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 dog owner. But, Australian Shepherds can be challenging and might be difficult for a first-time dog owner. Aussies can also be great companions 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 enjoyable are the same ones that make them a challenge!
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!
Check out Are Australian Shepherds Smart for loads of information on just how intelligent this breed is!
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 need to work nature.
Another trait that can make Aussie tough for new dog owners to handle is their energy. They require plenty of space and time for them to exert some of that energy. If Aussies don’t have a proper outlet for their energy, they can become destructive and difficult to handle.
Aussies are not a good fit if you live a sedentary lifestyle. Aussies need more exercise compared to many dog breeds. They do eventually settle down as they mature which we cover in At What Age Do Australian Shepherds Calm Down.
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. Aussies love to follow their person around the house.
Just because Aussies may be attached to 1 or 2 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.
What Are Some Tips for a New Aussie Owner?
There’s a lot to learn when you’re getting an Aussie for the first time.
- 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 and physically 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 avoid the challenges that come with owning an Australian Shepherd. 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.
Aussies 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.
You will need to periodically trim your Aussie’s nails. There isn’t a standard amount of time 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 see them 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.
Aussies may need to get a good bath once in a while too which will depend on your individual dog’s lifestyle. 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 a few times a year.
For more specific grooming tips, check out the related post Caring for an Aussie’s Coat: 11 Dos and Don’ts.
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.
Which type of food you feed your Aussies will depend upon factors such as your specific dog’s needs and your dog food budget. It’s helpful to ask your Veterinarian for their pet food recommendations.
How Much Does an Aussie Eat Daily?
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.
Active Aussies typically consume 3 to 4 cups of food a day, depending on the type of food.
What About Treats?
Your Aussie’s diet can certainly be supplemented with treats. Treats can be a great tool to use when training your Aussie too. Just in moderation, as being overweight can be harmful to their health.
What to Know About Aussie Puppies
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 an Aussie’s keen intelligence and willingness to learn, they can quickly be housebroken and taught basic commands. 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 control over their herding instinct. Until this command is mastered, you should keep your Aussie leashed.
It’s important to introduce your Aussie to plenty of other dogs and humans when they’re young. That can help prevent their guarded nature from turning shy or potentially aggressive.
What are Good Activities for Aussies?
If you decide to get or have 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.
Physical Activities for Australian Shepherds
There are plenty of fun and engaging sports to try. For more ways to exercise check out 11 Ways to Exercise Australian Shepherds.
- Freestyle courses
- Agility courses – Tunnels, Weave Poles, Jumps
- Herding games
- Dock Diving
- Playing flyball
- Scenting challenges
- Disc throwing
- Playing treibball
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
Aussie’s do well in obedience training. You can praise, 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)
- Drop it / Leave it
- Location-based commands like car, crate, or bed
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. 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.
Australian Shepherds require a lot of attention and care. From 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, but 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 very rewarding pets and beautiful, loyal, and fun companions for life.