In hopes that I can give my readers some insight into dog breeds’ personalities, I am featuring a couple of different breeds each week. I will give a little history about the breed, i.e., what they were bred to do, talk about their personalities, and provide advice on the lifestyle needs of the breed. Remember, as I always say, every dog is an individual. Some dogs will exactly fit the breed characteristics while others may be nothing like it.

I recently met someone whose husband wants to get an Australian Shepherd. I asked if they knew anything about that breed and she said they didn’t. Uh-oh! Time and again, I have said that before you get a dog, research the breed. This statement is especially true for the Australian Shepherd, or more commonly called the Aussie.

Aussies are beautiful dogs, usually a patterned merle color with naturally bobbed tails. Quite a few even have blue eyes. They are striking dogs; no wonder people want to have them. In fact, Aussies are not from Australia! They were first discovered in the 1800s in the Basque region of Spain where they guarded sheep. It is believed that these sheep were imported to Australia and their dogs went with them. From there, the sheep and their watchdogs were brought to ranches in the western United States.

Aussies truly are working dogs, bred to guard livestock. Without a job to do, they can get nervous, neurotic, bored, and possibly destructive. They are a high energy breed who requires a job. They really need to be kept busy; physical exercise is not enough. They are very intelligent and enjoy challenges – learning new tricks and playing with toys that use their minds. Remember, though, that if your Aussie is not given enough opportunity to use his brain, he will find a way! Opening cupboards to find food, getting into kids’ backpacks, tipping over the garbage are just a few things that smart Aussies have been known to do to find recreation. Aussies are the perfect choice for someone who wants to be involved with dog sports. Their combination of intelligence and love of play makes frisbee, flyball, and agility all great options for your Aussie.

They are very family-oriented, needing to be with their “pack” at all times. They love children although they may try to herd young ones. They are not suited to owners with busy lifestyles that do not include the dog. Being left home alone for hours at a time is not recommended.

Aussies are very happy, friendly dogs with people they know but can be reserved with strangers. They are playful and tend to remain quite active through their adult years. Due to their watchdog instincts, they will be good protectors of the home and family members. For that reason, it is very important to socialize and train your Aussie at an early age. Without proper guidance from puppyhood through adolescence, Aussies can be quite difficult to live with, exhibiting aggression to strangers and frequently separation anxiety.

Leadership and guidance from the owner is imperative when you have an Aussie, if not, they will become the leader which usually results in a more anxious and neurotic dog. As I’ve always advocated, leadership means controlling the dogs’ resources and not allowing the dog to train you. Dogs are always looking to us for direction and are happier when we are good “parents.”

A fenced yard is highly recommended for Aussies as they have a very high prey drive and will run to chase animals. They are even known to chase and herd cars! Keep your Aussie on a leash when out for walks.

Aussies really are amazing dogs if you love loyalty and want to have fun with your companion.