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Are Australian Shepherds Good Dogs? – The Good and Bad of Aussie Ownership

The Australian Shepherd, also known as the “Aussie,” is a herding dog that’s become popular in the last decade. They’re hard-working with a playful and fun-loving side to them. But because they’re big active dogs, many wonder if Aussies are good dogs to own.

Having owned an Australian Shepherd for many years, I believe they’re good dogs for single owners or families of all sizes. Because they’re herding dogs, they might be too energetic or active for some people. However, Aussies will be highly affectionate, loyal, playful, and people-pleasing dogs. All of which, are ideal traits of a good family dog.

If you can take the good with the bad, then Aussies can be a great dog for your family. In this article we’ll discuss the good and bad of the breed. I’ll also be describing our Australian Shepherd and what makes him a great companion dog for our family.

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Why My Aussie is a Good Family Dog

My three year old Australian Shepherd, named Olympus (or “Oly” for short), is a black and white Aussie. He isn’t the easiest dog to care for, but there’s never a dull moment when he’s around. Give him a follow on Instagram if you want!

The most surprising thing about Oly is his ability to learn quickly. I thought my Corgi was smart, but she can’t hold a candle to this Aussie. He’s nailed the basics, but also has an arsenal of unique tricks, such as “hug,” “selfie,” “weave” (through legs) and more.

However, my favorite trait of Oly is easily his people-pleasing and obedient nature. He’ll always listen to our family, no matter what the stakes. For example, we could tell him to “leave it” while he’s chomping on his favorite treat – and he’ll actually drop it!

Olympus is one of the most sociable Australian Shepherds I’ve ever met. He’s wary around strangers, but if the stranger is accompanied by a dog, they immediately become a friend. It’s like he knows people with dogs can be trusted.

Despite being a herding dog, Oly doesn’t show much of his herding instincts. He loves to chase (and also, be chased) by other dogs, but that’s about it. He’ll never try to herd or nip at us.

The best part of Oly is his love and affection towards his family. He’ll never turn down a chance to sit and cuddle with us. He feels the safest when we’re around, and he’ll show his appreciation by giving us hugs and kisses all day.

5 Reasons That Make Aussies Good Dogs

Just because Olympus (our Aussie) has all these wonderful traits, doesn’t mean that all Aussies will be the same. Nonetheless, Australian Shepherds are still good family dogs with a lot to love.

We’ve talked to many owners and scanned through all the top forums. Here are all the common traits that make Aussies a good dog for single owners, families, and to be frank, everyone.

1. Australian Shepherds are smart and trainable

Like most working dog breeds, Australian Shepherds are highly trainable and responsive to obedience training. They needed to be trainable in order to quickly and efficiently learn the jobs that they were once bred to do.

While Aussies were born with innate herding instincts, trainers still need to define tasks. A well-trained dog is often commanded by either a hand or whistle signal. However, in a family setting, these skills can be great for mastering commands, house training, and more.

We have a pair. Both are smarter than I am, and very trainable. They pick up words and their meaning damn fast. We have to speak in code just to keep them from going [crazy] if it’s about something they love to do. 

– ACH (via forum)

Every Aussie owner will rave about how trainable their dog is. And it’s true. Australian Shepherds are very smart dogs with high “obedience & working intelligence.” Combine this with their eagerness to please, and you have a highly obedient dog.

Australian Shepherds are usually food-driven, though they’re not as motivated as some other breeds. In my opinion (and from other owners), they’re even more motivated to make their owners happy. That said, being trained by their loved ones will make things easier.

2. Aussies are hard-working, yet balanced

If you’re looking for a coach potato companion to lounge around with you, then look elsewhere. Aussies are hard-working dogs. Similar to the Border Collie, they will often work just for the sake of working. It’s why they’re such respected herding dogs.

But unlike the collie, Aussies are easier to “turn off.” While Border Collies are intense and diligent all the time, an Australian Shepherd is more balanced. They work hard, but they also play hard. When they’re at home, their silly, goofy and fun-loving side comes out.

Both Border Collies and Aussies work for as long as you want them to, but when you tell an Aussie that it’s done it accepts it, while a Border Collie doesn’t.

– Leanne77 (via PetForums UK)

The best thing to do is to “create” a job for your Australian Shepherd. For example, our Aussie loves his ball and believes the game of catch to be his job. He’ll diligently notify me every day that it’s time to let him out for catch. He goes out and does his “job” every day.

This kills two birds with one stone for me. He gets his daily exercise, and he believes he’s working hard for the pack. Plus, it’ll be easier for your Aussie to “turn it off” after believing he’s gone through a day of dedicated hard work.

3. They can be protective of the family

Australian Shepherds aren’t meant to be guard dogs. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t be great at it. Most Aussies will be a little protective of their family because they’re such devoted and loyal dogs. It only makes sense.

But there’s a fine line between protective and territorial. If an Aussie isn’t properly trained or socialized, they can quickly become territorial. If this happens, they’ll likely be aggressive towards strangers or anything they mistakenly perceive as a threat.

My 1 year old Aussie seems to be really protective, which is normally great. But it’s come to the point that I can’t even have people over at my house because of his incessant barking at them.

– Gabigabihey (via Reddit)

The good news is that, when properly trained, they take on their guard dog duties very seriously. In fact, many owners often count on them as a second pair of eyes on their older kids. But you don’t want to completely rely on these dogs.

4. Aussies are energetic and active dogs

If you already own or have met an Australian Shepherd, you probably know they have an unreal level of energy. Few dogs can compare. When they’re excited, they’ll run laps around the house or yard. And do not be surprised when they start jumping for joy (literally).

There’s a lot of benefits to owning an active dog, especially if you live a somewhat active lifestyle. In fact, Australian Shepherds can even make a fantastic running buddy for you or members of your family. Other activities they enjoy include swimming or hiking!

Keeping their minds engaged and energy spent will take a ton of your time and energy. It’s only a bit easier if you have a yard because you can play fetch and stuff without having to go to a park. 

– Kittykitty117 (via Reddit)

These dogs are perfect for bigger families. They’re easy-going and active enough to romp around and keep up with energetic older kids. Plus, Australian Shepherds have a silly side that will mesh perfectly with any kids of the family.

With that said, daily physical activity is crucial for these dogs. Australian Shepherds need roughly 2 hours of exercise a day. Of course, this will vary depending on the individual dog. However, insufficient exercise can lead to destructive behavior.

5. Australian Shepherds are loving and kind

Arguably the best thing about Aussies is their loving and affectionate temperament. If you treat them with love and respect, they’ll always have your back.

Australian Shepherds are working dogs that were originally bred to work alongside their humans. For this reason, Aussies tend to develop close bonds with their family members. It’s just in their nature to be loving with humans.

Every time you come home after a long day away, they’ll wiggle their butts and jump with joy. They can’t bare being without their humans for too long. So if you’re a busy person, you’ll probably want to look for a more independent dog breed. That is not the Aussie.

The “Bad” Side of Australian Shepherds

Despite how great of a dog Australian Shepherds can be, there are some “cons” to go along with all the good. But if you can accept and handle these with no problem, then Australian Shepherds may be the perfect dogs for you.

Their herding instincts can cause problems

Australian Shepherds were bred to be herding dogs. And like most herding dog breeds, Aussies can have strong instincts to herd. It doesn’t matter if there’s actually livestock or not.

The herding instinct in Australian Shepherds can come in the form of a few behaviors. The first being the tendency to nip at the heels of humans. And if you have children in the home, these dogs may be more likely to treat them as livestock.

Keep in mind, these are innate instincts in the dog. It will take some time and patience to curb this type of behavior. Keep reinforcing the idea that nipping and herding humans is not “good” and eventually the dog will curb the habit.

Aussies need mental and physical activities

Most working dogs need a lot of physical and mental activities. But because Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent working dogs, they require both mental and physical stimulation.

So what exactly is mental stimulation? This refers to the activities that makes the dog “think” and use their brains. For example, this can come in the form of daily obedience training, dog puzzles, or scent training (hide and seek with their favorite treat).

Its very crucial Australian Shepherds get enough mental and physical exercise on the daily. If they don’t, it’s very possible that they’ll exhibit destructive behavior. They might tear up the couch, rip apart your favorite pair of shoes, or knock down a chair.

So, Should You Get an Aussie?

Australian Shepherds are good dogs that are perfect for single owners or larger families. As long as you can provide them with affection, attention and sufficient exercise, they’ll be the perfect family dog for a large variety of owners.

Don’t be scared of the “cons” of Australian Shepherds. The pros more than makes up for the bad. The only time I wouldn’t suggest the Aussie is for seniors that aren’t as active, or owners that are busy with little spare time. Otherwise, Australian Shepherds are amazing dogs.

Do you own an Australian Shepherd? Let us know in the comments section, what are the good and bad about your Aussie?

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