Are Australian Shepherds Good First Dogs?

Australian Shepherd

If you find yourself dreaming of owning an Australian Shepherd someday, you’re not alone. Aussies, as they are called, are an increasingly common choice as a favorite household pet. But new dog owners might be wondering if this breed is a good fit for first-time dog owners. 

An Australian Shepherd certainly can be a suitable dog for a new owner. However, that does not make them an easy type of dog to care for or one that’s right for everyone. Australian Shepherds can be challenging in some ways and might be difficult for a first-time dog owner. They can also be very rewarding for those who are willing to put in the work. 

If your heart is set on an Aussie, they are great dogs if you have the time and patience to devote to training them and caring for them. Read on to learn about the factors to consider when deciding if this breed is the right choice for your family. 

Is an Aussie a Good Choice for a First Time Dog Owner?

Australian Shepherds are a lot of fun and have an excellent temperament, but they do require some training and patience. Some of the characteristics that make them a joy are the same ones that make them a challenge!

Intelligence 

The biggest hurdle for first-time dog owners who are interested in owning an Australian Shepherd is the breed’s intelligence. While many people love the idea of a smart dog, actually living with one can be quite a task! They are certainly capable of outwitting an inexperienced owner. 

Workers by Nature

Having them trained properly while they’re young and giving them plenty of tasks to keep their mind busy is a good way to get a handle on their smart nature. If you don’t keep their sharp minds busy with jobs, their herding instincts might take over. This could lead them to start shepherding other pets or kids in the house.

Energy and Athleticism

Another trait that can make Aussie tough for new dog owners to handle is their energy. They are naturally athletic dogs. They require an owner that can provide them with plenty of space and time for them to exert some of that energy. If they don’t have a proper outlet for their energy, they can become destructive and difficult to handle. 

They are not a good choice if you live a sedentary lifestyle or prefer short walks around the block. Aussies need more exercise compared to many dog breeds. A good-sized fenced-in yard where you can play high-energy games like frisbee will suit your Aussie well. 

Does an Aussie Get Attached to One Person?

Aussies tend to get attached to one or two of their most trusted family members. In fact, they can get a little too attached to their owners and tend to suffer some separation anxiety. They love to follow their chosen person around the house. If you’re lucky enough to be one of their favorites, they will greet you with enthusiastic affection whenever you return home after a day of work, school or even after you walk in the house after being outside for a few minutes!

Just because Aussies will be particularly attached to one or two people in your family does not mean that they can’t be excellent dogs for the entire family. They tend to get along well with kids and pets. So, even if mom or dad is their favorite, it doesn’t mean they won’t be friends with other family members. They just might pick their favorite to follow everywhere, including the bathroom. 

What Are Some Tips for a New Aussie Owner? 

There is a lot to learn when you’re getting a dog for the first time, and every breed is unique. There are several tips that can help you be prepared if you decide to adopt an Australian Shepherd. 

  • Be firm and confident – Otherwise, an Aussie might assume he’s in charge.
  • Give them vigorous physical activity – Make sure you provide at least 30-60 minutes daily.
  • Provide challenging games or jobs – This helps to mentally stimulate your Aussie. 
  • Socialize them early – They need to learn not to be aggressive or fearful.
  • Don’t leave them alone too often – They are known to suffer from separation anxiety.
  • Train them early not to herd – Teach them not to herd other pets or children in the house.

There are plenty of things you can do to mitigate the challenges that come with owning an Australian Shepherd. Just make sure to provide plenty of physical and mental stimulation, properly socialize them when they’re young, and treat them with a kind but assertive demeanor. 

If you follow this advice, even an inexperienced dog owner can succeed in having a well-behaved and happy Aussie. Keep reading to learn more about owning and caring for this fantastic breed. 

What Should First-Time Dog Owners Know About Grooming an Aussie?

If you’ve never owned a dog, you might not realize how important it is to groom them. Keeping your Aussie properly groomed is vital to maintaining a healthy dog. Australian Shepherds shed a moderate to heavy amount. 

Brushing

They require at least a weekly brushing, though you might prefer to keep up with it on a daily basis. Frequent brushings allow your Aussie’s coat to help protect it from the weather and keep them comfortable. It also keeps the skin underneath healthy and can help you to monitor for parasites on your Shepherd’s body. 

Nails

You will also need to periodically trim your Aussie’s nails. There is no set amount of time you should wait in between trimmings, as every dog will wear down and grow its nails at different rates. If you hear your Aussie’s nails clicking on the floor when he walks or notice them starting to touch the ground, it’s time to get out the clippers. 

Ask your veterinarian or groomer to show you how it’s done or ask them to do it for you if you’re more comfortable.

Bathing

Aussies may need to get a good bath once in a while too! This will really depend on your individual dog’s lifestyle needs. If you plan on putting your Aussie to work doing a job, he might get dirtier and require a bath every four to six weeks. Aussies who spend the majority of their time in your house might only need a bath four or five times a year. 

Notes for New Owners on Feeding an Australian Shepherd 

When it comes to feeding your Aussie, it might seem like a simple task. Just buy a bag of dog food at the pet store, right? But it can be overwhelming for new pet owners to know where to start. 

How Much Does an Aussie Eat Daily?

Different breeds have different dietary needs. Because they tend to run and play so much, Aussies burn off a lot of calories! Adult Australian Shepherds are medium-sized dogs and will weigh fifty to sixty-five pounds if male or forty to fifty-five pounds if female. 

These active dogs typically consume three to four cups of dry food a day.

Dry food can also be supplemented with wet food, although they cannot consume solely wet food. This is because dry food helps to keep their teeth and gums strong and healthy. 

Notes About a Raw Diet

You might prefer to feed your Aussie a raw, natural diet. These frozen meals typically consist of frozen meat and vegetables and are sold pre-packaged. An average Australian Shepherd will require about a pound of this frozen delicacy a day. 

Just remember to practice safe food practices, such as thoroughly washing your hands before handling raw meat. Also, make sure to discard any uneaten food after it’s been unrefrigerated for thirty minutes. Consult with your veterinarian to make sure a raw diet is ok for your Aussie. 

Can Aussies Eat Human Food?

You may be wondering if Australian Shepherds can have any food from your plate. There are certain human foods that are great for Aussies and others that can be harmful:

Safe for Aussies to Eat Dangerous for Aussies to Eat 
Peanut Butter and PeanutsChocolate 
Eggs (cooked)Grapes and raisins
WatermelonAvocado
StrawberriesXylitol
BlueberriesLemons
FishAlmonds 
CoconutCinnamon
Corn (off the cob) Garlic 
PorkIce Cream
TurkeyMacadamia Nuts 
Wheat and Grains Alcohol 
Yogurt (unsweetened) 

What About Treats? 

Your Aussie’s diet can certainly be supplemented with treats. They will appreciate a healthy snack in the form of traditional dog treats or some homemade morsels. Treats can be a great tool to use when training your Aussie too. Just remember not to overdo it, as being overweight can be harmful to their health. 

What to Know About Aussie Puppies

First and foremost, you should know that Aussie puppies are absolutely adorable! But besides being cute, they are also relatively easy to train. 

Their Smarts Come in Handy During Training

Thanks to their keen intelligence and willingness to learn, Aussies can quickly be housebroken and taught various commands. They will respond best to positive reinforcement, like clicker training. You certainly don’t want to be too harsh with these dogs while building a bond. Aussies respond best to positive reinforcement training.

Where to Start

An important command to start with is “come” or a similar recall instruction. This will allow you to gain early control over their herding instinct. If they are herding pets or kids when undesired, just call them over to you to snap them out of it. Until this command is mastered, you should keep your Aussie leashed. 

Socialize Early

Another very important thing to practice with your Aussie puppy is proper socialization. Because they tend to get so attached to their family members, they can be on guard with strangers. You should introduce them to plenty of other dogs and humans when they’re young. That can help prevent their guarded nature from turning potentially aggressive. 

What are Good Activities and Exercises for Aussies? 

As mentioned, if you decide to get an Aussie, you will need to give it plenty of mentally and physically stimulating activity. If you don’t, your Aussie could become bored and destructive. You might just want to casually play around in the backyard with your Shepherd. Or you might want to enter your Aussie into official competitions. 

Physical Activities for Australian Shepherds

Either way, there are plenty of fun and engaging sports to try:

  • Freestyle courses
  • Agility courses 
    • Tunnels
    • Weave Poles
    • Jumps
  • Herding games
  • Dock Diving
  • Playing flyball
  • Scenting challenges
  • Disc throwing
  • Playing treibball
  • Fetching toys 

Food-Based Games and Puzzles for Aussies

There are also food-based games you can use to keep your Aussie’s sharp mind occupied, such as food puzzles. There are a variety of puzzles with various challenging elements like doors, flaps, and sliders. There is also the classic Kong-style food puzzle. 

Obedience-Oriented Games and Training

You should give your Aussie obedience training. You can use a clicker or treats to reinforce the behavior that you’re trying to teach. Here are some common tricks to teach your Shepherd:

  • Sit and Lie Down
  • Come and Stay
  • Heel (for loose-leash walking)
  • Shake
  • Wait
  • Watch
  • Drop it and Leave it 
  • Location-based commands like car, crate, bed, or lap 

If you start this early and give your Aussie lots of praise (and/or treats) for listening and obeying, you’ll encourage positive behavior. 

If You Don’t Mind a Little Herding Behavior

You can also give your Aussie a job. Herding livestock is what they were bred to do, so if you have livestock of your own, they will be happy to help out.

Or in lieu of livestock, you could get your Australian Shepherd to move large balls around the yard to satisfy their herding instinct. Barn hunts are also fun activities for shepherds. After playing with all their balls, frisbees, and other toys, you can even get your Aussie to retrieve and clean up his own toys. 

In between these mentally challenging sports and games, good old-fashioned exercise will help to keep your dog fit and content too. Try taking your Aussie for a hike or for a long walk in the park.  

How to Select an Australian Shepherd Breeder 

There are many things to consider when selecting an Australian Shepherd breeder. The most important is finding a reputable breeder who breeds for health and temperament, as well as the breed standard. More specifics follow below. 

Check for Required Testing

If you’re looking for a breeder, there are certain health checks that the United States Australian Shepherd Association recommends your breeder perform. Make sure your breeder provides certification that the following evaluations have been performed: 

Required TestingOptional Testing (Highly Recommended):
OFA Evaluation for Dysplasia of HipsHereditary Cataracts (HSF4)
OFA Evaluation for Dysplasia of ElbowsMulti-Drug Sensitivity (MDR1) 
Annual eye evaluation (CERF) by a Board-Certified Canine Ophthalmologist and with an exam that is registered with OFACollie Eye Anomaly (CEA

See the Facilities In-Person

If possible, you should try to visit the breeder’s facilities. Here you can get an idea of the conditions that your breeder is keeping their dogs and puppies in. You can also examine the dogs to make sure they appear happy and healthy. 

A bonus benefit of visiting in person is getting to select the Aussie puppy whose demeanor lines up with the temperament you are looking for. In addition to the personality, you can select a dog with the appearance that you prefer. Aussies come in black, blue merle, red, and red merle. They can also have tan or white points or markings. 

Have a Conversation 

If you can’t visit in person, you should at least speak to your prospective breeder on the phone. Make sure to ask lots of questions. You should definitely ask about the health of the puppies’ parents and ensure that the health checks mentioned above have been performed. The puppies should also be up to date on their required vaccinations. 

Other Signs to Look for and Questions to Ask

A good sign that you’re dealing with a conscientious breeder who cares is that they’ll offer a health guarantee. Some will also sign a contract agreeing to take back a puppy should you become unable to care for it. 

Don’t be afraid to quiz your breeder on various other matters, such as how long they’ve been breeding Aussies and what they know about the breed. 

You should also ask about how the puppies have been socialized since unsocialized Aussies can be fearful or aggressive around strangers. 

And, just as you will have high expectations of your breeder, they should have high expectations of you. Be wary if they don’t ask questions about your family and lifestyle. 

If you’re unsure where to start in finding a good breeder, you can use the USASA’s breeder directory to find a reputable Australian Shepherd breeder in your state. Of course, you can always adopt an Australian Shepherd too. Many Aussies are in shelters and in need of a loving home. 

Is an Aussie the Right Dog for You? 

As you’ve learned here, Australian Shepherds require a lot of work and care. From carefully selecting a breeder to daily exercise and mental stimulation, regular health checkups, and frequent grooming, there is a lot that goes into caring for an Aussie. 

Their high energy and keen intelligence mean an Australian Shepherd might not be the best choice for a first-time dog owner. However, having an owner that can handle their needs is the most important factor. 

If you have the time and energy to devote to your Aussie, they can be the right dog for you.  For those with the lifestyle to suit this breed’s needs, Aussies are a very rewarding pet and a beautiful, loyal, and fun companion for life. 

https://delicatecare.com.au/tag/how-smart-is-an-australian-shepherd/#.
https://www.petcarerx.com/article/how-much-should-an-australian-shepherd-eat/522
https://www.australian-shepherd-lovers.com/dog-sports.html
https://www.dog-obedience-training-review.com/australian-shepherd-training.html#Aussie

Jacqueline Hamel

I’m a lifetime dog owner of several breeds and a recent Cattle Dog enthusiast after adopting two puppy siblings Bindi and Banjo. Now, I’m on a mission to better understand Heelers and other herding dogs. Hopefully, through this blog, I can share the joy and lessons learned from these intelligent, protective, loyal, athletic, and intelligent dogs.

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