Canine Breed Spotlight: Australian Shepherd (Aussie)

A look at the Australian Shepherd (Aussie)

Dog breed group: Herding/working

Average life span: 13-15 years



Even though this breed is called the Australian Shepherd, it is not a breed from Australia. The Aussie is an American breed, originally developed to herd livestock for ranchers and farmers. The most likely ancestors of this breed are various Collie or Shepherd type type dogs that arrived with sheep from Australia in the 1840s. Breeders wanted to create a dog with great herding ability that was also very intelligent and hardworking. The breeding dogs were chosen for their working characteristics, and not their bloodlines, making their ancestry hard to trace. The Aussie gained popularity after WWII, but despite this popularity they were not recognized by the AKC until 1993.



This is a working dog, and therefore needs to be stimulated mentally and physically on a daily basis or they can become bored and destructive. They are a highly intelligent and energetic breed.  Being involved with your daily activity is important to them and so is their schedule; they like their walks, feeding, bedtime and other daily routines to be consistent. They need early socialization and training or else they will become dominant towards their owners and may become aggressive towards strangers and other animals.

Is this breed right for you?

  • They shed a lot. Grooming and  brushing is very important to keep their coat smooth and shiny.
  • They need vigorous daily excessive. Daily runs, trips to off leash parks or involvement in agility or fly ball will help meet an Aussie’s exercise needs if they are not actively involved with working or herding.
  • They need an experienced owner that can provide proper training and socialization. This will help prevent shyness or aggressiveness around strangers.
  • They may nip or herd children, or chase after cars or bikes due to their inherent nature to herd sheep.

Health concerns

Both pure-bred and mixed-breed dogs have varying incidences of health problems that may be either influenced by genetics or environmental factors. Here are some health concerns that more commonly affect the Australian Shepherd.

Hip and elbow dysplasia is a congenital disorder where these joint sockets are abnormally loose. Dogs inherit the condition from their parents. Dysplasia will cause your dog to experience joint pain or laxity.

Austrailan Shepherds are known to be prone to a wide variety of eye issues. This list includes, but is not limited to:

  • Coloboma, which is when part of the structure of the eye is missing.
  • Cataracts are an opacity in the lens of a the dog’s eye, causing them to have blurry vision.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a genetic disease that causes the retina to degenerate in both eyes, leading to progressive vision loss and ultimately blindness.
  • Persistent pupillary membrane occurs when little strands of fetal tissue cross over the iris.

Multi Drug Resistance 1 (MDR-1) is a gene mutation that can be found in herding breeds. This mutation makes them sensitive to certain drugs at dosages that are normally safe. Dogs that carry a double mutation are more sensitive than those that carry a single mutation. If dogs carrying this mutation are given certain medications it can result in severe neurological reactions, including tremors, disorientation and blindness and it may also be fatal. Testing is available to see if your Aussie is carrying this gene mutation or not.