Considerations before getting an Australian Shepherd

When you decide to buy a house (which in most cases is a lifelong commitment), you do not necessarily take the first one that is available. You take the time to go and view the property, the area, the structure of the house, it's surroundings etc. before you decide if it would be a fit for your family. Why not do the same when deciding to buy a dog? (which should also be a lifelong commitment). You wouldn't buy a house without it's electrical certificate or one that was built without any building plans or the proper foundation or structure; So why buy a dog without a registration certificate or without any form of health certification?

If you are looking into acquiring an Australian Shepherd, please research the breed and make sure that this breed is the right "fit" for your family. We will try to briefly outline what we think are some of the most important things to take into consideration

  1. Personality/ Temperament

The first sentence of the breed standard indicates " First and foremost, the Australian Shepherd is a true working stockdog". This means that this breed was meant to work i.e they are active and intelligent. Sitting on the couch or even the backyard for days on end without a job is not their idea of fun and thus might cause them to become destructive in search of any form of stimulation (think digging, chewing and barking). They generally do well when raised with children (not babies/toddlers) and other dogs (but please do not make the mistake of getting two puppies simultaneously thinking they will keep each other company - They have strong herding instincts and might express this by herding/nipping small children or animals. They have been called velcro/shadow dogs for a reason - if you do not enjoy the constant companionship of a dog or if you are not willing to allow him/her to be involved in most (if not all) of your daily activities, this might not be the breed for you. If your job or other obligations prevents you from spending quality time with your dog this might also not be the breed for you as they have been known to suffer from separation anxiety.

2. Health

The Australian Shepherd is a healthy breed for the most part with a lifespan of 12 to 15 years. The current health tests available in South Africa for Australian Shepherds include: CEA (Collie Eye Anomaly), MDR (Multiple Drug Resistance), CMR (Canine Multifocal Retinopathy), DM (Degenerative Myelopathy), HC (Heritable Cataracts), PRA-PRCD (Progressive Retinal Atrophy - Progressive Rod Cone Dystrophy). All these tests together with the hip and elbow gradings of both parents of a potential pup should be done. Some Australian Shepherds have exhibited sensitivity towards some medications including Ivermectin, Milbemycin (dewormer), Loperamide (Imodium), Metoclopromide (anti-nausea) and some anaesthetics (to only name a few). Please read up on MDR1 in Australian Shepherds ( We treat our MDR1 "clear" Aussies as if they were affected to ensure no problems occur. Breeding merle to merle dogs can result on "Double merles" or "Lethal Merles" - these pups are mostly white with areas of merling and are subject to a variety of health related problems due to lack of pigmentation.

3. General care and Maintenance

Aussies have been known to be "wash and wear" dogs - any dirt usually falls off as soon as they are dry. They have a moderate coat that is not extremely high maintenance, but needs a good weekly brush-out. They do shed - twice a year for about six months, so if you don't want hair on your clothes or couches - DO NOT GET AN AUSSIE. They are an active breed that require regular exercise and stimulation. Please do not take a puppy for an extended walk/run as this can be extremely damaging to their growth plates. General rule: 4 month old puppy is allowed a 400 metre walk, 5 month old a 500 metre walk and so forth. Rather work on mental stimulation in a puppy - a little goes a long way.

Poor choices and lack of research are the most frequent causes of returned or abandoned dogs.

Families who enjoy spending a lot of time with their dogs and are able to commit the time to providing exercise and training on a regular basis are best suited for an Aussie