Australian Shepherd

Written by:

PetMD Editorial
Published: April 19, 2010

Bred as an all-purpose herder and farm dog, the Australian Shepherd lives for the enjoyment of its job. It’s an intelligent, obedient, and agile breed.

Physical Characteristics

The Australian Shepherd dog possesses a muscular body and an athletic appearance. With its medium-sized body, which is a bit longer than it is tall, it is capable of moving very quickly. It is also known for changing speeds and direction effortlessly and in a graceful manner.

The Australian Shepherd possesses a weather-proof double coat of medium texture. Its outer coat, which can be found in a variety of colors, is either straight or wavy. Its expression, meanwhile, is pleasant, bestowing a sense of intelligence.

Personality and Temperament

The Australian Shepherd has a guarding instinct and is somewhat reserved with strangers. However, it is smart and independent in nature. To prevent the dog from becoming frustrated, provide it with daily exercise.

In addition to being courageous, confident and responsive, the Australian Shepherd has tremendous stamina. Be aware that some Australian Shepherd dogs have been known to nip at small animals or children.


The Australian Shepherd loves to be indoors with its human companion, but it can live outside in temperate conditions. It requires a great deal of physical and mental exercise, and grooming consists of the occasional combing to remove any dead hair.


The Australian Shepherd dog, which has an average lifespan of 12 to 15 years, is prone to minor health issues such as iris coloboma, nasal solar dermatitis, hypothyroidism, Pelger-Huet syndrome, canine hip dysplasia (CHD), and Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA). It is also susceptible to cataract, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), lumbar sacral syndrome, Persistent Pupillary Membrane (PPM), distichiasis, von Willebrand's Disease (vWD), epilepsy, and patent duct arteriosus (PDA). To identify some of these issues early, a veterinarian may recommend eye, hip, and thyroid exams for the dog, as well as DNA tests to confirm CEA.

History and Background

The Australian Shepherd is, in fact, not Australian at all. A popular theory states that the Basques herders who emigrated to Australia in the 19th century brought their sheep and their sheepdogs, some of which were Australian Shepherd dogs, with them. Others believe the guardian breed, which is known for its versatility, originated in Turkey more than 5,000 years ago.

What is certain is that the Australian Shepherd Club of America was established in 1957. These dogs soon adapted themselves to the harsh conditions of the United States; some were even featured in film or used as trick dogs in rodeos. The American Kennel Club formally recognized the breed in 1993.