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The Australian Shepherd Temperament Guide & Personality Profiles From Real Owners

Australian Shepherds are some of the most amazing dog breeds in the world. They’re fantastic workers with a bright and warm personality. They have very good-natured temperaments as well. I would argue that Aussies are everything you would want and love in a family dog.

These are just a few words owners have used to describe an Australian Shepherd’s temperament:

  • Good natured
  • Lively
  • Intelligent
  • Work-oriented
  • Devoted

But if you’re thinking about getting an Australian Shepherd, it’s important you understand their temperaments and personalities in depth. Several thousands of owners would agree they’re fantastic dogs. However, they may not be right for everyone.

RECOMMENDED: Australian Shepherds – The Owner’s Guide

Australian Shepherd Temperament

Aussies are loyal, friendly and serious workers - some of the best temperament traits in dogs.

Dog temperament refers to the nature and demeanor of a dog. In some ways, it’s another word for personality. Some dogs are aggressive, while others are docile. Fortunately, Australian Shepherds fall into the latter.

General Overview

Temperament and personality traits of an Aussie can vary depending on the dog. Most of them tend to be social and outgoing, but there are dogs that are timid too.

Despite the variance, there are some things that remain consistent for nearly all Australian Shepherds. These dogs are all extremely loyal to the family (or pack).

Aussies are considered to be relatively intelligent dog breeds and eager to learn. In fact, they absolutely love obedience training because they see it as a task. Did I mention, they love to work? We’ll elaborate later.

Although the Aussie can run around in a large backyard for hours, they are most comfortable and the best versions of themselves when interacting with people. And by that, I mean playing with family members or a single owner. This can mean, catch with a ball, frisbee or other fun dog games.

Australian Shepherds are excellent companion dogs and not a lot of people would argue with that.

Loyal Dogs

A fairly consistent trait among all Australian Shepherds is loyalty / devotion. It’s one of the brightest highlights with these dogs. There’s very few things an Aussie won’t do for its owner.

For example, we questioned 27 real owners about whether their Aussie likes water. The majority said they did. However, not all of them eagerly plunged into water for a swim right away. Some owners mentioned the best way is for you, the owner, to go in first.

Australian Shepherds have a lot of trust in their owners, which is also a sign of loyalty. No matter what you’re doing or how you feel, you can count on an Aussie to have your back.

Aussies are Social Dogs

There are many independent-minded dog breeds that don’t mind having some “alone” time, such as the Chinese Chow Chow. However, the Australian Shepherd is not one of them.

In fact, they’re the happiest when they get to spend quality time with familiar people. This is especially true with their owners.

Some of the things Aussies love doing is physical activity. But what makes them even more excited is physical activity with his or her best friend (you!). This means frisbee, catch with a ball, jogging and even swimming!

If you make them feel like family, they will act like family and shower you with unconditional love. They love to be part of the family and included in all family activities.

Next time you go for a picnic with your family, you better be bringing your Australian Shepherd.

Australian Shepherds are Hard Workers

One thing that makes me so attracted to these dogs is their balance of work and play. As social as they are, Australian Shepherds are just as hard working. If given an assigned task, they’ll take it very seriously and do it with pride.

Aussies used as herding dogs aren’t the norm anymore. However, there are other ways to give your dog “work.” Great alternatives include daily obedience training or consistent physical activity.

For example, if you play catch with your Aussie for 30 minutes every day, they will see it as a job. Just be consistent with it.

Now, don’t feel bad for making your dog work. Australian Shepherds love to work. In fact, without work, they may stress out not knowing what to do.

Australian Shepherds were bred to be hard workers, which is why they’re classified as working dogs. So, make sure you have time in your schedule to work with them on a daily basis.

Lively and Exuberant

If you’ve ever met an Australian Shepherd, you know they’re bursting with energy. I’ve never seen a more active dog in my life. They run, they jump and they certainly herd people.

Most dog owners have heard of the term “dog zoomies.” It’s a random burst of energy that all dog breeds experience, especially at a young age. They’ll be calm one moment and running circles around you the next. Well, Australian Shepherds have been known to experience a lot of zoomies.

Remember, these dogs were bred to be diligent workers. This means they inherently have a ton of energy they need to expend. It’s also another reason why they seem so lively and excited all the time.

If you come home from a long day of work, you can expect your Aussie to be jumping for joy (literally). They’ll wag their butts uncontrollable and occasionally go for a sprint.

This exuberance of energy is all part of the Australian Shepherds’ charm.

Intelligent Dogs

Australian Shepherds are smart dogs. In fact, according to researcher Stanley Coren, Aussies are tied for the 42nd most intelligent dog breed in the world. Curious who else made it to the top 100 smartest list? Check out my guide to dog intelligence.

Australian Shepherds are able to learn a new command with just 25 to 40 repetitions of the command. On top of that, they’re able to correctly obey a known command at least 50% of the time on the first try.

This puts Aussies in the same group as the Jack Russell Terrier, German Wirehaired Pointer and Siberian Husky – when it comes to intelligence. In fact, they’re ranked higher than the mentioned breeds on the top 100 list.

Combine their intelligence with their eagerness to please and you have one of the most obedient, highly trainable and versatile dog breeds ever produced.

Aloof with Strangers

For the most part, these dogs are friendly with just about anyone – there are exceptions. However, Australian Shepherds can also be somewhat timid or alert when approached by the unfamiliar.

They’re quite protective of their family and territory, but aren’t ultra-protective like many other breeds. Still, it’s important to teach them to how socialize with strangers.

As a puppy, Aussies need to go through extensive socialization training. The more people they are exposed to, the better they are with strangers. Through this training, they’ll better understand which humans are “good and bad.”

Isolating your puppy can result in an aggressive adult dog. Because of their inherent protectiveness, Aussies can exhibit hostile behavior towards strangers. In some cases, they may even bite a friend or family member they’ve never met.

To avoid any potential mishaps, make sure to get them familiar with interacting with people at a young age. Also, some Aussies will never accept strangers despite socialization.

Personalities of Real Australian Shepherds

I’ve searched the internet for real Australian Shepherd owners and how they’ve described the personalities and temperament of their dog. These are real answers taken from several online forums. Some words have been altered for grammatical or style purposes, but the meaning and intent remains the same.

Submitted by lynnlovestea: He’s very clever. When he doesn’t want to do a trick, he just plays dead.

Submitted by ehh_soso: When comparing my German Shepherd and Australian Shepherd, my Aussie is more energetic. The Aussie is also more vocal and actually more protective.

My Australian Shepherd is a bit awkward around other dogs. He doesn’t really play with them, but will try to herd them occasionally or just watch them play.

Submitted by 28od: At full energy, my Australian Shepherd is velcro and an acrobat. From an IQ perspective, the Australian Shepherd thinks in paragraphs. He’s always attentive and awesome in and outside the home, plus he’s a great walker.

He definitely needs an energy waster and I wouldn’t recommend them for an apartment. They need homes with a yard.

Submitted by cpersall: Australian Shepherds can live just fine in an apartment. It’d about the exercise you’re willing to give them – both physically and mentally. It’s not so much about the size of the yard or home.

Submitted by chickencatqueen14: My Australian Shepherd is super reactive and aggressive towards other dogs. He loves the family cat but almost killed her over a piece of dropped spinach. This is not typical behavior for these dogs, but you should still be cautious.

Submitted by sarahdriver6: I have a Border Collie Aussie mix and a full Aussie too. The Australian Shepherd has high energy and easily excited. I think Australian Shepherds are wonderful dogs that make a great addition to any family.

They’re very smart as long as you train them and keep them physically and mentally stimulated. My dog is a little shadow – he’s always loyal and loving.

Submitted by riverthedog: Our Australian Shepherd has a clown personality and is a super athlete. He’s very intelligent and highly trainable. However, he does like to bark a lot. I think he’s just trying to talk to me. Still, he’s outgoing and generally a very happy dog.

Submitted by horrorginger: My Aussie is a rescue dog but his personality really came through once he realized he was in a safe environment. He’s amazingly friendly with people and will even hug every person he meets.

Submitted by annemay: My Aussie isn’t very interested in any type of toys, unless it’s to play “keep away” from our other dog. He has a soft mouth when it comes to food and will often take treats to eat in another room.

He’s not food-driven at all. He’ll play around with his treats and often spit them back out.

Submitted by cranberry94: They play hard, they’re loud and energetic. I love them. My younger Aussie will play-bite out of excitement and chase bikes. However, they’re getting better at restraining themselves.

Australian Shepherds For Children

Generally, Australian Shepherds make fantastic companions for children. They have a real soft spot for kids and can even be protective of them, especially if raised with them.

However, this is only true if your Aussie gets enough physical and mental stimulation. Without enough of either, they may release all the pent up energy on the kids and unintentionally hurt them.

On the bright side, if well trained, they have a high tolerance of the playful harassment from a child. Whether it’s pulling, hugging or tugging the dog, an Aussie will react but not usually in an aggressive manner.

Bred as skilled herding dogs, an Australian Shepherd herding your kids is not uncommon. Usually, they’re smart enough to sense what’s dangerous and attempt to herd kids away from the perceived danger. For example, I’ve heard of Aussies walking in-between kids and stairs to try to move them away from the staircase.

Teaching Kids to Respect Your Aussie

Like with all dogs, it’s important to teach your children to respect them. At least, as much as you can. Kids can be wild and mistreat a dog. In fact, I’ve witnessed rowdy kids trying to ride a dog and pull its ears as if they were riding a horse. This is unacceptable and they should understand this.

To limit any potential aggressive behavior from your Aussie, kids need to be docile and friendly. In return, the dog will reciprocate the affection.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to always keep an eye on your kids interacting with your Australian Shepherd. In addition, leaving a toddler with any dog may not be the best idea. Make sure they’re old enough to understand that dogs are still animals despite a docile temperament.

Australian Shepherds are good natured dogs, so an aggressive attack on a child may not occur with proper training and exercise. However, you never know what may happen.

Aussies with Other Pets

For the most part, Australian Shepherds are great with other animals. Unlike with hunting dogs, they don’t have preying instincts and won’t attempt to “hunt down” smaller pets.

Aussies are docile by nature, but it’s always important to introduce them to any other animal you have in the home. Never force them to meet one another. Instead, let them take their time getting acquainted.

As with kids, an Australian Shepherd growing up in a home with other pets will be more comfortable around them. Just because your Aussie gets along with the family cat, doesn’t mean they will with other animals.

And if you do have a cat, you might want to read our guide to Australian Shepherds and cats here.

Australian Shepherds with Dogs

If you have non-aggressive dogs in the family, large or small, they will get along just fine. Aussies have been known to play well with dogs, but there are exceptions. With that said, there are still some precautions to take when introducing another dog to your Aussie (or vice versa).

Meet on Neutral Ground

When introducing two dogs, always meet on neutral ground. In other words, try not to meet inside the home (territory) of one of the dogs. Almost all dogs are territorial to a certain degree. So, it’s a great idea to go to a park or even the front of the house.

Whether your Aussie is an adopted dog or you’re bringing home a new dog, you never know how one (or both) will react. If one dog has a history of hostility towards other dogs, it may be a good idea to hire a professional behavioral consultant to make the introduction.

Keep Close Observation

It’s never a good idea to leave two dogs unattended if they’re meeting for the first time. At my old vet clinic, a customer once brought in an Australian Shepherd completely beat up.

After a few questions, I found out the Aussie was adopted. The owner claimed that when she first met their Dalmatian, they were friendly. So, what did she do? She left the house to go shopping and came back to the smaller Aussie in critical condition.

Always keep an eye out for your dog in case things turn violent. Just because they initially get along doesn’t mean it’ll last, especially when its their first time.

Final Thoughts

Australian Shepherds are the 17th most popular dog breed (2017) because they have great temperaments and personalities. The key to a happy and healthy Aussie is sufficient mental and physical stimulation. If you can provide this, you’ll have no problems with this breed.

Not only do they get along great with adults, but also kids and other pets (dogs, cats, small pets). At the same time, they still remain a bit cautious around strangers – which makes them fantastic watch dogs.

The lively personalities of these dogs make them a joy all the time. They are always excited to see their owners and they’re extremely smart and loyal. If obedience training is your thing, Aussies are wonderful.

If you can keep up with them, i’d highly recommend keeping an Australian Shepherd.

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