The Australian Shepherd, Champion of Versatility

australian shep

 Click on the cover above to go to this book at

Australian shepherds are very attractive, long-coated dogs, which were developed in the US, with some input from Spanish Basque sheep herding dogs in their ancestry. Like all herders, they need physical exercise and mental stimulation, or they can become difficult, and they can also nip children, especially if the children are playing running games. Supervision of herders and children is important, especially if your child has friends round to visit. However, Australian shepherds are quite gentle dogs, and can develop strong bonds with sensible children.

These dogs can be serious herders, but they also have a playful side to their natures, which children can enjoy. Socialization is important for Australian shepherds kept as pets, since they can be a little reserved with strangers. Generally, so long as they are well-trained, and have enough to do, they are well-behaved companions on walks, and can excel in obedience, agility, herding and tracking. Many Aussies are in service as search and rescue dogs as well as herders.

The main drawback of this breed is its vulnerability to health problems. Australian shepherds can be long-lived if they are not afflicted by inherited problems, which are, unfortunately, numerous, and include seizures, cancer, allergies and skin disorders, heart, eye, and hip problems, cancer, and hypothyroidism. It is especially important to check on the ancestry of any pup you are interested in, and to ask how long the pup's ancestors lived, and what health problems they may have had. Diet is also important, given the breed's propensity to allergies.

Liz Palika's Australian Shepherd has some useful advice on training, and on activities that you can enjoy with your dog. The book includes a chapter by Ian Dunbar. There is also help with feeding, grooming, and health issues. It's also a well-illustrated book, with lovely pictures of Aussies.