Would an Australian Shepherd Be a Good Dog Breed for You

australian shepherdsI’ve been getting a lot of emails and comments lately on these two posts  Five Facts You Need to Know Before Choosing an Australian Shepherd and Bringing Home an Australian Shepherd Puppy: What You Need to Know.

There are many wonderful people out there who think their lives might be enriched by sharing their lives with an Aussie, and they’re asking my opinion.

So who would make a good match for an Aussie and vice vera?

I’m going to try to be as kind and direct as I know how to be. Give yourself 1 point for each YES answer.

  1. Have you previously owned and SUCCESSFULLY trained at least two dogs prior to considering an Aussie?
  2. Have you owned a herding dog or at least a dog from the working breeds before?
  3. Are you committed to putting in the training that an Aussie would need? Beginning obedience is a good start only. You need to keep going. And you should seriously consider agility and/or herding.
  4. Are you a good positive dog leader? If you don’t know what this question means, then don’t get an Aussie. Period. Seriously.
  5. Do you have the time to socialize your Aussie around all kinds of people and environments? Are you willing to take your dog with you to as many places as you can?
  6. Do you have at least a 1/2 acre of fenced land?
  7. Do you have a dog door so your dog has access to the outside to relieve itself if you are gone for more than 4 hours a day?
  8. Do you have the time to actively exercise your Aussie at least twice a day until they are at least 2.5 years old (fully out of the puppy stage) and then at least once a day after that?
  9. Would you consider getting a second dog to keep each other company and help exercise each other if you are gone from the house for more than 4 hours a day?
  10. If you are a child, are you over 10 years old? If you are an adult with children, are your children over 10 years old?


1-4 points:  Your life is not currently set up to have a dog of any kind.

5-7 points: If I am really thinking about your happiness and the Aussie’s welfare, I strongly suggest you look into getting an easier breed. But if you must get an Aussie, try to get to at least 8 points before you bring one home.

8-10 points:  You’re good to go. Enjoy the love of a lifetime.

8 thoughts on “Would an Australian Shepherd Be a Good Dog Breed for You”

  1. Hi Karen,
    I found your blog site last week and have been working my way through your posts. I must say, I love your writing, content, knowledge, honesty, and look forward to reading through the rest of the posts. I appreciate your thoughts and opinions, as it’s nice to have some real views from someone who has had experience with different training and different breeds of dogs, instead of just reading articles that can be quite general sometimes. I mean, the information is still great, but it hits home more the way you explain it.
    Do you have an email to contact with questions? I feel that mine may be too long for a comment post.
    Thanks, Erin

    1. Hi Erin, thanks for the kind words. Exactly for the reason that you are finding some value in my site, even though your question may be long, I have no doubt that asking and answering here will help others. So I hope you feel free to post away here.

      Because Aussies can be a lot to handle (AKA the Ferraris of the dog world), the more we can share and talk honestly, the better decisions everyone can make. One less Aussie in Rescue is my secret goal.

      1. Hi Karen, thank you for your response! I agree, the more knowledge that people can be aware of so that less dogs end up in shelters is a wonderful thing.
        Here is my question:
        I’ve loved dogs my whole life and have had a list of dogs that I would like to get for many years (mind you, that list keeps changing as I do more and more research haha). I’ve always thought that Aussies are so beautiful and intelligent, and as much as I would love to say I’d love one, I know it’s a down the road breed for me, if ever. I was wondering if you might have some advice on some breeds I should be focusing on when looking for a breed to consider. 
        Here are the specs of my situation:
        I have experience with dogs (my family had 1 Shepherd/lab/possibly beagle or collie mix?, and a Mexican street dog which they still have now, along with my sister’s 3 rescues: 1 Pit/lab? (Bahama mix), and 2 African mixes: 1 looks shepherd/husky and 1 collie/basenji maybe). I have been to training classes/workshops and have had experience with dogs of different levels (aggression issues, puppy mill/rescue skiddish/shyness, well trained-well rounded).
        I live with my significant other and he has never owned a dog, so I guess we would be looking for a dog in the beginner/intermediate/maybe getting into advanced range as I would be taking on the lead in training, however he does want to be a part of it as well. We have 2 cats that are around 7 years old, they’ve met dogs before but have never lived with them. We are moving into a townhouse in April that will have a fully fenced smallish backyard (4-5foot chain link fence), and will be within walking distance to a lakeshore with lots of trails and parks in the area. We are not joggers/super high energy, but we do like walks/hikes, going to the cottage, and are willing to put work in when it comes to exercising/training a dog. I’d like to be able to do frisbee, maybe try agility/flyball/rally for fun, and I’d also really like a dog that I could do tricks/try dog dancing with.
        Both of us work pretty close to home, I work full time and my significant other works part time but will be starting a business from home soon so will be home more and more. At most the dog would be home 4.5-5hrs a day during the week, if that. Looking for a dog in the 6 or 7 month-3yr range. We would prefer a small-medium sized dog, but are open to any breed suggestions! Would prefer to stay away from Poodles (maybe consider a mix), and bully/boxer if possible (love them in general, just personal preference to not own one).
        Breeds that we are considering: Shetland Sheepdog, Welsh Springer Spaniel, Golden Retriever (If we go larger breed), Flat-Coated Retriever, Finnish Lapphund and Beagle.
        Thank you in advance, any advice/suggestions are appreciated. Hopefully I covered everything!

        1. Hi Erin,
          I love how much thought you’ve put into this! If only all people looking for dogs were as honest with themselves did as much research…

          I agree, an Aussie wouldn’t be the best fit right now. The dog on your list that best fits all your criteria right now would be a Sheltie. Of course, this is a herding breed, so they will have some herding traits like possibly wanting to chase or nip at people moving quickly. They can also be barkers. But having had a few shelties myself over the years, these are smart dogs that are easy to train away from problem behaviors. They also like to stay by their people naturally. I personally love this breed almost as much as Aussies.

          Finnish Lapphunds, while similar to shelties are higher energy and need more exercise. They are also smart and easy to train but can be barkers.

          Field dogs/sporting dogs can be fun happy dogs but not necessarily easy to train and may have a higher desire to run (as in run away from you–they are bred to retrieve birds et al. They tend to have the most easy-going temperaments if you find a good reputable breeder. Energy levels are also something to consider with these breeds. Most of these dogs love a good game of fetch/frisbee

          Hunting/hound dogs, like beagles, are very nose-driven and are not always easy to train. They can also be barkers.

          Here is more info about various dog breed traits that you may find helpful.How to Find the Right Dog Breed for Your Family
          And this post helps you decipher breed descriptions In the Market for a Dog? Know the Code

          Good luck!

          1. Hi Karen, thank you so much for your insight! I appreciate your honesty and will consider all of this when making our final decision.
            I appreciate you giving the breakdown of each breed class that I was considering as well.
            I do really love shelties though, and I think we are leaning towards them. I’m so happy they were the one that you said would be most fitting, so great to hear! I did have 2 more questions regarding that though.

            When you say that some habits can be curbed, would you have a suggestion on how to work with barking? Also, because of the pandemic it is near impossible to get a dog from a breeder right now (in Canada anyway), and adding another 1-2 years on a waitlist is just heartbreaking for me as I’ve already been waiting almost 4 years to be in the proper position for a dog again.

            Recently I was told of a puppy mill seizure near my area of nearly 300 shelties/collies/mixes/cats. I know rescues can be work, especially from a puppy mill as most of them have never seen the world and need to be introduced, but do you think this would be an ok route for a sheltie or is this a bad plan because you don’t know the genetics and such?

            I also have one breeder that I’ve been communicating with who might have a 7month old pup, which would also be perfect (if it works with our time horizon) because our situation is not quite right for an 8wk old puppy I feel, with us both being gone for around 4-5hrs on a typical weekday.

          2. Hi Erin, oy puppy mills–such a mixed bag for the reasons you mentioned. Kinda like playing Russian Roulette. Could work out fine. Could be inviting all kinds of problems. If the breeder has been socializing the 7 mo old puppy that could be a good way to go. Even better if they have been doing any kind of training, like house training. Make sure you get all the details on how that 7 mo old has been raised until now, ie just living in a kennel, in the house, with other dogs, isolated, etc., etc. If the puppy has been treated as a family member so far then that would be a no-brainer. If kept in a kennel and not socialized, I might take a pass.

  2. Hi Karen!

    I’m enjoying your posts a lot. I currently have a 4 month old Aussie named Korra. What I’m struggling with the most is 3 and 8 above (and, obviously 5 because it’s Covid and also winter… But, we’re meeting some people and dogs as much as we can.)

    I’m a first-time dog owner, but I have wanted an Australian Shepherd for almost a decade. I thought I had done the research, but I’m finding that everything online will simply tell you that you need to exercise your dog, but they don’t tell you how to handle speed bumps along that path. For example, I have plenty of time to play lots of fetch with Korra, but often she just wants to eat rocks and dig holes in the yard. People tell me that’s because she isn’t getting enough exercise, but I am literally out there trying to exercise her! We go on at least an hour of walks per day. People say not to overdo it for puppies. I’m worried that going for longer might mess up her joints, but if she’s digging and that means she doesn’t have enough exercise…then should I do more? She doesn’t seem sufficiently tired unless I go out for an hour and a half long walk (which we do on weekends sometimes). Of course, our walks are a lot of stopping and sniffing as she hasn’t learned how to walk yet. But, during the work week, I simply don’t have the time to go on three 1.5 hour long walks… And I can’t imagine anyone else is doing that, really. So, what gives? How do I make this dog tired?

    The internet also tells me that my Aussie needs a job, but I have no idea how to teach a 4 month old puppy how to have a job, what a good job is at her age, or how much is too much to ask of her. The internet seems to be really lacking on those answers. A lot of the Herding and Agility won’t even start until she’s 6 months old. And even then, things are very shut down right now with Covid. We do obedience training, but with the exercise not being enough, she often has too much energy during the training. She still learns quickly, but she’ll get frustrated and start biting me after 3-4 minutes.

    I work from home (even when it’s not Covid) and I have a very flexible schedule. But, I don’t know what to do with the time I have with Korra. I don’t know how to tell what’s best for her. I’d love to let her off leash to run around for miles in a field or forest, but I don’t even know if that’s safe at her age. She does not have perfect recall, of course, though she is improving greatly. She’ll often start whining or barking in the middle of the day, and I don’t know if she has to potty or if she’s just bored. But, if I take her out for potty, she’s been fed, and she’s recently had an hour or play and walk…I have to assume she’s either bored or lonely? What do I do then? I don’t want to encourage the barking. I’ve tried keeping her in my office with me, but she just tries to bite me or chew on my computer cords, carpet, shelves, door…

    It just feels like everyone’s solution is always “do more”, and I have the ability to do more if I could just know what MORE is going to actually help.

    Any advice would be super appreciated!


    1. Hi Chelsey, congratulations on your new puppy! First, yes, Aussies can be a handful because of their intelligence and energy level. But don’t get discouraged. They also make THE most amazing companions on the planet.

      You don’t want to get into intense dog sports really until after bone growth has finished–about a year.

      My Kiera also had zero interest in Fetch–many Aussies could care less about fetch. But she loved learning, so we spent a lot of time learning tricks and jobs while she was a puppy. One of her jobs was to go around the house, pick up laundry and bring it to the laundry room. Very helpful : )

      Here is a post with some good books that should help get you on your way

      Really, right now, the best exercise is teaching tricks and going for walks. Then when you can add in obedience training, that will be a helpful outlet too. (Make sure it’s positive training. Aussies don’t need punitive training.)

      I don’t recommend letting her off-leash until you do have a rock-solid COME command on cue. Otherwise this is a potential recipe for disaster.

      You might want to look into some teething toys for her too.

      You have all the right instincts, and Korra will get easier with time, just like human babies get easier with time.

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