Ready, willing and more than able, Australian Shepherds believe in a hard day's work and a harder day's play. It may surprise you know that although their name suggests an origin down under, they're really made in the USA. Or at least partly.


The Australian Shepherd came to America from European roots by way of Australia. The original European stock had been selected to work on the harsh Australian conditions, so they were a natural for the American West. Here they not only herded sheep, but added cattle to their duties–something that required a far tougher dog. They were called Australian Shepherds because of their origin, but they've since become so modified they are considered an American breed.

They came to attention of the dog-loving public in the 1950s when a rodeo featured them in a trick-dog act. The act was later featured in two Disney movies, and they were famous.

Aussies excel in herding, obedience, disk catching and just about any sport that combines high activity with high intelligence. Don't get an Aussie unless you plan to spend time exercising both his mind and body–and providing a lot of toys.

Health and Upkeep

Australian Shepherds can be big dogs. If your Aussie comes from a family of larger Aussies, count on him being large as well. This means you need to be careful about possible joint problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia. Feeding a diet formulated for large breed puppies during the first year of life will help decrease the possibility of hip dysplasia, and probably elbow dysplasia. These diets allow the puppy to grow more slowly, while still achieving the same adult size–just a little later. Joint supplements, such as glucosamine chondroitin supplements, are also vital for protecting joint health. The Aussie's high activity level throughout life can bring on arthritis in later life, so be sure to add a glucosamine chondroitin supplement once your Aussie reaches five to seven years.

Coat care requires a little attention a lot of the time. Use a pin brush to remove tangles twice a week. In areas with longer hair, brush the coat in layers so you get all the way to the skin. Spritzing these areas with a mixture of water and conditioner will prevent static electricity and hair breakage as your brush. If you find a mat, carefully work it apart after spritzing it.

During shedding season, use a shedding tool to remove the thick undercoat. Brushing right after bathing, when the hair is still slightly damp, will usually remove the most coat.

For the best looking results, use a shampoo that builds body. You may also wish to use color-enhancing shampoos, or if your dog has itchy skin, avocado oil or oatmeal based shampoos. Blow-drying the coat will add more body.

Most Aussies have healthy ears, but you should still check them for signs of redness, itching or debris weekly. Any time they get goopy, clean with an ear-cleanser. If the goop comes back, see your veterinarian.

Brush the teeth daily.

Clip the nails every two weeks or so using a heavy-duty dog nail clipper.

Aussies hate to slow down for anything, but sometimes age-related physical changes, such as arthritis, make it tough to keep going at full intensity. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him as young in body as he is in spirit.