Australian Shepherd Characteristics
Playful and Affectionate
Australian Shepherds are easy going, perpetual puppies that love to play. Courageous, loyal and affectionate, they are excellent children's companions that are great with active children. A devoted friend and guardian, for they are naturally protective. Very lively, agile and attentive - they are eager to please, with a sixth sense about what the owner wants. Australian Shepherds are highly intelligent and easy to train. Though aggressive when at work with livestock, the Aussie is gentle with human friends.
Not For Everyone
Because of the dog's origins, this breed is not for everyone. It is an energetic dog that requires exercise and needs a job to do, whether it is learning and practicing tricks, competing in dog agility, or any other physically and mentally involving activity. It needs to run, full out, regularly.
Working lines of Australian Shepherds may be too energetic to be suitable pets. It is usually a sweet and affectionate dog who is faithful to its owners and is good with children, although its overwhelming instinct to work may subvert its ability to function as a family dog, including chasing and nipping at the heels of running children in an attempt to herd them if not properly trained. Its protective instinct and behaviors can be frightening to children, strangers, and small animals. It was bred to guard stock and can be sometimes annoying with its inclination to bark warnings about neighborhood activity, but it is not generally an obsessively barking dog. They are quiet workers, unlike some breeds, which are bred to bark constantly at livestock. This breed is not usually aggressive with other dogs.
Aussies Need a Job
Australian Shepherds needs lots of exercise and a job to do, as the breed is very intelligent, active and easily bored. They can become nervous and destructive if left alone too much without exercise. The Aussie will invent its own games, activities, and jobs, which to a busy owner might appear to be hyperactivity in the house around fragile furnishings or involve the destruction of yard and property.
They are naturally suspicious of strangers, so they should be well socialized as puppies.
The Aussie (as he is lovingly nicknamed) is a very active dog that needs a great deal of exercise on a daily basis to prevent him from become bored or frustrated and developing destructive habits. Because of their high energy level, combined with high intelligence, Aussies need to be given a "job" to perform, be it shepherding the children, protecting the house, herding livestock or competing in dog events.
One of the most frequent reasons Aussies are turned over to rescue groups is because their owners didn't realize how much energy the breed has, and weren't willing to channel that energy through training. Aussies are also quite demanding of their owners' time and attention and want to be constantly with them, following them from room to room in the house, and going along in the car or truck on errands. They can be highly territorial and protective of their masters' possessions, which can cause serious difficulties unless controlled with proper training.
Proper Training is Essential
With proper training, the Australian shepherd is a delightful and loyal companion and a great family dog. He loves to be part of the daily hustle and bustle, and enjoys riding in the vehicle just to be with his beloved master. As a farm dog, he diligently carries out his responsibilities, be they bringing in the stock or finding that stray one that got tangled in the brush. He is easy to train, easy to housebreak, and eager to please.
Aussies have been used as seeing-eye dogs, as utility dogs to the physically handicapped, hearing aid dogs, police and narcotics dogs and search and rescue dogs. In the northern areas they have also been used as sled dogs. Many go with their masters as volunteers to children's homes and nursing homes to do therapy work. Truly, the Australian Shepherd is a highly versatile dog.