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First dog? Don’t get an Australian Shepherd unless….

Australian Shepherds have a lot of appeal to potential dog owners. With their incredible intelligence and ability to be trained, it seems like this could be the perfect first-time dog for a new dog owner. But is getting an Aussie really good idea for a first-time dog owner? I dug in a little further and here is what I found out.

Australian Shepherd owners and experts do not recommend getting an Aussie or mini Aussie as your first dog. Although easy to train they are very high energy and need a lot of mental stimulation and attention. New dog owners may struggle with this, which can lead the dog to turn to destructive behaviors.

Thank you Ginger P. for use of your photo

With that said, it is possible for a new dog owner to be successful with raising an Australian Shepherd or Mini Aussie?

There are a lot of great qualities that an Australian Shepherd has that can make them an excellent dog, but first-time owners need to know what they are getting into before bringing on the challenge of raising this breed.

Continue reading to find out if getting an Australian Shepherd as your first dog is right for you!

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Why Australian Shepherds May Not Be Suitable for First Time Owners

Have you ever noticed that Australian Shepherds are featured in many Hollywood movies, commercials, and hit tv shows? That’s because they are incredibly smart, easy to train, and among the most beautiful of dog breeds out there. All Australian Shepherds owners will tell you they are amazing dogs to have!

Taking that into consideration, why wouldn’t they be a good breed to start with? Well, the biggest reason…. sometimes they can be too smart for their own good!

Dogs in general are a lot of work, but certain breeds require more time and attention than others. Australian Shepherds are one of those breeds. You have to be 110% committed to investing your time into training and exercising throughout their lifetime.

🐾 They Require a Lot of Exercise

Australian Shepherds need a minimum of 2 hours a day of exercise. If you lead a very active lifestyle that you can incorporate your Australian Shepherds into then this may not be a problem for you. But if you rather spend your time chilling in front of the fire reading a good book, don’t get an Australian Shepherd!

If your Australian Shepherd doesn’t get enough exercise it can turn to destructive behaviors as well as whine cry and bark a lot!

🐾 Australian Shepherds are Working Dogs

Australian Shepherds are working dogs, they need a job to do! They were bred to herd sheep, and if not given enough exercise and meaningful tasks to do, they can be found herding any living thing around them including, cats, your children, or even you!

You don’t necessarily need to live on a sheep farm, but you will need to be prepared with a list of jobs you can train your dog to do. Here is a list of jobs that other owners have given their Australian Shepherds.

  • find the ball
  • fetch things (newspaper, slippers, people)
  • help herd kids to bed
  • find and put away specific toys
  • run an agility or obstacle course
  • puzzle toys
  • learn to play sports

Australian Shepherds are workaholics and if not given work to do they will invent it, and believe me the jobs they invent for themselves will not please you.

You can expect a bored Australian Shepherd to chew things up, lick excessively, bark excessively, dig, get into and eat things they shouldn’t (see this article I wrote about eating rocks, dirt, and poop), and basically cause destruction.

Thank you Madison D for use of your photo!

🐾 Australian Shepherds are Smart

Many people agree that Australian Shepherds are one of the smartest dog breeds in the world. A British Columbia neuropsychologist named Stanley Coren did research and wrote a book called “The Intelligence of Dogs” He uses trainability and execution of commands to measure intelligence Australian Shepherds are ranked pretty high.

If you aren’t confident in your dog training abilities and able to be an assertive yet loving pack leader in your Aussies life the smart Australian Shepherds will pick up on that quickly and take advantage of you in a heartbeat.

Having a smart dog isn’t a bad thing, but you have to make sure that you are smarter! First-time dog owners may not have the skill set needed to train a dog like an Australian Shepherd. If you aren’t willing to invest the time and cost into learning how to train and teach your Australian Shepherd, then this isn’t the right breed for you.

🐾 Australian Shepherds Demand A Lot of Time

If you have a lot of other responsibilities or you are gone at work for a significant portion of your day it could be very difficult to find the time you need to keep your Australian Shepherds occupied.

You will need to be prepared to spend a lot of time playing with teaching and coming up with activities for your Australian Shepherds to do. If you are able to keep your Australian Shepherds busy your rewards are a super fun, playful, sensitive, extroverted, and intelligent dog!

The exact amount of time can vary from dog to dog, but you can expect at least 2-3 hrs of quality time spent doing things with your Australian Shepherds, and then another hour or more coming up with things to keep your dog busy when you can’t be constantly engaged with them.

If you don’t have the time needed to keep your Australian Shepherds happy you will start to see your dog turn to destructive behaviors to keep itself occupied.

🐾 Australian Shepherds Need Plenty of Space

With family homes trending on the smaller side these days many people may not have the proper space an Australian Shepherd needs. 

If you live in a small apartment, townhome, or house without a lot of yard space Australian Shepherds can feel really cooped up and have nowhere to focus releasing their excessive energy.  Australian Shepherds are best for people with large yards, or lots of property where they can run freely and explore.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to have a well-behaved Australian Shepherd as an apartment dog. If you are out exercising and leading an active lifestyle more than you are sitting at home, and you can come up with sufficient activities to keep them occupied then an Aussie could be great for you.

🐾 Australian Shepherds are Escape Artists

Because Australian Shepherds are so smart they can sometimes turn into little Houdini’s, figuring out how to escape any type of containment you may try to enforce on them. 

Just look on YouTube, you will see countless videos on the escape of the Australian Shepherd. They are so smart they figure out how to unlock and open doors, dig under or jump over fences! If you think their area is secure, think again, because it’s probably not.

If your Australian Shepherd is well-occupied and has had plenty of exercise before you put him in his crate, or other confined area then you shouldn’t have a problem.

🐾 Australian Shepherds Shed A Lot

For new dog owners that have never dealt with having dog hair everywhere, it can be quite difficult to manage. If you are used to going out to parties or social gatherings and not wanting to spend countless hours with a lint roller then maybe an Aussie is not right for you.

If you are still set on having an Aussie as your first dog then I suggest you read up on Aussie Shedding and how to deal with it.

Australian Shepherd Shedding Complete Guide (Tips and Tricks From Owners)

🐾 Australian Shepherds Bark A Lot

Because of the nature of the Australian Shepherd being a working breed, they tend to be more vocal than most. Not only do they bark a lot but they can also easily get into the habit of whining as well.

If you want a highly alert watchdog that will let you know when anything or anyone is on your property then an Aussie may be right for you. But for the rest of us who just want a companion pet to hang out with and exercise with we may not be able to handle all the barking.

Your Aussie can be trained to not bark, but it will take some experience to know how to do it properly. You can hire a professional dog trainer, and while you are at it start reading up on Aussie barking here.

Australian Shepherd Barking Complete Guide? (With Tips from Owners)

🐾 Australian Shepherds Can Be Sensitive

Because they are so smart Australian Shepherds can be highly reactive and sensitive. When training them they may respond to every little movement you make trying to out-think you and respond ahead of your next move. This can be very frustrating for new dog owners who are just learning how to train a dog.

Their sensitivity also requires specific attention to socializing them when they are young. They need to be taught to have good associations with other people and animals.

This can also lead them to become very shy and or reactive around other people. They may become very clingy or develop separation anxiety.

If you don’t take the time to properly socialize your Australian Shepherds while they are young he can become very shy, standoffish, and possibly reactive.

Are Australian Shepherds Prone to Separation Anxiety? (What to Do)

Thank you Alessi S. for use of your photo!

To Summerize

If you neglect to give your Australian Shepherd the proper space, exercise, and stimulation that they need, they will seek it in destructive ways. This will be shown as excessive barking, chewing on things, trying to show dominance, and having a lot of neurotic undesirable behaviors that will be hard to correct.

What Would Make an Australian Shepherd a Good First Time Dog for You?

My brother loves to be outdoors. Hiking, fishing, hunting for antlers. His dog Nico is very loyal and always by his side. My brother has taught Nico a lot of cool things and has come up with some very creative ways to help his dog get exercise.

He has invested a lot of time into building a great relationship with his dog. He also has 2 little boys who love and adore their puppy brother!  Australian Shepherds can be great family dogs and a very loving and loyal breed.

  • You are a highly active person who loves to exercise with your dog.
  • You have a lot of space.
  • You have a lot time to invest in learning how to train and care for your dog.
  • You can spend enough time with your dog each day to train and teach it.
  • You have a lot of patience.
  • You can be creative in coming up with jobs for your dog.
  • You have a desire to teach your dog a lot of cool thing.

So an Australian Shepherd is the right breed for you if you are a very active person who is outdoors a lot jogging, hiking, or generally going on adventures and you have a lot of time you want to spend with your dog.

If you are willing to invest a lot of time learning about the breed, how to keep it properly stimulated, and take classes on how to train and care for your Australian Shepherds then they can be a great dog for you.

Australian Shepherds will take a significant amount of time and energy, but the investment you make in time and energy will be greatly rewarded in a loving and loyal dog!

With some dedication and thought on your part you can have a well-adjusted, well-behaved, super loyal four-legged best friend. Australian Shepherds can thrive in a lot of situations if given the right guidance, but they can also turn into complete disasters if neglected even a little.

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