Australian Shepherd - Herding Dog in the Modern World [2021 Owner's Guide]

Australian Shepherd - Herding Dog in the Modern World [2021 Owner's Guide]

Author WDF Staff

10.05.2021.


The Australian Shepherd is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. Not only are these dogs absolutely gorgeous, but they are also intelligent, playful, and they make fantastic workers. These dogs were used for all sorts of shepherding tasks throughout history, and even today, these dogs are excellent at field trials. It isn’t a huge surprise these dogs are so popular among American families.

There are many working dog breeds in the world, and not all of them found their place in the modern world. Some working breeds, especially shepherding breeds, became somewhat obsolete. Farmers and shepherds use different ways of keeping their flocks safe, and shepherding breeds had to find a new place in the modern world. Only a few breeds managed to secure their place as popular pets. Australian Shepherd is among the most successful ones. Here is what you should know about the Australian Shepherds and their position in this crazy modern world.

Australian Shepherds of the old

Before we start talking about the modern-day position of the Aussie Shepherds, we need to talk about the position these dogs held for so long. It is all in the name - the Australian Shepherd was developed and used for more than 100 years to herd and drive livestock. Their main job was to herd large flocks and assist American farmers in caring for different types of livestock.

australian-shepherd in the snow

You might be surprised to learn that the Australian Shepherd is actually - American. The name has a more descriptive role. This dog breed was developed in the United States, but their ancestors came from Australia and the UK. These dogs are closely related to the Border Collie, so it is not surprising Australian Shepherds are so intelligent.

Herding dogs needed to be intelligent to do the job they were entrusted with. The selective breeding that took place made sure only the most skilled dogs were bred. The best working lines were passed on to the newer generations of the handsome Australian Shepherd. It is vital we understand where these dogs come from in order to successfully predict where they are going.

Modern-day Australian Shepherds

Dogs in the modern world have completely different roles than they had before. Just 100 years ago, humans used dogs primarily as tools. Mind you, some dogs were kept for company, but those were mainly smaller dog breeds like the Maltese, French Bulldogs, or the Pekingese. Shepherd breeds were mostly used for different types of work. Modern-day shepherding dog breeds, like our Australian Shepherd, have a different primary role.

Australian Shepherd as a worker

As a working dog breed, the Australian Shepherd is one of the most impressive things you can see. Watching an Aussie work a flock of sheep is nothing short of a miracle. They are intuitive, energetic, determined, and incorruptible workers. Aussies trained to work in the field can go toe-to-toe with some of the best herding dogs in the world.

australian-shepherd

The superior intelligence of the Australian Shepherd allows them to perform tasks other shepherds simply cannot. Aussies are among only a handful of dog breeds that can herd geese. Needless to say, even today, in the modern world, Australian Shepherds are treasured workers that hold a special place in the hearts of farmers relying on dogs for herding.

However, the modern role Aussie Shepherds took on is slightly different. Another famous role modern-day Australian Shepherds play is the role of a service dog. Since these dogs are easily trainable, they can perform different services like guide dogs, PTSD dogs, police and military dogs, detection dogs, or emotional support dogs.

Check out the list of the most popular guide dogs - The best guide dogs in the world.

Modern pet Australian Shepherds

The primary role Australian Shepherds have today is the role of a family pet. Some working breeds don’t have the character for it, but the energetic Australian Shepherd feels right at home in this new role. The temperament of the Australian Shepherd makes it ideal for families or singles that have an active lifestyle. There are a few key characteristics that make these amazing dogs so good in their new roles. Here are the most important ones;

High energy

There aren’t many breeds that are as energetic as the Australian Shepherd. These dogs seem like they could play for hours upon hours. If you have kids in the family, you can be sure you will get a dog that can easily follow your toddler’s pace of play. Older kids have great playing and running partners. If you have a large yard, no one will be happier than your furry Australian Shepherd.

Check out the full list of the most energetic dogs - Most active dog breeds.

Easy to train

High intelligence comes with some perks - these dogs can learn as fast as the Border Collie (Borders are considered the most intelligent dog breed in the world). Training should be a crucial part of every dog’s life. It is absolutely necessary for a breed as intelligent as the Aussie Shepherd. Luckily, these dogs need only a few repetitions to master a new trick or command. That means you will have to constantly come up with new things to teach your dog.

aussie shepherd puppy

That might sound exhausting, and it certainly can be. However, that Aussie characteristic makes it incredibly rewarding. There is nothing better than living with a dog capable of listening to all of your commands. Plus, teaching them a few party tricks will make them and their owners stars of every party. 

Watchdogs

Another great characteristic Australian Shepherds have - they are terrific watchdogs. If you have a family, you will be glad to hear your Aussie will keep a close eye on anything going on in their environment. These dogs were bred to be alert and keenly aware of their surroundings, and that is a trait modern-day Australian Shepherds still have. Even if you live alone, your Aussie dog will never let you feel lonely or unprotected. They will let you know if anyone is approaching or if anything suspicious is going on. Plus, some researches show that homes with dogs are 82% less likely to get robbed.

Getting used to the new role took some time, and here is how these dogs found their new place in this modern world.

Working line vs. “pet” line

The process of adapting to the new role in the world didn’t come overnight. These dogs were helped by humans. Most changes in the whole canine kingdom happened when humans started selectively breeding dogs. This process doesn’t necessarily have to include other dog breeds; even within a breed, you can choose breeding dogs based on characteristics you want to promote.

That is precisely what happened with the Australian Shepherd. Breeders started breeding Aussies with a focus on their looks and friendly character. They weren’t focused on the dog’s working ability. Instead, they began to breed the “pet” line of Australian Shepherds that were more at home inside the house with humans than on the field with sheep or cows. That is how the modern-day Australian Shepherd was created. They became ideal high-energy dogs for active families that love spending time outside. However, this is not a breed that will be laid back. It will require a specific type of owner.

merle australian shepherd

Ideal Australian Shepherd owner

Not all dogs fit with all families. It would be very impractical to have a high-energy dog in a family whose favorite activity is spending a quiet night in, watching a movie, or lounging on the sofa. All dog breeds have specific needs that need to be met. Australian Shepherds are amazing dogs, but if you are the wrong type of owner, they can become dogs that develop behavioral issues and be impossible to handle. Here are some of the characteristics ideal modern Australian Shepherd owners should have;

Free time

This is the most important thing to say. Australian Shepherds are not a breed that will do very well on their own, especially if you get a dog from the “pet” line. These dogs thrive on company, and their owner should have plenty of time they can dedicate to their dogs. Not only do they need time to train their dog, but playing, walking, and grooming all require a significant amount of time. If the owner has a busy schedule, they should have family members pitch in and help take care of the dog.

Dog training skills

An ideal Australian Shepherd owner has to know a lot about dog training. Even Australian Shepherd puppies are smarter than your usual puppies. Future owners should know about the leash, crate, and potty training for starters. Australian Shepherd puppies are quick learners, and they will have to learn the right things from the beginning. Luckily, this breed can be “re-trained,” and the dog’s bad habits can be corrected.

australian-shepherd portrait

The second part of their life is all about energy control, training, and learning. Mind you, there will be a lot of cuddling involved, but without proper training, the dog will be too hyped up to be calm and cuddle. Obedience training is essential for these dogs, and the Australian Shepherd has to get enough activity every day. If they discover the dog’s favorite activity and the life of the Australian Shepherd owner will become a lot easier.

Sporty

This is probably one of the key characteristics an ideal Australian Shepherd owner should have - they have to be sporty. These dogs have endless amounts of energy, and you will have to match that level. It would be ideal for the owners and the dogs if the owners loved dog-related activities. Australian Shepherds will thrive on sports, and here are some ideas regarding dog sports the Aussie will love;

These are just some of the things you can do with your dog. Whatever activity you choose, even if it is as simple as cycling, the Australian Shepherd will love it. Plus, having a healthy energy outlet will make sure your dog doesn’t become frustrated and bored. That is the main reason why dogs develop problematic behavior. Keep in mind that Australian Shepherds are prone to separation anxiety, so future owners should learn more about it.

australian shepherd laying

At peace with grooming and shedding

One of the most notable characteristics of the Australian Shepherd is their luscious coat. These dogs have soft, medium-long, rich coats that make them stand out wherever they are. However, such coats come at a price. The Australian Shepherd owner should be okay with plenty of dog grooming. Modern-day Aussies shed. If you want to control the mess these dogs leave behind them, especially during the shedding season, you should invest enough time in their grooming.

The second option is - have a budget that allows for regular grooming salon visits. Getting professional grooming help is a great idea, and if your budget allows it, it is one task off of your back.

If you want to know more about grooming an Australian Shepherd, check out this article - Australian Shepherd Shedding Control.

Keeping the Aussie healthy

Like many other dog breeds, the Australian Shepherd is prone to certain health conditions observed in the breed. However, this doesn’t mean the dog will develop these health issues. Still, a future Australian Shepherd owner should be aware of them. The critical thing to know is that the earlier you spot health issues, the sooner you can start treating them.

Some of these potential issues are epilepsy, hip and elbow dysplasia, deafness, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, osteochondrosis dissecans (OCD), Collie eye anomaly (CEA), hypothyroidism, food and environmental allergies, cancer, and nasal solar dermatitis.

Luckily, modern veterinary medicine has many answers and medications to these health issues and diseases. If the owner spots these issues early, there is a good chance these problems will be manageable and even curable. However, there is one thing the owners will have to secure for their Aussies - a healthy diet.

aussie

Healthy diet

Australian Shepherds are a highly energetic dog breed. They need a diet that will provide plenty of support to their active lifestyle. That means the Australian Shepherd should have a high-protein diet. If you are picking dog food for an Aussie, make sure the food has healthy protein sources like turkey, lamb, chicken, buffalo, or salmon. Raww dog food might be a good option, but only if you know where your ingredients come from and include all the necessary ingredients in the dog’s diet.

Contrary to popular belief, dogs are not strict carnivores. They are omnivores and need things like fruit, veggies, and grain in their diet. Many dog owners decide to go grain-free, but the high-quality whole grain can be an excellent fiber, vitamin, and mineral source. When it comes to dog food, our general advice is - if you are not sure what to pick, go for the well-known, trusted dog food manufacturers. You can check out this article for some suggestions - Best dry dog food.

Dog treats for Australian Shepherds

Another thing Australian Shepherd owners will need is dog treats. Australian Shepherds thrive on positive reinforcement training. The best thing you can do is get them low-calorie dog training treats that will highly motivate your dog to do the task you are expecting them to do. Training dog treats should be small, easy to chew and swallow. You can also get “regular” dog treats that will be used as a way to reward your dog for their good behavior.

Dog toys for Australian Shepherds

Getting a modern-day Australian Shepherd will require their owners to constantly come up with new ideas on preventing their dogs from getting bored. One of the best ways to do that is by getting the dog different toys that can keep them occupied. Australian Shepherds will absolutely love chew toys and dog puzzles.

Whenever you get the chance of getting your dog’s mind engaged, you should take it. Dog puzzles are a great way to entertain your dog for some time. However, due to their high intelligence, Australian Shepherds will get the hang of these toys pretty fast, and then you should find something new and exciting. If you are sporty, you can always get some agility equipment at home and start preparing your dog for a career in dog sports.

Buying a modern Australian Shepherd puppy

Since Australian Shepherds are prone to different diseases, there is nothing more important than getting a dog from a registered dog breeder. There are various ways of getting a dog in this modern world, but not all channels are safe or trusted. Dogs without pedigrees are not “just for pets” or “good enough.” A pedigree is a confirmation of controlled breeding. The most important and valuable thing you get with a pedigree is - certainty.

If you are not sure about dog pedigrees, check out this article - Should You Buy a Dog Without a Pedigree?

Australian Shepherd puppies with pedigree have been properly bred and raised. Dog breeders follow strict breeding guidelines their club set in place. It is in their best interest to produce healthy Australian Shepherd puppies that will make families happy.

aussie in snow

In this modern-day world, some traditional breeding values are as relevant, if not more relevant, as they were when the breed was developing.

Sure, puppies with pedigrees might be a bit more expensive, especially if they come from a champion bloodline. Still, in the long run, your vet bills will certainly be a lot lower than if you get a dog from an unregistered puppy mill. An important thing to know is that a purebred, well-bred Aussie Shepherd puppy’s price is $600 - $2.500 (depending on the pedigree).

When it comes to getting a dog, our motto is - Buy from a registered breeder or adopt.

Adopting a modern Australian Shepherd

If you are against buying an Australian Shepherd puppy, there is always the option of adopting one. The first thing you should do is get in touch with an Australian Shepherd rescue. There are fantastic resources and organizations dedicated to saving Australian Shepherds. They want to provide them with new homes and help puppies that are in need. You can check with your local shelters and rescue organizations and see if they have any Australian Shepherds in need of a new home. If you are not sure where to start, here are some of the amazing organizations you can look into;

In conclusion

The modern-day Australian Shepherd is a dog breed completely adapted to living in the 21st century. These dogs remain one of the most treasured workers and service dogs. Still, these days, they are primarily energetic family pets that thrive in active households that provide

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