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The Australian Shepherd is a highly intelligent, energetic, and eager-to-please dog that comes in a medium-sized, attractive package. Equipped with strong herding and guardian instincts, this dog possesses a virtually unparalleled loyalty to his family. Aussies are known to bond to their special person and shadow them, following them around from room to room.
The Aussie’s great energy and athleticism makes him an ideal companion for active, outdoorsy people and those interested in dog performance sports and activities such as agility, herding, fly-ball, Rally-O, and obedience. This dog’s idea of a good time is hiking in the woods in any kind of weather, swimming at the cottage, retrieving, learning new tricks – any kind of physical or mental activity, followed by a nap at your feet.
While those of us who love Aussies can’t think of life without one, the characteristics we cherish in them may prove to be problematic for some people. Although they should not be hyper and do possess a fine “off switch,” the Aussie was bred to work hard all day long on ranches and farms. As a result, some people may be unprepared for this dog’s exercise requirements. An Aussie that is deprived of physical and mental stimulation and that is left to languish on his own may resort to destructive behaviours, such as chewing, digging, or barking, to relieve the tedium of his life. His herding instinct may lead to a desire to herd other dogs, joggers, and children.
To keep those character traits positive rather than negative, give your Aussie at least one hour of energetic exercise and play each day, and don’t forget to give him mental exercise as well. Though some Aussies are content to be couch potatoes and foot warmers, the average Aussie will gladly play and run until the sun goes down. Have fun together by trying a performance sport, or do a special activity together, such as therapy visits. Put your Aussie through obedience training to channel his energies appropriately and challenge his mind. Although many Aussies are friendly with everyone, the Australian Shepherd as a breed tends to be somewhat reserved around strangers. Socialize him early and well to keep him open to new people and new situations, and continue that socialization throughout his life. Keep in mind that “reserved” should not mean shy or wary.
The Aussie’s character is as variable as he is versatile and is unique to each dog, much like his coat and markings are. Some have more drive than others, some are more or less protective than others, and some are downright clownish. All Aussies, however, are super smart and hugely devoted – all Aussies are ready to be your next very best friend and personal shadow.