What is the Difference Between Border Collies and Australian Shepherds? Which One Should I Get?

Trying to decide between Border Collies and Australian Shepherds?

Border Collie and Australian ShepherdThis is a tough choice! I love both Border Collies and Australian Shepherds! But if I were to counsel someone considering these breeds, the first thing I’d look at is dog experience. The second thing I’d look at is how much time do you have to train and exercise these dogs.

While there are many similarities, as both BCs and Aussies come from the Herding Group, there are also some significant differences. The following details how it shakes out.


Highly Intelligent:

  • Both breeds rank among the top in canine intelligence, excelling in learning tricks and commands and adapting to new situations.
  • Eager to please and quick to understand your training cues.
  • Can excel in dog sports, agility, obedience, and even participate in working trials.

Active Lifestyle:

  • Both require significant physical and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. This includes daily walks, playtime, challenging activities like puzzle toys, and regular training sessions.
  • Bred for herding, so they have abundant energy levels and need an outlet for their physical drive.
  • Can develop boredom and destructive behaviors if their needs aren’t met.

Herding Instincts:

  • Both have strong herding instincts and may try to herd children, pets, or even moving objects like cars or bicycles.
  • Early socialization and training are crucial to manage these instincts in a safe and appropriate way.
  • Can excel in herding sports or activities that channel their herding drive constructively.

Loyal Companions:

  • Both breeds form strong bonds with their owners and become devoted companions.
  • Crave attention and enjoy spending time with their families.
  • Can be affectionate and playful, making them enjoyable pets for active families.

Other Similarities:

  • Lifespan: Both have an average lifespan of 12-15 years with proper care.
  • Health: Both are generally healthy breeds, but some common health concerns include hip dysplasia, eye problems, and epilepsy.
  • Grooming: Both have a double coat that requires regular brushing to prevent matting.
  • Barking: While Border Collies are generally quieter, both breeds can bark if bored, excited, or alerted to something.
  • Trainability: Both are highly trainable and respond well to positive reinforcement methods.

Remember: While these similarities paint a general picture, individual dogs within each breed can vary in their temperament and needs.






    • Border Collie: 18-21 inches tall (females), 19-22 inches (males), 30-55 lbs
    • Australian Shepherd: 18-23 inches tall, 40-65 lbs


    • Border Collie: Rough or smooth coat, both with double layers
    • Australian Shepherd: Only rough coat with a double layer


    • Border Collie: Wider variety including black & white, merle, sable, tri-color
    • Australian Shepherd: Primarily black, blue merle, red merle, or red



      • Border Collie: Extremely focused and driven, sometimes to the point of obsession
      • Australian Shepherd: Less intense, more adaptable, and easier to switch gears


      • Border Collie: Craves constant attention and interaction
      • Australian Shepherd: Slightly more independent and can handle some alone time


      • Border Collie: More sensitive, prone to anxiety or shyness with strangers
      • Australian Shepherd: Generally more outgoing and confident



      • Border Collie: Best suited for families with older children due to their intensity and herding tendencies
      • Australian Shepherd: More adaptable to younger children and various family dynamics

Living situation:

      • Border Collie: Needs an active yard with plenty of space to run and exercise
      • Australian Shepherd: Can adapt to apartment living with enough exercise


      • Border Collie: Requires very experienced owners due to their intensity and specific needs
      • Australian Shepherd: Needs experienced owners who can provide proper training and stimulation


      • Herding style: Border Collies tend to use stalking and staring to herd, while Australian Shepherds use driving and barking.
      • Barking: Border Collies generally bark less than Australian Shepherds.
      • Grooming: Australian Shepherds require more brushing due to their thick double coat.

The following graphic is what the AKC has to say about both breeds:

Border Collies vs AussiesBreaking this all down in real life, what does this mean? What are the differences between Australian Shepherds and Border Collies?

Aussies are a little bit more ruggedly built; they always have a double coat, and they have fewer colors from which to choose. Both will shed year-round. Both are ridiculously smart and easy to train. Both have an incredible work ethic and need a lot of exercise. Both need a lot of socialization to be good around other people and animals. Both, if not trained, will herd and nip small children. Both can range from friendly goofball to wary of all strangers, though Aussies are more likely to act as guard dogs also (if not well-socialized).

Border Collies are better at working from distances, as they were bred to herd sheep on mountainous terrain, while Aussies were bred to work alongside cowboys on cattle and sheep. Sometimes, that means that Border Collies are slightly less prone to anxiety separation, which can be a problem for some Aussies.

In my experience, Border Collies can be more neurotic and timid, while Aussies can be more pushy with some aggressive tendencies (a herding nip is considered a bite by the law) if not well-trained and socialized.

Should I get a Border Collie or an Australian Shepherd?

While both are, indeed, a snap to train, they both need continued training and socialization to become take-anywhere kinds of dogs. Both need a considerable amount of stimulation and exercise not to become neurotic or destructive. Neither makes good dogs for apartments, and both should have free access to a high-fenced yard. And I do mean a fence at least 8 feet high. Both can easily jump a 4-foot fence and scale a 6-foot fence with no problem. I have witnessed this firsthand, so don’t skimp.

Bottom line: both are no-joke dogs that are high-maintenance. You cannot set them and forget them.

If you are not prepared to provide for their requirements, stay away from these dogs. Yes, they are both beautiful breeds, but there are already way too many that wind up in Rescue because people just like their looks and don’t do the proper research. If you are a first-time dog owner, I also recommend that you stay away from both of these breeds. It will likely be too high a learning curve for you.


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