Australian Shepherd Information: Breed and Health

Australian Shepherd Information: Breed and Health

Australian Shepherds are excellent herding dogs that have a long lifespan. However, they are not exempt from common health issues that many other herding breeds are prone to. Learn more about these adorable dogs and their health needs here.

Despite its name, the Australian Shepherd is an American breed bred to Australian herd sheep in the United States. This breed is characterized by its naturally bobbed tail and its vibrant red and white coat. Related to other herding dogs such as other Sheepdogs, Collies, and some Shepherds, the Australian Shepherd is prone to some of the same ailments. Vision problems, epilepsy, and cancers are the primary health concerns with this breed. Approximately 30% of all Australian Shepherds die due to cancer or cancer-related problems. The Australian Shepherd has a lifespan of around 11 - 13 years, which is not uncommon for a dog of its size.

Primary Health Conditions of the Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds are especially prone to hearing, eye, and vision problems, including Collie Eye Anomaly (which can be prevented through good breeding practices) and cataracts. Cataracts may occur at any stage of life and present themselves as cloudiness in the eye. Some cataracts start out and remain small, but others grow until the animal becomes blind. Typically both eyes are affected, though one eye may appear cloudy months before the other one begins to show signs of the condition. There is no cure or guaranteed prevention for canine cataracts.

Various types of cancers are common with the Australian Shepherd. While cancers used to appear in this breed in later years, Australian Shepherds are beginning to suffer the effects of many types of cancer earlier in their life. Some cancers, when caught early, may be treatable. Others are terminal. The variations in the types of cancer to which Australian Shepherds are prone are too wide to classify without a full breed analysis study, which has not yet been done.

Secondary Health Conditions of the Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd is prone to back and hip problems, including the very common hip dysplasia - a painful issue of the hip joint. Dysplasia cannot typically be prevented, although good breeding practices can help, as will a moderated diet and plenty of exercise.

Autoimmune diseases, including thyroid conditions and problems with mange, can occur, but these are treatable.

Epilepsy is also common in this breed and is becoming more common over time. There is no way to know if the dog may develop epilepsy, and the issue often begins to show itself between the ages of one to three years. Epileptic dogs should be removed from the breeding cycle.

Australian Shepherd Exercise and Walking Needs

This medium-sized, lively dog needs a good deal of daily exercise, including long walks or runs and lively play. Advanced training may be a good idea to keep this intelligent and inquisitive dog’s mind active. Boredom and loneliness are the main causes of destructive behavior. Meeting Shepherd’s needs will make the dog and its family happier.

Australian Shepherd Nutritional Needs

The Australian Shepherd should be fed a high-quality diet of high-protein dog food. Because Australian Shepherds are energetic, they generally need more calories than other breeds. Working shepherds will naturally eat more than house pets.

The Australian Shepherd Personality 

Originally bred to work livestock in the western United States, Australian Shepherds not only have active natures but also are highly intelligent and quick-thinking. They make excellent watchdogs and companions and are devoted family dogs. Owners may find it challenging to keep one step ahead of their Aussies, but it is essential to do so to allow them to develop into sound dogs that are both fun and reliable. You’ll get the best results from Australian Shepherds if you start working with them as soon as you bring them home.

Temperament and Socialization

The driving force behind the development of the Australian Shepherd was the need for intelligent dogs that could out-think livestock, with the stamina to work for the herd all day. Aussies are happiest when they are given a chance to put their brains to work at jobs of all kinds, and they excel in obedience work, herding, and canine competitions. If they get bored, they are likely to come up with things to do on their own, and these types of activities are usually destructive and tend to involve digging and chewing. Aussies must also be well socialized to prevent them from developing serious behavior problems, such as being fearful or shy. Such a dog may become a fear-biter, a serious difficulty that can lead to injury of humans and other animals. You can avoid this by taking Aussies out in public as often as possible, exposing them to as many different people, animals, sights, and sounds as you can so that they accept the world around them. This is vitally important when your dog is young, but it is good to allow Aussies to socialize no matter what their age. Never place your dog in a potentially unsafe situation, such as near an aggressive dog or children that may be too rough.


Australian Shepherds should begin training as soon as they are comfortable in their new homes. Find a reputable trainer in your area by asking your vet, groomer, or friends for recommendations and sign up for classes. Going to class will give you a chance to teach your dog behavioral commands, as well as help with their socialization. Most areas have classes for dogs of all ages, from puppies to adults. Local dog clubs are also a good source of information regarding these classes, plus you can join a specialized club that focuses on one type of training, such as agility, herding, or obedience. The club will help you continue socializing your dog, and you will learn how to compete so that your dog can earn titles and awards. These activities help Aussies work off excess energy and give them a mental challenge, with the added bonus of increasing the dogs’ bonding with their owners. No matter what type of training you choose, you’ll find that your Aussie can rise to the challenge and do very well. Even if you don’t want to involve your dog in a sport, all owners should keep their Aussies socialized and teach them at least the five basic commands: "Sit," "Stay," "Heel," "Down," and "Come," working first on a leash and later without one.


Make sure that your Australian Shepherd gets all the necessary shots, wormings, and any other checks your veterinarian deems necessary. This is not only because your Aussie will be around other dogs but also because this breed is prone to certain health issues, including blindness, deafness, and hip dysplasia, and dogs should be watched for signs of these problems as they grow. Dogs that are suspected of having these or other problems should be taken to a veterinarian for a full examination. Aussies also need their heavy double coats brushed at least once a week to avoid mats and skin problems.


The best way to housebreak Australian Shepherds is the crate training system. In this method, Aussies are placed in crates that are large enough for them to be comfortable. Australian Shepherds will not normally soil their sleeping quarters, but they must be let out on a regular basis to prevent accidents. Puppies can usually last only a few hours without needing to relieve themselves, but older Australian shepherds can wait all night once they are adapted to the schedule. As dogs learn to go outside to relieve themselves, they can be given increasing amounts of freedom in the house.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is an Australian Shepherd a good house dog?

Australian Shepherds can make great house dogs, but they require plenty of physical and mental stimulation to thrive. They are a highly active and intelligent breed, so they need lots of exercise and mental stimulation to prevent boredom and destructive behavior. If you are able to provide them with plenty of exercise, training, and attention, an Australian Shepherd can make an excellent house dog. They are loyal and affectionate companions who love being with their families. However, if you are unable to provide them with the level of activity and mental stimulation they need, they may become bored and develop behavior problems such as excessive barking, digging, or chewing. Also, if you live in a small apartment or don't have a lot of space for your dog to run around, an Australian Shepherd may not be the best choice.

Do Australian Shepherds bark a lot?

Australian Shepherds can be prone to barking, but whether or not they bark a lot depends on the individual dog and their training and socialization. As a breed, Australian Shepherds are known to be vocal and have a tendency to bark to alert their owners of any perceived threats or changes in their environment. They are also highly intelligent and sensitive dogs that can become bored and frustrated if not given enough attention and exercise, which can lead to excessive barking. However, with proper training and socialization, it is possible to minimize barking in Australian Shepherds. Teaching your dog basic obedience commands, providing them with plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, and exposing them to different people, places, and situations can all help reduce their tendency to bark excessively.

Do Australian Shepherds shed a lot?

Yes, Australian Shepherds are known for their heavy shedding. They have a thick double coat that protects them from the elements but also means they shed quite a bit throughout the year. During shedding season, which usually occurs twice a year, Australian Shepherds will shed their undercoat more heavily, which can result in a significant amount of loose fur around your home. However, even outside of the shedding season, they still shed to some degree throughout the year. Regular grooming can help manage the shedding and keep your Australian Shepherd's coat healthy and shiny. Brushing your dog's coat frequently, especially during shedding season, can help remove loose fur and prevent mats and tangles from forming. Bathing your dog when necessary can also help remove loose fur and keep its coat clean and healthy.

What 2 breeds make an Australian Shepherd?

Contrary to what its name may suggest, the Australian Shepherd was not actually developed in Australia. The breed originated in the United States in the 19th century and was bred for herding livestock on ranches in the American West. The exact origins of the Australian Shepherd are not entirely clear, but it is believed to be a cross between various breeds that were brought to the United States, such as the Border Collie and various shepherd and herding breeds from Europe. Some experts also believe that the Australian Cattle Dog or the Australian Kelpie may have played a role in the development of the breed. However, despite the name "Australian Shepherd," there is no evidence that the breed was actually created by crossbreeding two specific breeds. Rather, it is likely that the Australian Shepherd was developed through selective breeding over time, using a combination of different breeds that were well-suited for herding and working on ranches.

Do Australian Shepherds like to be held?

Whether or not an Australian Shepherd likes to be held depends on the individual dog and its personality and preferences. Some Australian Shepherds enjoy being held and cuddled, while others may not be as comfortable with close physical contact. Australian Shepherds are generally affectionate and loyal dogs that love spending time with their owners, but they also have a strong independent streak and may not always seek out physical affection. Some Australian Shepherds may prefer to show their affection in other ways, such as sitting next to their owners or playing together. If you have an Australian Shepherd that enjoys being held, it's important to handle them gently and respect their boundaries. Avoid forcing them to be held if they are not comfortable with it, and be sure to support their body properly to avoid causing any discomfort or injury.

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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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Epilepsy Cataract Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) Australian Shepherd

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