What Were Australian Shepherds Bred For?

What Were Australian Shepherds Bred For?

If you are curious about Australian Shepherds, have you ever thought about what they are bred for? Knowing the origins of your furry friend is important. You will be able to understand him more and recognize the roots of some problems with him. So, what were Australian Shepherds bred for?

Australian Shepherds were originally bred to herd livestock. They were developed to help farmers on ranches. Due to that, Aussies have a strong sense of leadership. In some cases, they can even take control of their home if their owner doesn’t show enough confidence.

If you want to know more about what were Australian Shepherds bred for, you are in the right place. Keep reading to find out!

History of the Australian Shepherd Breed

First, I will tell you something that will trigger you. Despite their first name, Australian Shepherds didn’t originate in Australia! Their history is actually pretty vague. The most accepted theory is that the breed originated in the Basque region, between Spain and France.

There, Australian Shepherds were bred and used by farmers to herd livestock.

The name “Australian” is due to the fact that the shepherds came from Australia. Between the 19th and early 20th centuries, Aussies were brought to North America. They were developed mainly in the West Coast of the United States of America.

Australian Shepherds were preferred in the farms due to their strong physical abilities. Since that time, Aussies were already known for their incredible energy.

They are almost unaffected by altitude and temperature, which used to be excellent characteristics for the Rocky Mountains. These dogs were widely used to herd sheep there. Aussies also are outdoorsy and can run a lot. All of these aspects explain their previous usage on farms.

However, until now they retain this fame. You may have noticed your dog loves to go outside and always want you to play with him, right? Now you know why. These attributes are from that time.

Australian Shepherds as Family Dogs

Although Australian Shepherds are still used by farmers to herd livestock nowadays in the countryside, this practice is way more uncommon.

In this day and age, they turned into more familiar dogs. Australian Shepherds rank well in the list of the most popular domestic dogs in the world.

Many people are opting for Australian Shepherds due to their friendliness. They can quickly adapt to family life. They also get along very well with kids.

However, in some cases, they may identify them as “animals” and may want to herd them. The good part is that this problem can be fixed with ease.

Dogs from this breed also have a good friendship with other ones. Some breeds may fight for territory or maybe scared of others, but that’s not the case with Aussies.

If you see your Australian Shepherd agitated next to other dogs, that’s a sign he only wants to play. Don’t worry about that. He has an excellent ability to socialize and will end up with many new friends in those situations.

How Is it Like to Live with an Australian Shepherd?

Aussies don’t fit the standard of a calm family living. Of course, your dog will get along very well with your family, but he will always want to play with them. If you are thinking about going to the park for a picnic, don’t bring your Aussie.

In situations like that, he will become crazy asking you to exercise with him. This greeny landscape is a perfect spot for him to play. He will not rest until he convinces you.

About Aussies’ temperament, they are generally easygoing. They are dogs that love their owners and are very obedient. If you fit a sporty profile, dealing with an Australian Shepherd will be fairly easy. 

It is common, however, to see an Aussie being a bit cold at first with his owners. If you are facing this problem, don’t worry, this is temporary. In the future, he will evolve and will acclimatize with people. Once he gets the local vibe, living with him will be amazing.

Australian Shepherds’ Other Roles Nowadays

In addition to becoming a pet, people use Aussies for multiple other activities. The most popular ones include:

  • Dog sports: Since they are bred for herding, Australian Shepherds are extremely energetic and intelligent. This makes them perform really well in competitions. Many dog trainers use them to participate in events such as dog agility, frisbee and flyball. Their ease for trainability makes Aussies perfect dogs for these tasks. They also leap high and run fast, which allows them to enter basically any physical contest.
  • Long journeys: Aussies are also good dogs for adventure. Due to that, they are a good company for long expeditions. In fact, Australian Shepherds love these trips because they are outdoorsy. For example, some owners take their furry friends to travel around a whole continent! They know their dog will always be on their side. Also, a lot of people who live in RVs have dogs. Australian Shepherds are a perfect match for these cases.
  • Hiking: Have you ever thought about hiking with a pet? Well, Australian Shepherds love this kind of challenge. Hikers benefit from their energy to bring them to a walk-in nature. Just as long adventures, this kind of activity is extremely beneficial for the dog.
  • Movies: Due to their intelligence and skills, Aussies are often present in the cinema. They have already appeared in various Disney movies. More recently, they are seen very frequently in TV series.

They Love to Herd People due to Their Original Purpose of Breeding

Even though Australian Shepherds are very friendly to people, they may have some downsides as well. It is not uncommon to see them trying to “herd” people. This is due to their original role in the farm.

The most affected group by this behavior are small children. When a human is too young, the dog may identify them as “animals,” just like livestock. From then on, he may start behaving aggressively with the kids. If he runs a lot with children in an unfriendly way, that’s a sign he wants to herd them.

Fortunately, this issue generally only happens with very small kids. If the person is a bit more grown-up, Aussies identify them as real people and don’t mess with them.

If your Aussie acts like this, don’t worry. This is natural and can even be changed with training. In fact, he is incredibly easy to be trained. Even for beginners, this won’t be a big problem.

Simple Tips to Train Your Australian Shepherd to Stop Herding

If you are in the situation I just mentioned, it’s time to take action. Now I’ll show you some tips on how you can teach your Aussie to stop with this bad behavior.

  • Anticipate his actions: A few moments before starting to herd, your dog will show some signs he will do it soon. You have to identify them. If you are able to do it, show your reproval. That way, he will not even be able to start herding and will identify this is a wrong attitude.
  • Keep him away from the kids: Until he isn’t trained and mature enough, separate the kids from the dog. If your Aussie spots them, he may see this as an opportunity to activate his “herding mode” again. If he falls into this temptation, it’s hard to focus again. You need to ensure he will have the maturity to react to them. Once he recognizes the children as regular humans, you can let them live together again.
  • Reassign his energy: A good trick to training him not to herd is to make him forget it. Try to exercise outside and play with him. Aussies love that. If he comes into contact with these activities regularly, he will feel this thrilling experience more often and will forget about herding.

I didn’t mention that, but I think it’s pretty obvious. You should never reprimand your Aussie physically or cause him any other trauma. This doesn’t add up anything in his knowledge. 

Let him take his time to learn and soon he will respect your commands with ease.

Final Thoughts

Knowing the origins of a dog breed is an excellent method to understand them. This way you can precisely predict his attitudes. This information is useful if you plan to have an Aussie or if you already are an owner and want to know him better.

Since Australian Shepherds are herding dogs, they are active and outdoorsy. Some of them may have a tendency to pick on children. However, this problem can be fixed with adequate training.

Related Questions

Training isn’t working. What should I do? 

Did you provide your Australian Shepherd with enough time to learn? Maybe you are too rushed. Be patient teaching him new skills. If, after a reasonable amount of time, he still doesn’t obey you, remember you can always hire a professional dog trainer to help you.

Are Australian Shepherds loyal to their owners? 

Yes, they are! Australian Shepherds love their owners, and I bet it isn’t different in your case. Your friend will always be at your side and will try to do his best to see you smile. How cute!

John Carter

My name is John Carter and I absolutely love pets, especially dogs. I've got a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Behaviour and Welfare and have several years’ experience working in animal shelters and rescues. My passion for animals started at a very young age as I grow up on a farm with several horses, cows, cats, chickens, and dogs on our property.

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