Are Australian Shepherds Good for First Time Owners?

Australian Shepherds
Photo by Jametlene Reskp.

In general, Australian Shepherds aren’t the best option for first-time owners. To fully understand why that is, here is the lowdown on what you can expect from adding this vivacious and intelligent breed in your family:

Are Australian Shepherds Good for Beginners?

It should be noted that Australian Shepherds are a wonderful breed of dog. They are loving, loyal, and highly intelligent. Despite these traits, an Australian Shepherd can be a little difficult to keep for someone who has never owned a dog before.

This is largely to do with the fact that this breed has a dominant personality. Australian Shepherds were originally bred to herd sheep, mostly by themselves. As a result, these pups learned to take on leadership roles at a very young age.

Eventually, this became a trait that could be found in a significant proportion of Australian Shepherds. Why does their dominant personality make these dogs a less-than-ideal option for first time owners?

Well, these dogs have a tendency to take charge in any situation. If they aren’t around humans who are used to taking on a leadership role or know how to be dominant with dogs, then the Australian Shepherd will take the lead.

This can lead to bad behavior and you having little to no control over them.

Appreciating Differences in Personality

That being said, dogs are like humans – they each have their own unique personality. Therefore, it is quite possible that there could be easygoing and submissive Australian Shepherds. Naturally, such pups will be far easier for first-time owners to take care of.

The only issue is that it can be tricky to determine what your dog will really be like, particularly if you get them as puppies. You may have a better idea of what you are dealing with if you are adopting an adult Australian Shepherd as their personality will have likely fully formed at this point.

Should First-Time Owners Never Get an Australian Shepherd?

Does all this mean that you shouldn’t get an Australian Shepherd without prior experience? Well, this is entirely up to you.

If you make an effort to do research Australian Shepherds as well as what they require from you as an owner, you will be better prepared to handle them. Nevertheless, it isn’t just their dominant personality that you need to be aware of.

This breed has their own set of requirements, some of which can be quite demanding, even for experienced dog owners. Thus, before making your decision about whether or not Australian Shepherd is the right breed for you, you should know the top things about owning this dog.

What to Know About Owning an Australian Shepherd

Here are the top things you should be aware of before you get an Australian Shepherd:

They are Highly Intelligent

Many people don’t understand or appreciate just how intelligent this breed is. However, Australian Shepherds can be trained to do a wide variety of tasks. In fact, they love to learn new tricks, activities, and more. These are dogs that benefit from constant learning.

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While this is certainly a good thing, it also means that there is an additional challenge to raising an Australian Shepherd. You will need to nurture this intelligence and ensure that your Australian Shepherd is constantly mentally stimulated throughout the day. This should be done even when you aren’t around.

If your Australian Shepherd isn’t kept mentally stimulated, they will get bored. When this happens, they will find different ways of entertaining themselves. Unfortunately, this usually involves destructive activities such as digging holes and tearing up furniture.

Aussies Are Incredibly Active

You will be hard-pressed to find a breed that requires more physical activity than an Australian Shepherd. As working dogs, they are happiest when they have something physical to do all day.

They will settle for one to two hours of exercise each day, though. You will need to take your dogs on a long, energetic walk at least once a day. To give your pooch enough exercise, you will also have to play fetch and other games with them.

This breed is also a fan of canine athletic games.

Australian Shepherds Are Family Oriented

Despite their dominant streak, Australian Shepherds are incredibly family-oriented. They love being around their humans for most part of the day. This is not a breed that can be let alone for too long. At most, you can only leave your dog by themselves for four to six hours at a time.

If you are someone who works long hours or spends a great deal of time away from home, this may not be the ideal breed for you. You should also be aware that these dogs can get more attached to one person than the rest. They are likely to follow this person around and listen to them.

This love and loyalty can have a downside if you’re not careful. If they aren’t socialized at a young age, these dogs will develop an intense shyness. They will be incredibly wary around strangers and may, on occasion, resort to aggressiveness.

Aussies Have A Powerful Herding Instinct

As mentioned, these dogs were bred to be herders and still retain their herding instincts. When trained properly, these pups can herd balls into goals!

However, it should be noted that this herding behavior can take over at sometimes. It isn’t uncommon for these dogs to begin herding small children around them. Due to this, it isn’t recommended to have Australian Shepherds around very young children, only older ones.

Australian Shepherds Have Moderate Grooming Requirements

Despite their thick, double-coated mane, Australian Shepherds don’t require too much grooming. They are moderate shedders who need to be brushed weekly, but brushing them daily can help to reduce the mess.

They do have two shedding seasons, where they will lose a significant portion of their coat. During this period, you will need to increase the frequency of their brushing. You will also have to incorporate a de-shedding brush into the routine.

With Australian Shepherds, the less you bathe them, the better. In many cases, these dogs only need to be bathed three to four months, unless they get quite dirty. In general, however, you should avoid washing your dog more often than once a month.

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Aussies Are Great With Other Dogs

Most Australian Shepherds are great with other dogs, even dogs of other breeds. Therefore, they will work quite well in a household with other dogs. The Australian Shepherd will have to be properly socialized as puppies.

As for living with cats, there are some mixed reviews. Some owners say that their Australian Shepherds get along great with Australian Shepherds while others say they are a bad mix. Personality and early introduction to cats is key here.

You should also be aware that Australian Shepherds have strong prey drives. Thus, if they aren’t trained against it, they will run after cats and other small animals.

Tips for First Time Owners

If you are planning to have an Australian Shepherd and don’t have much experience with dogs, here are the top guidelines to follow:

Research Aussies

It is important to know exactly what you are getting into with an Australian Shepherd. In many instances, first-hand experience is a good way to prepare yourself for what is to come. If you know anyone who has an Australian Shepherd, reach out and ask if you can spend some time with their dog.

You should also speak to several different Australian Shepherd owners. While this breed does have certain strong and built-in traits, you have to account for natural variations as well. Talking to owners with dogs with various personalities will give you a better idea of the spectrum.

Even if you don’t know anyone in your area with this breed, head online. There are plenty of forums and blogs dedicated to Australian Shepherds. You are sure to find lots of support and insight there.

Look for a Good Aussie Breeder

There are many benefits to using a good breeder. First, they make an effort to ensure that your dog’s previous generations were free of genetic disorders. This increases the chance that you will get a healthy pup with hopefully fewer risks of developing diseases later on.

What most people don’t realize, though, is that good breeders also start off the socialization process. A good breeder will begin to handle the pups from a very young and even get them used to various grooming practices. They will also make an effort to ensure that your dog is exposed to various environments, sights, and sounds.

As a result, you will find it easier to continue their work and ensure that your pooch is properly socialized.

Get Help from An Australian Shepherd Trainer

Did you know that you should begin to train your puppy from the day you bring them home? Letting bad or unacceptable behaviors go on for any period of time can reinforce them and make them very difficult to get rid of. Due to this, you need to get started right away.

If you have never trained a dog before, it can be difficult to know the dos and the don’ts of the process. Also, since you are dealing with such a headstrong breed, you can’t afford to take any missteps with the training.

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This is why you should consider hiring a trainer to help you out with the process. Having someone guide you every step of the way will ensure that your pooch ends up as well-behaved as possible. As your dog gets older and is fully vaccinated, you can take them to puppy classes.

Establish Dominance at an Early Age

It is easy to think that you don’t have to display dominance to your dog when they are young. However, from the day they come home, they should know exactly who is in charge.

If there are several people in your home, it is a good idea to spread out the leadership role. This way, your puppy won’t just listen to one person and ignore the rest.

It is important for your pup to understand the boundaries that you set. As such, if you ever notice them trying to get around these or flaunt them outright, it is important to correct their behavior then and there. Do this plenty of times and they will know which lines not to cross.

Focus on Positive Reinforcement

Even when asserting your dominance during training, you should only ever use positive reinforcement. Australian Shepherds are quite sensitive and since they bond with their families so well, they will look to you for love and comfort.

If you want to reinforce the right behavior, avoid using punishment and only reward positive behavior. If you are too harsh, you could end up doing more harm than good.

Socialize and Continue Socialization Of Your Australian Shepherd

Socialization is key for Australian Shepherds and this needs to start as soon as possible. Before your puppy is fully vaccinated, you should focus on exposing them to as many different people as possible. This includes children, people of all sizes, races, and wearing all types of clothes and headgear.

After your puppy has been vaccinated, you can begin to introduce your dog to other dogs and animals.

Socialization isn’t a one-time thing. It is something you will have to continue for the rest of your dog’s life. The more people and animals they are exposed to, the more they will be comfortable around them.

Tend to Exercise Needs

Last but certainly not least, it is important to make sure that your dog gets all the exercise he or she needs. This will prevent their energy levels from building up and lashing out in destructive ways. Remember to switch up the physical activity and if possible, break it up into at least two intervals throughout the day.

Australian Shepherds aren’t ideal for first-time owners as they can be a handful. However, with the right guidance and effort, it is possible for you to raise this breed properly and to have a wonderful companion by your side.

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