day.
Ideally, your Aussie should perform intense physical exercises, like running or dog sports, for 30-60 minutes of the day, and then perform less physically demanding tasks, like mental exercises or a slow, leisurely walk, for the remaining 30-60 minutes.
Please bear in mind that these are the exercising requirements for an Australian Shepherd, not a Miniature Australian Shepherd, which is a separate breed and has different exercising needs.
How Do I Exercise My Australian Shepherd Puppy?
The amount of daily exercise your Australian Shepherd needs will vary depending on their age. When they are developing through their first year of life, your Australian Shepherd shouldn’t exercise more than 5 minutes per month of their age. It is recommended to consult your veterinarian to understand your pup’s specific needs.
While it’s certainly tempting to burn off that puppy energy through a 20-minute walk, these little guys can’t endure long and strenuous forms of exercise as they can overtire quickly, and it can damage their developing bones and joints.
Hip and elbow dysplasia are extremely common in this breed and typically arise when an Australian Shepherd puppy is over-exercised. Start with small play sessions or trick/obedience training around the house for their first few months, and then take them on short walks until they’re at least a year of age.
Remember that socialization is a form of mental exercise and important to your young Aussie’s development, so once they’re fully vaccinated, have them interact with plenty of humans and canines.
Giving your Aussie puppy all the exercise they need without risking their physical health is certainly a fine line to walk. The key is to use as many forms of physical and mental exercise available to you for brief periods. The more breaks you can give your Aussie puppy, the more exercise they’ll be able to withstand safely.
When Should I Rest My Aussie During Exercise?
Australian Shepherds are one of the rare breeds that will run and play for as long as you allow them, sometimes to the detriment of their own health. It’s important to know when to let them rest between bouts of exercise so they aren’t pushed to their mental limits or physically overworked.
Overexercising your Aussie is definitely a possibility and can have negative results, such as:
- Muscle, tendon, and joint injury
- Overheating or heatstroke
Aussies were bred to work long hours daily, but you can’t rely on your Aussie to know when it’s time for them to rest. As long as they have the opportunity to exercise, they’re likely to take it.
The first step to giving your Aussie proper rest after exercise is to ensure the sessions don’t exceed the recommended timeframe. Most exercise sessions for an Aussie should last 30-45 minutes, maxing out at 60 minutes depending on the task.
If you’ve been running, hiking, biking, or playing dog sports with your Aussie for 60 minutes, it’s probably time for a break and some water.
You should also keep an eye on your Aussie during their exercise for any signs of over-exercise. These signs can include:
- Post-exercise exhaustion with abnormally long recovery
- Excessive panting during or after exercising
- Extreme thirst
- Abnormal positions (ex. lagging behind on a walk rather than next-to or in front of you)
- Lameness, limping, reluctance to exercise
- Sore muscles or stiffness
- Reduced focus or signs of confusion
- Visually overtired
- Sleeping or laying down for abnormal periods
Sometimes it can be difficult to tell when your Aussie is sufficiently tired from a quality exercise session or showing signs of being over-tired. It’s important to take your exercise sessions slow and provide numerous breaks and frequent hydration to ensure your Aussie isn’t mentally or physically suffering.
What To Do Before Exercising Your Australian Shepherd
You see your Aussie pacing back and forth, looking for some form of entertainment. This is typically the sign that they need their daily dose of exercise. However, before you grab that toy or their leash, there are some things you should do first to ensure their exercise session is fulfilling or even appropriate.
Have a Water Source
If you’re exercising your Australian Shepherd, water is absolutely essential, especially if they perform high-intensity exercises.
Dogs can’t sweat like humans. In order to cool down, they have to pant, and sometimes this isn’t even enough. Water is key to helping keep your Aussie safely hydrated while exercising and keeping them cool to prevent overheating.
Although this is something all dogs should have when they exercise, it is especially important for an Aussie whose double coat makes it especially difficult for them to cool down in high temperatures. Try to invest in a water bottle dedicated to your Aussie and a portable bowl you can keep with you for all outings where they’ll be away from their traditional water bowl.
Fulfill Any Grooming Needs
Exercising can be difficult or even unsafe for your Aussie if they aren’t properly groomed beforehand.
Firstly, you should check their paws to make sure their nails are at an appropriate length. If your Aussie’s nails are too long, their weight will fall onto the nails while they run and move rather than the pads of their feet. This could cause the nails to bend or rip, injuring your pup.
In addition to their nails, you should also keep your Australian Shepherd’s coat neat and trimmed, particularly in warmer climates. Dogs with double coats tend to have difficulty shedding their thick winter layers without assistance from their owner through bathing and brushing.
Having excess fur in your Aussie’s coat is a quick way for them to overheat and tire quickly, even after minutes of exercise. Not only is this unsafe for your Aussie, but it also inhibits their ability to work off all their energy.
Even if your Aussie is bouncing off the walls, they shouldn’t partake in any form of exercise if they aren’t healthy enough to do so.
Because of their high-energy and working nature, your Aussie might try to play or exercise despite physical injuries or ailments. As their owner, it is important to know when it is and isn’t safe for your Aussie’s health to exercise.
This is particularly important for Aussie puppies, as they are extremely vulnerable in their early months. Your Aussie puppy should be fully vaccinated before you exercise them in environments where other dogs frequent. Otherwise, they could contract life-threatening diseases their immune system is prepared to fight off.
Pre-Exercise Play Session
If you’re opting for a form of exercise that requires elements of training, such as dog sports, you might find your Aussie focuses better after you take off that initial energy edge. The best way to do this without over-working them too early is to have a low-intensity play session.
A simple game of tug-of-war or hide and seek at home should be enough to burn off some of that pent-up energy so they can be more attentive while exercising.